By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
In advance of its Virginia production brewery opening, Bend-based Deschutes Brewery is kicking off its East Coast presence with a new tasting room in downtown Roanoke, Va., which is scheduled to open by the end of August.
“Roanoke is home to us now and we wanted to put down some roots,” said Nate Brocious, tours and tasting room manager of Deschutes Brewery. “Since we will not be breaking ground on our new brewing facility until 2019, we’re excited to take one of our first steps in becoming part of this awesome community by opening the new tasting room.”
Deschutes beers are now available in 29 states and Washington D.C., and throughout most of Virginia’s urban areas, such as Roanoke, Charlottesville and the Beach Cities. Deschutes has also partnered with southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Beverage Company to bring its most popular beers to area bars, pubs and grocery stores. The decision to house East Coast operations and production in Virginia bumps Deschutes to the same rank as Stone Brewing Co., Green Flash Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing Co., which is based in nearby Botetourt County about 30 minutes north of Roanoke.
Following its 2016 announcement to open an East Coast production brewery in Roanoke, in April 2017 Deschutes announced the new tasting room. Deschutes had planned to look for a suitable location to augment its local presence, provide beer-related public education and host events. The search for the right spot began in fall 2016. Roanoke’s historic, walkable downtown also includes a farmers market, a variety of eateries and nightlife, museums, galleries, a new hotel and additional craft beer presence from local breweries such as Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers. The Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room will be located in a 4,700-square-foot space in a renovated building that was previously occupied by a restaurant that closed in 2016. As part of the construction, the ground floors of three conjoined structures will be combined into one spacious gathering area.
“Being in the heart of downtown allows us to share our culture and brands with locals and visitors alike,” explains Brocious, who plans to hire around 10 employees. “Back in 1988, we opened our first location in the heart of downtown in Bend, so it only seems fitting that we would open our first location in the heart of downtown Roanoke.”
Fifteen taps will fill Deschutes pints, growlers and crowlers. The tasting room will exclusively pour Deschutes beers for its opening, but Brocious says they “are open to exploring many options as we move forward,” and may eventually host guest taps for other local and regional breweries. Bottled Deschutes beers and other brewery merchandise will also be available for purchase. Indoor and outdoor seating is planned. Instead of building an in-house kitchen, Deschutes is removing the current prep space and working with local restaurants to offer ready-to-eat foods.
Deschutes is developing classes for the public and other events will be offered regularly. While initially the space won’t be available for private events, Brocious says they’ll be looking at ways to use some areas for that in the future.
In addition to the tasting room, the location will house a 20-gallon pilot and small-batch brewing system. “It will allow us the opportunity to create many new and exciting brews,” says Brocious, including “unique beers for the community” that may be available only in the Roanoke area or exclusively at the tasting room.
The tasting room’s brewing system is also an opportunity for Deschutes, in partnership with the fermentation sciences program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, to continue its work ensuring that beers brewed in Roanoke match those made in Bend.
Deschutes considers the tasting room as more than just a way to anchor its Roanoke presence, however. It’s also a chance to see how customers take to Deschutes-branded tasting rooms and taphouses in another part of the country that could lead to additional facilities in other markets. Roanoke-area business and tourism leaders view the business as an opportunity to further rejuvenate downtown. But perhaps most importantly, the space will allow the public to become familiar with Deschutes beers while they await the 55-acre, 350,000-barrel, $90 million production brewery’s opening in 2021.
For now, though, Brocious and the Deschutes team are focused on finishing the tasting room and getting it ready for its public debut. “We hope to see many of our friends and neighbors and will be offering some fun activities for those in attendance.”
Headed to Roanoke? Here are Additional Craft Beer Resources and Destinations:
315 Market St. SE, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Beer Trail: Virginia's Blue Ridge Beerway
Ballast Point Brewing Company
555 International Parkway, Daleville, Va. 24083
Blue 5 Restaurant & Beer Bar
312 Second St. SW, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Big Lick Brewing Company
135 Salem Ave. SW #100, Roanoke, Va. 24011
Devils Backbone Brewing
50 N. Wind Lane, Lexington, Va. 24450
Flying Mouse Brewery
221 Precast Way, Troutville, Va. 24175
Hammer & Forge Brewing Company
70 Main St., Boones Mill, Va. 24065
739 Kessler Mill Road, Salem, Va. 24153
Rising Silo Brewery
2351 Glade Road, Blacksburg, Va. 24060
Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
523 Shenandoah Ave. NW, Roanoke, Va. 24016
Twin Creeks Brewing Company
111 S. Pollard St., Vinton, Va. 24179
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.