Raising the Bar: Local Breweries with Live Music

After a decade as a musician in Nashville, I returned to RVA in 2016 to find something blossoming that hadn’t previously existed - an amazing craft beer scene. In fact, Richmond topped the “World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018” list, published by VinePair, a web-based magazine dedicated to beer, wine and spirits. This trend has opened up a world of opportunity for local musicians, who frequently provide entertainment in many of the area’s tasting rooms. It’s the perfect family entertainment option – craft brews for the parents in kid-friendly (and sometimes pet-friendly) venues, indoor and outdoor games and green spaces, and a rotation of some of the area’s best food trucks.

Steam Bell Beer Works (1717 Oak Lake Blvd, Midlothian) is the brain-child of founder and head brewer Brad Cooper, who partners with his sister, Brittany Cooper. Dad Tom Cooper handles sales and distribution, while mom Connie Cooper manages administrative functions. Connie makes a point to credit local musicians with helping her in the beginning. “They helped me learn how to book bands, what to look for, what I needed to think about,” Connie tells me. “Richmond has been blessed with a lot of really good musicians.” Steam Bell has become known for bringing great live music to Chesterfield County since opening in 2016. Live bands are featured every Friday and Saturday night, and solo artists perform Sunday afternoons. Brewers keep a constant rotation of new brews, in addition to a few constants. Even though Steam Bell is the only large-scale production facility in Chesterfield, it still feels like “the local spot” to its regulars.

Canon and Draw (1529 W Main St, Richmond), which is the sister brewery of Steam Bell, is the first craft brewery to open in Richmond’s Fan district in March, 2018. Because of their locale, they are heavily involved with the VCU Arts community, which is a great resource for live musicians and visual artists in this beautifully-finished space. The tasting room also offers live trivia, stand-up comedy, and hosts Fan resident events.

Castleburg Brewery and Taproom (1626 Ownby Lane, Richmond) is just east of Scott’s Addition. It is one of the city’s smallest breweries, but with a recently expanded taproom space, it has plenty of room to host many of Richmond’s local musicians, as well as stand-up comedy, trivia and even a book club. The taproom also features a new stage, complete with sound equipment and lights, something that musicians rarely find in breweries! Karl Homburg began the brewery with no plans of distributing his beers, but the neighborhood brewery has experienced amazing growth since its opening in June 2016. Fortunately, with some small-scale statewide keg distribution having begun, the brewery shows no signs of slowing down soon.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s West Creek location (820 Sanctuary Trail Drive, Richmond) is a hidden treasure located overlooking Tuckahoe Creek, just 20 minutes from downtown Richmond. In addition to an outdoor patio, beer garden and food truck plaza, it boasts a gorgeous taproom with soaring ceilings and a built-in stage that hosts a variety of both local and touring musicians. There are entertainment options for the whole family, including shuffleboard, arcade and board games and two bocce courts. (Hardywood.com/location/west-creek)

Getting a babysitter is no longer a requirement for a fun night out, and driving to Charlottesville is no longer a requirement for finding great craft beer. Check your favorite local musician’s calendar to find which of the wide array of RVA’s breweries is next on their show schedule.

Kari Smith is a professional musician and writer whose winding path has led her through Nashville for a decade, and now back to her native Richmond, Virginia. Follow Kari’s writing adventures at KariSmithWrites.com, or facebook.com/KariSmithWrites.