Favio Garcia, director of brewing operations, says Lost Rhino is still waiting for state label approval before he can fill growlers to go or ship kegs to local bars through his distributor, Hop & Wine. As of last week, he expected to cut through the last bit of red tape and have kegs on the market by early June.
In the meantime, Lost Rhino has been generating buzz with its open houses on the first Wednesday of each month, most recently on May 4. Garcia and his partner Matt Hagerman served samples of their Pacific Pils, which Garcia describes as “a pretty hoppy pils,” with “a grassy, fresh aroma” and “no bitterness, a real clean finish.”
Garcia also reports that he “just kegged” his second beer, New River Pale Ale, a hoppy pale ale originally brewed by the late Kenny Lefkowitz, who died of a heart attack in 2001 (when he was just 32), months after his beer won a bronze medal in the American-style pale ale category at the Great American Beer Festival. His family took over the business and continued making beer at Ashburn’s Old Dominion Brewing Co. until 2007.
Recreating the recipe is kind of a homecoming for Garcia and Hagerman, who used to work for Old Dominion and purchased that brewery’s 25-barrel brewhouse after Old Dominion’s new owners moved operations to Dover, Del., in 2008. In fact, Lost Rhino’s facility is only a half mile from the industrial park where Old Dominion set up shop.
By the time they hit area restaurants, Garcia and Hagerman expect to have a third beer available: Face Plant IPA, named after the unfortunate accident that results when your bike hits an obstacle and you fall face first over the handlebars. The beer will be hopped with Centennials and Cascades, classic Pacific Northwest varieties, and will be run through a hopback filled with whole-leaf hops en route to the fermenter to enhance the aromatics.
Incidentally, Lefkowitz, New River’s original brewer, was a resident of Blacksburg, Va., in the southwest corner of the state, and perfected his recipe there with feedback from a local homebrewing club. He originally intended to establish his own brewery but was unable to scrape together enough capital.
Now Blacksburg is apparently attracting the attention of another, much bigger brewer. The electronic newsletter Craft Business Daily reported on April 28 that Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, Calif., was looking to build an East Coast brewery and was eyeing Blacksburg as a potential site, along with locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada’s communications coordinator, confirmed that the brewery will likely reach its theoretical capacity of a million barrels in a few years and that owner Ken Grossman is seriously considering an eastern branch to up capacity and cut down on shipping costs.
“Actually, we’ve been looking at this the last four years,” Manley said. “I think we’ve looked at 170 places overall and hammered it down to a handful after careful exploration.”
Manley declined, however, to confirm or deny any specific site, other than to say it would be east of the Mississippi.
Incidentally, when Coors established a branch plant in Elkton, Va., in 1987, Anheuser-Busch challenged the truthfulness of its rival’s advertising. Coors was shipping a beer concentrate from Colorado to be blended with Virginia water, so how could the brewery lay claim to being “brewed with pure Rocky Mountain spring water”? Coors subsequently dropped the word “pure” from its slogan.
If and when Sierra Nevada commences brewing in Virginia, far from the California mountain range that it’s named after, will that brewery draw similar criticism? Brewing chemists can adjust almost any municipal water supply to the proper parameters, but pristine, snowcapped peaks are still a powerful advertising image.