Thanks, Shooting Creek.

Most craft beer fans in this area have already heard the news.  It seemed to spread the way any loss does, quickly, by word of mouth, but somewhat quietly in the words used.  Conversations usually began with a typical introduction, “Did you hear…?” and finished with a “…what a shame” ending, with a due sound of disappointment in the speaker’s voice.  It is disappointing, and yes, certainly a shame, that we’ve lost a fine craft brewery in our own area, here in Virginia.  A couple of months ago of course, the word began spreading that Shooting Creek Brewery, located in nearby Floyd County, would be shutting its doors.

When the brewery began, it was surrounded by plenty of press coverage and fanfare.  Sadly enough, it wasn’t for its beers.  I suppose now one can look back on the battle the brewery had with locals over a proposed tasting room with a laugh, in that nostalgic sort of way that even tough events in life, when they’re long, long over, seem to earn a tender spot in one’s memory.  This is always true, of course, of events neither won nor lost, but of ones you simply survive through.  But the would be makers of Rebel Ale, arguably the brewery’s “flagship” beer, would indeed survive, and soldier on.  Soon, the news did become all about the beer.  Eventually, Rebel Ale would begin showing up on tap in the Roanoke area here and there.  Their Buffalo Brown Ale would soon enjoy similar success.  Finding bottles of their beer didn’t take a run to Floyd or Blacksburg, you could find it in grocery stores, specialty stores, and even the corner Seven Eleven had it.  There were others that rounded out the brewery’s offerings, the Snapping Turtle IPA, the Altbier Red Tractor, a “Capsicum” Stout, their delicious Farmhouse Stout, and more recently, their Blue Ridge Bitter.  Not to mention the annual re-emergence of their wonderful Pumpkin Ale, which many of us waited on patiently only to watch it fly off of shelves every fall.  Almost all of the beers featured at least one ingredient found on the brewery’s associated farm, a fact that seemed to, at least for me, hammer home a sense of pride that the brewery was so close by.  It was a product of our area.

I first met Head Brewer Brett Nichols at a tasting of Shooting Creek’s beers here in Roanoke.  It was a little more than a year ago, and having recently started the blog, I was eager to give area breweries their due attention.  Although I was already familiar with the brewery’s beers, I’m sure I tasted what was being promoted, and the meeting was brief.  I know we talked about the brewery and their beers, but specifics of the conversation I cannot recall.  What I do recall was the easy going friendliness and the quiet yet present enthusiasm for the brewery, the beers, and the chance to talk beer with people, punctuated by an ever constant smile.  He also was genuinely interested in the blog, which meant quite a bit to me of course. It was something that did not fade after that first meeting.  Since then, Brett stayed in regular touch, offering brewery news and answering numerous questions my newly beer curious mind came up with.  I ran into him again at last year’s Brew Do in Blacksburg, and he seemed genuinely appreciative, if not somewhat surprised, that Red Tractor had long ago become a beer staple in my refrigerator.

I snatched up a couple of six packs of just that a week ago, knowing that it won’t be long until I can’t find it again.  The brewery’s beers seemed to reflect Brett’s enthusiasm, as many of them were very good, and certainly worthy of our pride that such a brewery existed in our area.  I understand Brett is doing well, though won’t be creating any more Red Tractor.  I admit a selfish streak that hopes he returns to brewing, sometime in the future.  Regardless, we were lucky to have Shooting Creek with us while it lasted, another one of those periods in life that personally I’m already feeling somewhat nostalgic about, the way you look back on things you’ve lived to enjoy.  This one, though, was not just survival – it’ll always produce a smile, remembering how good the beer was, knowing it was a product of our area.  Today, I’m lifting one of my Red Tractors in toast to Shooting Creek.  You’ll be missed.



~ by thebeerroad on May 14, 2011.

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