“It’s something you can put your heart and soul into. And when you taste that, it totally comes out, and that’s one of the best parts about it.” – Jimmy Walsh, head brewer
The O’Connor name first appeared in Hampton Roads bars and restaurants almost two years ago.
In the course of just twenty months, their beers have become on-tap staples at most of our favorite Norfolk bars. This is not only the result of Norfolk’s immense obsession with buying local, but also the quality, taste, and experience encompassed within enjoying an O’Connor brew.
Kevin O’Connor, the owner of O’Connor Brewing Company, the only brewery in Norfolk, has a mission: to provide a product that Hampton Roads can be proud of. And that we are. With brew names like “Great Dismal” and “Norfolk Canyon,” it is hard to pass up the appeal of something made in our own backyard. What reasonable person wouldn’t want to help our local economy and get buzzed at the same time?
Of course, it isn’t quite local until we know exactly where it comes from, and the process by which it transformed from an idea in Kevin’s head to a brew in Alli’s hand. Curiosity got the better of me when I wanted a face to blame for my great and dismal hangover after a Tortilla West taco night.
“It’s something you can put your heart and soul into,” head brewer Jimmy Walsh told me. “And when you taste that, it totally comes out, and that’s one of the best parts about it.”
The O’Connor Brewery brews, packages, and ships all of their beer out of their single location, located in a yellow warehouse on 25th street (they’ll be offering tours very soon). They let me come in and watch the process of brewing.
The process used to create a premium O’Connor brew starts with mashing by adding barley to the mash tun. The brewers then begin to remove the wart from the mash tun, and move it into the kettle. The next step is to bring the kettle to boil, while beginning to add the hops. After the boil the whirlpool removes “trub” (particles in the wort). The wort is then chilled and aerated and the yeast is “pitched.” Afterwards, the brew is then fermented, chilled, and filtered. Finally, the brew will be carbonated and then packaged.
The O’Connor Brewing Co. get most of their ingredients from the Brewers Supply Group, based out of Minnesota, providing American grown barley.
I ended up staying a while getting to know the great guys behind the O’Connor craft brews that are making a distinct change for the better in the selection of Hampton Roads-brewed beers. By the time I left, it was hard to blame these guys for anything much more than a good time.
For the beginnings of O’Connor Brewing, try this article: