Hey, since we’re diving into the craft beer scene this week, let’s talk about Hardywood Park Craft Beer from Richmond. A marketing company from out of state called it the Best Craft Beer Brand in Virginia last week. A big call, right? But, does Hardywood really own that crown?
Let us share some facts that make a compelling case for Hardywood being the city’s top craft beer ambassador.
Way back in 2011, Hardywood was the first one to kickstart the craft brewery buzz in Richmond. Sure, Richbrau Brewing Co., who closed in 2010, and Legends were already around, but it was Hardywood that set the stage for the craft beer wave we’re all riding now. Around the same time, one of our favorite local spots, a Vietnamese restaurant called Mekong, became the heart of the local brewers’ community, even winning Best Beer Bar in America in 2016.
A quick side note here: We were on the ground, observing this scene develop. Mekong stood out, shaping an inclusive, fun community based on exchanging ideas and home-brews. This groundwork inevitably nudged some of the entrepreneurs in the crowd towards becoming competitors in the craft beer gold rush that was soon to follow. But let’s put a pin in that — it’s worth its own article at some point.
Back on track, Hardywood didn’t stop at just opening a craft brewery in 2011. They followed it up with the first craft beer release that’s arguably become the most famous brew in our city’s history — the Gingerbread Stout, which back then got a perfect 100 rating from Beer Advocate. For several years, this beer turned into a sensation, drawing huge crowds around the block every year when it was released.
Then, in 2012, the crew behind Hardywood, alongside Star Hill Brewery and Devil’s Backbone, put their money where their mouths were. They funded a lobbying effort and got Senate Bill 604 passed, which allowed on-premise consumption of beer, just like wineries and other alcohol producers. This bill was a game-changer for the industry in Virginia and now we’ve got over 200+ breweries across the state.
Though this whirlwind happened over a decade ago, Hardywood’s influence hasn’t waned. Their brand, as pointed out by eagle-eyed reddit user u/ExtremeHobo (main image), has found global resonance, with their beer popping up on shelves in Japan as an exotic American brew.
So, is Hardywood the undisputed craft beer ambassador of Richmond? The evidence certainly paints a compelling picture. But perhaps the real testament to Hardywood’s influence is found in every frothy pint of Virginia craft beer enjoyed around the world. Now, that’s something to raise a glass to.