Originally founded in Roanoke, Virginia in 1890, the Virginia Brewing Company went through some ups and downs, before finally closing in 1958. Except for its final years, when it was known as Mountain Brewing, it was always Virginia Brewing. It then lay dormant and the brand name unused until 1987, when the name was used again by a microbrewery in Virginia Beach
|According to a New York Times article from September 1988, the brewery was “a venture begun by Johnathan S. Miller, the deputy assistant for management and administration at the White House who resigned in May 1987 after it was reported that he had cashed some traveler’s checks for Oliver L. North.” There’s also a short review of the old place by a Chicago brewer, Jim Hodge. His review is mostly positive, his biggest complaint being the size of the place, which he describes as follows. “I would caution those wishing to follow in my footsteps that the bar at Virginia Brewing is tiny; it has a total of 6 seats and don’t be surprised if you have to stand while drinking there.” Although he also mentioned they served all their beer in frosted mugs. He reports they had six of their own beers on tap, of which he sampled a “kolsch, an IPA, an ESB, a smoked ale called ‘the Brown Bomber’, and their Halloween pumpkin ale.” The brewer may have been Wolfgang Roth, reportedly from Bavaria. That incarnation of Virginia Brewing appears to have lasted until 1992.
Fast forward another sixteen years and a rumor that began two years ago is getting closer to reality. A press release recently indicated that a grand opening is imminent at the “ZeroPak complex in Winchester, Virginia. The celebration will feature craft beers, barbecue, and live music as the microbrewery welcomes the public to its new brewhall and event space.” They’ve also hired a brewer — always a good sign for a brewery — “John Hovermale, Jr., previously of Harpoon Brewery in Windsor, Vermont.” He’s also apparently a native of Winchester, which makes this job also a homecoming for Hovermale.
From the press release:
“I was intrigued by how this one town’s brewery was so much a part of the community and vice versa,” Hovermale says. “After returning from Europe I attended the Siebel Institute of Technology, where I studied brewing. After paying my dues working in the cellar of a brewery in Biloxi, I joined Harpoon. Now I’ve come full-circle, brewing beer in my hometown.”
The original brewery in Roanoke, date unknown.
Early labels from Virginia Brewing Co.