The Answer debuts first batch of in-house beers next week, made with love, hip-hop, and the Force

Posted by: brad – Apr 22, 2015


When I first tried to enter The Answer Brew Pub, I made the mistake of trying to enter through the 'front' of the building, but the doors were locked. I could hear the thump-thump-thump of bass reverberating through the massive windows, but I quickly realized the only way in was through the back.

The massive space An Mekong (of Mekong Restaurant and Bar located about two doors down in the same shopping center) has turned into The Answer Brew Pub opens up beautifully with tables, bars, and a stage for live acts.

But lets not kid ourselves, the focus of my trip that day was to check out the four new beers Mekong and company will release as part of their new brewery located in the front of The Answer's building.

“I was impressed with what he’d built," said The Answer's Assistant brewer Zac Ross when I asked him what brought him to work for the legendary Mekong. Ross, who'd worked for Voodoo Brewery in Meadeville, PA, before moving to RVA to work for The Answer. He started as an assistant manager and beer buyer, but once the brewery got underway, he took on the new role.

Ever since, Ross been working under the tutelage of The Answer's Head Brewer Brandon Tolbert, helping to make Mekong, a man whose made waves in the RVA Beer scene for some time, make an even bigger splash when he unveils the new made in house in their own brewery.

“We’re not trying to emulate anybody," said Ross about the new brews which will debut this weekend. All are IPA's, something Ross said Tolbert had thought about since their early conversations about opening a brewery. "We’re trying to make beers we enjoy. Very hoppy, but not bitter. Flavorful to profile the hops.”

The Richmond beer market has exploded recently, but Ross said he's been to places like San Diego where you'll find breweries literally next door to other breweries - so over saturation was not a concern in this venture.

The beers in question, Petty Larceny Single hop Mosaic Session, Nelson Sauron Single hop Nelson Sauvin IPA, Larceny Single hop Citra IPA, and Grand Larceny Mosaic and Citra Double IPA, are still getting settled before their grand release as part of a week-long series of events.

But behind these beers lies one of the most awesome and creative brewing spaces I’ve ever seen.

Ross takes me to the back of the Answer and opens a door leading to the bright orange brewing room. Massive steel tanks line two of the four walls, and hip hop posters line the rest.

“It’s a hip-hop themed, or just personalized brewery,” Ross said. And then I notice the names on the tanks: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Darth Vader, Chewbacca.

The brewery has a Star Wars theme.

“Rather than just naming the tanks, we wanted to give the ma bit more personality,” said Ross pointing around the room. “After all, yeast has personality, so why not have the place the yeast will sit and party in have a bit of personality as well."

The two biggest tanks in the room are named Jabba the Hutt and The Sarlacc Pit.

“It makes since from brewing - we mash it in Jabba the hutt, and then we dump it, just like Jabba did, in the Sar Lacc pit,” Ross said with much more of a straight face than I could muster.

And as for that hip-hop bass I heard banging through the glass at the front of the building earlier, that was coming from inside the brewery too.

“[Tolbert] used to be a DJ, so he plays old school hip hop in here 24/7,” Ross said.

I ask him if he thinks the music actually effects the brewing process.

“It’s not scientifically proven,” he admits. “But heavy bass does create vibrations in the air, and then it reverberates off the stainless steal tanks. Which could, potentially, allow the yeast to remain in suspension for a little bit longer and allow for a cleaner attenuation.”

“Like a mother playing Motzart for a baby in the womb?” I ask.

“Yea, like that.”

Sounds like the best kind of beer pseudo science to me.

Finally, Ross walks me into the 'cold room,' the refrigerated space where The Answer's kegs are kept.

But next to the kegs stand even more tanks. This is the last stop for The Answer's in-house brew. when you order one of the new beers, it will be coming straight out of these cooled tanks.

"They are as fresh as can be," said Ross. "It was very meticulously planned."

There’s obviously a lot of love put into the beers coming out of The Answer next week, and if my interaction with Ross was any example, the future of The Answer’s in-house beers will be just as bright.

Check out more details about next week's events here via facebook.

Here's the schedule of the week's events.

4 PM: RVA Appreciation Night/Local Beer Tap Takeover
Special Taps Include:
LCCB Supreme Leader
LCCB Enlightened Despot
Ardent Whiskey Barrel-Aged Dark Rye
Hardywood Gingerbread Stout
Hardywood Agent Cooper (Bourbon Cru with coffee beans)
Hardywood Douglas Fir (double dry hopped Great Return)
with music by Mekong Xpress & The Get Fresh Horns starting at 9:00pm.

TUESDAY-NOT CONFIRMED. Bottle sales may be moved to a future date. Fingers crossed!
4 PM: Cigar City Brewing/The Answer Collab brew
"Good Night Mekong" Bottle Sales
(First Round, Second Round to follow on Sunday)
Imperial Coffee Stout brewed with Vietnamese Coffee Beans & Vanilla
(2/person-further details to come in separate event invite)
Live music by Butcher Brown starting at 9:00pm.

PETTY LARCENY Single hop Mosaic Session IPA
Live music by Dance Candy starting at 9:00pm.

NELSON SAURON Single hop Nelson Sauvin IPA
Live music by The Blue Tips starting at 9:00pm.

LARCENY Single hop Citra IPA
DJ THROWDOWN! Featuring Dj Phil Dice & Erik Holmgren
Spinning starts at 8pm.

GRAND LARCENY Mosaic and Citra Double IPA
Music TBA.

NOON: Cigar City Brewing /The Answer Collab brew "Good Night Mekong" Bottle Sales
Imperial Coffee Stout brewed with Vietnamese Coffee Beans & Vanilla
(2/person-further details to come in separate event invite)
Live Music by Bluz Catz 1pm-4pm
and The Fredds 5pm-8pm

Words and photos by Brad Kutner