Craft beer breweries pouring into Central Virginia

Published: Dec. 17, 2012 at 6:28 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2012 at 10:33 PM EST
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HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - Since the state passed a law this year allowing breweries to sell you a pint on site, the craft brew beer industry has boomed in Greater Richmond and in Virginia. And it's creating jobs.

Professional baseball player Chris Ray and his brother Phil dreamed of opening their own craft beer brewery for years.

Explained Chris Ray, "My brother Phil and I have been home brewers for 5 years. It was something that we got into about the same time, loved it got carried away with it."

So carried away that they just opened the Center of the Universe Brewing Company in Ashland. Virginia's new law that let's them sell pints to customers at the brewery, rather than just selling the beer to stores and restaurants, is helping keep the new venture afloat.

Said Ray, "Being able to sell for consumption on premise really helps us to keep doing different styles, adding more kegs, more tanks."

Also helping: consumers' growing interest in locally grown foods. Ray told us, "You can look at the Bottom and see all the independent restaurants and that's a good indication of how craft beer is going to do. Because the same people that demand local food and fresh ingredients, are the same ones that drink craft beer."

Other new local breweries include Hardywood Park, Midnight, Devils Backbone, Star Hill, and Blue Mountain. Lickinghole Creek and Ajax Aleworks will open soon. And they're all creating jobs.

Said Ray, "I think we have 10 employees right now. Three full time, seven part-time and as we continue to grow and add more tanks, we're going to have to hire more brewers."

With 40 breweries statewide, Virginia still has a way to go to rival California, Oregon, or Colorado. But Ray says the craft brewers welcome competition. "Right now craft brewing has about 7% of the market share for beer nationwide, which is a tiny little amount. The reason the craft brewers work well together is because we're trying to grow that market share."

A Glen Allen business launched an app called to help you find your favorite brew.

Said creator Andrew Labonte, "It's a free application. It basically provides you access to a local Virginia beer wherever you are, so you'd be able to learn about the breweries."

Ray says he's heard of 8 more breweries that could open in the area soon and the industry is expected to grow.