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Alewerks Brewing Company turns 10

Contact Reporterhbridges@vagazette.com

In August of 2006, Alewerks brewed its first beer, the Tavern Ale.

The brewery has come far in 10 years, an anniversary it celebrates Saturday with an "Alewerks Jubilee" event, and brewmaster and managing director Geoff Logan has felt every bit of that distance.

"It was a mixture of grit and determination," said Logan, who started out as the company's first employee. "It was a different atmosphere, and the beer culture was not what it is right now."

For before breweries seemingly exploded across the state, before Williamsburg boasted three of its own breweries, and before Senate Bill 604 allowed Virginia breweries to sell beer for on-site consumption, Alewerks was here.

"We just were trying to put out the best beer we could possibly put out," Logan said, "and grow awareness of our brand and make beer better."

In 2006, Chuck Haines, the original manager, opened Williamsburg Alewerks with brewmaster Mike Pennsinger in the location occupied by Williamsburg Brewing Company before it closed. Logan joined a few months later.

Logan said the brewery, which would change its name to Alewerks Brewing Company, grew slowly, but steadily.

That changed in 2012 with SB 604, said Michael Claar, Alewerks operations director.

"In 2006, when you opened a brewery, you expected to not make income for a good five years," Claar said. "What SB 604 allowed, and why you've seen so many new craft breweries open is … you can make a profit your first year open thanks to having that on-premise income."

Logan estimated Alewerks started out with a capacity of 1,000 barrels per year. Currently, he said, Alewerks is at 7,500 barrels capacity. Claar said the company's staff has quadrupled in the past three years.

In the midst of growth, Alewerks remains driven, as it always has, by making good beer.

"We are driven by a passion for the art of brewing," Claar said. "The business supports that, rather than the brewing supporting the business."

Saturday's Jubilee event celebrates that art.

Among more than 20 different beers, Alewerks will serve Jubilee X, which debuted Sunday at Whistle Belly festival, and Jubilee Rare, which Claar said will only be available at Saturday's event.

"Jubilee Rare is a blend of barrel-aged beers," Logan said. "We essentially have been storing away some barrels for a number of years just in an effort to come up with a blend. This is that blend."

Logan worked with Matthew Meyer, winemaker at Williamsburg Winery, to create just the right blend.

"We sat down and made a number of blends of these various barrels, and we came up with one we were proud of," Logan said.

There's more to the celebration than beer. Blue Ribbon and the Dharma Initiative will perform. Stuft and Cast Iron food trucks will be on site.

"We basically wanted to make a family-friendly birthday party for adults, with entertainment, games, plenty of beer," Claar said.

And what would a birthday celebration be without friends?

Alewerks invited members of the Williamsburg Tasting Trail to the party. Though Copper Fox Distillery was unable to make it, Claar said, Brass Cannon Brewing, Virginia Beer Company, Silverhand Meadery, Williamsburg Distillery and Williamsburg Winery all will offer samples at Jubilee.

"They've been really supportive of us and our brewery," said Chris Smith, co-founder of Virginia Beer Company.

Smith said Alewerks has helped "set the stage for everything that's happened here in the last year or two," in terms of craft beer.

But, Claar said, only "in the same way that other breweries paved the way for Alewerks in Virginia."

"We're all continuing to grow each other," he said.

Alewerks and Virginia Beer Company collaborated on a beer for the 2015 Whistle Belly festival, long before Virginia Beer Co. officially opened its doors earlier this year. The two breweries collaborated again for the 2016 festival.

"We think of ourselves as the local craft brewery, and we're excited to see new people who can also be considered the local craft brewery," Claar said.

Now, with Brass Cannon Brewing and Virginia Beer Company open, Williamsburg becomes more of a craft beer destination, Claar said.

"You can hit three breweries," Claar said. "That's a day."

Bridges can be reached by phone at 757-345-2342.

Alewerks Jubilee

When: 12-6 p.m., Aug. 13

Where: 189-B Ewell Road

Tickets: $20/advance, $30/gate

Tickets available from Alewerks' taproom or online at alewerks.com.

For more information, call 220-3670.

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