Champion Brewing Company

Posted on February 18, 2013 by


Charlottesville and the surrounding counties are blossoming with local breweries. Though many have only been around for less than 5 years, all have proven their success by drawing in business from locals and outsiders alike. One such brewery looking to make its mark is Champion Brewing Company.

Champion - Charlottesville's newest brewery

Champion Brewery Company

Champion Brewing Company is the creation of Hunter Smith, a C’ville local and avid beer enthusiast whose dream of starting and owning a brewery has been a long-time pursuit. Located at 324 6th Street SE (behind the Downtown Mall and adjacent to the Belmont Bridge), the brewery is already making itself well-known in the community within the four months it has been opened. I had a chance to talk to Hunter about Champion, and what led him to open his brewery.

What prompted your interest in brewing? / How long have you been working on opening the Champion Brewing Company? 

I have been interested in craft brewing really since I had my first craft beer. After tasting such complex and interesting flavors, I knew I had to try my hand. I started homebrewing about 4 years ago. The first formal business planning for CBC began in the winter of 2010.

Where did you grow up and what brought you to Charlottesville?

I was born in Charlottesville, but grew up in Hampton Roads, visiting the city regularly to see my grandparents. I had always considered living here, but I was motivated to move in the summer of 2009 when my parents bought Afton Mountain Vineyards.

Why the name “Champion”?

I wanted to pick a name that reflected our ambition, and our desire to make the best beer we could. I also wanted a dynamic brand that could inspire great labeling and grow into the marketplace without being limited by a local reference.

How do you want patrons to view Champion? Do you want Champion to be viewed differently than other breweries (South Street, Devils Backbone, etc.)?

I would definitely want to be perceived as having our own thing going. I have been flattered when people describe to me their enjoyment of the ‘neighborhood bar’ vibe of the taproom; that it’s a no-fuss place to enjoy beer for what it is without distraction. First and foremost I want people to associate us with great beer.

With the recent changes in legislation, Champion can serve beer without having to operate a restaurant on the side. However, will you be adding on any kitchen in the foreseeable future, or are the food trucks here to stay?

I have no desire to add a kitchen to our operation – not only are we currently using all of our space, but I think we are benefiting greatly by focusing on one product, and that is the beer we love. A kitchen would be a distraction and the food truck scene is doing great things! We enjoy contributing to other businesses as they supplement ours.

Charlottesville - Champion Brewery brew room

A look inside Champion Brewery’s brew room

What is your favorite part of your job?

The favorite part of my job is the physical work of brewing itself. That, and sitting at home and using references and working on new recipes while trying to honor brewing tradition. Taste-testing isn’t so bad either.

What’s your favorite beer style?

I can’t say I have one favorite style, but some of my favorites are IPA, Berliner Weisse, and Russian Imperial Stout, and those are all on tap right now. I’m chiefly inspired to make beer styles that I want to drink.

When I visited Champion Brewery back in January, I sampled your Gose beer, which is a beer style that is rarely used. Will Champion be offering more of these lesser-known beer styles in its selection?

We are definitely trying to showcase some rarely seen or lost styles. We want to make things that interest us as brewers, but also broaden the horizons of everyone who comes into the tap room.

What are your favorite things about living in Charlottesville?

Where do I start? I live within walking distance of some of the best restaurants in the world, my own brewery, and amazing concert venues. I think the arts and dining culture of Charlottesville rivals the best in the country, and within 15 minutes you can be in some of the most beautiful mountain country as well. Unbeatable.

Do you have any big events or goals for Champion this year (Top of the Hops festival, beer competitions, upcoming events, etc.)?

We will definitely be participating at Top of the Hops for the first time! We will have some events from time to time, like our Oyster Shucking Party on 2/17. Our events will be beer-tapping centric, and we’re also working on increasing our production to support distributed sales.

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