PROST! Is a German toast in which a drink is taken as an expression of honor or goodwill. Virginia Beach brewery Wasserhund Brewing Company, which opened its doors in October 2015, fully embraces the toast in their mission to provide great beer for great causes. The brewery got its start after husband and wife owners, Aaron and Christine Holley, went to visit Germany and fell in love with German beers and German culture.
“I’m going to make German beer,” Aaron said when they returned home. The Navy vet, who was already home brewing, turned his focus to perfecting the German style.
Aaron’s beer became an instant hit with friends, family and the home brewing community; so much that the two starting crunching the numbers and came up with a business plan for a brewery.
“A lot of sweat, a little bit of tears and some blood went into getting the brewery open,” Christine said.
The two Kellam H.S. and Virginia Tech grads left the life of chemical engineering to open the brewery. After finding a pizza oven left by the previous owners of the building they acquired at 1805 Laskin Road, the next call was to Aaron’s brother-in-law, Craig Lubinski. Craig, an Army vet and West Point grad, has decades of pizza making experience and moved his family from Pennsylvania to Virginia Beach to be part of the dream.
‘It’s been a challenge doing something new, but it’s been rewarding to be back in the area and to be with and helping family,” Craig said.
A main focus of Wasserhund is to be communal and to impact the community, and that was the cause since the brewery’s inception. Aaron says the inspiration behind the idea came from his church.
“I was always taught to count my blessings and to share what we have been blessed with, we wanted to impact the community from the very beginning, even with what it was taking to get the brewery open,” Aaron said.
The crew at Wasserhund picks a charity to support each month, and 5% of all revenue, not just profit, but revenue, goes to that charity. So far Wasserhund’s efforts has raised over $14,000 for various charities. Some organizations they have worked with include; Aid Now, the JDRF, Samaritan House and the Julian Knox Foundation – which helps families dealing with premature births. An event/party on the first Saturday of each month helps kick-off the new charity that is in the spotlight. Also the brewery has hosted a block party raising funds for Dogs on Deployment with Home Republic Brewing, Big Ugly Brewing and Young Veterans Brewing, and hope to make it an annual event.
“It’s very rewarding and feels good to support the community, these were the ethics we were raised on,” Craig said.
‘The reception from the community has been great to see, everyone loves the German style beers, the taproom, the causes we support, and some even say we have the best pizza in town,” Christine added.
A German style brewery is something that is different in the Hampton Roads craft beer scene. But what sets them apart is the manual labor goes into making Wasserhund’s beer, but even more so as the brewing system that was handmade by Aaron himself. The hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Wasserhund has already seen awards in the short time they have been open. At Veer’s 2015 Golden Tap Awards, Wasserhund’s Hefeweizen won Gold for Best German Wheat, the Dunkel won Silver for Best Amber Dark Lager and they took home Bronze for Best Brew Pub.
“It’s been awesome and great to see the appreciation the brewery is receiving. Every brewery around Hampton Roads has a different style, the scene is still growing and it’s been great to be a part of,” Aaron said.
Wasserhund hosts a trivia night every Monday, a beer and pizza delivery service is off and running and they are now open for lunch. With the focus on German style beers, future events include a spring festival, Frühlingfest, which marks the halfway point to Oktoberfest, and of course their very own Oktoberfest, which Aaron promises to go all out for. Plans for distribution and tank expansion are also on the table for the future.
All three agree they are not only excited for what the futures holds with them and the craft beer scene in Hampton Roads, but also the impact they pledge to continue to create in the community.