Eric McKay (left) and Patrick Murtaugh of Hardywood Park
“Richmond has a beer scene similar to what you saw 10 years ago in the Pacific Northwest. The market is not yet saturated and there’s still an enthusiasm for craft beer that borders on fanatical.” —Patrick Murtaugh, cofounder and master brewer, Hardywood Park brewery
Tell us about what you do.
In short, we make beer. We lean toward beers that are stylistically underrepresented in the market. Our Reserve Series is dedicated to using at least one local ingredient in each beer: local wildflower honey, baby ginger, blackberries, raspberries, locally roasted coffee. We also put a lot of effort into trying to engage our local community so that they feel like they’re a part of what we are doing. Every spring we give away over a thousand hop rhizomes to people who want to grow hops in their backyards. We then invite them to bring the hops to our harvest festival where we pick them right off the vine to be used in our locally hopped “RVA IPA.”
What led you to your current position?
To give you an abridged version starting from the beginning, Eric [McKay], my business partner, and I grew up together and began home brewing after trying our first home-brewed beer at an Australian sheep farm called Hardywood Park in 2001. Shortly thereafter we decided we had to start a brewery. From there we went to work writing a business plan, landed jobs at a craft beer distributor in NYC, and eventually went back to school…Eric for business and me for brewing. Shortly after I got back from studying in Germany, we finished our financing and opened up Hardywood in Richmond.
What is your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is hosting beer-and-food-pairing dinners, which we do quite often, where you can witness honest reactions when people taste our beer for the first time—and then seeing how it all comes together when paired with the right dish.
A selection of Hardywood Park brews at a recent dinner
That’s how we met you, and we can attest the beer—and the food—was delicious! Tell us a little about the beer scene in Richmond.
I always say that Richmond has a beer scene similar to what you saw 10 years ago in the Pacific Northwest, or parts of the Northeast. By that I mean that the market is not yet saturated and there is still an enthusiasm for craft beer that borders on fanatical. With the miles of singletrack bike trails, white-water river rafting, kayaking, etc., Richmond has a lot of the same outdoor culture you see in places like Denver or Portland, where it seems like there is a brewery every quarter mile or so. So it is only natural for Richmond to follow suit in its craft-beer culture. In the past year we have seen four new breweries open up in the greater Richmond area, and more are expected to open within the year. For the past two years in a row, Mekong, a local Vietnamese restaurant, was awarded the status of Best Beer Bar in America by Craftbeer.com. So Richmond is definitely starting to find itself on the map of great brewery towns to visit.
How does your beer speak to the culinary landscape of Richmond?
The culinary landscape in Richmond rivals any other city I have ever been to. The creativity and raw talent that exists here is truly incredible. Restaurants here are very into using local, seasonal ingredients in their cooking, and that’s also a big part of what we do at Hardywood.
Name a dish or drink that a visitor to Richmond cannot miss.
It is hard to pick just one, but I would say the BBQ at Buz and Ned’s is some of the best I’ve had, and definitely a “can’t miss” if visiting Richmond.
Eat Your World focuses a lot on a city’s historic, traditional foods. What do you think is the future of food and beer in the Richmond area?
Recently, I have seen a lot of restaurants in Richmond leaning toward a more adventurous take on the comfort food that the South is so well known for. One good example would be the lobster-tail corndogs I had recently at The Magpie, a local gastropub—amazing! The more adventurous the food selection, the more options and more pleasant surprises you have when pairing it with good craft beer.
On EYW, we ask users to share short food memories related to travel, a favorite meal, growing up—anything. Can you share a brief food memory with our readers?
When I was really young, my family lived in Los Angeles and there was place we always went to that served cottage cheese mixed with raisins and cinnamon. To this day, it’s still my favorite snack!