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Clarksville prepares for first craft brewery

South Boston News
Michael Elliott and Richard Castle
SoVaNow.com / July 19, 2016
For months, rumors swirling among people in Clarksville included word that the town was getting a craft brewery. Yet, few knew who was behind the brewery or where it would be located, and those that did were not speaking. The most common suggestion was that the former Burger King restaurant on College Street, with its papered over windows, was in the midst of a major renovation on the way to becoming the area’s first craft brewery.

In January, many on social media learned that the brewery’s name would be “Buggs Island Brewing Company.” Yet the names and faces behind the craft brewery and its beer remained a mystery.

Now Michael Elliott and Richard Castle say they are far enough along with their plans to announce that coming soon – hopefully this fall – Clarksville’s first craft brewery. Once renovations are complete and licensing is in place, the small brewery and tasting room will be located at 110 College Street.

Over Lakefest weekend in Clarksville, Elliott teased followers on the brewery’s social media site with this post, “Dear Lakefest, Next year we promise to open our doors and provide you with refreshing beverages to cool you off from the heat of Main Street... Until then, stay thirsty! BIB.”

They are waiting on licensing from both the federal government – TTB, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau – and the state, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. They figure it will take them about a month to brew enough beer to meet public demand, once they get the green light.

The two former neighbors said their desire to open a small local brew company grew out of their own love for specialty beers. “We started home brewing about three years ago,” explains Elliott who adds their wives enrolled them in home brewing classes in Raleigh, N.C., as a Christmas present.

As they got more skilled at brewing, Castle said they kept thinking, “It was not a big leap from brewing 10 gallons to brewing a barrel,” 31 gallons. Elliott adds, “And it [brewing] is fun to do.”

The nearest craft breweries are located in Danville, Richmond, Raleigh, and Durham. Castle and wife Laura already own the building that once housed the Pink Giraffe restaurant in Clarksville. The building was still fitted with the plumbing and electric lines from the restaurant’s kitchen. Elliott and Castle decided the property was perfect for a small craft brewery – one that allowed them to keep that home brew feel.

With a location fixed for the small pub, the two set about developing their selection of beers. “We started with what we liked (Castle likes IPA’s and Elliott likes Amber or darker brews) but our wives told us that we couldn’t just brew what we liked,” explains Elliott. They added a Kolsch to their catalog. Castle calls it a “gateway” beer for people new to craft brews. They also think they’ve perfected a raspberry black saison. “We’re still working on our IPA,” according to Castle.

They continue to read up on different brews and sample the beers at various festivals and craft breweries in Virginia and North Carolina. The attraction to brewing, the two say, is to find new tastes and flavor combinations.

They plan to have three or four standard brews, and two others that will change seasonally. “We want to try new things, get ideas from others about what they like and keep experimenting,” Castle says. Last year they created a gingerbread beer. This could be a flavor combination they’ll serve at Christmas time.

As they wait for the government regulators to grant them their license, Castle and Elliott continue to refine their product and experiment.

They’ve ordered the necessary brewing equipment, glasses, growlers, and are finishing renovations at the future brewery.

Their target date for opening is fall 2016; the exact date depends on the TTB.

To follow Elliott and Castle through journey to open Clarksville’s craft brewery log on to http://www.facebook.com/Buggs-Island-Brewing-Company-LLC-861274940637975/

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