Nhat Pham, a Richmond-based new media strategist and beer geek, sat down with An Bui, chief beer officer at Mekong, to chat local brew. Mekong recently won national attention as one of the nation’s “Greatest American Beer Bars” by Craftbeer.com.
Nhat: How have you seen the local beer scene change in recent years?
An: It’s like a nuclear bomb hit RVA when it comes to craft beer. There has been massive change-everyone is drinking craft beer and every bar is offering it…even ones you wouldn’t think offer it. Whether it’s an established one, like Legend Brown or new upcoming ones, like Hardywood Singel. It’s like a Beer Virus. Nhat: Why do you think the local beer scene has grown so much, particularly in the RVA market?
An: There are now more breweries and the once small breweries are now larger and have larger distribution as they get bigger. People travel more and visit breweries, and they bring knowledge back. They bring beer back. Groups of folks are finding rare stuff, and lots of good beer is coming to town. Social media is helping too…Facebook, Twitter, and so many beer blogs now. Before, you just had a good beer. Now you tell your friends. Now you even take a picture and put it on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever and put it out there for thousands of friends. If there’s a good beer, you’re going to put it out there. It’s like sharing a beer with the masses.
Nhat: What do you think about all the local breweries popping up?
An: Hardywood, James River, Blue Mountain, and more…it’s great. The best thing that happened to RVA is Hardywood. It has helped people believe in RVA and now we have Ardent, Strangeways, and Center of the Universe. People are becoming passionate about brewing. Home Brewers Association has grown and many of them make great beer. And now they know there’s a bigger community to support craft beer. It’s great to have local brewery destinations and not have to travel an hour or more.
Nhat: What makes them stand out?
An: They brew great beer. They use fresh, local ingredients and Virginia products and flavors.
Nhat: What’s the benefit of local breweries?
An: You can support the local economy and create a better ecosystem with local farmers, distributors, stores, and restaurants. It brings more RVA appeal to mom and pop bars. Everyone wins. It also means that brewers are more accessible. You can connect to them; they can answer questions and add more excitement to the beer. You can then not only enjoy the beer but also enjoy it along with the story of the beer. Every beer has a story.
Nhat: Can RVA support more brewers?
An: I think RVA can support at least five to 10 local breweries. If a small place like Asheville can support 12, we can too. We have just as much passion for craft beer… arguably more.
Nhat: Where do you see the future of local breweries?
An: Virginia will be on the map of all beer geeks. Like Cali and Colorado, we’ll eventually be top five and maybe compete as the #1 beer state destination. RVA is one of the fastest growing in the beer movement. RVA demands more good beer. At the bar you might have a janitor sitting next to a doctor, a lawyer, construction person, or secretary. They all talk to each other over beer. It brings people together. Big things are coming for Virginia. People are getting into craft beer. This is just the tip of iceberg. Watch out.