It was a party twenty years in the making, and this gentleman was making the most of it. Legend Brewing Company —of Richmond, Virginia— celebrated its 20th year of existence with a party, a really big party.
Twenty years earlier, in February 1994, Legend —and, the name is indeed spelled without an 's'— would brew and deliver its very first beers, ever. At that time, the only other microbreweries (such things were not yet ubiquitously called 'craft') in Virginia were Richbrau (also in Richmond), Blue Ridge Brewing (in Charlottesville), Bardo Rodeo (a brewpub in Arlington), and Dominion Brewing Company (in Ashburn, northern Virginia). Dominion has since moved to Delaware, but the other three have closed. 1
To commemorate the two-decade milestone, Legend threw a big shindig for its fans, Saturday, 19 April 2014, on the brewery grounds, along the banks of the James River, in the up-and-coming Old Manchester neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. Bagpipers, barbeque, musical acts, horses, and, oh, yes, beer. One of the four beers this Legend fan was holding was the brewery's Imperial Brown Ale, which had been aged in bourbon barrels especially for the anniversary.
The brewery produces seven year-round beers —Lager, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Brown Ale, Golden IPA, Porter, HopFest— and several seasonals, all in draft, bottles, and cask. The malt-forward Legend Brown Ale is the brewery's number-one seller, rare for 'craft' breweries these days, which tend to neglect this once popular style in favor of super-hoppy beers.
Legend is not only a production brewery, but a pub, a live-music venue, and a restaurant serving casual American-fare. An outdoor 200-seat patio overlooks the James River, with a prime view of downtown Richmond directly across the river. Come warm weather, it's packed, as it was for the party.
There's some serious brewing pedigree at the brewery. Tom Martin, Legend's founder and principal owner, holds a Masters Degree in Brewing Science from the University of California, Davis. Before opening Legend, he had worked as a brewer for Anheuser-Busch. His father before him had been the Vice-President of European Brewing Operations for Anheuser-Busch, and was the original brewmaster at the Budweiser plant in Williamsburg, Virginia.
At age 20, Legend is now Virginia's oldest extant 'craft' brewery, not only surviving but thriving. Three years ago, it surpassed the ten-thousand-barrels-of-beer-per-year mark; now, it is well past that, selling throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Overseeing the brewing is longtime head brewer —and Vice-President of Production— John Wampler, first hired in 1995. Rick Uhler —Vice-President for Sales & Marketing— began working for the brewery the same year, and Dave Gott —Vice-President of Operations— joined in late 1996.
- 1 An alert reader noted, in the comments below, that I had omitted Blue Ridge Brewing, which was operating in 1993, in Charlottesville, Virginia. My thanks to him/her, and my apology to the folk who brewed at Blue Ridge. I've corrected the post. I'm not so certain about Virginia Native. To my recollection, that beer would not be brewed in Alexandria, Virginia, at the Birchmere, until 1995 at the earliest. Brewing ceased there a few years later. Can anyone help with some documentation?
- More photos from the celebration: here.
- Legend has been doing a lot of celebrating.
- Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of personal photos, often posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as a subject. Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1.
- Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.