[images | George W. Culver]
Kevin O’Connor knew that they had outgrown their old space, but he still loved the neighborhood. As luck would have it, he met the owner of the Decorum Furniture warehouse at a Better Block event in Norfolk, and told him that he loved the building. The rest is history, and the O’Connor crew is putting the finishing touches on the transformation from furniture warehouse to brewery.
There will be those regulars who lament the change, the sense of having a local hangout in which you had to step over hoses or the occasional puddle to make it to the tasting bar, but O’Connor made sure to retain much of that charm in the new space. It still very much has an “industrial” feel to it, and you can still sit and drink your beer right next to the giant conical fermenters and brite tanks, watching the production workers do their magic.
The public space is divided into different sections: the Beer Hall (familiar rows of picnic tables right next to the brewing equipment, an ode to the old brewery) with a medium –sized stage for live entertainment, a stunning traditional tasting room that is a transformed series of walk-in cold storage from a previous business (make sure and take note of the original cork walls and the poplar bar), a Children’s Nook with a chalkboard and fun for the kids, a Game Room with corn hole and Shuffleboard (Shuffleboard!), and a VIP lounge on the mezzanine that looks over the brewery floor. These different areas will allow O’Connor to offer a wide range of space options for special events of all types. Serrano also has hopes of eventually being able to book national acts for the stage, as our area has a great void in venues of this size. In addition to the regular visits from food trucks, there are also plans for a tasting menu with rotating selections from local eateries.
From a production standpoint this move increases O’Connor’s capacity greatly. They are using little more than a third of their production floor, and that alone is allowing them to increase production from 5,000 barrels/year to 15,000. The goal is to have the capacity to expand their market area, starting with western and northern Virginia and the Outer Banks. There is also a huge cooler for storage as well as a proper loading dock to facilitate shipment. They have recently hired a new Head Brewer, a Tasting Room Manager, and tasting room staff to work the new space. The new space will allow them to focus not only on increasing output, but also on trying out new smaller-batch test beers. Look for some new beer series and lagers in the near future, as well as some experimentation with barrel aging. The brewers love the new space and are excited about the future.
The new O’Connor Brewery is a great mix of old and new. The people that have been with them from the beginning, crammed into the tiny space at the original location, can rest assured that the vibe at O’Connor, as well as traditions like trivia night, are still intact. The people who were previously judging a book by its cover and were reluctant to venture in before will now definitely feel more inclined to do so. Everyone will have a good time and enjoy some great craft beer.
Fall in love with this new treasure for the Hampton Roads beer scene.
For more on the event, click here.
For more of George Culver’s local food images, check out his blog, I Heart Food.