Once solely home to warehouses and factories, Scott’s Addition is rapidly transforming from an industrial dead zone to a growing network of breweries, galleries, and creative work spaces. The neighborhood is host to two breweries, a meadery, a growing chia seed empire (Health Warrior), and a slew of hip apartment buildings actively wooing a young contingent of future residents. Ardent Craft Brewery has quickly become a regular Ledbury happy hour destination, thanks to its welcoming beer garden and creative, well-curated selection of small brews. We met with co-owner and head brewer Kevin O’Leary to get his take on the growth of the area, why it attracts so many brewers, and how the DIY movement permeates the evolution of Scott’s Addition.
Describe a perfect Scott’s Addition Saturday for us. What would you do, eat, and see?
I would start off getting some great coffee at Lamplighter Roastery on Summit Ave. Maybe hit up the Dairy Bar for a sandwich and milkshake for lunch. Grab a post-lunch beer at Ardent Craft Ales, naturally. Don’t forget to stop into nearby Isley brewing, Black Heath Meadery, or one of our other friends in fermentation in the area! In between making sure everything is working right at Ardent, I would grab a snack at Fat Dragon or an icy pop from King of Pops. There’s so many new businesses popping up in the area, who knows where the evening will take me, from checking out a new gallery, art space, or printing workshop.
The neighborhood has become the unofficial craft beer district of Richmond. What about the area attracts brewers?
I think what has attracted all the breweries to the area is the transition that is happening in the neighborhood from industrial wasteland to a closely connected neighborhood of makers, small businesses, and other industry. Most of us brewers and fermentation people have an art and DIY background, and you really get that vibe in Scott’s Addition.
You wear many hats at Ardent. What’s your favorite role?
Being a founder, owner and head brewer have many different aspects. Brewing is the best part and definitely the most fun. I love getting my hands dirty and being hands on. Sometime the most gratifying job is scrubbing a floor! It sounds weird, but knowing that your sweat went into the end goal is so gratifying. With that said, I hate cleaning dishes at home, and my fiance would agree that I’m not very good at it!
The science behind brewing is also exciting. The temperature, PH, cell count of yeast, all these factors need to to be accounted for and adjusted during the brewing process. There’s a lot of decisions made on the fly, which adds to the excitement of making beer.
You’re the Head Brewer at Ardent. Give us a little insight on the process of brewing.
On developing a specific beer, I get a lot of influence from food and travel. Having a dish in China inspired a beer that we made with szechuan pepper. I recently made an imperial stout with lots of different malted and roasted rye to add a slight spice and dryness. Many imperial stouts are traditionally super sweet so I tried to counteract that.
How do your beer recipes take shape?
I am not the only one creating recipes. My business partner also writes some amazing recipes that we have used and we also are having our staff work on creating beers for that will hopefully turn into the next gem. We all consult with each other as we try and work as a team here.
When you’re here, make sure to swing by these spots:
Ardent Craft Ale (3200 W. Leigh St.): A taproom and beer garden producing exceptional and creative brews. Once started as a co-op in Church Hill, they’ve been at home in Scott’s Addition since summer of 2014 and have quickly become a staple for craft beer lovers in town.
Isley Brewery (1715 Summit Ave.): Microbrewery just a hop skip and a jump from Ardent with an outdoor patio and friendly crowd. Don’t miss their Choosy Mother Peanut Butter Porter.
Black Heath Meadery (1313 Altamont Ave.): Try something out of the ordinary at Richmond’s very first meadery that employs all Virginia-grown ingredients to produce mead, also known as the world’s oldest fermented beverage.
Lamplighter Coffee (1719 Summit Ave.): The second cafe by the unofficial Richmond coffee dynasty. The beans are roasted in the back while espresso, cold brew coffee, and pastries are served up to a steady stream of residents and nearby workers.
Lunch/Supper (1215 Summit Ave.): These sister restaurants serve up hearty fare for lunch and dinner (no surprise there) in cozy and warm environments. Perfect for business lunches and date night dinners.
The Diamond (3001 N. Boulevard): Enjoy some minor league ball with Richmond’s very-own farm team, The Flying Squirrels, along with a selection of local beer and wine.
Studio Two Three (3300 W. Clay St.): A non-profit community print shop, workspace, and gallery that hosts weekly printmaking classes and ongoing community events.