Brewery blossoms: Blue Mountain says yes we 'can'
In the late 1990s, fresh out of college, future beer-maker Taylor Smack landed his first real job at a local Internet start-up called Value America. The experience quickly cured Smack of any desire to climb the corporate ladder, as he toiled away creating ads for laptops and outdoor grills that featured "sales gnomes" perched on products, and watched from the front seat as avarice consumed everyone around him. One Christmas during that time, someone gave him a home beer-making kit.
Three years ago, after getting his Certificate of Brewing Technology from Chicago's Siebel Institute and making beer for both Goose Island brewpubs in Chicago and South Street Brewery here in town, Smack opened the Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton with his wife, Mandi, and his friend and partner Matt Nucci, another casualty of Value America, who went on to do business development for Greenberry's Coffee and Tea Company.
Last year, Blue Mountain brewed 27,500 gallons of craft beer, and this year Smack expects to brew 45,000 gallons. Already, Smack's draft and bottled beers are in over 100 restaurants and stores across Virginia. By the close of 2010, Smack expects to be brewing about 62,000 gallons, more than double what they did last year. In fact, demand has been so strong that the brewery recently had to buy a new 1,000-gallon fermentation tank just to keep up.
"We're also adding an additional 300 square foot cold room out back," says Smack, " and we've acquired more off-site warehouse space for our packaging materials."
Speaking of packaging, Smack also has some news on that front.
"We are going to be the first craft brewery in Virginia to can beer," he says.
Smack calls it "kind of momentous" because Richmond was the test market for the very first canned beer in the world, Kreuger Cream Ale back in 1935.
"Since then our fellow citizens have been abused with a whole lot of crappy canned beer," he says.
According to Smack, the craft beer industry– which defines itself as breweries using traditional ingredients and methods; no preservatives, no chemicals– has been the only real growth segment of the beer industry for the last half-decade.
But doubling his production by by 2010? Does Smack really think he can pull that off?
"Oh, yes," he says.