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Ivey starts business targeting home-brewers
Date published: 9/22/2012
By Cathy Jett
Rick Ivey, who started the restaurant chain in 2000, recently converted his Ladysmith location into the first of what could become a chain of Hops Brew Shops. It caters to people who are interested in making their own beer.
Ivey and his 20-year-old son, Austin, started brewing the beverage on the family's 17-acre farm in Partlow about a year and a half ago. Ivey was interested in it as a hobby, but Austin, who wasn't even old enough to drink at the time, became fascinated by the details of the process.
Father and son decided to capitalize on the growing interest in home-brewing, and scouted the handful of stores in Virginia that sell supplies for that market.
"We found some things we liked, and some we didn't," Ivey said.
One of those things they disliked was that none of the stores explained the process to people just getting started. So their first Hops Brew Shop, which is in the former Virginia Barbeque at 18043 Jefferson Davis Highway, includes a mini-home-brewery setup in addition to home-brewing supplies.
"People are spending $100 to get started, and they're not sure how to do it or how the beer is going to come out," Ivey said. "That was our goal, to take what we found was an issue with brew shops and teach people how to brew beer."
Hops Brew Shop will have a free, in-store demonstration of brewing techniques around noon this Saturday.
People have been brewing small batches of beer at home since the dawn of agriculture. Today, there are an estimated 1 million home-brewers and 1,000 home-brew clubs in the United States, according to the American Homebrewers Association.
Hops Brew Shop's website, hops brewstore.com, lists 14 home-brew clubs in Virginia. Two are local: Fredericksburg Area R T Brew Club and Fredericksburg Brewing & Tasting Society.
"I think that's new," Ivey said. "It used to be that everyone did this on their own. Now they're getting into clubs and sharing and learning from each other."
Ivey credits microbreweries and the craft-beer movement for boosting home-brewing's popularity.
"People that home-brew don't brew Bud Light," he said. "They definitely brew in the more craft-style, and make different, unique beers. That's what people who brew it are looking for, that high-end experience."