A recipe for success
Craft brewery co-founders bring passion to their work
Tim Brady and Jamie Long (’06) have accomplished what some only dream of: turning their passion into a career. The former Dukes co-founded Pale Fire Brewing Co., an award-winning craft brewery in the Ice House in downtown Harrisonburg.
Brady and Long first met while working at Calhoun’s Restaurant & Brewing Co., which later became Cally’s and now is home to Capital Ale House.
“At the time, I was thinking about law school,” says Long, a political science major at JMU. But a two-week crash course on craft brewing at the famed Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago set him on a different career path. He returned to Virginia and began working as an intern at Star Hill Brewery in Crozet. In 2011, he joined Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick, Maryland, where he rose to the position of lead brewer.
Brady always knew he wanted to brew beer, leaving his studies at JMU to pursue his dreams. He started brewing professionally at Calhoun’s in 2002. “I loved that job and it kept me in Harrisonburg,” he says. After getting married in 2008, Brady’s desire for a more set schedule led him to a position with a local craft beer distributor. “Starting a brewery was kind of an untraditional way to be my own boss,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to have that final responsibility.”
Their plans to open a business together fell into place in 2013 when space became available in the newly renovated Ice House. “It’s really hard to find a place downtown that would allow for a production brewery this big and also a sprawling taproom,” Long says, “so we had to jump on a really great opportunity to take this space.”
Pale Fire, which takes its name from the Russian novel as a reminder that craft brewing is indeed an art, opened in April 2015. Its beers are available in stores and restaurants throughout Virginia, from Blacksburg to Winchester and Charlottesville to the Tidewater area. With an open-concept taproom and glass doors that allow for observation of the production space, Pale Fire is truly unique. Along with their favorite brew, guests can enjoy live music, local artwork and a library of books.
Locating the brewery in Harrisonburg was a no-brainer. Brady believes that JMU keeps the city young and vibrant. “In a way, Harrisonburg exists separately from the school, but the school also keeps a lot of great cultural events around.”
Asked about crafting the perfect beer, Long explains: “Quality is paramount. Never send out a bad beer. If anything comes out subpar, it will go down the drain.”
That business philosophy is feeding the brewery’s success. In its first year of operation, one of Pale Fire’s flagship brews, “Salad Days,” won the bronze medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival in the American-Belgo Ale category. And earlier this month, Salad Days and “Red Molly,” an Irish-style red ale, won medals at the 2016 World Beer Cup, which Brady calls “the Olympics of craft beer.”
[Kaity Kirwin (’16), JMU Communications and Marketing]