Our earliest appointment so far was at 9 am on Wednesday, 3/12/14 with Midnight Brewery, who we met after slamming down some coffee and making our way from downtown Richmond over to Rockville. Upon our arrival, we spoke with brewer Becky Rudolf and owner Trae Cairns who told us that “We have a passion for craft beer and really take the beer personally. If somebody doesn’t like it, I want to know why. If people love it, that’s great, but if they don’t like it, I want to know why. To me, that’s really an extension of our craft, and when you find a beer that people like, you stick with it.”
Midnight Brewery opened just under two years ago in May of 2012 and, although they could not sell much legally when they first opened up, a new law went into effect in July of that same year which allowed them to sell by the pint. Up until that point, Trae was still working his full-time job in the IT field but, after business picked up in July based on a response to the new law changes, he was able to quit the other job and hang on for the ride. Becky had worked at Blue and Gray Brewing Company in Fredericksburg, VA for a little while where she found out about Trae’s new venture, reached out to him, and ended up landing the head brewer position. The name of the brewery stems from the time Trae was still in IT and the only chance he really got to brew was late at night when a friend of his once called him the ‘Midnight Brewer.’
Three beers are on tap year-round. New Beginning Kolsch was the first beer Trae ever brewed at Midnight and next came their true flagship beer, Rockville Red Irish Red. The third beer is an English Southern Brown known as Not My Job that got its name from a situation where Trae had approached his IT manager back in the corporate world for some help and the reply he got was simply “not my job.” In addition to those three staples, Midnight brews some other tasty suds for your enjoyment. Head First Pale Ale is the first beer Trae did after quitting his full-time job and was diving head first into this new life. Purdy Mechanic IPA is termed off of a time when a salesman was in the brewery and, after he suddenly noticed Becky brewing away, he blurted out “Boy, you got yourself a purdy mechanic!” That beer is one of Becky’s recipes along with the popular Midnight Granite Oatmeal Chocolate Stout, which is named after New Hampshire – the Granite State – where she is from. We were also informed about two collaboration beers they have done, one of which was Banana Pancakes done with Eric & Patrick from Hardywood. They also did a collaboration with Lickinghole Creek at Midnight’s brewery, but the group lost power during the transfer to the boil kettle due to a big storm, so they had to get a generator to get everything working again and then finished the brew. Based on that experience, the beer is named Generator X Belgian Pale Ale which turned out well despite the circumstances.
Trae and Becky brewed around 270 bbl last year and have only dumped 1 batch out of the 151 batches they have done so far. They were able to do that using a 1.5 bbl system and some 5 bbl tanks, however they are about to expand into a new building right around the corner from where they are now. In the new facility, they will be setting up a 10 bbl system and ten 20 bbl tanks, which should allow them to multiply their production by about seven times! Trae and Becky both expressed an incredible amount of gratitude and appreciation towards their team of about 20 volunteers, who help them out with a multitude of tasks from running the taproom to sweeping the floors. They also told us that they have done some charity events with organizations who help with juvenile diabetes, muscular dystrophy, stomach cancer, and even for the Public Safety Foundation that helps out fallen police officers. Tours are offered whenever someone asks right now, but those tours will become more formalized once they are in their new facility. Huge thanks to Becky and Trae for putting up with us so early in the morning!
Author: Michael Roberts