by Robyn Sidersky
Meticulous: That’s how co-founder Robby Willey describes The Virginia Beer Company’s strategy for success.
It’s how the Williamsburg-area brewery decided to add a new beer to its core lineup for the first time since opening three years ago. And it’s what determined the moment was right to double production capacity so they could brew more beer. It’s also why it took two years for the brewery to make a formal arrangement to send its product across the pond to the United Kingdom.
But careful decision making has paid off. The new addition to the brewery’s year-round offerings – and its response from beer drinkers – is evidence of that. Liquid Escape, a tart ale brewed with lemongrass and Australian sea salt, joins Free Verse, its flagship India pale ale, and mainstays Saving Daylight Citrus Wheat and the award-winning Elbow Patches Oatmeal Stout.
“It’s not something that will cannibalize something else,” Willey says of the new beer. “It shows off the brewing skills of our brewing team, and we just felt like it showcased a different side of Virginia Beer Company.”
The brewers first released Liquid Escape as “Tart Escape” in March. It was a one-off, small batch experiment available only in the taproom that became a hit with the brewery’s regulars. Making the beer requires creativity and intricacy, Willey says, noting the market has become more accepting of sours and tart ales. Business-wise they’re in a comfortable position to be “playful,” he says, and have less fear of an experiment gone wrong breaking the brewery; that might not have been the case their first year.
The Virginia Beer Company is one of five in the Williamsburg area. It opened in March 2016, the brainchild of Willey and Chris Smith, both graduates of the College of William & Mary, with help from brewmaster and co-partner Jonathan Newman.