With Suncrush making its way into our Beers of the Month this issue, we thought you’d like to learn a little more about the brewery behind it: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery is the product of a vision, a lot of hard work, a touch of chance and childhood friendship. Founders Eric McKay and Patrick Murtagh were introduced through their respective parents’ friendship. Their families would go on holiday together and quickly the pair forged a strong bond.
Many years later, a well-timed meet up at a sheep station in Australia brought their passion for homebrewing and craft beer culture to the forefront of their relationship. It was there, at a place called Hardywood Park, that they share their first glass of home-brewed beer.
That moment was the catalyst for ten years of hard work and planning – Eric on the business side and Patrick on the brewing side – that made their shared dream a reality; Hardywood Park Craft Brewery officially began its mission to ‘brew with purpose’ in late 2011, one of only two craft breweries in Richmond at the time.
In less than seven years, Hardywood Park has gone from their original brewhouse and taproom (forged in a vacant warehouse in a long-forgotten neighbourhood known nearly a century prior as Richmond’s German Brewing District) to now operating a 20-barrel brewhouse and taproom in the original location, a 3.5-barrel pilot brewery and taproom is Charlotteville and a massive 60-barrel destination brewery in the West Creek area of Richmond.
Today, Hardywood continues to develop and deliver on its mission to ‘brew with purpose’ which, as Vice President of Sales and Marketing Richard Miller tells us, is about so much more than beer.
“Brew with purpose is what we live by,” Miller explains. “It’s not just about making great beer. With every beer we make, everything we do, we want it to be purposeful. We specifically apply the motto of “brew with purpose” to five components of our business: brewing quality, sourcing locally, environmental stewardship, community engagement, and giving back.”
Though Hardywood Park looks to make an impact on more than just the craft beer scene in their local community, their commitment to making great beer is evident from your very first sip of one of their beers.
“We aim to make beers that appeal,” Miller says. “Whether that is to individuals desiring the most innovative of styles or a broader audience who simply wants a better lager. We want our brewers to continuously be striving to make amazing new beers while also knowing our customers ultimately want reliability, consistency, and quality from the core range of our flagship, Roots Series and barrel-aged beers.”
This quest for quality, drinkability and innovation has seen Hardywood go down a different route than many of their American craft beer contemporaries; their core range is a perfect illustration of this fact. As Miller explains:
“We purposely did not want to have a hoppy, IPA-heavy portfolio. We brew some great hoppy IPAs, Great Return is an example, but we wanted to offer a range of different beers as our flagships, all brewed exceptionally to style.
“Singel was our first flagship and is still our bestseller in Richmond. We felt – still feel – there is an under-served market for great Belgian style beers that are not too high in alcohol. We brewed this as a tribute to the monks who brew amazing beers but then typically brew a dialled-down, less boozy, balanced and tasty, high quality beer. Hence the name Singel.
“A classically brewed German style pilsner, Pils is among the top-rated in its style, for which we are extremely proud. With Pils, we wanted to create a top-class beer in the style, celebrating the three generations of master brewers in the Murtaugh family, all of whom studied at the acclaimed Siebel Institute in Chicago, with our Brewmaster Patrick subsequently studying at Doemens in Munich.
“VIPA has quickly become a favourite in the UK. It’s “session-able” but also not too hoppy an IPA, which we think resonates well with UK drinkers. VIPA is brewed using a Virginia-grown cascade-derivative hop which provides a mild floral aroma, and also includes malts that are sourced locally. The beer is well-balanced and gaining a growing fanbase in the UK.”
As Miller mentioned, they do make some great, big, hop-heavy IPAs alongside their innovative, balanced core range. One such beer is the Great Return, a stunning 7.5% West Coast style IPA in a beautiful, generous tall can. Not only is the beer a phenomenal sample of the brewing prowess at Hardywood Park but a shining example of their commitments to environmental stewardship and giving back to the community.
“The Great Return celebrates the return of Atlantic sturgeon to the James River – which runs through downtown Richmond and supplies 60% of Virginians and Hardywood’s breweries with their water supply,” says Miller. “Industrial pollution had led to the feared extinction of the Atlantic sturgeon, which used to swim up close to Richmond. Thanks to the amazing work of the James River Association, to whom proceeds of all Great Return sales are made, the river today is far healthier and the sturgeon is now back and thriving.”
While Hardywood are proud to lead with amazing initiatives such as the Great Return, they must be equally as proud of the impact their having on the Virginian craft beer scene. Since becoming the second distribution brewery in the Richmond, there are now more than 30 breweries in the city alone and over 250 breweries in Virginia.
Miller tells us: “In this environment, we are proud to have been named Virginia’s best brewery three years in a row, during a time where the number – but also quality of breweries – has been soaring.”
Now, with their flag firmly planted in Virginia’s craft scene, Hardywood Park turns its attention to beer drinkers across the pond, right here in the UK.
“We are thrilled with the response that our beers have received outside of Virginia,” Millers says. “And we are thrilled our beers are available via Flavoury, which we hope will help allow more people across the UK to enjoy Hardywood beers. Thank you!”
“We’d also really like to hear back from Flavourly customers; please tell us what you think, tell us what you think we should do more in the UK, how we can further enhance the drinking experience. Thanks so much for the support, and please let us know when you are headed to Richmond!”