In the spring of 1817, a band of thirty Virginians headed by Thomas Jefferson Beale left St. Louis for the great western plains to hunt buffalo, grizzly bears, and other wild game. In the spring of 1818, quite unexpectedly, the party discovered gold and silver somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. They worked the mine for several years. In 1819 and 1821, shipments were brought back to Virginia and secretly buried in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Beale wanted his treasure to be kept safe so he left a locked box containing three ciphers with trustworthy Lynchburg resident Robert Morriss. Beale promised to mail Morriss a key to the ciphers, but Morriss never received it. To this day, folks are still searching for Beale’s treasure, possibly worth millions of dollars.
The Beale’s treasure now lies in a 16,000-square-foot historic building at 510 Grove St. that once housed the Hampton Looms woolen mill, it’s called Beale’s Brewery and BBQ. The brewery’s flagship beer is Beale’s Gold, a Helles Lager that’s straightforward and easy to drink, full-bodied with a crisp finish. The brew contains a modest 4.8 percent alcohol, and the flavor profile emphasizes smooth drinkability instead of being extremely bitter and hoppy. None of the brews offered by Beale’s is high alcohol. In addition to lager-style beers, other options in the taproom include IPAs, stouts and fruit beers. Owner/developer Dave McCormack said we think of ourselves as a “kind of ‘anti-craft’ craft beer company.” “There are 5000 breweries out there at the moment, many of them making the same thing: IPAs, etc.,” he said. “We are focused primarily on lager, and low-ABV, approachable beer.”
The food is unpretentious as well. The menu is built around delicious, authentic, wood-smoked style BBQ that’s smoked on location. It’s served Texas meat market style where you order by the pound and is great for sharing. Meats include brisket, smoked turkey, chopped pork, and smoked sausage, as well as other daily specials. Neal Agee is pit master. Sides include BBQ beans, coleslaw, mac & cheese, pickles, and a delicious buttermilk potato salad. There are also sandwiches made with the different smoked meats with an assortment of sauces to please every palette. The sauces range from a Virginia tangy red sauce to a sticky, savory cola-sweet sauce that will have you licking your fingers. The snack menu is impressive as well. The beer cheese and soft pretzels with Beale’s homemade mustard are a must try and the perfect accompaniment to a cold lager. The pickled dilly eggs also caught my interest.
Even though there is an industrial feel to the space due to the fact that it once was a factory, a practice that is becoming popular with craft breweries and restaurants in Southwest and Central Virginia, it was warm and inviting. The 12,000 square-foot space includes a 30-barrel production brewery, taproom, and kitchen, with an indoor capacity of 86 people. The building is spacious and contains lots of natural light from the original windows. Picnic tables and a copper topped bar made from railroad ties add to the atmosphere. There’s a cooler containing packaged beer that can be purchased to-go. The package is an unusual box, called a “brick,” containing eight stubby 11-ounce bottles instead of the usual six 12-ounce bottles (Beale’s Gold is the first Virginia-made beer packaged in an 8-pack). A stuffed brown bear near the entrance and mounted buffalo head above the bar pay homage to Beale. Beale’s also features an outdoor area with seating for an additional 60 people, with a stage and vintage Airstream trailer. The place is dog and family friendly and meant to be a gathering place for the community.
Beale’s opened last June and is the first craft brewery in the Town of Bedford. It was the brainchild of Dave McCormack, President of Waukeshaw Development, which brings new life to historic properties with the help of tax credits. McCormack was able to open Beale’s by securing a grant from the Industrial Revitalization Fund, a program sponsored by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. To date, Waukeshaw has overseen, or has underway, historic tax credit developments comprising more than 750,000 square feet, reflecting a total investment approaching $90 million. Waukeshaw was formed in 2007 and led the first large-scale historic tax credit projects in Petersburg, Virginia, including Petersburg’s Trapezium Brewing Company. Beale’s is the second brewery project completed by Waukeshaw Development Inc. in the state of Virginia.
McCormack said that they are expanding the Trapezium brand to Amherst, at the old Amherst Milling Company building. “We are calling that project ‘Camp Trapezium,’” he said. “We have 100 acres of land there, and will have trails, overnight accommodations, and grow a lot of what we serve on site. We also will cultivate yeast from the area, and our focus will be ‘wild beers’, while also serving selection from our core Trapezium products.”
Beale’s began distributing in Southwest Virginia this past October, in the cities of Roanoke, Lynchburg, and its hometown of Bedford. Richmond is the latest market where Beale’s is expanding as it pursues its plans for statewide distribution this month. “When we signed up to distribute in Richmond, the distributer saw Beale’s almost like launching a new ‘domestic’, which was really interesting,” McCormack said.. “We are making a beer that we hope will attract the folks on the fringe of the craft scene, but also one that the craft beer nerds will find delicious and refreshing.”