When An Bui opened his Vietnamese restaurant Mekong in a Richmond strip mall in 1995, he served only wine and no beer. “There was no beer scene,” Bui says, noting that the city had a brewpub, Legend Brewing, but that was basically it.
Two years later, Mekong dumped the wine and started focusing on beer. “It was just a gut feel,” Bui says. “We started getting the Belgian stuff in, started giving free tastings to people, built it one person at a time. Eventually, we had a small beer community of supporters.”
He hosted homebrewing meetings at Mekong to get people into brewing. “If other cities can do this, why can’t Richmond have a beer scene?” Bui recalls thinking.
Today, Richmond has more than 20 breweries — including California craft behemoth Stone Brewing’s new East Coast facility and Bui’s own The Answer Brewpub — and the number keeps growing, thanks in part to a 2012 Virginia Senate bill that allows breweries to sell their beers for on-site consumption.
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