Virginia Tech’s roots in agricultural research have sparked a new partnership with Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, resulting in a licensed Virginia Tech beer: Fightin’ Hokies Lager.
This unique collaboration reaffirms Virginia Tech’s land-grant mission to transition world-class faculty-led research and development to market and provide economic benefits to the commonwealth. In this case, the result is a proprietary craft beer recipe developed by Virginia Tech researchers that will be produced and marketed by Hardywood starting next spring.
“We are excited that research developed on Virginia Tech soil will be brought to market with proceeds providing scholarships for our students, enabling the expansion of research programs in our highly regarded food science program and fueling Virginia’s local economy,” said Dan Sui, vice president for research and innovation for VT. “Hardywood is an ideal partner based in Virginia that has values mirroring those of the Hokie nation. We are confident this partnership will brew innovative ideas that excite generations to come.”
Fightin’ Hokies Lager is described as a classic Munich-style Helles lager with balance between pleasant malt sweetness and herbal noble hop character. At 5 percent alcohol by volume, it is clean, crisp and refreshing.
The bright golden beer will be distributed to better beer retailers, including restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores by Hardywood’s network of wholesalers throughout Virginia and Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2021.
Earlier in the year, Virginia Tech started the processes to identify a brewery that had strong brand recognition, a history of quality, a collaborative approach to research and development, a record of sustainability, and the ability to produce a high-quality product to bring to market and meet consumer demand.
As a result, Virginia Tech received interest from several top brewing firms in the country. Hardywood’s reputation for quality beer and commitment to serving the commonwealth through implementing sustainable practices and sourcing ingredients locally made them an ideal partner for Virginia Tech.
“The desire from the beginning was to partner with a premium brewing firm with solid ties within Virginia to produce proprietary recipes that could work hand-in-hand with our faculty to develop and produce the best beer possible,” said Brandy Salmon, VT’s associate vice president for innovation and partnerships. “This unique partnership goes beyond a traditional trademark license agreement and supports a campus-wide initiative to take research inventions, and, in this case, a beer recipe, from discovery to market.”
“As one of America’s leading academic institutions in disciplines vital to the craft brewing industry from food science to mechanical engineering to hospitality management, Virginia Tech is an ideal, philosophically aligned collaborative partner for Hardywood,” said Eric McKay, Hardywood’s president and co-founder. “The opportunity to help create an official beer of the Hokies is surreal, and certainly a career highlight for Hardywood,” said Vice President of Production and Head Brewer Brian Nelson, a 2001 graduate of the Virginia Tech College of Engineering.
Virginia Tech’s own brewhouse is just one way that Virginia Tech is helping the commonwealth’s beer industry, which has a more than $8 billion annual economic impact and contributes $2.9 billion in annual total tax contributions, according to the Beer Institute.
The brewhouse and malting system are cornerstones of the Department of Food Science and Technology’s Innovation Collaboratory, a space where industry meets research. Scientists in the department, which is ranked in the top 10 of its kind in the country, have worked with household names, such as Dupont Teijin Films and Tyson Foods, on food safety, packaging, and product development in the pilot plant.
“Our department is big on hands-on learning,” said Brian Wiersema, the plant manager at the Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1, where the brewhouse is located. “We had the company pull out some of the automation, yet the system mimics a craft brewing system.”
— Written by Lindsey Haugh