Last weekend, Green Flash Brewing Company turned open the doors of its new East Coast brewery and tasting room in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The project took more than three years to get to the point where it was ready for sharing with the public, but now that 58,000-square-foot center of fermentation is producing and dispensing beer. We reached out to founder and owner Mike Hinkley to see how things went and how Green Flash’s home-away-from-home compares to America’s Finest City.
West Coaster: How were the weekend’s opening festivities?
Mike Hinkley: Amazing! The building is beautiful and the beer garden is essentially a City park attached to the brewery. Thousands and thousands of people showed up to welcome and support us at Treasure Chest Fest and the grand opening. Because it is the off-season for tourism there, it was all locals. It felt so good to finally get together with them and share the excitement.
WC: What is the Virginia Beach beer-scene like?
MH: Virginia Beach’s culture is very much like San Diego’s, a beach city with big tourism, big military and strong local community culture. But the craft culture and beer scene are really just a few years—rather than decades—old, so it is very different in that regard. The fun part is that the excitement and interest are so high. People are so interested to learn about all of the unconventional beer that we make and are excited for all of the a-ha moments that come along with drinking San Diego beer.
WC: What new goals and opportunities are you looking to realize with the East Coast facility?
MH: We sell about one-third of our beer on the East Coast. We expect it to grow even faster now that we offer regional pricing and have an amazing regional connection point for East Coast customers at Virginia Beach. I think we might do as much as 40,000 barrels from Virginia Beach in 2017, and then grow from there. More important than the numbers is becoming part of the craft-beer community, and sharing in the good times that come through connecting with people.
WC: In opening the new facility, what sort of on-site customer-experience were you looking to provide, and did lessons learned from your San Diego tasting rooms prove helpful?
MH: Our San Diego tasting room is a great meeting place. We care so much about the customer experience and we think every customer feels it. We bring that same over-arching approach to Virginia Beach. In Virginia Beach, we have more space, so we are able to have a separate events area, and a much, much bigger beer garden. Those are great advantages, but only important if we have the same dedication to making every customer experience awesome.
WC: What is on the horizon for Green Flash?
MH: We will take the rest of the year to put the finishing touches on Virginia Beach. Then we will continue to be Green Flash—ignore the beaten path, and wander off into the adventurous and unknown. I have no doubt there will lots of opportunity for excitement.