by Emma Deihle
Brew Ridge Taps, a new craft beer bar in Lexington, opened its doors to customers for the first time on Monday.
Brew Ridge Taps is located at 11 E. Nelson St., within a few blocks of several other staple Lexington eateries like The Palms, Southern Inn and The Georges’ Haywood’s and TAPS. But co-owner Stacy Stevens said he and his wife hope to provide something a little different from the rest.
“Different doesn’t mean better,” he said, “just complementary to what is already offered.”
Stevens, a mortgage loan officer at Bank of Botetourt, said Brew Ridge Taps is the brainchild of his wife Vicki, the principal at Fairfield Elementary School. The couple “caught the craft beer bug” on their frequent visits to breweries in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond and Asheville, N.C. and they began to wonder how they could incorporate the trend back home.
“We have a passion for trying, tasting and enjoying beer responsibly,” Vicki said. “We feel like it’s a social experience that the two of us, and any other couple can enjoy together. The social aspect is something we wanted to provide for within the city limits of Lexington and the county limits of Rockbridge.”
Steve Russell, publisher of the local food magazine “Edible Blue Ridge,” said there is a strong interest among beer lovers in the craft beer scene, particularly in southwest Virginia. He said that is due in part to the high quality of the area’s water, as well as a “greater emphasis on eating local.”
“The small and specifically craft brewery explosion seems to be part of the overall local movement where people are looking for products that are made closer to their homes,” Russell said. “They have a story about them, something people can learn.”
At Brew Ridge Taps, there’s a map of Virginia painted on a wall near the entryway where bottle caps of beers they offer are pasted on the regions they hail from. Ten of their 18 beer offerings will always be Virginian, Stacy Stevens said.
Russell said any restaurant highlighting that artisanal, homegrown quality right now is “making a smart move.”
Bill Hamilton, professor of biology at Washington and Lee University and co-owner of local microbrewery Blue Lab Brewing Company, agrees that the concept works, even within the growing Lexington restaurant market.
“We offer our beer, our way, and lots of variety of our beers,” he said.
Blue Lab and Brew Ridge Taps may vie for the attention of similar consumers. But Hamilton said their relationship is not adversarial. In his view, anything that increases people’s knowledge of good craft beer is a good thing for everybody.
“If all of our restaurants can get along, why can’t the two places that serve craft beer in town?” Hamilton said. “We can co-exist.”