Back Bay Brewing Company owners Josh Canada and Charlie Burroughs with brewer Dan Yarnall at the new tasting room

Back Bay Brewing Company owners Josh Canada and Charlie Burroughs with brewer Dan Yarnall at the new tasting room

By Jeff Maisey

Virginia Beach-based Back Bay Brewing Company is upping its game with the hiring of Dan Yarnall as its brewer, retailer, marketer and all around beer geek.

It was just last December that Virginia Beach-based Back Bay Brewing Company made its debut with a tasting party at Waterman’s. Co-owner Charlie Burroughs developed a series of beer recipes and had contracted Weeping Radish Brewing Company in northeastern North Carolina to brew the draft beer line. False Cape Amber Ale was the first product from the venture. Then came Beach Cruiser Pale Ale.

Earlier this year, Back Bay decided to partner with St. George Brewing Company in Hampton. St. George is the region’s largest brewery and had the capacity to brew Back Bay’s draft beer.

In some regions of Europe, small brewing companies and even beer bars contract with a larger brewery to make their beer for them. Large fermenting tanks, grain mashers and all the other equipment used to manufacture commercial beer is costly.

With Yarnall at the helm, Back Bay will continue its working relationship with St. George. They’ll also open a tasting room and retail outlet at 606 Norfolk Avenue in Virginia Beach. The tasting room facility will be truly unique in this market as it will be fitted with a small set of brewing equipment that will allow to experiment with recipes, and produce enough beer and one-off brews for on-premise consumption by visitors.

Yarnall, who served early on as a brewer at Beach Brewing Company before moving over to Whole Foods on the retail/purchasing side of things, will be teaching a home brewing class on Mondays and Tuesdays at the tasting room. Students will be able to brew, ferment and store their own batches at the facility.

Back Bay will also deliver half-barrel kegs of its own beer to customers on the Southside. For a reasonable price they’ll bring ice, keg, tub and tap to your front door, and then pick it up the next day.

I recently visited Yarnall and the under construction tasting room to learn more.

When did you first gain an interest in brewing beer?

Being the son of a German immigrant, beer was never far from my mind. I recall wanting to brew at a very early age of 16 or 17. When Pittsburgh’s first homebrew store opened in 1995, I brewed my first batch and have been hooked ever since.

Tell us about your experience brewing at Beach Brewing Co.

It was big fun. I walked in as a volunteer and within a few weeks I was the head brewer. The initial brewing equipment was less than spectacular but we all hung in there and started cranking out some good brews. In fact, the majority of brews that are still being brewed there are of my and partner-in-crime “Chicago Mike” design.

What have you learned from working at Whole Foods?

First off, I’d like to thank all my peeps at WFM. I met some fantastic people and lifelong friends. Learning the retail side of things really opened my eyes. Packaging, price point, local interest, style relevance – these are all things that retailers think of when they determine to buy two cases or 100. I learned a ton of information that we can use when we roll out our six packs.

When/how were you recruited by Back Bay Brewing Co?

When I first sat down with Josh Canada, I really thought that he was looking for a part-time brewer/ brewing instructor. When he told me that he was looking for someone to head up the operation, I was taken aback. He simply made me an offer that I couldn’t walk away from.

Drink Back Bay bottle

What is your job description at Back Bay?

All things beer! I’ll be running the tasting on Norfolk Ave near the oceanfront. Also, I’ll be overseeing the brewing at the tasting room and at St. George. Designing, brewing and launching new beers along with heading up the sales and wait staff, I’ll have my hands full.

When do you start brewing at Back Bay?

As it looks now, we should have everything in place sometime in January.

What will be your immediate impact at Back Bay?

Diversity! We plan on brewing beers that will appeal to everyone from entry-level craft drinkers to hardcore beer nerds.

How will your skills improve their existing brands?

Just to shore them up and help give them identities that are uniquely Back Bay.

What new beers will you brew?

Well, we are still working on those, but if anyone that knows me knows I love hops! However, we’ll have lots of Seasonal brews.

What freedoms will you have in terms of brewing?

Obviously, I’ll have complete control in terms of design.

What is Back Bay’s brewing capacity?

We plan on getting delivery of a 4bbl system to support the tasting room needs and special “one offs” to send to our distributor, Hoffman Beverage.

The beers are currently brewed at St. George. Will that continue?

Yes! I will be up in Hampton on brew days with Andy (Rathman) and crew to brew three of our most popular brews.

Any additional thoughts?

Please ‘like’ our page on FB “Back Bay Brewing” to keep up on our progress and when we plan our Grand Opening!! Also, Mike from FatHead’s Brewery (Gold medal winner ’13 GABF Imperial IPA) has invited me to Cleveland to knock off some rust and teach me some cool hop techniques.