Adventure Brewing Company opened the doors of their first location almost two years ago, becoming the first brewery in Stafford County since 1766 and part of the rapidly expanding Virginia craft beer movement. But with this growth comes change as well; with their recent acquisition of the Fredericksburg region’s oldest active brewery, Blue & Gray Brewing Company (circa 2002), Adventure looks to ramp up production of their classic flagships while leaving room to experiment with new recipes.
Greeted by co-owner Tim Bornholtz, we get a quick tour of the original Stafford tasting room, which almost feels crowded compared to my first visit almost two years ago. Barrels line the walls and empty keg shells are stacked tall to create a metallic labyrinth. “Oh, by the way, do you guys want a beer?” he asks. Yes, of course, is always the answer.
You guys are still pretty new, so why the expansion?
To put it simply, we needed to keep up with demand. There is a huge influx of microbreweries popping up all over and it’s a great time in Virginia for craft beer, but we want to stay ahead of the curve. Originally, we looked into purchasing a new, larger system, but we were already beginning to run out of space, and decided that acquiring an already established brew system would be best.
With the equipment already in place [at Blue & Gray], the transition was extremely smooth. There was virtually no downtime in the brewing process after the purchase of B&G’s location at the Bowman Center. It gives us room to grow within a larger space and the ability to buy new tanks and expand over time. We’ve been able to brew more beer in one day at the new location than we were able to originally do in a week – that’s huge for us.
With their original 100-gallon system, Adventure brewed just under 500 barrels last year. The new system at Blue & Gray will increase production sevenfold, all without missing a beat.
Where will operations take place?
We will continue to brew beer at both locations and will retain both head brewers Bryan Link (Adventure) and Cody Natale (B&G). Flagships and most beer for distribution will be brewed at Adventure South [the former location of Blue & Gray Brewery and its associated restaurant, Lee’s Retreat] and we’ll use our pilot system to brew small batches, try new styles, and work with unique ingredients. I’ve always wanted to experiment here, but we’ve never had the capacity to do so. The tasting room at our original location will remain open and the restaurant at Adventure South will focus on a simplified, more bar food-style menu.
Biggest changes coming for Adventure?
With the ability to produce up to seven times more beer on the additional brew system, you’ll see a lot more of our beer around – and in new packages with new labels. We’re focusing more on canned beer and six packs, it just seems to fit better with the name Adventure. For instance, after work, you’d maybe want to grab a six pack of Fred Red rather than try to put down a 22-ounce bomber. Plus, cans are easier to travel with whether you’re hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, or going to a Phish show. Cans are generally welcome where glass is not.
Speaking of Fred Red, what’s going to happen to Blue & Gray’s old lineup?
We’ll continue to brew our flagship brews as well as Blue & Gray’s more popular beers such as Fred Red, Stonewall Stout, and well-known one-offs. We discussed switching up the recipe, but per popular request, the recipe for Fred Red will remain the same, just with different packaging options.
Seems like a few barrels have moved in here, too.
Yes! We’ve got our Anniversary Rye Barleywine aging in Bowman’s bourbon barrels waiting patiently for May, a few barrels from Potomac Point for our pale ale, and we plan to continue experimenting with barrel-aged brews. With the original brewery primarily focusing on test batches, sours, and aging, we look forward to offering variations of classics with seasonal ingredients and playing around with new styles too. Having two systems really opens up the opportunity for us to grow – I just tell the guys to let me know what they want to work with next and we’ll make it happen!
Adventure's Beer Batter Cod
2 lbs cod fillet, cut into serving pieces
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp hot sauce
½ can Adventure Brewing Expedition IPA
vegetable oil for frying
black pepper, freshly ground
- Combine sugar, baking powder, 1 cup of flour, and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and hot sauce. Slowly pour in the beer, stirring constantly, until the foam subsides and the batter is smooth. Let the batter rest for 15-20 minutes.
- Heat 2-3 inches of oil to 370°F in a deep sauce pan or deep-fat fryer.
- Dredge cod pieces in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, shaking off any excess, then dip into the batter. Carefully slip the pieces into the hot oil and cook until brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on paper towels.
Adventure South hosted a soft opening in February and is currently open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 11 AM to 10 PM. See the new place for yourself at 3300 Dill Smith Drive in the Bowman’s Center or learn more at adventurebrewing.com.
Photography by Mike Lesnick