Vodka in the ViBe
What do lemon drops, ghost peppers and apple pies all have in common? At Chesapeake Bay Distillery, each of these involves their craft spirits, of course.
On December 4, 2015, Chesapeake Bay Distillery emerged in a spot on the corner of Virginia Beach Boulevard joining the growing ViBe Creative District at the Oceanfront. Owner Chris Richeson, a Sandbridge native, became interested in craft spirits many years ago when he worked with Sara Lee Corporation distilling coffee beans. With a background in industrial automation, he admired the combination of the technical, yet artistic side, to distilling.
Established in 2005, one of the distillery’s first batches of Spirits of the Blue Ridge Vodka earned a gold medal, and their Beach Vodka later won a double gold medal. With their success, they eventually outgrew the old location. As they began the hunt for a new site during spring 2014, they sought after high ceilings to accommodate the monstrous equipment. A former surf shop was just the place, and they began a buildout, removing the second floor, keeping the beams and adding a retail shop and tasting room. Empty Blue Ridge vodka bottles act as light fixtures above the tasting bar. From there you can peer through the glass wall at the gorgeous copper distilling equipment appearing like instruments of one grand backstage production.
“With the changing ABC laws, we were able to add on a tasting room to be able to present our brand in a new environment,” Chris tells us.
“Tasting room?” you might ask. Sounds intriguing, yet oh so dangerous.
In accordance with Virginia ABC regulations, folks can sample up to four half-ounce pours per day at a distillery, and the locals have been taking full advantage of the new spot. For $7, choose four from their tasting lineup offering everything from cocktails to straight vodka. I fancied their apple pie (made from apple cider and vodka), Bloody Mary with their ghost pepper-infused vodka and the house-brand lemon drop mix, a delicious slightly tart and sweet elixir that gives the right amount of mouth puckering to keep a straight face.
Chesapeake Bay Distillery is located at 437 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach. They’re open Sunday 1–6 p.m. and Tuesday–Saturday noon–7 p.m. Call 757-498-410 or visit ChesapeakeBayDistillery.com for more information.