First, you have the brewers: two high school friends who enlisted in the U.S. Army, served in Iraq, came home and figured out how to brew beer.
Then you have the beer. And you have to taste the beer. Rich full bodied beer. A deep dark stout. A citrusy pale ale. Beer that goes down easy.
And since this is Virginia Beach, with its big military presence — You can’t help but hear the jets taking off around here — Tom Wilder and Neil McCanon have given their beers names with a military reference.
“We have one for every branch,” Tom noted.
Take your pick from New Recruit (a honey blonde ale — and a good introduction to YVBC), Night Vision (a dark stout), Pineapple Grenade (there’s pineapple in this hefeweizen), Even Keel (a pale ale paying tribute to the Navy, or is it the Coast Guard?), Semper FiPA (citrusy pale ale), and Jet Noise (a double IPA). Tom and Neil have an ex-Marine, Richie Hannas, to thank for suggesting the name for SemperFiPA. They even put the guy’s picture on the label.
The friends started making beer in the basement with a kit. “It turned out better than we expected,” said Neil. So they decided to do it again.
After discovering they made beer they really liked — and beer other people liked — they decided they might have a future in micro-brewing, or as they like to say “nano-brewing.” All of the beer they are currently producing fits in three barrels.
When they opened for the first time Sept. 7, everyone was waiting. In fact, the line stretched down the sidewalk and around the building. People waited up to 45 minutes to taste their beer. Word of mouth got lots of people to their door. Two winning beers in a local Battles of the Brews helped, too. And so did all the news coverage of these young vets and their beer.
Behind the office park front door is a cozy little space with bar and some hand-crafted tables and a couple of sofas. The brewery shares space with a copper artist so the place has some good looking artwork and copper jewelry.
But the focus here is really the beer. Not only do they produce a nice selection of beer styles, they do it with a sense of humor. And creativity.
As they say on their glasses and beer bottles, they’re “brewing with the freedom we fought for.”
© Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman
The Tipsy Tourist also recently visited
Shore Billy Brewing Company in Ocean City.