In 2012, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh, co-owners of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery took their inaugural trip on the James with us to check out our James River Ecology School. We spent an afternoon touring the James River and discussing several projects we had focused on, including a third Atlantic sturgeon spawning reef. On this journey, we shared why the James was as important to our history as it was to our future. And during the trip we found out more about these pioneering entrepreneurs and how this founding river was a key factor in their decision to build a business from scratch in Richmond.
Little did we know that a few months later we would be celebrating Richmond’s victory as Outside magazine’s “Best River Town in America” with the rest of the city over a few celebratory craft beers at Hardywood. The relationship between clean water and clean beer solidified in both of our minds.
Shortly after Eric and Patrick came to our office with a presentation and a sweet surprise. They had created a west coast IPA inspired by our efforts to increase the number of sturgeon in the James. “The Great Return “was released in October 2013. Described as bold, resinous and bursting with bright grapefruit aroma, this IPA is a tribute to the decades of hard work by conservationists to restore the James River as a bounty of vibrant aquatic life, eco-friendly recreational activity, and fresh brewing water.
In their commitment to river conservation, Hardywood contributes money from the sale of this amazing beer to The James River Association, to support our mission to be the guardian of the James River. The Great Return has proved to be so popular that Hardywood is now brewing and distributing it in several states year round, not just as a seasonal offering as originally intended.
In Eric and Patrick’s opinion the success of The Great Return is directly paralleled to the success of our river.
“Working closely with the James River Association has really been an eye opening experience for us. It has given us an inside look at how far the river has come in the past several years, how far it has yet to improve and what we can do to help. The James River is not only a major source of recreational activity in this city but the primary source of drinking water and, in our case, brewing water. Raising funds and awareness through sales of The Great Return is one small way we can do our part and help the James River Association’s efforts in protecting America's Founding River.
So next time you are in search of a beer that not only tastes great but also strives to preserve and protect America’s Founding River, head to Hardywood for “The Great Return".
Cheers to clean water!