There’s a lot to like about the Charlottesville outpost of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, one of Virginia’s most highly regarded breweries. A gleaming space full of natural light. A central location on West Main. Affable servers. And, it appears, local savvy, too, as they’ve recruited JM Stock Provisions to cook burgers and sausages for the grand opening.
But, best of all has to be what Hardywood plans to do at their new location: experiment. The focus of the 3.5 Barell Premier Stainless brewhouse will be what they call their “pillot-batch” beers. These are trial runs and experiments that the new facility allows them to make in smaller quantities before deciding whether to increase volume. Along the way, they may tweak a beer from one batch to the next, based on the brewers’ own assessment plus feedback from customers, trusting Charlottesville’s palate to shape brewing.
For beer geeks, this is exciting stuff. It means direct access to fresh, rare, specialty beers that might not have sufficiently broad appeal to release to the masses. And as for the masses, the Charlottesville location will still offer its full line of flagship beers, too.
Leading the brewing is Kevin Storm, formerly of Asheville Brewing Company and Sailfish Brewing Company. Storm led the development of Hardywood’s popular VIPA – Virgindia Pale Ale. In addition, brewers from Hardywood’s main location in Richmond will use the Charlottesville outpost for their own experiments.
Tropication is a beautiful example of one of Storm’s pilot-batch beers. Loaded with Mosaic and Nelson Sauvin hops, it bursts with gooseberry and tropical fruit – passion fruit, mango, and lychee. It’s like an American IPA meets a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The one I sampled, co-founder Eric McKay tells me, was the third batch, which was different from the second, which was different from the first. I can’t speak for the first two, but they sure seem to have nailed the third.
Hardywood’s grand opening is tomorrow, February 18, at noon. JM Stock starts cooking at 4 pm, and the UVa v. UNC game comes on at 8:15 pm. (But, pssst, they are open today too.) Welcome to Charlottesville, Hardywood.