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Valley’s Newest Microbrewery Debuts Downtown

Nathan Hungate, Mike Barnes and Sean Osborne are proud partners in the valley’s newest microbrewery, Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers, which

Some of the brews underway at Soaring Ridge.
Some of the brews underway at Soaring Ridge.

made its official debut at 523 Shenandoah Avenue last weekend. Osborne was the brewmaster for Big Daddy’s, based at Growlers and Awful Arthur’s (Towers Shopping Center) before closing its doors.

Osborne cooled his heels working construction before he and his partners could get Soaring Ridge off the ground in what had been the former Flowers Bakery location on Shenandoah. It’s the latest example of repurposing an old, rundown building in downtown Roanoke, which is now pushing westward from the city center. “We got through [the permitting process] … now we’re open,” said Osborne.

Hungate, a real estate agent by day and a former basketball standout at Roanoke College, said  it took longer than they expected to get everything in place for the opening. Soaring Ridge features large garage-type doors that can be opened when the weather is good; there’s a raised platform for live music and food services like the Noke Truck will set up shop as well.

“[We’ve] been talking about starting a brewery for a while,” said Hungate, “and that got pushed at a faster pace once we found out Growler’s was closed.” Several of the beers made there and distributed to local restaurants – like the Virginia Creeper – should make their appearance again soon via distributor PA Short. In fact, they stored the Growler’s equipment at another microbrewery – Parkway in Salem – until they found the Flowers Bakery space. “Hopefully you can find it in a nearby bar pretty soon,” Hungate added.

Three soft openings before the official grand opening helped convince them they were on the right track. It took longer to get the building ready but that’s all behind them now. “It’s been a fun process – we’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Hungate, right before City Council members Ray Ferris and Dave  Trinkle helped them cut the ribbon.

Hungate said Soaring Ridge will be a “family oriented” microbrewery, with games like corn hole available. “And we have good beer,” he said of the first downtown Roanoke microbrewery in 20 years. He can envision occasions where they join forces with Parkway, Sunken City at Smith Mountain Lake and other local brewers for special events.

“It’s nice to get back to brewing,” said Osborne, “doing what I like to do. We have a lot of the same stuff we did before and we’re going to do some new things.” Osborne plans to brew some seasonal beers as well. He liked the openness of the new space – the refurbished bay doors that used to open for Flowers delivery trucks now give Soaring Ridge an airy feel when they are raised. “It feels like I’m brewing outside,” said Osborne.

“This is what makes Roanoke cool,” said Ferris, “and we are very excited about the vibe it’s going to help create.” Trinkle, who will become vice mayor again in July, has done his own repurposing with Fork in the City – turning a rundown bar into a busy bistro. “This is a vital area of downtown Roanoke,” said Trinkle, “and what a great repurposing. You’ll see a lot of traffic here. It’s right off the 5th Street Bridge.”

Trinkle said the city tries to make it a “win-win situation” for businesses that want to locate downtown and refurbish older buildings. Soaring Ridge is just the latest example.

By Gene Marrano

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