Mike Killelea is the brewer for Center of the Universe Brewing, in Ashland, Virginia. He also might be a fashion-setter. As pictured above during the brewery's grand opening on Friday evening, 17 November 2012, he was sartorially golden.
COTUB (its less time-consuming acronym) is a production brewery, which means that it is a factory that produces beer, and not a restaurant that also makes beer (i.e.,a brewpub). A Virginia law was changed recently to allow production breweries to sell their beer on-site (as wineries had already been permitted). That's what COTUB is doing.
When I arrived at 5 pm, the facility was already packed with well-wishers, the curious, and the thirsty. Several food trucks were parked on the grounds, offering an array of foods, from barbecue to kimchi tacos. The beer lines were long (but fast-moving). On tap were
- Kölsch (4.6% alcohol-by-volume; bright, clean, a hint of yeasty fruitiness without any of the eggy character of some iterations)
- Ray Ray's Pale Ale (5% abv; well-structured, grapefruit character of Cascade hops not overdone)
- Main Street Alt (5.5% abv; dark toasted bread topped with a dollop of dark-fruit jam)
- The Richard IPA.(8.3% abv; wowsers: biscuity malt character preceded and chased by slugs of citrusy and turpentiney —in a good way— hops).
The Richard was supposed to be our IPA. Back in October, we had been waiting patiently for our ABC license. We finally got it at 5 pm on a Wednesday. So we wound up brewing through the night. Finished up at 8 am the next morning. It was the first time using our brewhouse, and the boil was a bit, shall we say, vigorous. We got a crazy evaporation rate. What was intended as a 6.8% IPA, ended as a 8.5% borderline double IPA. Not what we intended. Still, it tasted pretty damn good.
We have since dialed in the steam to our brewhouse, and things are working smoothly. However, we didn’t want to release this as our IPA. So we’re calling it The Richard, after Chris and Phil’s grandfather. Those who liked it, don’t worry. Our IPA will have the same hops, malt and yeast. It just won’t be as strong. Or expensive…
The name for Center of the Universe Brewing comes from a nickname used by residents of central Virginia for the area. The brewery is owned by Phil and Chris Ray, the latter a professional baseball pitcher, who for a time was the starting closer (that's a wonderful phrase) for the Baltimore Orioles. Now, he's a brewer, and he's pitching yeast.