Member Spotlight: The Virginia Beer Company
Date: March 22, 2017
Award-winning local brewery, The Virginia Beer Company, is celebrating their 1-Year Anniversary this weekend, March 24-26th, 2017! We wanted to congratulate and spotlight them on their recent accomplishments and all the big celebration events they have coming up, so Kayla Kearse, our Public Relations and Social Media Specialist spoke with Robby Willey, Co-Founder of Virginia Beer Co.
Read their member spotlight to learn how Virginia Beer Co. was founded and some advice they have for young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business here in the Williamsburg community! You can visit their website here.
1. How was Virginia Beer Co. founded?
Co-Founders Chris Smith & Robby Willey first met at the College of William & Mary as transfer students who found jobs at the W&M Student Phonathon in 2004. Their love of craft beer first started over pints at Williamsburg’s Green Leafe Cafe. The two became fast friends and kept in touch after graduation. Robby was the best man in Chris’s wedding to his wife Erin, a fellow W&M alum. Chris & Robby stayed active in the W&M alumni community, joining an Annual Giving Board that afforded them the opportunity to regularly visit Williamsburg and catch up over new beers.
Both working in the field of finance, they agreed that their early careers did not coincide with their long-term goals. The conversation about other careers kept coming back to a fondness for interesting beers. Sampling beers led to brewery tours, and brewery tours led to homebrewing. As time went by their interest became a hobby, the hobby became a passion, and that passion led the two to finally agree in 2012 that opening a brewery together was the right move.
All they needed was a place to do so; with their history at W&M and their growing interest in working together, Williamsburg became the perfect landing spot for The Virginia Beer Co. Chris & Erin moved back to Williamsburg in late 2012. Robby followed in early 2014. We teamed up with Jonathan, a talented brewmaster, along the way. And in March 2016, The Virginia Beer Co. opened its doors and its taps to the public!
2. What kinds of events or programs are you all involved in around the community?
One of the things we were passionate about when agreeing to open a business together was to use that business as a force for good in the community. Breweries have the unique ability to do so by acting as a place where people enjoy spending time together and appreciate sampling something local; so why not combine those forces to promote local causes and organizations?
Since opening in March 2016 we've worked closely with local philanthropic, service, and educational organizations to share their causes, and we're proud to have been able to donate over $7,000 through fundraisers like steal-the-pint nights and taproom events like open mic nights and pop-up workouts – one-off, outside the box events that focus attention on these noteworthy organizations. Some of the groups we are passionate about supporting include Dream Catchers of Williamsburg, Child Development Resources, Ring Dog Rescue, Armed Services Arts Partnership, FISH Inc., Latisha’s House Foundation, and William & Mary.
We are also passionate about personally staying involved in the community. Robby currently serves on the City of Williamsburg Economic Development Authority and Chris is a member of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance Board of Directors. Both also serve as Class Ambassadors for the College of William & Mary.
3. As a new and successful local company, what advice do you have for young professionals looking to start their own business in Williamsburg?
One of the hardest parts about opening the brewery was the time it took to do so. Finding the right location, raising capital, perfecting recipes – it was not an overnight process! People often ask us what we did during the almost four years it took to open the business. Outside of all of the above, we took the time to get involved in the Williamsburg community! Part of our desire to open the brewery in Williamsburg was our growing love of the community we had gotten to know during our time as students and our time as volunteers at William & Mary.
We dove head first into supporting small businesses both in person and online using our social media platforms. It was a genuine desire to see small business grow; support other beverage producers; and learn more about our new home. The result was that we learned a lot about what it takes to run a small business. In addition we made a lot of friends in both the beverage and Williamsburg communities.
When we finally opened our own business many of those people we’d come to know so well and continued to root for along their own adventures came out to support us, and we’ve been supporting each other ever since! The best piece of advice we can give to other entrepreneurs is to open your business in a place that you’re passionate about, and put into your community what you hope your community will give back to your business. Doing so pays off in big ways for everyone involved!
4. Congratulations on one year since the opening of your taproom & beer garden! What does Virginia Beer Co. have planned for the anniversary weekend?
It’s almost mind-boggling to look back on how this adventure started and realize that we’ve been open for almost one full year! We have a great series of events set up for the anniversary weekend, which we’re calling Waypost Weekend. The word “waypost” alludes to a sign or marker along a journey and we thought this was pretty indicative of this rather momentous milestone. We have three days of events scheduled from Friday, March 24th – Sunday, March 26th:
3/24 – Waypost Weekend Bottle Release: VBC will be unveiling its first large format bottle release with a new beer called Waypost. This Imperial Stout has been aging in dueling Scotch casks and Bourbon barrels since November 2016. It will be released both in variant 750 ml bottles and on draft at 5 pm on 3/24. Joining the party will be Bro’s Fish Tacos serving on the beer garden, and Good Shot Judy who will be performing from 6-9 pm!
3/25 – Waypost Weekend Anniversary Party: An all-day music + food + beer festival! We are roping off the entire parking lot so the full property will become one big outdoor birthday party. 8 bands will be performing on 2 stages, 3 food trucks serving all day, games to play, and 15+ beers tapping throughout the day!
3/26 – Waypost Weekend Hangover Brunch: Recuperate after a great weekend with baked goods, a food truck, and the debut of a Coffee Porter brewed in collaboration with Williamsburg’s own Aromas. We’ll be serving the beer in 20 oz. VBC-branded coffee mugs, and Timeline Jazz will be playing us back to reality from 2-5 pm.
The weekend’s full lineup and tickets for Saturday’s Anniversary Party can be found by visiting www.virginiabeerco.com/waypost-weekend.
5. Anything additional you would like to spotlight?
We’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the incredible support that we have received from the Williamsburg community from well before we opened through the buildup to our anniversary celebration. Opening The Virginia Beer Co. has been a dream come true and we are stoked for what’s to come in Year 2. Thank you to everyone who’s joined us for beers & cheers…we can’t wait to bring more of both to Williamsburg and beyond!
To learn more about The Virginia Beer Company, click here.
If you are interested in having a spotlight story on your business, please contact us today.