In the early 1990s, Charlottesville native Mark Thompson took his biology degree from James Madison University and moved to Portland, Oregon, ground zero for craft beer’s growth in America. The natural blend of art and science that is poured into brewing inspired him to take up the craft. Working alongside brewers in Oregon and Colorado, Mark honed his artisanal beer recipes. An old friend of Mark’s was looking to start a brewpub and music hall back in Charlottesville. In September 1999, they partnered to found Starr Hill Brewery out of a passion for great beer and live music. Named after the local neighborhood, the brewery shared its space with the legendary Starr Hill Music Hall. The historic storefront on Main Street was once home to the state of Virginia’s first craft brewing operation, Blue Ridge Brewing Company.
As the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia, Starr Hill has been a pioneer in the industry and helped lay the groundwork for the growing craft beer community in the region. Starting out with only a handful of regular employees, kegs of Starr Hill were delivered and sold by hand out of a van, including the milestone first account where C&O Restaurant tapped Amber Ale. We have been humping kegs and spreading the love at live music festivals since the first Bonnaroo and FloydFest in 2002. In response to the growing demand, Starr Hill moved from our small downtown storefront to a larger facility, once home to a ConAgra Foods plant, located several miles away in the town of Crozet during the summer of 2005. The brewery and Tap Room are still based there today, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Among the most award-winning breweries on the East Coast, Starr Hill has won 22 Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Great British Beer Festival medals. We brew 28,000 barrels of beer each year so craft beer fans can now enjoy Starr Hill brands across the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. After years of brewing, creative development and promoting on the road, Mark Thompson decided to take a well-deserved retirement in early 2015 to explore new and exciting opportunities. Brand and recipe development leader, Robbie O’Cain, was soon tapped as the brewery’s new Brewmaster – driving Starr Hill to make creative and world-class beer every day. We raise a glass to our fans who empower us to do what we love and to the next chapter in our story of bringing people together through great beer. See you on tour.