Norfolk to Get First-Ever Brew Pub
By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
NEWS FLASH: A plan for Norfolk’s first brewpub EVER is in the works! It will feature fresh beer brewed on premises, a menu of “finer diner” fare, and space for private parties and receptions. Want to serve your own brew at your birthday, wedding reception, business function, or party? You will be able to commission a brew made to order. Interested? Here’s the scoop.
Ted Warren has owned and operated Charlie’s Cafe on Granby Street in Ghent for several years. Success has Charlie’s Cafe bursting at the seams, and so Ted will be moving Charlie’s Cafe a few miles up Granby Street to the Riverview location where Veneziano Restaurant had an amazing run of 67 years. Charlie’s will still feature the breakfasts that they are known for, but will now remain open for lunch and dinner and serve beer brewed on the premises in a “nanobrewery” (which is even smaller than a microbrewery). Ted’s tentatively dubbing this venture the “Riverbrew Pub” (or maybe the “River Brewpub”…details are still being worked out at press time!) Riverview will finally have a neighborhood restaurant they can walk to for freshly brewed craft beer and live music. However, Norfolk’s first brewpub will draw patrons from across the region. A brewpub is an economic magnet. Get that theater kickin’, keep the independent shops, and you might have the start of a cool organic happening scene in Riverview Village.
Finally, a brewpub in Norfolk! We are likely the only metropolitan city of our size in the country that has never EVER had a brewpub. A “brewpub” is a restaurant that serves beer brewed on premises. Basically a brewery-restaurant. NOT the same as a “brewery,” which is a production facility not a place where you go hang out to drink beer. Except in the brewery tasting room, which have limited hours and typically don’t serve food. Oh, yes, it can get quite complicated, but just to simplify: “Brewery” = production facility. “Brewpub” = restaurant that brews its own beer.
Norfolk’s two breweries, O’Connor and Smartmouth, have tasting rooms where you can drink the beer. But we have NEVER had a brewpub in Norfolk, which has perplexed many of us who visit other cities like Asheville, Portland, San Diego, Denver, and heck, even Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Phoenix-Scottsdale, where you can’t swing a malt paddle without hitting a half dozen brewpubs. A local, independent brewpub is something that beer lovers in our region have been craving, and finally it’s going to happen.
What makes for a successful brewpub? A brewpub isn’t just about the beer. Yes, the beer has to be well-brewed and tasty. But, for a brewpub to be successful, it needs good food. The key in a successful brewpub is to have people who know how to run a successful restaurant operation. Ted comes to the brewpub business through the restaurant-hospitality side, which bodes well for the success of this new venture. The new Charlie’s will feature breakfast all day, their signature “Big Ass Quiche,” wings and waffles, cracklins and kale, an expanded vegetarian menu, gluten-free offerings, mimosas by the pint, quart, and half-gallon, and in a nod to Veneziano’s historic location, the menu will include the best food in the world to wash down a cold fresh beer, and that is pizza. Praises be.
On the brewery side of things, Ted will be working with Jason Kuller. Jason currently works at Total Wine & More and Smartmouth Brewing and is well known in the local beer community. He has previously worked at O’Connor Brewing, is a nationally certified first-level Cicerone (a “beer sommelier”), is a former President of the Hampton Roads Brewing & Tasting Society, and is an experienced homebrewer and former small business owner. They plan to begin the brewing operation on a nimble 20-gallon system, the same type of brewing equipment that Sam Calagione started out with in his Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. That wound up working out pretty well. It will be exciting to see some of Jason’s signature beers, such as his hoppy You Feelin’ Loopulin? on tap at Charlie’s “Riverbrew.” Look for Charlie’s to open in the Fall. There are lots of beer fans in Riverview and they have just hit the jackpot as the home of Norfolk’s first brewpub. Making history, one beer at a time!
In other local beer news, Young Veteran’s Brewing Company is putting the finishing touches on their brewery, near Dam Neck Road in Virginia Beach. Their Jet Noise Double IPA won the TowneBank Battle of the Beers contest, a recent fundraiser led by the Beach Ambassadors to benefit Seton House. The contest was decided by popular vote and these guys scored big time in their first public event. Look for their military-monikered brews like Pineapple Grenade Hefeweizen, Semper FI-PA, and New Recruit Honey Blonde at local restaurants soon.
Don’t forget the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Guild is holding their second annual Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival on Saturday, August 24 at Devils Backbone in Roseland, Virginia. VIP tickets are sold out, but regular tickets are still available as we write this, http://virginiacraftbrewersfest.com/. You can buy a camping ticket to camp on site; the location is right near Wintergreen with a view of the lush green mountains of rural Nelson County. Hope to see you there!
Last but not least, and hot off the press: O’Connor Brewing Company is moving! This will allow them to expand and make more beer to satisfy their legion of thirsty fans. It will still be in Norfolk; the exact location is still “top secret” but read this column next month and we should be able to announce the new location then.