Tap dance: New brewery Dancing Kilt sells European-style flights to-go



Thom Pakurar and his daughter, Victoria, at Pakurar’s new brewery on Old Stage Road in Chester. Dancing Kilt aims to offer a wide range of European beer styles, available in to-go flights, left. PHOTOS BY JENNY McQUEEN
Thom Pakurar and his daughter, Victoria, at Pakurar’s new brewery on Old Stage Road in Chester. Photo by Jenny McQueen

Chesterfield’s newest craft brewery offers a bit of a different take on the experience. All of the beers are locally brewed by owner Thom Pakurar Jr., but the concept is decidedly global.

Boasting a list of Czech-, Belgian-, Scottish-, German-, Irish- and French-influenced brews, Dancing Kilt Brewery makes it possible to take a pan-Europe tour without ever leaving your bar seat. Or, it would, if people could sit at bars at the moment.

While restaurants and tasting rooms are allowed to host groups of people spaced 6 feet apart in Phase 3 of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” plan to reopen the economy during the pandemic, customers still aren’t allowed to sit at bars. That didn’t stop Pakurar from serving beers to-go, though, and on June 30, he opened Dancing Kilt Brewery in an industrial strip near the Interstate 95 and Route 10 interchange in Chester.

After four years of searching for the right location and two years of buildout at his current space, Pakurar had hoped to open in March, but the pandemic delayed those plans. When he finally did open, he was only selling beer to-go, with customers pre-ordering kegs, growlers, and cans and picking them up curbside.

That changes this week when Pakurar will open his tasting room for in-person service. Parties will now be able to sit inside if they remain 6 feet apart – just not at the bar.

“Changing gears in [my] business model didn’t go as smoothly as planned, but we got up and running, and in the meantime, I was brewing beer, getting it ready,” says the 58-year-old Chester resident, sitting in his tasting room in early August. A graduate of Clover Hill High School and Chesterfield Technical Center, Pakurar previously owned and ran his own computer and woodworking companies in Georgia. It was after he returned to Virginia in 2010 and began working for an IT company that a friend showed him how to brew beer at home. At Christmas, Pakurar would give his latest concoctions to friends and coworkers as gifts. Eventually, his friends began to ask when he was starting his own brewery.

Before launching Dancing Kilt, Pakurar entered some of his beer in brewing contests to gain professional feedback. He credits that experience with helping him grow as a brewer.

“Those judges are brutal. They tell it like it is. But they also write in there these notes that you can use to help you improve your recipes,” he says.

Pakurar developed his love for European beer on location, traveling to different sites in Europe while pursuing his love of skiing, scuba diving, and jet skiing. On a trip to Luxembourg to visit his parents, who resided there, he recalls hitting the ski slopes in various towns and then the local beer taps. He began to appreciate the way each local brew had its own unique flavor.

Dancing Kilt aims to offer a wide range of European beer styles, available in to-go flights. Photo by Jenny McQueen

When he started homebrewing, it was before Richmond’s craft beer craze took off, and Pakurar was interested in re-creating the more distinctive flavors he’d encountered abroad. His children helped him come up with the name Dancing Kilt, which reflects his Scottish- and Irish-inspired beers.

With 16 taps, Pakurar plans to maintain a wide range of European styles. Some current favorites on tap include the Kubik Pilsner, a Czech-style, hop-forward lager; the American amber lager El Cuco; and the barrel-aged Scottish-style Wee Goblin.

“It’s smooth. You really don’t taste the alcohol on it,” he says of the latter. “A lot of people think it’s really yummy, but it is 13% [alcohol].”

Prone to experimentation, Pakurar says he’s dialed back some of his recipes in the hopes of appealing to the public’s palate. Still, he isn’t playing it safe. For example, having encountered German Rauchbier – which has a smoky flavor imparted by drying malted barley over an open flame – Pakurar has attempted to do the same. His Kobold Lager Rauchbier should be available for sale in a few weeks.

In the tasting room, customers can admire Pakurar’s background in woodworking at the bar, which is made with reclaimed wood from 100-year-old barns; the bar top is made of red oak, maple, walnut, and mahogany. In addition to ordering beer to drink in the tasting room, customers can order both four-packs and six-packs of 12- and 16-ounce cans, kegs, pony kegs, 32-ounce growlers, and 8-, 12- and 16-ounce growler cans to-go, all of which are packaged on-site.

Pakurar is also offering to-go flights of four 8-ounce cans. Customers specify which beers they would like to try, and the brews are canned on-demand using a special canning machine. The cost of the flight varies depending on the beer but generally runs in the $8-$11 range. As some people are leery of drinking inside a tasting room or have preexisting health conditions that may put them at risk during the pandemic, Dancing Kilt is continuing its curbside pickup.

From malty to hoppy, dark to light, it’s Pakurar’s aim to carry brews that can please any palate at his family-run brewery.

“There should be something for everyone to have a little fun with.” ¦

Dancing Kilt Brewery is located at 12912 Old Stage Road, Chester, 23836. Phone: 804-318-1381