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Counting Their Lucky Starrs, Starr Hill Celebrates 11 Years



The founder of Charlottesville’s Starr Hill Brewery says the past 11 years have been a whirlwind of excitement. As it reflects on its success up and down the East Coast, the company remains uniquely Charlottesville.

Starr Hill’s founder and master brewer Mark Thompson loves his job. “I’m the beer guy!” Thompson said. “So every time I show up at a party and people are like ‘Yeah! There’s the beer guy!'”

This “beer guy” founded Starr Hill brewery on Charlottesville’s West Main Street in September of 1999, and made the move to Crozet in 2005. “It’s not rocket science, it ain’t brain surgery,” Thompson said. “You know the worst thing that happens to me is – oh my gosh we’ve sold out of Northern Lights, you know? No one’s gonna die!”

More than 11 years later, he says one thing remains the same. “Starr Hill has always been about the gift of great beer,” he said. “It’s always been a mission driven, purpose driven company where if you do things that you love, and we talked about live the life that you love, the rest of the world takes care of itself.”

On a standard day, Starr Hill packages about 620 cases of beer. To put that into perspective, that’s a little less than 15,000 bottles. It’s a tangible way Thompson can measure the growth of his company.

“Our first year we did about 200 barrels of beer, and this year, fast forward 11 years, I think we’re going to do about 22,000 barrels of beer,” he said.

The company now distributes from Maryland through the Carolinas. During parts of the year, Thompson says it can be hard for them to brew enough to satisfy thirsty consumers.

“We struggled pretty mightily to meet the consumer demand this summer,” he said.

Eleven years, and countless satisfied taste buds later, they show now signs of slowing down. “A definition my dad used to give me. Do you know what lucky is? It’s when opportunity and preparedness meet,” Thompson said. “So I feel as if I was very prepared for this, I had an opportunity to do it, I’ve been very lucky.”

Starr Hill will celebrate its 11th anniversary Friday, on 11-11-11, with an invite only party at the Jefferson Theater. Thompson says the brewery will continue to put Charlottesville on the map. It expects to produce between 25,000 and 30,000 barrels of beer in 2012.

Reported by Ed Sykes

Ed joined the NBC29 news team in May, 2011. A Charlotte, NC, native, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in journalism and political science.
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