CHRISTIANSBURG — Bull & Bones, the longest running brewery in the region, is opening a new location on Peppers Ferry Road near the New River Valley Mall.
Owner Jon Coburn said his team is remodeling the former Blackstone Grill building now and hopes to be open for business in August.
It would be the only brewery in Christiansburg — for now. Both Iron Tree Brewing Company, in downtown Christiasnburg, and Blackbarrel Brewery, just outside town limits, have recently announced plans to open breweries, but neither expect to be up and running soon.
Coburn said the new Bull & Bones location will brew the same beers as the Blacksburg restaurant and brewery, plus some experimental additions.
They’ll have about a dozen TVs and a large hamburger menu, from traditional beef to bison, elk and salmon burgers, to a crab cake sandwich and the vegetarian Impossible Burger.
The restaurant will also offer the same barbecue options as Blacksburg, complete with ribs, pulled pork and chicken wings. It will make most food in-house, including all sauces and salad dressings.
The new Bull & Bones location is about half the size of the original and is expected to have streamlined service.
Bull & Bones has previously operated smaller spinoffs, with locations at the Pete Dye River Course golf facility in Radford, the Red Sox’s minor league baseball stadium in Salem and Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn. Those locations have since closed.
Bull & Bones first launched at the beginning of Virginia’s brewery craze about a decade ago. The brewpub wasn’t the first to make beer commercially, but the other predecessors, including Blacksburg Brewing Company from 2002, have since closed. That makes it the oldest active brewery between the New River and Roanoke Valleys, according to Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority records.
The Coburn family — Jon Coburn, his wife Peg Coburn and three children — opened the original restaurant and brewery in Blacksburg’s First & Main shopping center just in time for the end of the 2008 college football season.
Virginia Tech was headed to the Orange Bowl, Christiansburg’s recent population growth spurt hadn’t reached its peak yet, and locals weren’t sure what to make of craft beers on the menu.
“We had kind of a hard time when we first opened,” Coburn said, noting that his lightest brew single-handedly outsold everything else for the first couple of years. “That was the taste of this region. They were used to American light lagers, and that was all they really wanted to try.”
But a lot has changed since then.
The Sun Lit Wit started picking up around year three, then the Maroon Effect Ale.
“By year five or six, here come the pale ales,” Coburn said. “And now you’re just seeing a complete culture shift.”
Christiansburg, where the Coburn family lives, saw its own changes during that time, fueled in large part by the growth of neighboring Virginia Tech and Blacksburg.
“Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that a place in Christiansburg would be a good idea because it’s just so close,” Coburn said. “It’s blowing up, so now it seems to make sense.”
Coburn thinks he’ll find plenty of customers in the growing number of townhouses, apartments and neighborhoods around the Pepper’s Ferry Road restaurant. He also pointed to the town’s plans to build a large park adjacent to his property as a potential draw.
The Bull & Bones team is planning to redecorate the space before the grand opening later this summer. They’re going to knock down a couple of walls and change Blackstone’s fine-dining vibe to something more like a sports bar.
They’re also looking to hire between 60 and 70 workers, from managers to cooks and servers.
While the Christiansburg store will be the second Bull & Bones location, it will be the third business in Coburn’s expanded line of restaurants.
In March, he quietly acquired The Black Hen Restaurant, an upscale eatery in downtown Blacksburg. Previous owner and popular pastry chef Linda West stayed on after the sale.
“I bought it, implemented all my business connections, business planning and let her stay free to do what she does — cook,” Coburn said.