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Sunday, April 08, 2018

Beer and the Great Outdoors. A Match Made in Heaven. (Beer Blogging Friday)

The Session: Beer Blogging Friday is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin. On the first Friday of every month, a pre-determined beer blogger hosts The Session, choosing a specific, beer-related topic, inviting all bloggers to write on it, and posting a roundup of all the responses received.

For The Session #134, Friday, 6 April 2018, I was that pre-determined host and my topic was ... Beer Gardens.

Dave Gott —Vice President of Legend Brewing Company, in Richmond, Virginia— kindly sent in an essay on beer gardens in general and his beer garden in particular. He stated that he is "not a writer." I disagree.

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Beer and the Great Outdoors. A Match Made in Heaven.

I guess I don’t have to start this saying “I like beer”. The mere fact that I am taking the time to write about it is proof enough. I am a beer drinker, not a writer. However when asked to write about my two favorite pastimes; drinking good beer and being outside, I put my two index fingers to work and in the old cop at the typewriter style and started banging away.

I have been in the beer business for 27 years and the question I get the most is “what is the best beer”? My pat answer has always been “a free one” but I have begun to reconsider that answer and hone in on to a little more detail. A free one consumed on a nice sunny day when a warm breeze is blowing and you see the world as the glorious wonder that it is. Especially when there is no yard work to do.

Whether it is a deck, a porch, a true beer garden or just sitting in the grass, there is something special about that first beer outside in the spring. Hell, the Norwegians even have a special word for it. Utepils meaning outdoor lager.

The current craze of outdoor seating in our breweries and restaurants today is an expression of a much older tradition. In the German Biergarten, dating from the 19th century, beer, food, and music were enjoyed in an atmosphere the Germans called Gemütlichkeit. A word used to convey a state or feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. Drink a few steins and say that five times really fast.

Downtown Richmond, across the James

At our Pub in Richmond, Virginia —Legend Brewing Company— we have a deck that seats 200 and has a spectacular view of the James River and the city skyline. We also have a beer garden that seats 80 at the front of our Pub. Let’s face it, you can’t have too much of a good thing. Our Portsmouth location has a beer garden overlooking the Elizabeth River with a view of the big navy vessels in dry dock. These are places where people sit, talk, trade ideas and get to know each other all under the big blue sky with a nice cold one in hand. The troubles of life fade away on that aforementioned warm breeze and all the world is at peace.

Hop bines at sunset (04)

So what makes a good beer garden? My friends, the answer is simple. You do. It is neither the wood deck, slate patio, or spectacular view. It is the coming together —the community, and camaraderie— we share over our favorite beverage. Gemütlichkeit.

So, I bid you cheers and goodwill. The warm weather is coming and outside we will go! With beer in hand, of course.

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— Dave added that he has been in the beer business since 1991 and with Legend since 1996. He attended Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia, where he received a degree in Earth Science and Philosophy, and drank a lot of beer. After college, he worked and traveled extensively overseas and drank a lot of beer. The rest is history.

I would add that Legend is celebrating its 24th anniversary. Opened in 1994, it is, by far, Virginia's oldest operating 'craft' brewery. (The only Virginia brewery older is Anheuser-Busch's Williamsburg plant, which began operations in 1972.)


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