We bet you can't name one craft brewery from Richmond, Virginia.
And that's just not right. That state of Virginia has a vibrant and thriving craft community, and Richmond is doing a great job of leading the state into a bright and delicious beer-filled future.
Jeremy Wirtes is one of these mighty craft crusaders. He helped co-found Triple Crossing Brewing, and has plans to turn his brewery into a community pillar and craft beer mecca.
This handsome lad is Jeremy Wirtes.
Hey there Jeremy. What’s your background?
Hey there. Well, my family has a great history in beer. We lived in Germany for 3 years, because my dad was in the Army. My parents got into German beer during that time. Over in Germany, the beer options were much different than home. I’d call it a “forced upgrade”. So when they came back home, they got into homebrewing. I was 12-13 years old at the time, and it was crazy to watch them make the beer.
I didn’t have a huge interest in craft until my later years in college at JMU. I tried a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and I couldn’t believe that beer could taste that way. Some of the guys that homebrewed were always talking about how awesome their beers were, and I had to find out for myself if it was possible at home, so I started looking into homebrewing…quietly. I borrowed a buddies brewing kit because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invest in it myself. I brewed a bourbon barrel stout. It wasn’t bad to be honest. And from then it just grew and grew and that’s how I really got into it.
Breweries seem to be appealing to everyone’s tastes these days. Are some of these more esoteric styles here to stay?
In the future, that’s going to be tougher and tougher to do. People are buying local brands because they are local in general, and not necessarily just because they’re great. I’m a big Firestone Walker Union Jack fan, and that beer has to be shipped all the way from California. We just thought that beer like that, hop forward styles, could be brewed right here in Richmond. Quality will always be a factor, and more so as new breweries enter the market, just like us. We are more of a traditional, style-driven brewery. There’s a lot of breweries making a lot of esoteric beers, which keeps the beer world interesting.
How are you going to compete?
We worry less about competing with anything but ourselves right now. We’re a new brewery that has a lot to learn. We purposely decided on a smaller system without packaging because we really want to get this right. I’ve heard it said before that there isn’t much more room for mediocre beer, but there’s always room for great beer. Triple Crossing isn’t there yet, but we are working hard to get there. I look at the shelf space in local shops, and fighting for that is only going to get harder. For Triple Crossing, we have to focus on making the best beer we possibly can in order to become a brewery people support.
Where can we find your beer?
Triple crossing is draft only. We’re tiny, and we’re trying to build the brand slowly. For right now, in the Richmond area, it’s probably a little less scary to start a brewery than some of the more established craft markets out there. I don’t know if we would have had such a cavalier attitude if we were jumping into an established market like San Diego or Portland.
So you’re fine with being the small, local brewery. You haven’t stuck to a particular style or flagship beer so far have you?
As this industry turns even more local, it will become even better for craft breweries. We will listen to our consumers, and as long it doesn’t fly in the face of what we do, we might just continue to make one-offs all the time. We have the ultimate flexibility because we’re small. It’s early to say this, but I think Virginia is quickly headed in the direction of a state like Vermont, which is considered to be one of the best craft beer areas. You can go up there and drink unique beers all day from small, local breweries.
If we pinned you down to a "mission", what are you trying to do with this brewery?
We want our beers to be as classically timeless as say, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Orval (from Belgium). Those beers are beyond reproach regardless of what’s new or current. We also love the idea of building a huge presence in Richmond. We're looking at what New Glarus is doing. They supposedly have a 10-day turnaround on Spotted Cow because of demand, and they barely sell a drop of it outside of Wisconsin. The Alchemist is the same way (interviewers note: Jeremy got a little dreamy and unfocused at this point when he started describing the “unreal hop flavor” of Heady Topper). These breweries have made fantastic beer and they’ve supported their local community in the process.
What does Richmond want in their craft beers?
You know, they’re looking for a lot of different things. The Richmond beer scene pretty much has the beer lover covered from an offering standpoint. For us… we’d like to be the hop spot for Richmond. I’m still buying bottles of amazing IPA from the west coast solely because those beers aren’t often brewed here. Our goal is to make the best beer we can with what we have available to us at the time.
What’s the first thing you tell people when they come into the brewery?
We welcome them to the brewery and then really set them up to try the beers. We’re a 7-barrel brewery, and we serve directly out of our bright tanks, so you know it really can’t get any more fresh. You also caught us at a really interesting time, considering we just opened. When we opened on April 11th of this year, we realized that we needed some session beers. We have a bunch of session beers on tap right now, but we’re set to go back to some of the bigger beers we originally set out to make, while also keeping a session beer on.
What’s the story behind the Triple Crossing name?
It’s the only place in North America where the three railroads come together at different elevations. We were going to position our brewery down there, but in the end that location wasn’t right for us. We’ve got a great set up here near VCU with a building that seemed perfect for us.
What are you drinking right now that isn’t Triple Crossing?
Everything from Noda out of Charlotte, NC.
Thanks Jerermy. We look forward to hearing about your success!
Article published July, 2014.