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Steve Davidson's Track 1 beer is now in at least 17 valley watering holes, with hopes to get to 20 by summer's end.
When Steven Davidson began selling real estate in the early ‘90s, he and a friend had a dream to open a brewery in Roanoke. After the failure of two other local breweries and with no location for the business, Davidson had a hard time building interest in his vision.
Fast forward to 2002: Mark Hall, owner of Wimmer Tire, moved his business into a big building on McClanahan. After a few years Hall decided the large building that formerly housed Carilion’s laundry facilities was too big for just Wimmer Tire. Hall asked Davidson to help him find a tenant to fill the rest of the space. It was then that Davidson saw the future home of his brewery, Roanoke Railhouse Brewing Company.
“You have to have drains [in the floors], high ceilings, lots of power, a good gas supply and it is helpful if you have a loading dock,” Davidson says.
The Wimmer building had it all. Davidson next needed a certified brewmaster, which he found a few years later in John Bryce, who was interested in working with Davidson, but first planned to spend six months to study brewing science and technology in Berlin.
With Bryce back, Davidson found investors, bought equipment and hired Martin Research to host focus groups.
“We served eight different beers – four that were light in color with various degrees of hopiness, and four dark beers with varying degrees of boldness,” says Davidson.
From the results compiled by Martin Research, Bryce’s expertise and Davidson’s own tenacity, Roanoke Railhouse Brewery’s first lager, Track 1, rolled out in late January.
From the first shipment, Davidson has been adding local businesses that carry the brew, including Martin’s Downtown, which had to order more kegs early on just to make it through a weekend.
There are now at least 17 area outets, and Tinnell’s in South Roanoke sells it in kegs.
As the original lager gains popularity, Davidson hopes to add seasonal versions of the signature brew and even more venues that offer his beer. For more information – roanokerailhouse.com