Brewmaster David Ober didn’t have to wait to find out if people would come out to try his new Salem brewery’s offerings.
“There were 15 or 20 people waiting when I opened the door,” he said at Ober Brewing Co.’s grand opening on March 31.
Several hundred-people continued to rotate through the brewery in the middle of an industrial park off Kesler Mill Road throughout Saturday afternoon and evening.
They tasted the brewery’s first four brews and visited with friends. And of course, customers at the grand opening compared notes about which Ober beer they liked best.
White Lady Belgian Witbier was popular with some of the women, in particular, as was Appalachian Mama American Amber Ale. Other customers preferred Ragutis IPA, the highest alcohol content at 7.2 percent. Daily Grind Stout’s coffee-colored dark brew intrigued coffee lovers.
“We put 880 ounces of Mattie’s Mountain Mud Coffee and one-fourth pound of vanilla beans in it,” said Dave Ober, referring to the fair-trade, high-quality coffee roasted by Mattie Barnes in neighboring Craig County.
Ober is proud of the local connections. “We use lavender and chamomile from Beagle Ridge Herb Farm in Rural Retreat in our White Lady,” he explained, “and the zest from 44 oranges.”
There are four other taps, with plans to rotate one out per month and seasonal and experimental beers, Ober explained. One of those is Hanging Rock Pilsner, which he described as “a malty, clean pilsner.” As for the name, “We are on the end of the Hanging Rock Trail,” Ober added.
Several visitors said they liked having another brewery in Salem, so they can do a brew tour in one day. Ober joins the first, Parkway Brewing farther along Kesler Mill Road, and Olde Salem Brewing in downtown Salem across from the library.
Mike Pensinger, brewmaster and general manager of Parkway Brewing, believes there is definitely room for other breweries in Salem.
“We welcome more breweries in the area because it brings more people into the Roanoke Valley and raises the awareness of local beer,” Pensinger said, as he and friends were tasting Ober’s initial brews.
“Having a whole evening or day trip in the area is a big deal for us,” Pensinger added.
Dan Giarla, who grew up in Salem and lives in Boones Mill now, was celebrating his birthday with friends, with plans to go to Parkway and have dinner at Ballast Point in Botetourt County.
“When I lived up north we would go to Milwaukee to a lot of local breweries,” he said. “It’s nice the microbrewery movement is taking off because you don’t have to go to big cities to taste.”
And Giarla added, “Sometimes, I think the smaller batches are bigger than the big ones, with better beer.”
A number of motorcycle riders took advantage of the warm, sunny weather and the Easter weekend to visit Ober Brewing. Saturday afternoon was also a family atmosphere, with children playing with small toys at the tables while their parents tasted and talked.
Chanda Uluca of Bethesda, Md., visited with friend Ashley Bayne of Roanoke while Uluca’s four-year-old daughter, Ada, played with miniature My Little Pony and princesses. Later, they were going to the home of Chanda’s mom’s Barbara Leckie in Salem.
They decided they liked the White Lady Belgian brew. They also planned to check out Olde Salem while Chada was in town.
Customers ate homemade sausages from Manns Sausage food truck in Blacksburg, with sauerkraut, potatoes, homemade macaroni and cheese and salad. Later, they listened to the band “Chicken Wings & Gravy.”
Both the food trucks and bands will vary by the week. People can also bring their own picnics. There is no picnic area outside yet, but picnic tables are in the plans, Ober said.
His family and friends were helping out during the grand opening, as they will do in the future, too. Dave Ober is the brewmaster and manager, his wife Jennifer heads up quality A and laboratory programs, after her fulltime job as manager of IT for Quest Diagnostics labs for Carilion.
At the “Grand Obering,” she was helping customers as were members of the Star City Brewers Guild. Ober sons 16-year-old Austin and 13-year-old Asten were washing glasses. Right now, there are no other employees except for him, but Dave plans to hire an assistant brewer and “and a couple of people” later, he said. He was in emergency services for 28 years and still holds his paramedic certification. The family lives in Floyd, where he home-brewed beer for 11 years.
“We’re looking forward to being a part of the craft beer community in Salem and Virginia, Dave added.
Ober Brewing is located at 1443 Lakeside Circle off Kesler Mill Road. Dave Ober said hours will be Wednesday and Thursday, 4-9 p.m. and 2-10 on Saturday.