New River History as Told by Founder & Brewmaster Kenny Lefkowitz

The New River Brewing Company has been a dream of mine and others for many years now. My name is Kenny Lefkowitz and I have been developing recipes since taking up this innocent home brewing hobby 13 years ago. Experimenting with the infinite combinations of malt, hops and yeast is what I really love about brewing beer. The only problem I see is that you don't get to live long enough to try them all. Before I digress, here is a brief tour of the trials and tribulations of the saga that is -- The New River Brewing Company.

After about 6 years of avid all-grain homebrewing the idea of opening a brewery started dancing in my head. After finishing graduate school at Virginia Tech in May of 1995, I headed to the Siebel Institute to attend a Microbrewery and Brewpub Operations course. While in Chicago I spent a brief stint at Chicago Brewing Company brewing on their old 50 barrel German brewhouse. That pretty much decided it for me. I had to try to open a brewery or I would regret it for the rest of my life.

Upon returning to Blacksburg, Virginia, I continued on the brewery quest with my friend and business partner Chad McRae. Together we went through the chore of researching all the equipment, materials and funds necessary to start a brewery. This included finding a suitable location and writing a business plan and private placement memorandum to raise capital for the new brewery. If anyone reading this has a similar idea of opening a brewery or likely any other business, I would count on multiplying the amounts of time and money required by at least two. This coupled with the fact that everything that can go wrong probably will, at least once, may make your undertaking work according to the real world. After the offering period came and went, and more than a couple of key investors bailed on us, we didn't raise enough capital to comfortably start the brewery (to put it very kindly). I guess 1997 wasn't the best time to try to start a microbrewery, at least for us anyhow. All we got for the effort were substantial bills for very unsubstantial work to attorneys and accountants. Chad moved on to find gainful employment. I was left in a quandary: let the dream die or find a way to make it work. My father came up with the answer before we undertook the disappointing quest for capital. However, we chose not to listen at the time. (When are we going to learn to listen to our parents?) He said, "Why don't you get a brewery to brew your beer with you? Once you have people drinking and enjoying the beer it may be easier to get the capital to fund your venture." The words I ignored earlier were now my only hope.

So begins Chapter Two. Selecting a brewery to produce my beer was easy, convincing them to produce it was more of a challenge. I could only think of one. Old Dominion Brewing Company of Ashburn, Virginia. Old Dominion has been producing award winning beers since 1989. I have a deep respect for Jerry Bailey, President, and his ability to develop, capitalize, manage, and lead such a fine operation as Old Dominion. Old Dominion was my benchmark for success when trying to open a brewery. I also have respect for several of his former and current employees/brewers for their ability operate and consistently produce some of the best beers to be found anywhere, while expanding production from the level of a small micro to the regional brewery they are today. I nervously gave Jerry Bailey a call one afternoon and told him I wanted Old Dominion to brew my beer. He said, "It's going to take more than that". I then explained the disappointing history of the New River Brewing Company to that point in all its gory detail. Either my passion to realize the dream or just the overbearing length of the depressing saga convinced him to give me a shot. I personally believe it was that we share the same passion, but you will have to ask him on that one. Whatever it was I will always be grateful to him for allowing me to produce my beers through his wonderful brewery. So ends Chapter Two. The first batch of New River Pale Ale was brewed on Monday, September 27, 1999. The run started around 5:30pm after sampling the pilot version I brought from Blacksburg. After making some last minute adjustments for bitterness and color we went to work. We finished around 3:00am. For more information and pictures follow this link.

The first batch arrived in Blacksburg November 4th, 1999.


A Letter from Judy Luria, Brewmaster Kenny Lefkowitz's Mother

As March 29, 2003 approached, I painfully recalled two years ago when I received a call at work, informing me that my son Kenny had died from a massive coronary. All my hopes and dreams came shattering around me. When the initial shock abated, I decided that whatever else happened, this company would continue. All of Kenny's plans and dreams had to come to fruition.

New River Brewing Company has had a lot of growing pains. There was no contingency plan for what would happen should Kenny pass away - he was only 32 years old after all - and as far as we knew, healthy.

Chad McRae, who worked passionately and tirelessly with Kenny during the early development stages of the company, rejoined New River in September 2002. Many obstacles, frustrations and a lot of perseverance have gone into the beginning stages of the beer's expansion. Chad has had to forge through uncharted waters in this, the initial growth period. He is painstakingly applying dedication to the passion that is required to foster New River Brewing Company's expansion.

I am delighted to say that we are now selling beer throughout Virginia and the Triad and Western regions of North Carolina. In addition, we are entering into the West Virginia and Washington, DC markets. The plan is for Chad to promote and support the beer and our distributors in these areas as we plan our next stages of expansion. Thanks are in order to Jerry Bailey and Old Dominion Brewing Company in Ashburn, Virginia - the brewers of New River Pale Ale. Kenny was so grateful to Jerry for allowing him to produce his beer through his wonderful brewery.

To all of you who enjoy the beer and have been touched by Kenny, I want to say that I personally appreciate you. Moving on without Kenny has been the most difficult challenge of my life. What keeps me going is my wish to make New River Pale Ale known to all beer connoisseurs in this country - - my desire is to make Kenny's dream a reality…

Thank you for your support,

Judy Luria

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