Name: Ardent Craft Ales
Location: Richmond, VA
What you need to know: After spending several years working together in a homebrew co-op, Tom Sullivan, Paul Karns, and Kevin O’Leary opened their 15-barrel brewery in June of 2014. The brewery is in a refurbished 1940’s warehouse located in the popular Scott’s Addition neighborhood (along with several other quality breweries, if you’re interested in planning a visit). Their IPA and saisons were popular enough that in 2016 they expanded, adding more tanks to allow for a more varied tap list, as well as a beer garden. They continue to innovate, adding interesting ingredients to saisons, such as honey ginger, sweet potato, and sage, and a chardonnay brett saison with apricots. They have also experimented with numerous barrels including brandy, port, and tokaj (a Hungarian wine region). Their innovation extends to collaborations as well, as last year they released a distilled version of their IPA in collaboration with Reservoir distillery.
Beer/Food Pairing #1: Ardent IPA (6.8% ABV) paired with Chorizo Verde and Pepitas
Notes/Thoughts: Ardent IPA has a solid malty backbone, with good body and sweetness to match well with the hop aromas and flavor (which can change due to a varied hop blend). The sweetness and hop flavor feature more prominently than the bitterness, but nothing is lacking. The reviews are pretty positive and focus on its drinkability and its ability to stand up to big food flavors. I’ve enjoyed it on multiple occasions, and totally agree, so it’s nice to see it paired with some heat on the menu. If you into spicy food, this beer pairing should have you covered, and this IPA should stand apart from the more currently popular IPA styles that will be around at Savor.
Beer/Food Pairing #2: Sauternes Saison (7.6% ABV) paired with Thai Green Chile Chicken and Sugarcane Skewer
Notes/Thoughts: In my opinion, Ardent’s best beers are their saisons, so I’m excited to see that they are bringing one to the festival. They aged their base saison for four months on a couple of Sauternes barrels, resulting in a dry saison that should combine fruit and spice from the saison with white oak and grape characteristics from the barrel. The reviews suggest that it came out as expected with the oak flavors definitely coming through, and that sounds promising for a food pairing that promises heat and sweetness. I’m excited to try the beer, and the pairing is a bold one that I’m willing to give a chance.
Overall Impressions: Richmond’s beer scene is flourishing, with a number of highly rated breweries opening in the last few years, and Ardent is one that has definitely found a dedicated fan base. They can produce classic styles with distinction and they can also push the envelope with their flavors, and their Savor beers should show both of these qualities quite well. If you’re interested in some spicy options, check out their pairings, or just carve out a little time to try out one or both of these beers.
Written by Bruce Webster