From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we sit down to talk with businesses and business leaders around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. When our President and CEO was named as the 2019 Business Leader of the Year by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, it gave us an idea. Over the next several months, we will be rolling out a new series of interviews with some of the past Alexandria Chamber Business Leaders of the Year.
Bill Butcher was the 2018 Business Leader of the Year. Born and raised in Alexandria, Bill Butcher worked in the wine industry for most of his career before founding Port City Brewing Co. Located in Alexandria’s Eisenhower Valley neighborhood, Port City is now an international name in beer, most recently winning Gold at the Great American Beer Festival for their German Pilsner. We sat down with Bill to learn about Port City, his time in Alexandria, and his thoughts on business now and in the future.
AEDP: To get started, can you share your favorite thing about Alexandria?
Bill: My favorite thing about Alexandria is that it has its own distinct personality and small-town feel, but being so close to DC gives it a sophistication and worldliness that most cities our size do not have. We have a very diverse population with people from all over which makes it a great place to live and raise a family.
AEDP: And why did you decided to start your business here in Alexandria?
Bill: We have both personal and professional reasons for locating in Alexandria. Alexandria is my hometown, and my family has been here for over 100 years. My great grandfather moved here from North Carolina in 1908 to work for the railroad in Potomac Yard. They built a house and lived in Del Ray, and my great grandmother was the first Postmistress at the Potomac Post Office on Mt. Vernon Avenue. So, strong family ties helped influence the decision. We also wanted to locate the brewery inside the Beltway so that we could speak directly to the beer drinkers of Metro DC.
AEDP: Looking back, what’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
Bill: The best piece of professional advice I ever received came from my wife, Karen. She told me, as we were planning the brewery, to “Always Love Your Plan B.” It’s not enough just to have a Plan B, you need to Love your Plan B, because often that is the route you have to take.
AEDP: What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
Bill: Our greatest accomplishment to date has been earning the National Title of Small Brewery of the Year at The Great American Beer Festival in 2015. GABF is the largest and most prestigious beer competition in the United States. There were 6600 beers in the competition from all over the U.S., competing for only 275 medals, so only 4% of the beers will earn medals. We won 3 medals that year, which was more than any other brewery in the U.S., which earned us the honor of being Small Brewery of the Year. Our brewery was only 4 years old, and it really helped put us on the national map!
AEDP: It’s always fun to hear the behind-the-scenes stories- can you share a particularly memorable moment with us?
Bill: We had only been open for about 6 months, and we were working hard to get the word out about the brewery and have people taste our beers. I was doing an instore tasting at Whole Foods in Old Town. A skeptical gentleman stepped up to taste the beer, and was a bit incredulous that our brewery was only two miles away. As I explained this to him, he looked at me and said, “Your brewery is right here? IN ALEXANDRIA???” I said, “Yes, sir, just down the street!” He looked at me suspiciously, then looked around a bit, lowered his voice and asked me, “Does the CITY know about this?”
AEDP: Finally, how has doing business in Alexandria changed since you were the Business Leader of the Year?
Bill: The biggest change has been the AMAZON HQ2 story. I think the business community is generally optimistic about this development, and it will be fun to watch it develop. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we are fortunate to have landed. We just need to proceed carefully and make sure that it is beneficial to the greater community, and that prosperity can spread through the community.
To learn more about Port City Brewing Co., visit their website or stop by the tap room at 3950 Wheeler Avenue.