Thursday, April 11

RVA Eats (and Drinks): Rachael Cardwell

Rachel Cardwell of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. Photo by Nicole Lang.
Throughout the spring, Nicole Lang will be blogging for us about her adopted hometown of Richmond, Virginia (aka RVA). We've chosen Richmond as the site for this year's Summer Foodways Symposium, which will take place from June 20–22. Over on her own blog, Food Punk, Nicole is telling more stories of the folks—from musicians to fashion bloggers—who make Richmond awesome. Check out her "One Day in RVA" series to meet these men and women. 

Did you know that the first canned beer was sold in Richmond, Virginia? It's true. In honor of that illustrious milestone, let's talk Richmond brews. 

Meet Rachael Cardwell. She is a brewer at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, here in her hometown of Richmond. Beer brewing is an ancient art, and guess what? The majority of early brewers—and we're talking B.C. here, folks—were women.

Photo by Nicole Lang.

Rachael explains, “Since the first cultivation of society, all brewing was done by women. Thousands of years ago, brewing beer was necessary due to unsanitary water conditions. It was basically a household chore. Eventually men took over, but it's a good thing that women were there to teach them!”

Women brewers are more and more prevalent in the modern craft beer industry (in fact, they have their own society). But Rachael doesn’t feel she needs to prove herself as a woman brewer—just as a brewer, period. “It’s not about being a man or a woman. It’s about being a hard worker and creating the best product possible," she says. 

Then she jokes, “Women brewers are way cuter, though!”  

Rachael recently collaborated with three other women brewers on a beer to benefit  breast cancer research. “It’s a beer called Pretty in Pink, a 6% ABV hibiscus-pomegranate saison. Through the sales of Pretty in Pink, we raised $3500 for the Massey Cancer Center in Richmond. That was a pretty cool opportunity.”
Photo by Nicole Lang.

Hardywood Brewery engages the Richmond community as much as possible, says Rachel. “We have food trucks and a farmers market during our tasting room hours. We invite restaurants and beer enthusiasts to come and design their own special beers. Our Reserve Series beers all include a local ingredient; for example, we get our blackberries from Agriberry for our VA Blackberry, which we release in the summer. Our newly released Hoplar includes tulip poplar wood from Citi Wood, a company that reclaims fallen trees.”

It’s clear that Rachael’s love of brewing runs deep, but it’s the community surrounding her that motivates her. “The Richmond beer community is incredibly close and a big part of my life. Beer is so much more than the brew itself. It's about the experience, the brewery visits, the releases and festivals, the knowledge gained and the satisfaction of people enjoying your hard work.”

Cheers to that!