Roanoke Railhouse has made a name for itself over the past few years as a great-tastinglocal microbrew option.
Thisweek, I went On the Job, helping to bottle a few cases of theirsignature brew, Track One.
It's not always a beehive ofactivity inside the Roanoke Railhouse brewhouse, but when it's time to get towork, the crew puts out plenty of product. And they're enjoying that product,too.
There are 10 people on staff,either part-time or full-time, and there's typically an intern or twofloating around.
"The fringebenefits of this job are so good, [the internship line] has been [around theblock] at times," Steve Davidson said.
Steve started sellingbeer in January 2009, and on this day, he was giving me my first taste ... of bottling, that is.
Our task: filling cases of Roanoke Railhouse's signature amber ale.
"The Track Oneis our flagship," Steve said. "It's the beer we've been producing for four years."
We chatted as we worked, Steve filling two bottles at atime while I capped.
There's a bit of muscle memorythat needs to build up to speed up the process. The process Steve uses has been awork in progress since Track One's early days.
"We wereinitially standing around and taking the bottles and holding them with one handand filling them with the other over top of a spill bucket," Steve said. "Not near thesophisticated operation you see today."
Roanoke Railhouse currently brewsthree beers: Switch Money, the Belgian-style pale ale; Railhouse IPA; and Track One, the original.
"Well, I knowit's hard to believe considering what we're doing this second, but making beeris considered a relatively glamorous industry," Steve said. "Particularly in the era in which wefind ourselves."
The Track One amber lager hasreceived widespread praise, and that's no accident. Steve did extensivefocus-group testing before going to market.
So what makes a great beer?
"That's likeasking what makes a pretty girl," Steve said. "The beauty is in the eye of thebeholder."
"Consistency of the productis the hallmark of quality," Steve said. "In industryparlance, that is the most important thing."
Once my 99 bottles were filled, it was time to pass off the bottle-capping duties.
Roanoke Railhouse has recentlyexpanded into 16-ounce cans and Steve's gaining traction on the goal ofspreading into every county in the commonwealth.
"I can see thefinish line," he said.