Legend Brewing Company brewed its first beer in February of 1994. Today, the Richmond, Virginia, brewery throws a party to celebrate its 17th birthday. Beforehand, I talked with Dave Gott —Vice-President of Operations— about this milestone.
Legend —and, that is without an 's'— is both a production brewery, downstairs, and a bustling brewpub, upstairs. The brewery produces six flagship beers —Lager, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Golden IPA, and Porter, and 12 seasonals. The pub serves the beers on tap —and a cask every Friday— and has a kitchen offfering casual American fare. There is live music on Friday and Sunday nights, bluegrass on Sunday. An outdoor patio overlooks the James River.
Prior to 2009, Legend had packaged its beer in kegs and 22 ounce bottles. That year, however, the brewery purchased a bottling line geared for 12 ounce bottles. In large measure because of that, Dave Gott told me, the brewery experienced 45% growth last year, recession notwithstanding, selling 9,200 barrels of beer, its greatest volume to date.
To handle that enviable growth, the brewery has ordered six additional fermentation/maturation tanks. That configuration of thirty-some tanks and a 30-barrel brewhouse will enable production to reach 15,000 barrels. Once that volume is reached, Gott revealed, the brewery will need larger digs.
And, that is indeed welcome —'breaking'— news!
Legend would prefer to stay at its W. 7th street location, but operations would need to be moved into neighboring buildings. If that weren't possible, a move elsewhere is also being considered. One possibility, would be for the existing brewery to produce draft for the brewpub, and to produce specialty beers in the 22-ounce bottles. The newer larger facility would upgrade to at least a 50 barrel brewkettle; the brewpub would keep the current 30 barrel kettle. (A barrel is the equivalent of 13.7 cases of beer.)
Whatever may happen —and Gott emphasized all this is only at the exploratory stage at present— the brewpub is NOT moving, he emphasizes. "We love it here, and our loyal customers, and we plan to stay."
Legend currently sells its beers only in Virginia, but, Gott told me, moving into larger facilites will allow the brewery to expand distribution into the neighboring states of North Carolina and Maryland.
Legend was founded in 1994 by Tom Martin, who has a Masters in Brewing Science from Berkeley. Martin's father was the Vice-President of European Brewing Operations for Anheuser-Busch, and the original brewmaster at the Budweiser plant in Williamsburg, Virginia.
John Wampler is the head brewer and Vice-President of Production; he was hired in 1995. Dave Gott joined in late 1996. Rick Uhler —Vice-President for Sales & Marketing— began working for the brewery in early 1995. The brewing staff consists of three brewers —Wampler along with Mike Killelea and Alex Coppola— assisted by three cellarman.
The current register of seasonal and specialty beers includes:
- Begian White
- Belgian Tripel
- Belgian Quadrupel
- Chocolate Porter
- Imperial IPA
- Smoked Chocolate Stout
I'm one of them.
Photos from the celebration: here.