Back in 1997, an enthusiastic and talented home brewer named Kenny Lefkowitz had a dream to start a brewery of his own in Blacksburg, Virginia. He had the drive and the passion but unfortunately, the funds were lacking. So he set out to find a brewery that would brew what would become his pride and joy, New River Pale Ale. Old Dominion Brewing Company in Ashburn, Virginia seemed to be the almost self-evident choice for Kenny, however he still needed to convince Jerry Bailey, President of Old Dominion, to brew his beer. Kenny was ultimately successful, and by November of 1999, the first batch of New River was on a fridge truck headed to Blacksburg. It would go on to gain an impressive local following, not to mention a multitude of awards. One such honor attributed to New River was taking home the Bronze in the American-Style Pale Ale category at the Great American Beer Festival in 2000.
In early Spring of 2003, Kenny tragically passed away at the young age of 32 from a massive coronary. Virginia's burgeoning craft beer scene may have lost a true craftsman, but Kenny’s friends and family kept his dream alive by promoting his creation outside of Blacksburg. Thanks to their efforts, New River would eventually be sold throughout Virginia, the Triad, and western regions of North Carolina. Old Dominion would later be acquired by AB InBev in 2007, eventually packing up its location in Ashburn and moving to Delaware in 2009. New River Pale Ale went on a two year brewing hiatus since Old Dominion no longer had the rights to brew New River (the rights belonged to Kenny's family). That is, until mid 2011 when it was picked up by Old Dominion’s successor in the Ashburn area, Lost Rhino Brewing Company and its founders Matt Hagerman and Favio Garcia. Matt and Favio, having worked as brewers in Old Dominion, knew all too well the story of New River Pale Ale and wanted to honor Kenny’s memory by continuing where Old Dominion left off. Lost Rhino still brews New River to this day, and the legacy of Kenny Lefkowitz continues ever onward.
Photos courtesy of New River Brewing Company