With craft brewery, pair continues River District transformation

The two men who have partnered in two successful development projects in the River District — the Pemberton Lofts on Bridge Street and the Continental Lofts on Craghead Street — have teamed up again to bring a craft brewery to the district.

Ross Fickenscher and Garrett Shifflett are developing 600 Craghead St., which will have two commercial spaces at street level — including Ballad Brewing — and 56 apartments on the upper levels.

On Tuesday, Todd Haymore, the state’s secretary of commerce and trade, and Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation, were in Danville for the official announcement and to present a check for $90,805 from the Virginia Tourism Growth Fund to Fickenscher and Shifflett for the project.

Haymore said the popularity of craft breweries has become “instant revenue generators” in Virginia, bringing in tourism dollars, jobs and tax revenues that have added up to $1 billion in economic impact and employing nearly 9,000 people in the state. He said there are roughly 160 craft brewers in the state, with new ones opening “fairly rapidly.”

“The craft beer business in particular is booming in Virginia,” Haymore said, noting that Danville’s historic warehouses lend themselves to this type of development.

McClenny said travelers often look for unique experiences, and small, local, craft breweries can provide that.

“Visitors want to try something that can only take place at that time and place,” McClenny said.

Fickenscher said entrance to the tap room and brewery itself will be made from Colquhoun Street side of the building, while the entrance at 600 Craghead St. will take tenants into the apartments.

The project is expected to be completed in April.

The brewery will have a total of 23 barrels for production — 20 of which will be for larger production runs, while three will be used for smaller batch pilot — or experimental — brews. The various beers will be available to customers in the tap room by the glass or to take home.

“Ballad Brewing will initially produce three or four different flagship styles of beer and will also offer a wider variety of offerings in the tasting room,” Fickenscher said in a news release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office — and which he confirmed at the announcement. “For the first six months, these products will be served exclusively in the brewery’s tasting room.”

As the brewing process moves along, bottled and keg beer will be available for broader distribution, Fickenscher said.

“We’re excited to start brewing,” Fickenscher said.

John Andorfer will be the head brewer. He and his wife, Kathie, moved to Danville about a year ago, so they could be closer to her mother.

They lived in Connecticut for 12 years, where John became fascinated with beer brewing and ultimately became the head brewer at Cottrell Brewing Co. in Pawcatuck.

That, however, was an established brewery, John said, while looking at the dirt floors where assorted pipes had been laid for the Ballad Brewing.

“They’re getting ready to pour the concrete floor now,” John said. “This is a new experience, getting to see it from the ground up.”

The 20-barrel brew system will produce about a dozen different beers, some of which will rotate seasonally, John said. The three-barrel system will be for testing new flavors.

Danville Mayor John Gilstrap thanked Fickenscher and Shifflett for their part in the River District’s transformation. He said this third project will bring the partners’ total investment in the River District to about $28 million.

“You have played a major role in redeveloping the heart of our city,” Gilstrap said.

Denice Thibodeau is a reporter for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at dthibodeau@registerbee.com or (434) 791-7985.

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