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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Hardywood Park “Rye Whiskey Barrel Pumpkin” Whiskey Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully and got about a finger of thin off-white head, which was gone pretty quickly. This had substantially different head than the non-barrel aged offering I reviewed yesterday. This has a very clear light orange/amber color with what appears to be light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma of this is fairly mild. Not a whole lot of earth or yeast. I get some light booze from this, as from whiskey. There is some mild spice, like from white pepper. Perhaps some of that spiciness is coming from the rye. This doesn’t have much of a hops presence, nor much sweetness on the nose. The nose is so different from the non-barrel aged offering.

Taste: Up front I get pretty strong whiskey, with the spiciness of a rye. You get the pumpkin, but much less in this than in the non-barrel aged offering. The pumpkin has some roasty dimensions. This has a great spice to it, from the added spices and the spiciness of the rye, as well as a little earth. I get some nutmeg in this, and not a whole lot else by way of pumpkin pie spices. The rye whiskey takes hold of the flavors a good bit. The malt in this has a restrained sweetness with something like a mild burnt sugar to it. There is also some vanilla and oak, which I’m guessing is coming from the barrels. Not a whole lot by way of hops noticeable, save for some non-descript brightness that lingers around the edges. Really rich and strong flavors. This finishes pretty dry with some more of the rye whiskey notes taking hold and fading into an aftertaste of vanilla and oak and mild rye. Great flavors, a real nice fall sipper.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with mild carbonation. The feel is very warm, with a definite warming alcohol bite. It isn’t boozy in a bad way, but definitely lets you know it was aged in whiskey barrels. The oak and vanilla round things out a good bit, changing the feel of this so much from the offering I had yesterday. It really feels like a different beer. Nothing is harsh on the palate. And it feels a little thinner.

Drinkability: This is a 10.5% beer, with some spiciness and notable alcohol. So it is not a chugger. It is a good sipper, and has the roundness and warmth allowing it to drink pretty well as a sipper. So, given the style, I’d say decent here. The alcohol does detract a little, and some of the flavors don’t quite stand up to the strong rye whiskey. But, in any case, it drinks pretty well.

Overall: This is a real nice fall beer. Again, it is remarkably differing in flavor and feel than the offering from last night. It loses a good bit of the bright and rich pumpkin, but gains some warmth and spice from the rye whiskey. This also feels thinner and a lot less sweet than the standard offering. Barrels change a lot of things, it seems. This is the first rye whiskey pumpkin beer I’ve had. I think the spice from the rye and the pumpkin pie spices is kind of a cool combo, set against the booze from the whiskey, the pumpkin, and the seemingly light sugar. There is also some burnt sugar and mild earth that add new dimensions which you don’t get in the other offering. That gives this some added complexity. I really like saisons, and strong roasty pumpkin. And, just as this one does, their original farmhouse pumpkin offering has great complexity with much more of a saison quality. So, though this version is something I’d love to drink, I do not find it as compelling as their original farmhouse pumpkin.

Overall Rating: ****

photo 5About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park is from Richmond, Virginia, and has been putting out some great beer there since 2011. I’ve previously written about them and what they’ve got going on.

Last night I reviewed their original Farmhouse Pumpkin, which they’ve been making since they opened. This Rye Whiskey barrel version was a real treat. Apparently, this year this rye version replaced the “Rum Pumpkin” they were thinking of doing again, due to some barrel acquisition issues. They had previously made “Rum Pumpkin” last year. I’m happy to get to try them all.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2014)


Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: Carefully pouring produced under 2 fingers of frothy white head, which reduced over about two minutes to leave a little lacing and settle into a bubbly ring atop the beer. This has a beautiful bright orange color, with a lot of haziness and no real sediment to speak of. It looks to have moderate carbonation, judging by the many tiny bubbles rising.

Smell: I get roasted pumpkin up front, with some vegetal dimensions. This is paired against a funky and earthy yeast presence, some spices- think I am getting nutmeg and clove- as well as a bright citrus quality like from tangerine. There is also some warm sweetness as from brown sugar or molasses. The yeast comes off as almost having some smoke to it.  This smells complex, and warm and inviting. 

Taste: Really rich and enjoyable flavors. You get the roasted pumpkin up front, and it is clear. You also get more sweetness than the nose suggested, some brown sugar and some honey-like sweetness. The spices are nicely balanced, and I think again include nutmeg and clove. The yeast presence isn’t as pronounced as it is in the aroma, but is still a major part of the flavors in this. The spices work well with this to add more complexity to the sweetness and roasted pumpkin. Real earthy with some slightly bitter notes, and some restrained funkiness. The yeast gives off something like smoke and white pepper and earth. This finishes a little dryer with that sweetness and roasted pumpkin moving into mild earth and white peppery yeast. The earth and yeast hang out for a while in the aftertaste. The finish is long on this one. I say this has wonderful flavors, great complexity, and great roasted pumpkin presence.

Feel: I’d say this is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. The carbonation is very pleasant. This has a very warm feel, and has the spice and yeast notes set against the sweet sugar and roasted pumpkin. This adds complexity to the feel. This is heavier than I remember it with respect to the sugar. Still, really nice feel, especially for a saison-style beer.

Drinkability: Given its 8.5% ABV, I say this does pretty well. There is a little bit of an alcohol bite to this, but nothing too much. For an 8.5% farmhouse ale, it drinks pretty smoothly. The spices and the yeast do interrupt the smoothness, but they pay huge dividends in flavor and complexity. Good here.

Overall: I like this one a whole lot this year. I have always really enjoyed this offering, but am particularly liking it this year. It has great roasted pumpkin, and wonderfully complex and rich flavors. The more I drink this the more I get more tangerine too. There is that alcohol bite, but I’d rather have that than a ton more sugar to knock that out. Unless you actively dislike saisons, I’d call this a must try among pumpkin beers in VA. I included this in a blind VA beer tasting, where I didn’t put in any votes, and no one voted for this for gold, silver, or bronze. That was surprising to me, as I think this is just a great offering. Soon I’ll be trying their rye whiskey pumpkin offering!

Overall Rating: ****

DSC03805About Hardywood and this offering: Hardywood Park Craft Brewing hails from Richmond, Virginia, and has made quite a splash there since they opened in October of 2011, when I first reviewed this beer. I enjoy it every year.

Last year, they also made a “Rum Pumpkin“, a version of this beer aged in rum barrels.

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Isley “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Isley Brewing “Stunt Dubbel Dubbel” Pumpkin Ale is around 7% ABV.

I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: I poured this carefully, and then hard at the end. This did not produce any real head. This beer has a rich medium burnt orange/amber, which is mostly clear. It looks to have mildish carbonation. Great color.

Smell: On the nose I get some vegetal squash, and some very pleasant and strong spicing. This has standard fare  “pumpkin pie” spicing, but it also has some warmth and a nice pop to it. I get something like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. This also has some smooth brown sugar and sweet maltiness, and not much by way of hops, save for a little brightness around the edges. Great spice in the aroma.

Taste: This does have that vegetal pumpkin to it, which you get up front with some slight sour notes. The spices quickly follow, and form something of a prominent bitter wave that works its way to the back end of the sip. The spices aren’t as warm as they were in the nose. I think I get some cinnamon and ginger, but not as clear as I was expecting. Definite strong bitter spicing. This also has some smooth malt that doesn’t say a whole lot, but is complicated by some earthy yeast. The finish has the bitter spicing and yeast taking hold and hanging out in the aftertaste. The pumpkin gets a bit lost by the end. I like the earthiness in this, though it doesn’t have a lot of complexity.

Feel: This is medium bodied with light carbonation. I wonder whether it was different right from the tap. (This was purchased yesterday, quickly stored in a cold fridge, and pulled out right before pouring. A 32 oz growler should be able to store enough carbonation.) The feel has some mellow mild sweetness, which gets interrupted by the botter spice and yeast. Not completely one dimensional in feel, but not that complex either. There is a slight alcohol bite at the end. The bitterness hangs and invites another sip. After a bit of drinking this, the bitterness detracts.

Drinkability: This is OK here. The yeast and heavy spice do hang on my palate, such that I’m not sure I could have more than one of these.

Overall: This is alright. I like the earthiness from the yeast, but wish the spices did a bit more to add complexity, and weren’t so muted and flat-lining at bitter. The smooth malt is nice, and is good to set against the vegetal notes and the spice. Yet the pumpkin does get a little lost in this one towards the end. This doesn’t really feel to me like a dubbel. For that, I’d want a little more richness. This would be a good choice if you wanted something with a yeast and a bitter spice presence, perhaps after a sweeter maltier offering- which Isley often offers up in good numbers. This is not a top pumpkin beer in the state, but nothing to avoid. I like the Belgiany pumpkins I’ve had before a bit more than this one. For example, Hardywood Park’s, which I’ve yet to review this year, is quite good.

Overall Rating: **1/4

DSC03782About Isley and their offering: Isley opened in Richmond, Virginia in late October of 2013. They are located in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition, very close to Ardent Craft Ales, whose pumpkin ale I reviewed a week ago. Isley’s brewmaster is Josh Stamps, who works with their sole owner, Michael Isley.

I visited Isley to pick up a growler of this beer, which is the first year I’ve heard about Isley having a pumpkin offering. They weren’t so keen on giving information about the beer, saying that they keep their recipes very secret. I was able to learn that the ABV was around 7%, and that they were planning on also having this for the Scott’s Addition Pumpkin Festival in a week.


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Ardent “The One” Pumpkin Ale (2014)

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Ardent “The One” Pumpkin Ale is 8.7% ABV.

I was served a 12 oz goblet from on tap at the brewery.

Appearance: This beer was served without any head at all. Its color is a very clear medium burnt orange/amber. It has a beautiful color. Few bubbles rising suggest mild to moderate carbonation.

Smell: The aroma of this is not incredibly strong, but had great roasted pumpkin, as well as a pleasant spice blend. I noticed cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. This smells sweet, like from gingersnap cookies, brown sugar, and some toasty and caramely malt. I also get some vanilla, making for a great pumpkin pie aroma. There are some minimal hops joining the otherwise sweet pumpkin pie aroma.

Taste: This has a strong sweetness up front along with some roasted pumpkin, though has less pumpkin than the nose suggested. With the first sip, some bitterness moves in quickly, as from the spices. I get a dry kind of white pepper/ginger spice with a little bit of smokiness. This has more of a pronounced bitterness than I was expecting. This beer is certainly very sweet with a hearty malt backbone and flavors of brown sugar and caramel. This finishes with a lot of that bitterness setting in, and just a touch of bright hops. This bitterness hangs out some in the aftertaste, with some extra sugar. This has good flavors, but is very sweet and not as warm or complex as the smell suggested.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with mild to moderate carbonation. The sweetness is pretty heavy, and not quite balanced enough for the feel. It is a bit heavy because of all the sugar. The sugar also kind of hangs, as does some of the bitter spicing. The spicing feels more on the sharp and dry side, rather than something warm and complementing. This could use more balance, I think.

Drinkability: This doesn’t bombard with alcohol, probably because of the high sugar content. So it’s 8+% is not so noticeable. Even so, it is sweet enough that I think I wouldn’t want more than 10 or so oz of this.

Overall: This beer does have some nice roasty pumpkin up front, which I like. This quickly gets crowded by the bitterness as from some dry spice. The spicing keeps this from being warm and round. The sweetness definitely puts this in the pumpkin pie style of pumpkin ales, and aids in keeping the bitterness from being the only focal point. For my tastes, this is a bit too sweet, and still lacks the complexity many of the other imperial pumpkin ales have. It does have good flavors, but I’d want more balance. This is a local option worth trying, but not quite a destination pumpkin beer for me.

Overall Rating: **3/4

About Ardent and this offering: Ardent Craft Ales opened in Richmond, Virginia in June 2014. They are located in Richmond’s Scott’s Addition neighborhood. They are just a stone’s throw away from Isley Brewing, another newer small craft brewery to Richmond. Ardent’s head brewer Kevin O’Leary (not to be confused with the venture capitalist on the popular show Shark Tank) previously worked at Cambridge Brewing Company before he moved to Richmond in 2010. That same year O’Leary joined a co-op with other Ardent co-founders Paul Karms and Tom Sullivan, both of whom had beer beginnings in homebrewing.

Ardent uses roasted pumpkin and other “gourds” in this beer, as well as some classic pumpkin spicing. It sits at 8.7% ABV and has 14 IBU’s. Ardent’s main line of beers also includes a “Virginia Common”- a sessionable ale/lager hybrid, a saison, an IPA, and an american mild ale. You can find their beer on tap in and around Richmond.

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Strangeways “Gourd of Thunder” Imperial Pumpkin Porter (2014)

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Strangeways “Gourd of Thunder” Imperial Pumpkin Porter is 9.2% ABV.

I poured some of a 32 oz growler into a wine glass.

Appearance: The pour was easy, and tossed up just a little bit of thin beige head, which lasted less than a minute. The color of this is a dark and murky brown, with some reddish hints to it. This fizzes such as to suggest light to moderate carbonation.

Smell: To start I get some vegetal pumpkin, which is quickly followed by a whole lot of earthy, dark, and woody spices. I get definite clove, as well as some candied ginger, nutmeg, and as some banana. This smells sweet with dark malt and molasses and burnt sugar, and has an intense aroma from the bold spices. Really enjoyable aroma.

Taste: This tastes a good bit like it smells. And it is rich. It has some mostly vegetal and somewhat caramel-like pumpkin, and a legion of spices following it up. I get woody and toasted spices of clove, allspice, ginger, and maybe some nutmeg too. The spices are bold and interesting. This is also on the sweet side, with burnt sugar, molasses, vanilla, and a kind of candied ginger sweetness. The more I sip it, the more the spices come through and sit with me. Not as much pumpkin after a few sips. This finishes with the strong dark sugar sweetness quickly fading into some woody clove-like bitterness, and a touch of vegetal pumpkin sourness. This dark woody spice sits on the palate in the aftertaste for quite a while. Good rich flavors, and interesting and enjoyable spices.

Feel: This is more medium bodied, thinner than I was expecting. It has moderate and just perfect carbonation. It is also a little on the sticky side, with some of its dark malt and heavy sugar. But the feel has some complexity because of all the bittering components from the spices. Not a whole lot of presence from the high alcohol, which is good. Pretty nice feel, save for the spices adding more bitterness than I’d ideally want.

Drinkability: For something surpassing 9 percent, this is pretty drinkable. The heavy sweetness helps hide the ABV, but does weigh me down a bit. Given how rich this is, and how bold the spices are, I couldn’t have a whole lot of this at one time. The strong bitterness from the spices hangs on my palate, and makes this a bit less drinkable. So, decent here.

Overall: I tried this beer last year, and remember really enjoying it. I also really enjoy it this year. I think the spices are bold and really interesting. This isn’t for the faint of Fall, or err, the faint of spice, or… something. This is spicy. I like the mostly vegetal pumpkin up front, but could go for a bit more vegetal pumpkin overall to balance out the heavy dark spices, which weigh me down after a bit of sipping on this. But I have to say I really like the dark sugar and molasses and the candied ginger. So I say this is a good imperial pumpkin porter. It isn’t my absolute favorite. For that, I’m currently stuck on Alaskan Pumpkin Porter. I also think this is overpriced. The 32 oz growler fill for this was 18 dollars. For that price, I could buy two 22’s of some other imperial pumpkin porters- Epic/DC Brau’s, for example. This beer has a more interesting spice profile than the Epic and D.C. Brau collaboration. Not 18 dollars worth, though. If you haven’t tried this, go for it on tap, get it as part of a flight, or ask for a small sample before you commit to an expensive growler. I don’t think they are bottling it this year.

Overall Rating: ***1/2

image (6)About Strangeways and their offering: Strangeways opened in Richmond, Virginia in may 2013. This is the second year they have made Gourd of Thunder, which is made with roasted local pumpkins, bourbon vanilla beans and spices of cinnamon, ginger, and clove. See my 2013 review of the Gourd of Thunder for more info about them and this brew.

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale (2013)

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Hardywood Park “Rum Pumpkin” Rum Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale is 10.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour quickly tossed up well over two fingers of foamy bright off-white head, which slowly dissipated to leave thick lacing along the sides of the glass. This has a clear and very bright burnt orange color. Judging from the head and the bubbles (and the sound when I uncorked this), it looks to have very heavy carbonation.

Smell: To start I get some strong and warm rum that brings some booziness. There is also some warm pumpkin pie spicing, though it blends in with the rum such as to not project any one spice so clearly, save for maybe some ginger. The spice does have a bit of an earthy white peppery or gingery sting to it. This beer also has strong floral notes to it, and some citrus. All in all, strong rum with some added complexity. Nice aroma.

Taste: There is quite strong rum to start, which is joined by some earthy and warm spicing with some roasted flavors. The roasted flavor isn’t unimpeachably pumpkin, but I think it does get across some pumpkin. This also has a strong but not overdone sweetness like from some honey and brown sugar, though with some definite dark rum thrown in as well. A lot of spice contributes to the flavor of this, moreso than with the non-rum-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin that I reviewed last night. I get a slight bitter pop from the spices in this, as from white pepper or ginger. This also has less of a yeast presence, with the barrel aging rounding out some of the otherwise funky and citrusy qualities had by Hardywood’s non-barrel-aged Farmhouse Pumpkin. This has some of those funky qualities, though they are fewer in number and a lot more subdued. This finishes with a good bit of dark rum and brown sugar sweetness with some citrus notes. It has some residue of yeast in the aftertaste. Great strong flavors with solid rum throughout.

Feel: This is medium bodied to heavy bodied, with heavy carbonation.The feel is bold, and quite warm. There is definite booziness to this, though the sweetness smooths some of this out. The warmth and strong rum stays with me. So a good and bold feel, even if a bit boozy.

Drinkability: This is a strong beer with strong rum. So it is far from something that merits the label drinkable. It is a definite sipper, especially as the more I sip this, the more I notice flavors coming through. Some lemon comes through.

Overall: This is bold, with intense flavors of rum and earthy spice. The strong rum in this is quite nice, as it imparts a great warmth and some enjoyable sugar. There are some enjoyable citrus and spice contributions that come through more strongly in parts. The pumpkin is there, but is not as front and center as the non-rum-aged version, especially given the strength of the rum. This also, like its non-rum-aged version, has a great earthiness to it. This would be great with a savory dinner, or nice as an after-dinner drink. It could even stand up to a cigar if someone was so inclined. So it is good. Even so, I do prefer the non-rum-aged version I reviewed here, as it has more nuance and complexity in flavor. The rum is tasty, and adds great flavor. Yet it does cover up some of the complex parts of Hardywood’s farmhouse pumpkin ale. In any case, you can’t go wrong either way. You trade off some wonderful nuance for some great rum, rounded flavors, and serious warmth.

Overall Rating: ***3/4

image (21)About Hardywood Park and their “Rum Pumpkin”: Yesterday I wrote a little about Hardywood Park, when I reviewed their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”, the beer they age in rum barrels to make this “Rum Pumpkin”. They are a great brewery, which has really changed things for both the beer scene in Richmond, Virginia, and more generally, for Virginia beer.

Hardywood Park makes “Rum Pumpkin” by aging their farmhouse pumpkin ale in dark Caribbean rum barrels for months. The aim is to impart great flavor from the white-oak barrels, and to allow some dark molasses notes. This beer was released for the first time on October 12th, 2013 with a two bottle limit per customer, just as a number of Hardywood’s other Barrel Series beers have been set to. At $14 for a 750ml, it isn’t cheap. But it is worth it, especially for rum enthusiasts or those searching for the perfect full-flavored autumn beer to bring to Thanksgiving.

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Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale (2013)


Hardywood Park “Farmhouse Pumpkin” Pumpkin Ale is 8.5% ABV.

I poured some of a 750 ml  bottle into a Belgian ale glass.

Appearance: A careful pour gave a finger of bright off-white foam, which slowly dissipated to leave some froth on the surface of the beer. This is slightly hazy with a bright burnt orange color. It looks to have moderate carbonation.

Smell: To start there is nice roasted pumpkin along with some bready yeast and funky notes. Smells like a roasted pumpkin farmhouse ale. I get some earthy white pepper, bright citrus, brown sugar, and some warm spicing. The spicing isn’t so easy to individuate by its component, due to the strong yeast and other flavors. I get some cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, I think. Really great aroma. My favorite things: roasty pumpkin and saison qualities.

Taste: The first sip was just so flavorful: roasted pumpkin, and great complexity from the yeast, citrus, spice, and sugar. This just overtakes with powerful flavors. The roasted pumpkin is noticeable throughout, as the bready yeast is. This isn’t as funky as I was expecting from the aroma. I guess the sugar rounds things out a bit. This just has great earthy flavors, with spices of (I think) allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. This also has a white peppery bitterness with the spicing, adding a great match to the citrus and funky yeast. This finishes with a little more white-pepper-like bitterness and yeast along with a citrus tang. Some mild yeast and peppery bitterness in the aftertaste. What a great example of a non-traditional pumpkin ale with great roasted pumpkin flavor.

Feel: This is medium bodied plus, with moderate carbonation. It has an earthy feel, with the yeast, citrus, and spices adding texture, while the roasted pumpkin and sweetness round it out. The pepper notes do grab hold and attract some attention.

Drinkability: This is a full-flavored beer with a substantive yeast presence. So it is not a paradigm drinkable pumpkin ale. Even so, the sugar and the roasted pumpkin smooth things out some. Because of the bold and contrasting flavors in this, it isn’t one to really barrel through.

Overall: I like this beer quite a bit. I love saisons and other farmhouse ales. Having one with a roasty pumpkin presence is quite nice. I’ve had this beer in the past, and look forward to having it each year since it came out in 2011. This year I like it even more than I remember. The sugar was well-balanced, the citrus notes were bright, and the yeasty elements substantive but not overwhelming. And all that paired well with the roasted pumpkin and the spicing. Given all that is going on in this beer, it could get busy quick. But it doesn’t. It is an artfully crafted beer, another very good offering from Virginia. Check in tomorrow when I review Hardwood’s “Rum Pumpkin”, their farmhouse pumpkin aged in rum barrels!

Overall Rating: ***3/4

DSC03649About Hardywood Park and their “Farmhouse Pumpkin”: Co-founders, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh opened Hardywood Park in Richmond, Virginia in October of 2011. As the story on their website goes, McKay and Murtaugh had been lifelong friends, and were inspired in 2001 during a trip to Australia to make some of the best craft beer in the world. Since then both have done a lot en route to achieving this goal, much of which can be read about on their website. They have also done a lot for the beer culture in Virginia, being instrumental in getting Senate Bill 604 to pass. That bill allowed on-site consumption of beer at breweries in Virginia, a privilege already enjoyed by wineries in the state. Moreover, the folks at Hardywood seem to pride themselves on being involved with the local community, by locally sourcing their ingredients, hosting community events, and participating at a number of farmers markets. If you come near Richmond, Virginia, Hardywood Park is located near the historic Fan neighborhood, just north of Broad street, in a massive 12,000 square foot warehouse. During release days for their beer, you can expect a big crowd.

Hardywood makes their Wallonian-style farmhouse ale with a saison yeast and barley, rye, and wheat for their grain. They add roasted Virginia-grown sugar pumpkins, brown sugar, and spices fresh or bought at local businesses. For spicing they use allspice, Ceylon cinnamon, fresh organic ginger root, Grenada nutmeg,  and Madagascar cloves.

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