Local Spotlight – Cape Charles Brewing Company

What do a professionally trained archaeologist, a retired law enforcement officer, and a savvy entrepreneur have in common? They’re all proprietors of one of Cape Charles’ best place to relax with a good beer—Cape Charles Brewing Company. They’re also family.

Chris Marshall and his mother, Deborah, had enjoyed being a part of Cape Charles long before Cape Charles Brewing Company opened its doors in June of 2018. In the late 1990s, they were proprietors of ‘Delisheries,’ a cookie business on Mason Avenue. They enjoyed the work and loved the town. Eventually, after selling it to Clabbergirl Corporation, they were ready for another adventure.

“I love the Eastern Shore, and I’ll never leave it,” says Chris, a Virginia Beach native. “What hooked me to this place was the Barrier Islands. My mother feels the same way—there’s something about the untouched beauty of the Eastern Shore. It is a pristine place. I always knew I wanted to stay at the beach.”

When Chris discovered the Eastern Shore—which wasn’t until after college (studying archaeology!) and long before visions of craft brews danced in his head—he fell in love with the place.  “There’s nothing like it. It’s the only place where you have the country and the beach together. It’s a really unusual place,” Chris says. “After we sold the cookie business, there was no way I was going to move.”

After marrying his college sweetheart, and having three daughters, Chris and his family put down permanent roots in Cape Charles.

Chris’ mother, Deborah, who was in a state of what Chris calls ‘semi-retirement’ has always been an entrepreneur, enjoying running many businesses. Notably, she ran Sugar Plum Bakery in Virginia Beach, a nonprofit that employs people with disabilities and trains them to work in the local community.

An Idea Comes to Life
In 2015, in a passing conversation over lunch, Chris was telling his mother about how popular breweries were getting and how the Eastern Shore didn’t yet have one. “Cape Charles was getting more and more energy every year,” says Chris.  “Opening a brewery seemed like a perfect fit, and my mom said, ‘yeah, I’d love to do that.’ We had our lunch, then we went on with our lives and didn’t really think of it again.”

Four months later, Chris received an interesting phone call. His brother Mark, told him he would be retiring soon from his career in law enforcement, and had always wanted to open a brewery. That was Chris’ sign. “I knew my brother Mark would be a great business partner. Everything he does, he does well,” says Chris. “And he had been into homebrewing forever,” he adds.

As for the location of their new endeavor, it took some time to find the right place. “There were a lot of places being bought and renovated in Cape Charles. But we couldn’t find that perfect spot.”

When they saw the Old Reliable building was coming up for auction, they made their move. “It’s right there—you can’t miss it when you’re coming into Cape Charles, and it has this nice outdoor space.”

While their location is nothing short of awesome, you don’t have to be onsite to enjoy one of their beers. Cape Charles Brewing Company craft brews can be enjoyed in just about every restaurant that has a tap from here all the way to Chincoteague. 

Now, the family is canning their own beer, too. As with quite a few things in their lives, it happened when the Marshalls’ ‘jump in and figure it out’ attitude aligned with their penchant for seizing the moment, “We saw there was a canning line for sale on eBay, so we placed a bid and darn if we didn’t win the thing!” Chris laughs.

The next morning, he headed 12 hours south to Birmingham, Alabama, in a UHaul to pick it up. They had never operated a canning line before but “we figured it out,” he remarks. “We had to!”

They started canning in 2019 and are now in Food Lion, Shore Stops, and Royal Farms on the Eastern Shore. Hoffman, the Anheuser- Busch distributor for Hampton Roads, distributes Cape Charles Brewing beers in restaurants, bars, and retail stores, including Whole Foods stores, Total Wine, and Wegmans in Virginia Beach.

Changing the Game
When the pandemic turned dining and going out upside down, Cape Charles Brewing Company’s three acres of green space around their facility turned out to be a fantastic benefit.

“It was a struggle at first with things closing down. “We’re thinking, how are we going to survive this situation?” Chris says. “The best thing we did was buy all the picnic tables that Home Depot and Lowes had,” he laughs. Now their outdoor acreage is dotted with brightly painted tables (courtesy of Chris’s daughters’ artistic flair) where guests can go back to enjoying a good beer and the brewery’s amazing food.

Now, the family is canning their own beer, too. As with quite a few things in their lives, it happened when the Marshalls’ ‘jump in and figure it out’ attitude aligned with their penchant for seizing the moment, “We saw there was a canning line for sale on eBay, so

They also moved from table service to pagers, added a dedicated employee whose job is sanitizing tables, menus, pagers, and implemented a list of requirements to ensure safety. “We opened two different ordering stations,” says Chris. “People can go wherever they like on the property and then when their pager goes off, they can come pick up their food. We wanted people to feel secure and know we’re doing everything we possibly can.”

“We had a great summer. And honestly, we became more efficient,” he adds with his trademark optimism.

Asked what he loves the most about the brewery business? “It’s the people—having a place where people can come to have a good time—good conversation, great beer and great food,” says Chris. “It’s nice to be a part of that.”

“We get to help people make these nice memories,” says Chris. “We’ve had several people tell us this is where they first met. Then they got married…it’s great to be part of that.”

The brewery has had a spate of what some might call ‘good luck’. After a short conversation with Chris, it’s easy to see the family’s dedication and determination have made all the difference.  But Chris is quick to credit the people who have helped them along the way. “We’ve been fortunate. Our brewery has been well received. We make really good beer. The location is great, and the support from the town of Cape Charles and the county has been huge.”

New Brews on the Horizon
Those venturing out for a good time and tasty brew have a lot of options at Cape Charles Brewing Company, with more being added all the time.

“We have our tried-and-true flagship beers that we produce all year round, and a lot of other new beers for people to try,” Chris says.

Not one to stop at ‘good enough,’ or even ‘really great,’ Chris and his brother, Mark, are constantly experimenting. They have 18 beers on tap right now, and more are on the way.

You never know what might serve as their next inspiration. “A few months ago, we got some of the wine barrels from Chatham Vineyards. They had a port wine that the vineyard had aged for two years, and we used those to produce our first barrel-aged beer,” explains Chris. “We put our Bayside Belgian Farmhouse Ale in the barrel and aged it for six months,” Chris says. Like so many of the Marshall family’s endeavors, it turned out really great.

Recently, they were offered the opportunity to try aging in a Buffalo Trace bourbon barrel. “We’re doing a Chocolate Stout in that,” says Chris. “In another month and a half or so, it’ll be ready to go.”

As for what the future holds for Cape Charles Brewing Company, the possibilities really do seem endless. “When it comes to brewing beer, you’re creating something new every time,” says Chris. “You’re only limited by your imagination.”

We can’t wait to have a taste of what they think of next.

Cape Charles Brewing

2193 Stone Road
Cape Charles, VA 23310 | 757-695-3909
CapeCharlesBrewing.com 

3335 STONE ROAD
CAPE CHARLES, VA 23310
TOLL-FREE 844.620.2900
INFO@BAYCREEKLIFE.COM

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