It’s ironic that Portsmouth has spent the last several years in the shadows of the Coastal Virginia beer scene. In many ways they are one of the reasons we have gotten where we are today.
Before our beer renaissance, if you asked a serious beer drinker where to go in the area for good beer, they would invariably send you to Portsmouth (to the Bier Garden, in particular). Fast forward a few years and Portsmouth is seen as a strange place, with tolls and no brewery of their own.
That’s about to change. In a big way.
Portsmouth is about to jump ahead of Chesapeake in the race by adding two new breweries to the area. It’s no secret that Portsmouth has lobbied long and hard to attract brewers to the city. For those who have followed the rise of the breweries in Coastal Virginia it was a no-brainer and past due. The spectre of tunnel tolls and traffic nightmares made for easy scapegoats, but the reality of those situations is two-fold. First, while there are undoubtedly people reluctant to make the journey to Portsmouth because of tolls/traffic, there are just as undoubtedly people in Portsmouth who would prefer not to go the Norfolk and Virginia Beach for the same reasons. This is the captive-audience model, and it has worked very well for some of the breweries in our area and beyond.
Second, serious craft beer people honestly won’t be dissuaded. If the quality of the experience is there, they will go. With not one, but two new options in Portsmouth the decision becomes even easier.
The first new Portsmouth brewery, MoMac Brewing Company, is a labor of love for some dedicated Chesapeake homebrewers. Located in the Churchland area of the city, patrons of MoMac can expect a wide range of styles, from IPAs focusing on citrus hops, to refreshing blonde ales and wheats, to porters and stouts. The brewers will also be bringing some Belgian beers to the table, which is great news for fans of those styles.
Brewing duties will be handled by owners/brewers Scott Krick and Rob Hess, and joining the team as head brewer is Chris Richards.
I recently spoke with Rob as he showed me around the brewery, and he says his reasons for jumping into the craft beer world were two-fold; his love of beer and his enjoyment of the camaraderie of the industry. Having been a homebrewer before, he did recognize the need to hire a brewer with commercial experience to make sure that they were putting out the best product possible. Head brewer Chris Richards’ love for the craft took him to brewing school in England, and eventual brewing gigs at both Starr Hill and St. George. The will be working with a 10 BBL brewing system (1 BBL, or barrel = 31 gallons, meaning MoMac will produce around 300 gallons per batch).
In addition to great beer, the tasting room space at MoMac is very impressive. There are tables spaced throughout the near 5,000 square foot tasting area, including a separate room for private functions, indoor games, and a covered patio. The space also features serving bar seating, a rare treat in the brewery scene.
The tasting room, bright with stainless steel and wood accents, sits in the shadow of windows to the production area of the brewery. They will also feature an area for food trucks, creating in a spot that is inviting and family friendly. MoMac Brewing is poised to make a big splash in both Portsmouth and the region as a whole.
The second addition to the Portsmouth beer scene is the first satellite location for a true Virginia brewing legend (pun intended), Legend Brewing Company. Started in Richmond in 1994 as a pub and micro-brewery, Legend has grown over the years to be one of the powerhouses of Virginia craft beer. Now in their 23rd year, they are finally expanding to a second location.
That such a solid and experienced brewery saw the potential in Portsmouth is not surprising, and the location that they secured (next to the ferry stop on High Street) is instantly one of the best in the area. This location, like the one in Richmond, will be a brewpub. They’re calling it Legend Brewing Depot.
Brewpubs are the main area in which Coastal Virginia was lacking, with only a handful of our breweries also featuring full-service restaurants. Given their experience, Legend will hit the ground running in Portsmouth with a full menu of delicious pub food and all of the Legend beer we can handle.
Despite the longevity of the brand, many people in the area will need to be enlightened about Legend. A consequence of time and limited distribution, many only know Legend for the packaged beers we are able to get in our market. And while Legend Brown is one of the finest examples of the style, it is often perceived as kind of boring. To make the miscalculation that this is all Legend is about is to miss out on some truly exceptional beers.
In addition to the full product catalog from Richmond, Legend Brewing Portsmouth will also house a smaller brewing system for producing special beers unique to the location. It is here where we will see a lot of exciting stuff; smaller systems allow for less risk with experimentation. Combine that with over two decades of commercial experience and Coastal Virginia is in for a real treat.
Thank you to the sponsor of this article, Portsmouth Department of Economic Development
While we’ve all been focusing on the incredible new breweries that have been joining the ranks on the Peninsula and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Portsmouth has been patiently waiting their turn. That turn has come, and they’re going to be taking us on a great ride. Buckle up.
The Grand Opening of MoMac is July 7th from 6pm to 9pm. For more info, here is the event on Facebook.
Legend Brewing Depot plans on opening by the end of the month. Follow their progress on their Facebook page.
About the sponsor of this article:
The mission of the Portsmouth Department of Economic Development is to foster an environment that creates a superior quality of life for its corporate citizens and residents by being receptive and responsive to the diverse local community and global economy. Visit them online at PortsmouthVaEd.com or call 757-393-8804 for more information.