When you’re in the process of starting a brewery, topics of conversation tend to fall somewhere in the category of beer, brewing, and business in general. Since I started really getting into beer and brewing several years ago, I’ve been someone who likes to talk about these things. I typically find myself clinging to my wife Shannon’s side or tucked away in the corner at parties, unless I find someone who wants to talk about beer, and usually this isn’t a problem, so things tend to work out for me.
I’ve been somewhat surprised at the two questions that come up most often after people find out that I’m starting a brewery. The first one has been “what kind of beers will you make?”. The first time someone asked me this, I didn’t really know how to answer it. Not sure if they were asking if we would specialize in a specific style of beers, like Belgians or Sours, or if they actually wanted to know what our draft list would be on opening day. My answer in general is that as a local craft brewery we plan on brewing all different kinds of beers. We will be small enough to rotate through different styles and find out what people like the best. Some traditional, some experimental. We want to make sure that every time you come to Random Row, you will have the opportunity to try something different (unless you come every day).
One of the things I would really like to focus on are some high quality, memorable, lower ABV offerings in the 3-6% range (now known as “session” beers), which 10 years ago wouldn’t have been considered low ABV. We want people to be able to enjoy a few of our beers without needing to crawl out of the tasting room. It is often possible to pack a similar amount of flavor and aroma into a lower ABV beer as you might find in a much bigger cousin (e.g. Pale Ale vs. Imperial IPA) but it requires a fair amount of thought, planning, and trial and error. All of that said, one of my favorite beers to make is an Imperial Stout, so there will be plenty of “big beers” as well. Basically, I plan to push the envelope on both ends of the spectrum.
The second question I’m a little less surprised about, but maybe a little more surprised at how many people ask me this immediately after they find out I’m starting a brewery, “Will you have food?” This has been a question the founders have been thinking about for a long time now. The short answer is “Yes, but we will not be licensed as a restaurant.” As a brewery, we will be licensed to sell beer we make at the brewery. Preparing and selling food is regulated under a different set of standards. A whole other set of requirements would need to be met to qualify for this, and we are not interested in adding something as complicated as a restaurant into the picture. BUT, we do have plans for food. One big asset to breweries like Random Row is food trucks like Morsel Compass. They carry their own food license and can park right outside our tasting room to feed the hungry customers inside. We plan on having a “dock” for food trucks to park right outside our patio and plug into our power source, rather than having to use a loud generator. We also have plans to provide some other sort of pre-prepared food items in the tasting room, but have not finalized that yet. Some options we have talked about are prepared sandwiches, soft pretzels, and sausages. There is a line we cannot cross as far as handling and cooking goes (basically, it has to be “ready to eat” i.e. we are only reheating it so that it tastes good, not to kill bacteria), so we are currently researching our options. We will also have snacks and non-alcoholic beverages available for the kids and non beer drinkers. OrderUp is a new delivery company that we also plan on tapping into and advertising to our customers. Its an easy way to get one of many Charlottesville restaurants to deliver food right to the brewery. A quick search finds that OrderUp will deliver 75 different restaurants to our brewery. And you’ll always be welcome to bring your own picnic lunch or dinner with you (Bodos is across the street, Ace Biscuit and BBQ, Sticks Kebobs and Marie Bette a couple blocks away), we’ll provide the beverages!