Salem catches craft beer fever

SALEM – After holding a soft opening on January 26 Parkway Brewing Company located on Kessler Mill Road has been drawing in the crowds.  Over 40 people were still there at 7:30 last Thursday night, tasting the beers currently on tap at Salem’s first microbrewery and listening to live music by Phil Norman.  “Salem has been great” said brewmaster Ryan Worthington,  “Salem government has been really, really great.  They’re very good for businesses. ”   Both Worthington and head brewer Mike “Keno” Snyder noted the support they’ve gotten from Salem citizens who normally don’t drink mircobrews.  “The Get Bent Mountain IPA has been very popular” Worthington noted, adding “we want people to have a good time and good beer, we want it to be social.”  To that end along with live music, they’ve invited the food truck Bruno’s GastroTruck to come by, allowing people to bring food inside to enjoy while they have a beer.


Members of the Star City Brewers Guild enjoy Parkway's beer during the company's soft opening on Jan. 26. - photos by Carrie E. Cox

While right now the only two beers available on tap are their IPA and Belgian Blonde Ale, named Bridge Builder Blonde, the brewery plans to have a wider selection soon, with a Baltic Porter ready to be on tap any day.  “We’ve got exciting things to come” Worthington said “the Baltic Porter, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale that we just brewed this week, and we’ll have barrel aged beers coming as well.”  The brewery is also partnering with Salem’s Beertopia Festival to brew the winning beer of this year’s Home Brew Competition, something Worthington is very excited about.
This will be the third year that Salem has hosted the festival, put on by the Roanoke Jaycees, and the second year that there will be a home brew competition.  The competition is organized by members of the Jaycess and the Star City Brewers Guild.  Salemites Carrie and Justin Cox helped organize the event last year as well as this year, with Carrie taking lead of the events both years.

Homebrewer William Landry and brewmaster Ryan Worthington enjoy some of Parkway's beers on a recent Thursday evening.

“The Roanoke Jaycees are excited to again host Beertopia on the field of the Salem Red Sox. This is our third year organizing the festival and we expect the event to continue to grow. We are hoping to increase the number of breweries and the number of beers offered this year and will again work with the Star City Brewer’s Guild to host a home brew competition. In addition to giving folks a great day at the ballpark, the Roanoke Jaycees use funds raised from Beertopia to support local charities. Beertopia is the only beer festival in Salem and the the only Home Brew Competition in the Roanoke Valley, so we are hoping that the community will come out and support the festival” said Zachary Moore from the Jaycees.

Parkway's beers can be found on tap at Macado's, Mac and Bob's, Local Roots, Metro!, Blues BBQ, Lucky, Village Grill, Wasena Tap House, 1906 Ale House, Blue 5, and at "all of the Forks."

The winning home brewer will get a chance to spend the day at Parkway Brewing their beer, which will then be available to customers in the tasting room.  There is even the potential that, if the beer does well in the tasting room, that it will become available in 22 ounce bomber bottles.
Like Salemites themselves, local restaurants seem to have caught the craft beer fever.  Parkway’s beers will be available at Macado’s in Salem as well as Mac and Bob’s.  Mac and Bob’s owner Bob Rotanz has realized that microbrewed beer is “here to stay” and to that end plans to expand their current tap selection to focus on those beers, especially those brewed locally in Virginia.

“We’re taking out the arcade area and putting in a 10′ x 10′ cooler that will hold the beer” said Rotanz.  “Currently we have fifteen beers on tap inside and twelve on tap outside, this expansion will give us 40 taps inside and 40 taps outside.”  “We’re planning on carrying local beer from Parkway Brewing, Roanoke Railhouse, Devil’s Backbone, Blue Mountain Barrel House, Wild Wolf, and Starr Hill along with a wide selection of beers from other microbreweries such as Dogfish Head, and we’ll carry varying seasonal beers” he added.

The expansion is scheduled to begin in mid-February and Rotanz hopes that by the end of March they’ll have everything up and running.  During that time they intend to train their staff on types of beers so that they can help consumers decide on which beers they might prefer to try.  They also are planning on having a constantly changing separate menu just for the beers.