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Ideas for the Hardywood tasting room?

on Tue, 05/24/2011 - 9:53pm

As we're in the midst of designing and building out our tasting room to make it more enjoyable for visitors, we're trying to carefully consider what it could become from a functional standpoint.  It's a 1,000 square foot space right at the entrance of our building - initially it was a pretty sterile space with grey vinyl floors, white walls, a red desk, and bright flourescent lights.  We'd like to make it an ideal tasting room and would love some suggestions from Richmonders on what you'd like!  Here are some of our guidelines and questions.

First, we want to create a great environment for sampling and collecting feedback on our beers (particularly new beers we'll brew on the pilot system).  We'd also like to sell beer to go - primarily in growlers and bottles, and of course, some Hardywood gear - tee shirts, hats, openers, and such.

Next, a number of you have suggested you're planning to ride your bikes to the brewery - that's awesome!  In respose, we just ordered a recycled bike rack.  How can we encourage a lot of people to ride their bikes to the brewery?  Should we sell growler carriers for bikes?  Any suggestions on where to get one made or customized?  What other gear should we sell besides beer, shirts, and hats?  Bumper stickers, cycling jerseys, fancy insulated stainless growlers, patches, etc.??  Other cool "gear" ideas?  What else would interest you? How often should we be open?  During what hours?  How many beers would you like us to offer?  What tour schedule should we plan - weekly/bi-weekly?  If so, when is the best time?

What about set-up?  Should we keep the room wide-open?  Tables and chairs?  More casual - sofas and armchairs?  Would a window or glass door overlooking the brewery be appreciated?

Beer education is really important to us, and we've got a ton of books, educational materials, and an eagerness to put ourselves, our beer savvy colleagues, and fellow brewers who travel to (or live in) Richmond in front of people who are interested in learning more about the exciting world of beer.  Would Richmonders be interested in attending educational sessions?  If so, what subjects would be most interesting?  Beer and food, cooking with beer, beer history, brewing process, beer styles?  Depending on the time/energy/resources put into the classes, would people pay to participate?

What about a name?  Simply "tasting room" or "beer library" or "beer sanctuary" or something along those lines?  Other ideas?

We've been really grateful for the great feedback we've received in our earlier forum posts - please keep it coming!!



Chris Iguchi's picture

First, I just want to say that I am thrilled that Richmond is getting a new micro-brewery! As far as the tasting room... If you haven't already, I highly suggest taking a field trip to Sam Adam's tasting room in Boston - it is incredible (and also a lot bigger than 1000 sq. ft.)! I like their style of having rows of picnic tables for their tastings - very informal and allows for conversation amongst everyone. If not picnic tables, then perhaps bar top tables. I guess another option if space allows, would be to have tiered stadium style seating. A window into the brewery would be great! A beer "school" is a good idea, but I would keep it short and simple - most people are there to try the beer and typically have a decent understanding of the beer process. Another thing to consider to offer is allowing those who frequent the tastings their own personalized mugs/glasses to use when they visit. As far as merch, everything mentioned sounds pretty good - growlers indeed (but keep them basic and on the cheap so we can afford to fill them), pint glasses - yes, koozies - yup, and most importantly bottle openers or bottle opener key chains. Also, once you start distributing, please make sure to sell to Once Upon A Vine - they are a great neighborhood beer/wine shop where you'd be in good company. Ready for that first batch of brew!
Anita's picture

Please don't post...... But how about long beeches and tables like "wagammama's" - the restaurant This would encourage discussion amongst the tasters and you can just fit people in! Also, an events tab on your webpage maybe an idea, I read about a world beer something in exploring your I can't find it! We moved here from Belgium and my husband is excited to hear about your new brewery. Can't wait to visit.
LPP's picture

You guys should sell pint glasses! I think that sounds obvious, but I didn't see it on the list so I thought I'd suggest it just in case you'd overlooked it. Also, what about coolers or beverage containers? Or those neoprene 6-pack carriers that Built makes?
stump's picture

First... Thanks a lot for asking the beer community. Smart on your side and good for us! I may be posting more as I think about it but I really like places that will grab your empty growlers and just fill them up. It's up to the "growler owner" to bring it in clean. I've been to too many places where the beer already filled is in poor condition. Not that that would be the case here! Casual sounds good. Hours... Are you going for an "On" license? That would make a difference. Good luck guys and congrats again.
joel's picture

Hey Hardywood, I think you'll find that Richmond's cyclists are quite beer savy and quite thirsty! Rather than just selling bike jerseys, I'd recommend sponsoring a local team and or some events as well.
Paul's picture

I would like to see a more unique glassware offering other than or alongside the tumbler. A stemmed glass would be nice. Belgian, snifter or anything else.
eric.mckay's picture

Paul, we're relieved to hear you say that. While straight pints/shaker glasses are really convenient (they clean and stack easily) and are relatively inexpensive, they were not designed or intended for beer, but rather, as their name suggests, for shaking martinis. We've done a fair amount of research leading up to our first glassware order, and based on your suggestion, I think you'll like it. These will be available at our retail store.
Amanda 's picture

I think that sofas and chairs, tables that are all vintage and mis-matched would be great. I also think a big chalkboard wall where guests can leave comments and ideas each week would be different!
Andy Hannas's picture

Really excited that you will be within biking distance of my apartment! The growler carriers for a bike are a cool idea, but seem like they could be cost prohibitive for something that basically serves only one use. Pizza Port in San Diego sells neoprene "growler wetsuits", basically giant coozies for growlers. I think those would be a nice option for anyone visiting via bike as it would keep the beer cool for the ride home and keep the condensation from ruining anything else you might have in your bag.
eric.mckay's picture

Hi Andy, Thanks so much for the suggestion. We'd like to make it as convenient as possible for those in cycling distance from the brewery to bring growlers home. Growler coozies are a great idea! We're also planning on offering two sizes of glass growlers (64 oz. standard and 32 oz. flip-top). We're also getting a limited number of a brand new stainless steel insulated 64 oz. growler that's pretty much shatter-proof and will keep beer cold for up to 24-hours, according to the documentation. While these are higher priced, they'll hopefully offer a nice option during activities where glass is problematic (golfing, boating, river-going, etc.). Depending on how well they do, we hope to keep these as a regular item in the tasting room store. Please keep the feedback coming!
Richard's picture

I'm excited about a new micro brewery in the Richmond Area, but was wondering is this going to be only a brewery or a brew pub? Are you going to sell food or just beer? Also unique idea that Sam Adams implements on a large scale, once you are up and running and comfortable with things you could try a competition with local home brewers and the winner would share their recipe for you guys to brew for a chosen amount of time. It could be a month, 3 months, etc... Just a thought
eric.mckay's picture

Hi Richard, Thanks for reaching out. We're not planning on having a restaurant, we'll just be brewing, however we will have a tasting room where we can offer samples, sell beer to go (growlers and bottles), and host beer educational classes. Fortunately, there are some fantastic restaurants right nearby, which we'd be glad to recommend to anyone who stops by. The Pro-Am brewing suggestion you have is a great one, which we are very interested in pursuing. Our co-founder, Patrick Murtaugh, judged the Dominion Cup homebrew competition this past weekend, which could be a good competition to partner with in future years. Great suggestion!
Richard Upton's picture

I was about to suggest the Dominion Cup but just didn't i guess we're on the same wavelength about that
Brett's picture

Eric, along the same lines, I would suggest reaching out to food carts downtown that you like, and see about them parking in front of your brewery on Saturdays, etc. I'm sure most of those folks are looking for some good weekend business. I guess shoot for food that would pair best with your beer. Looking forward to the opening!
Jeremy's picture

Just heard about this, and I can't congratulate you guys enough on opening an honest to goodness brewery and NOT somehow having to be a brewpub. I think it's cooler in some way not to serve food, just great beer and growlers. If I can offer any suggestions, just go for flavor. Richmonders will surprise from time to time and don't need everything to be middle of the road focused... With that, I'd like to see the following: 1. A dry(er) West Coast-ish maybe renamed to Richmond style IPA... No British hops, and easy on the crystal, and heavy on the Simcoe/Colombus 2. See # 1... You'll have me for life. Can't wait to taste the wares. Any thoughts about possibly filling homebrew corny kegs? Long shot I know... Congratulations again. 2.
eric.mckay's picture

Hey Jeremy, thanks for your feedback and enthusiasm! We definitely want to go bold on complexity and flavor, and we've started some brainstorming on what a VA or Richmond style IPA would be, from a recipe standpoint. We planted five varieties of hops in front of the brewery, and the Colombus hop bines are killing it - 30+ feet tall (hop flowers unfortunately won't sprout until next year), so this may be a great option for Virginia's climate. We're hoping to brew, on a very small scale this year, a community hopped IPA called RVA IPA, with hops from local growers - if you know of anyone who may like to contribute some hops, please send them this link:
Andy's picture

Having a little darker room (with Christmas lights?) would go a long way enhancing the ambiance of that room (the drop ceiling isn't doing you any favors right now). Again, thanks for everything! Thrilled to have you in RVA...I've bought three growlers already.
Mark Parrott's picture

Most tasting rooms go too far in the way of trying to create that English/Irish pub look. I would also call it the "public sales and visitors center". It should be the place where the public goes first and last while visiting the brewry. It should be the products and merchandise center. I would suggest a modern super clean look with a stand up bar and foot rail. No brass- go stainless. lighting should be moderate- bright enough to eye the beer from the glass and show off the cleanliness of the surroundings. Do not show the operations through a window- keep the guests waiting for the tour or away from the operations after the tour. Display your products and merchandise in the visitor's center. Add several high stool tables that can accomodate group lessons/demonstrations/tours.The walls should be ornamented with beer varieties, some biograpics, trademarks and accolades.Show nothing folksey, comical, naughty or sentimental. Whoever greets the guests. must be knowledgeable and sociable.
Andy Hannas's picture

Maybe some warning signs for that slope on the bar :)
Mike's picture

Great to hear about you guys down the street. I am in the Sherwood Park neighborhood (don't forget us up here!) and look forward to swinging by. "The Drawing Room" would fit....and hookah pipes ha-ha. I like casual. warm and inviting that would counter the industrial area you walk in from, something that makes you want to come and stay a bit. Beer process education would be great.
Ed's picture

So, I agree with a lot of the previous comments – support biking (e.g., Hardywood is very close Bike Rt. 1 that goes from the Keys to Maine, I think), dim lighting, and smaller conversation areas. I would also suggest that one of the things I really appreciate about Hardywood is how it supports local growers, home brewing, manufacturers and local retail. Could local products, services, accomplishments be featured some, sampled, sold or located on a map? I like the idea of the Richmond IPA and beer styles, consequently. Additionally, I am new to Richmond and one of the things I’ve really enjoyed since arriving is all the history here. Could photographs of historical Richmond brewing or notables provide connection for Hardywood to that authentic Richmond history.
Brett's picture

Paint it Singel red. Paint the ceiling black, install some can lights. Also add more seating, even some tables and chairs would be great or sofas (see Veritas Winery in Charlottesville, very creative).
Aaron's picture

I lived in Colorado for a number of years and I used to go to a tasting room that Tabernash brewery used to run in Denver. The room was in a warehouse/shipping area of the city but was fun to visit. They served up their brews for consumption and also for take-out. They also had a great selection of cigars that could be purchased. What would have been nice was a few outside grills for folks to bring hotdogs or brats to cook-up.
custom bumper stickers's picture

Well that is really a fantastic article! Thank you very much!
Mark Bullock's picture

I know this is against tradition but it would be very simple to rig a foot switch to pull the tap handle. I know it is against tradition but if it was done right it would relieve the servers repetitive stress, free up there hands and there would be no downside as it relates to service. You could even hire the disabled. Speaking of which, how are people in wheel chairs supposed to get in? Will you be offering them service?
Donna's picture

WEEKLY contra dances (square dances) would be great. I've been searching for a local one after dancing a few times at the Old Farmer's Ball in Asheville. Hundreds of people show up every week for this and the dancers get really good. Look it up--it's at Warren Wilson College in Asheville. I'm sorry I missed this one at Hardywood. I got on the mailing list--won't happen again!
Shannon's picture

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