By Brandon Shulleeta, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Chesterfield County residents who have been thirsty for beer from local breweries are in luck.
Steam Bell Beer Works, at 1717 Oak Lake Blvd., held its grand opening Saturday featuring unique craft beers and a laid-back atmosphere in a family-operated brewery.
“It’s exploding,” owner Brad Cooper, 29, said of the craft beer scene in central Virginia. “Right now, I’m pretty sure there’s more of a demand for craft beers than there are craft beers to supply it.”
Nearly everyone who has helped launch the brewery is either a family member or longtime friend of Cooper, a Chesterfield native who has emptied his savings and retirement accounts to help fund the venture. His mother is the office manager, and his father built everything from the bar and tables to the decor inside the brewery.
“We started from humble beginnings but are looking to take the RVA beer scene by storm,” said Brittney Trimmer, a marketing consultant for Steam Bell Beer Works and a longtime friend of Cooper.
With nearly 30-foot open ceilings and old, repurposed wood throughout, plus centuries-old pictures, the brewery has a rustic look.
The business, not far from Southside Speedway, will open with 12 different beers today, sold for $6 each. Of the 12, seven have 8 percent alcohol or more.
Tiramisu Stout, with 9 percent alcohol, is a milk stout brewed with vanilla beans and coffee, for example, and the Smoked Braggot, with 8.4 percent alcohol, is a strong ale brewed with honey and applewood cherry smoked malt.
On the lighter side of the menu, the Patchronce, with 5.7 percent alcohol, is described as “our collaboration with (South Richmond-based) Blue Bee Cider, a light-bodied Belgian brewed with blackberries and raspberries.”
“We don’t focus on just one type of style,” said Trimmer, noting the brewery is opening with only one IPA, for example, whereas many other breweries are saturated with IPA beers.
Several hundred people are expected to go to the grand opening, where there will be beer, food and music. On Facebook, as of Friday evening, more than 600 people said they would be attending.
Cooper has been fascinated with home brewing since he was about 21, and he started creating his own blends at home while sometimes dreaming of opening a brewery.
Cooper said he had a promising job with a mining company but got fired in 2014 for breaking a policy of no alcohol; he brought a colleague a growler of some of his home-brewed beer.
But he said getting fired ended up being a blessing.
Trimmer said Chesterfield has been in need of a brewery.
“For nightlife or a night scene, there’s just nothing really happening,” she said. “We’re bringing the culture to Chesterfield.”
The opening of Steam Bell Beer Works comes days after Buskey Cider — launched two months ago in the historic Scott’s Addition neighborhood in Richmond — announced that it is now producing an innovative Nitro Cider.
“Team Buskey has experimented and developed a cider that through introducing nitrogen, instead of Co2, provides a rare experience for cider drinkers,” the company said in a news release. “Buskey’s Nitro Cider has a distinctive mouth feel that comes from the smaller bubbles which creates a smoother, creamier experience for the palate.”