RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) Not even a year ago Hardywood Park Craft Brewery opened in the city, and the owners certainly haven’t wasted anytime embracing the community, or making good grades—with locals and famous beer advocates alike.
In the April 2012 issue (#63) of BeerAdvocate magazine, the Hardywood Gingerbread Stout was rated a perfect 100.
Is that like acing a chemistry exam or winning an Oscar? Not exactly.
“It’s a pretty big deal,” though, said Eric McKay, co-owner of Hardywood.
McKay compared the score to—in the wine world–getting a high rating from Robert Parker, who has been reviewing wine for four decades with The Wine Advocate.
McKay heard the news through the grapevine on April Fool’s Day, so his first thought was that his friend was pranking him.
“I was initially suspicious that his snapshot of the review was a photoshopped April Fool’s prank,” said McKay.
McKay and his business partner Patrick Murtaugh sent in two beers. They said that the magazine reviews 10-12 beers per issue, with scores ranging from the 60s to 100s. Mckay said though that “the Alström brothers are stingy when it comes to doling out 100 reviews.”
McKay called the reviewers, Todd and Jason Alström, objective as well as often unforgiving. The other beer that he submitted was the Hardywood Singel, which rated a “respectable 86,” said McKay, and it was described as “a yeast bomb.”
The review describes the Gingerbread Stout as:
“Aroma and flavors are spot on. Tastes like freagin Christmas in a bottle actually, with layer upon layer building on the palate with each sip. Hell, they even nailed the damn sugary frosting on the gingerbread man. Run, run as fast as you can! We want more!”
McKay said that the base of the beer is from a recipe they’ve been brewing for years, and it was accented with ingredients from local craftsmen who make honey and ginger.
The backstory; once the Hardywood Pumpkin variety hit the shelves last fall, brewed with local pumpkins (view this video) picked up at Farm to Family, the son of local ginger farmer showed up and suggested using dad’s ingredient for the next seasonal brew.
“The idea behind Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, like all our reserve series beers, is to combine some sort of local artistry or locally grown product with a beer that really sort of pushes the envelope in terms of what traditional beer style was intended to taste like and to create something really unique,” said McKay.
Since the review was published, Hardywood has received emails from all over the country inquiring about availability the Gingerbread Stout.
The success is slightly bittersweet, though, because the variety is all tapped out. There won’t be any available until middle to late November.
"On one hand it's nice to get recognition,” said McKay. They could craft up a batch but it just wouldn’t be the same.
"We're not going to cut any corners; we'd prefer to use freshly harvested ginger,” said McKay.
Neither of the brewery partners are from Richmond, but they picked the city because, “we sensed the enthusiasm for craft beer,” said McKay. "We just hope we can keep making interesting beer."
Murtaugh said they are all about "keeping the community involved, using local ingredients."
In fact, to tap into the local scene, the two gave out 1,000 hops rhizone roots so that Richmond beer enthusiasts could grow hops that will hopefully be used later in a special Hardywood edition.
While the Gingerbread Stout is all gone for now, Hardywood offers the year-round Hardywood Singel, a Belgian abbey-style blonde ale. It's rated by BeerAdvocate users as one of the top 30, among 863 Belgian Pale Ales from around the world: http://beeradvocate.com/lists/style/54
You can learn more about the brewery by clicking here.
To read the full review, click the image below: