New business keeps father and son hopping
The craft beer trend spreading across Virginia—and the country—has come to Caroline County.
Nestled between a Chinese restaurant and a dry cleaner in Ladysmith sits the county’s first brewery, Rusty Beaver.
Austin Ivey and his dad, Rick Ivey, the owner of Virginia BBQ, serve up a host of locally produced brews.
The space was once a Virginia BBQ location, then was a place to find homebrewing supplies, but now serves as the home of the brewery.
Behind a long, black counter sit large silver tanks that contain what will turn into thirst-quenching beverages.
The brewery has five regulars on tap and a few seasonal and occasional brews.
The father-and-son-team has been brewing at home for about three years.
They spent two of those years perfecting the recipe for their brown ale—Roy’s Big Bad Brown Ale. It’s named for The Southern Belles, a band based out of Richmond that is friends with Austin.
Rusty Beaver’s brown ale has an undercurrent of deep chocolate tones.
Austin said he likes to brew beers that are simple, with two or three ingredients.
After developing their first brew, Austin developed others:
Buck Tooth IPA (India Pale Ale) is described as a classic IPA with a floral aroma and a bitter finish.
FUGGED Up Amber Ale is a sweet, malty amber ale brewed with Fuggle Hops.
The Quake Stout is named for the earthquake that rocked the region in 2011. It is brewed with a variety of different hops.
Smashed Bastard is named for a brew that uses a single malt and a single hop and is “an easy drinking beer that works for the common man.”
Zen combines the Quake Stout and the Smashed Bastard.
Country Road was brewed after Austin and Rick harvested hops off land they own in Spotsylvania County. Austin said they were aiming for “a simple pale ale.”
Austin recently made a pumpkin beer that’s new to the brewery’s offerings.
Peter Pumpkin Eater was brewed using Libby’s canned pumpkin, Austin said.
Growing hops was a new experience for the team.
Rick chopped down cedar trees from his property to anchor the wires where the hops hung.
He said he set the trees up in January and February and got the cables and anchors in place by March.
In early April, they planted 1,000 cascade rhizomes.
The hops are planted in the ground, but the vines grow up and wind around the hanging ropes.
By early September, the hops were ready to be picked. The first year brought them about 300 pounds.
“We had a pretty good year for not knowing what we were doing,” Rick said.
Rick said next year that will double or triple, and the hops can grow for 25 years.
The hops take up about 2.5 acres and are planted in three long rows.
Twenty pounds of fresh hops were used in the Country Road brew and the rest were freeze-dried.
Hops have to be used or preserved soon after they’re picked.
Right now, the brews are available in the Ladysmith storefront and occasionally at beer festivals around the region.
They are also in The Camel, a bar in Richmond, and could be available at the Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg soon.
Eventually, the Iveys hope to begin bottling the beer, but right now they’re just trying to keep up with demand.
In the mean time, growlers and half growlers, pints, and sampler sizes are all offered out of the storefront.
The brown ale and the Country Road are the most popular.
Though the hops are grown on their property, other ingredients are bought from all over the country.
Right now, the barley used comes from Wisconsin, but Rick said he’d like to work with local farmers to grow it.
And the idea of the brewery proved to be a big hit with Caroline County officials. “Caroline was wonderful. This isn’t a typical manufacturing use. It’s retail. We asked for permission and within a week got approval,” Rick said.
They had a harder time getting the OK to sell alcohol from Food Lion, who they share the shopping center with.
The hardest part of the process, they said, was getting the licensing from the federal government.
The team hopes to expand the brewing operation past the storefront, and it could happen as soon as next spring. The Rusty Beaver joins a growing list of microbreweries to pop up in the Fredericksburg region.
It joins Spotsylvania County-based Blue & Gray Brewing Co., and the Battlefield Brewery inside The Pub restaurant. And Adventure Brewing is getting ready to start brewing in Stafford County.
At least two other microbreweries are in the works locally: Shorts Branch Brewing at the Aquia Pines Camp Resort in Stafford and Spencer Devon Brewing in downtown Fredericksburg.
Virginia now has more than 60 craft breweries throughout the state. August 2012 was the first Virginia Craft Brew Month. This landed Virginia on the Travel Channel’s list of seven best beer destinations.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413