Cheers Check-in: South Street Brewery

Posted on November 17, 2014 by

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The lights are on again at a longtime staple of Charlottesville nightlife and some familiar faces are brewing up business.

Mandi and Taylor Smack, the couple behind Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, are breathing new life into South Street Brewery, which closed its doors in June after more than a decade of business. The Smacks reopened the downtown brewpub on November 3, and while the owners and the majority of the menu items have changed, the name remains the same.

Taylor Smack said the opportunity to purchase the brewery was something he couldn’t pass up.

“I used to dream about this place,” he said. “It’s been a really important part of my career.”

© tom daly photography

Mandi and Taylor Smack | © tom daly photography

Taylor was the brewer at South Street from late 2001 until early 2007. He said he owes a lot of his success in brewing to Jacque Landry, one of the former co-owners of South Street. The Smacks began talking to Landry and South Street co-founder Fred Greenewalt about purchasing the business about a year ago.

“They were, I think, just ready to do something differently in life,” Taylor said. “I can’t fault them for that. It’s excruciatingly tiring.”

On top of the nostalgia involved in reopening South Street, Taylor and Mandi, who also used to work at the brewery, saw an opportunity to expand their brand.
Since South Street’s beers are distributed through a different company than Blue Mountain, the Smacks are able to break into a new market.

“In one month, South Street accomplished what Blue Mountain did in seven years,” Taylor said, noting the beer brewed for the rejuvenated brewery has had instant access to restaurants and stores in the Charlottesville area through South Street’s contract with Virginia Eagle Distributing and there are plans to expand to other markets.

The beers that are served at South Street are mainly brewed on-site, with Blue Mountain Barrel House brewing the beers for distribution. Taylor said South Street Brewery serves a lot like an incubator for new brews.

© tom daly photography

© tom daly photography

And while new offerings abound, popular South Street brews such as Satan’s Pony, J.P. Ale, and Absolution are still on tap. The Smacks, who have revamped the tap system, have added some new brews to the menu, too.

Barhopper, a medium-bodied IPA, was my choice (and a good one) on a recent visit, but there’s also Hogwaller Kolsch for fans of lower ABV, as well as Browntown and Bumper Crop for those that live on the hoppier side of life. Anastasia’s Chocolate Fantasy, a Russian imperial stout with a 10.5% ABV, also is on tap for those in search of a heavyweight drink.

The food menu also has changed, offering all-new selections but continuing to focus on ingredients from local purveyors.

“Is it trendy? Yes. Does it taste better? Yes it does,” Taylor said.

The food menu includes a variety of starters, including Wisconsin white cheddar cheese curds, roasted asparagus and Asian pork wonchos, which are crispy wontons topped with Asian-spiced Double H Farm pulled pork, sweet chili slaw, and wasabi goat cheese cream. Main dishes include pot roast, vegetarian chili, and steak.

Patrons can chow down on a variety of burgers, including The Hangover Burger, sandwiches and salads, as well as three-cheese mac n’ cheese that can be combined with a variety of hearty toppings for those who want to “dress it up.”

As soon as you walk through the doors, the changes at the small brewery are evident. The Smacks have renovated the main dining room, removing some walls, but adding tables and lighting, as well as adding a gift shop.

“Our vision was just to open it up and make it a little bit lighter,” Taylor said.

He added that although they replaced the old copper top bar, pieces of it are displayed throughout the restaurant as art, including above South Street’s fireplace.

© tom daly photography

© tom daly photography

South Street’s popular $2 Tuesdays also are back and Happy Hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The brewpub’s hours are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. seven days a week.

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Posted in: cheers, New to Cville