Smartmouth Brewing Company has a reputation in Virginia and beyond for not only its incredible beer, but also for being a vital community hub in the Chelsea neighborhood of Norfolk. This reputation made the prospect of it opening a new location a short walk from the oceanfront in Virginia Beach a very exciting proposition for us. Adding to that excitement was some built-in nostalgic affection for the building selected for adaption – an old US Post Office that Thom fondly remembers visiting with his grandmother who lived right around the corner for the entirety of his childhood.
Many features made the old Post Office a natural choice for a brewery and tasting room: tall ceilings, wide open bays, ample windows for day lighting, terrazzo and hearty concrete slabs, and a wide covered loading dock perfect for brewing operations but also for outdoor seating. The property spans an entire block, so it has a formal presence with great pedestrian access on 32nd Street while also providing ample parking and an ability to program the site in many fun ways on 33rd (their Street Party events are wildly popular). It had been previously converted to a cross fit gym and an office space, so elements from each of these were available for reuse, including interior storefront glass, natural wood doors, and perforated sheet metal details.
The primary design challenge was to organize the space so that it would be optimal for both its small-batch 10-barrel brewery system and a large Tasting Room that could be divided to accommodate a private meeting and event space. This would allow flexibility for simultaneous programming that wouldn’t limit normal tasting room and brewing operations. To solve this, we implemented a roll-up glass garage door to divide the space and a concealed barn door to divide the bar so that both spaces would have access to taps and space for the beertenders to comfortably serve.
From Smartmouth: “The facility’s name ‘Pilot House’ is a tribute to the local waterfront and aviation community as well as the location’s core function of producing experimental and creative beers. A ‘pilot batch’ is the term used to describe the trial brew of a new beer in the brewhouse.”