Beer museum on tap

The Warren Sentinel

FRONT ROYAL — The stateís 400-year history of beermaking will soon be on display just a few hops from the home of the annual Brew and Blues Festival.

David Downes plans to establish the Virginia Beer Museum at 16 Chester St. He said the objective is to represent the heritage of Virginia beer, stretching from Jamestown to the current craft beer renaissance.

"I have two great passions in life, beer and history, and this project gives me an opportunity to combine those two passions," said Downes, a local attorney.

The building is undergoing numerous renovations to restore it to its 1900 state, Downes said. He added that the museum would mimic several eras with architecture representative of different times.

Downes said artifacts on display would include old mugs, bottles, steins and photographs of old breweries. There also will be stories about Virginian founding fathers who brewed their own beer, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. He hopes to have a tour guide after the museum is esablished.

"We have 400 years of heritage to be proud of, something that a lot of the other museums that are just now taking off ... they donít have the history that we do," Downes said.

Other topics the museum will cover include how a hospital in Richmond served beer as medicine during the Civil War and Virginiaís involvement in prohibition. Downes said Virginia is unique in that the Krueger Brewing Co. used Richmond as the test market for the first canned beer.

Downes said Virginia breweries have grown exponentially and the state is home to about 200 breweries. One — Backroom Brewery between Reliance and Middletown — operates in Warren County.

"We'll get into the craft beer renaissance," Downes said. "And hopefully get into the 200-plus breweries we now have in Virginia. There's been an exponential growth in the last couple of years."

He said the increase in craft beer operations has been in great part due to governors and legislatures who have been pro-craft beer and helped with deregulation.

"Which is pretty phenomenal considering we only had one brewery 22 years ago in the entire state," Downes said.

Downes said the museum hopes to have a soft opening sometime in July and plans to have a grand opening on Sept. 24 to coincide with the Brew and Blues Festival.

"We've invited the governor, I know he's a big advocate and booster for the craft beer industry in Virginia, so we hope heís able to appear or send a representative," Downes said.

Downes said he anticipates that general admission into the museum would free with, and there would be a small fee for a ìTavern Tourî which would allow visitors to sample beers on display.

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