Summer Zest: Beer garden opens at Longwood
● By Richard Gaw
Leave it to two of Chester County's most innovative entities to collaborate, bring a new idea to fruition, introduce it to an already-adoring public, and wrap its opening around an event that is expected to draw thousands of visitors.
Well, that is just what Longwood Gardens and the Victory Brewing Company have done by introducing a new beer garden last week that complements the start of the exhibit "Nightscape: A Light and Sound Experience," which will appear through Oct. 31 at Longwood.
Longwood Gardens executive director Paul Redman said that talks to create a beer garden began about a year ago, when Longwood's marketing director, Marnie Conley, approached Victory with the idea of a collaboration. The idea was already familiar to Redman, who had visited a beer garden in a botanical garden in Colorado during a business trip there in 2014.
"It was an intriguing idea," Redman said. "We were coming up with the notion of having a beer garden, but rather than just offer a domestic selection, we thought, 'How can we do it in a way that's beautiful and have a potential brew that is made with ingredients grown right here at Longwood Gardens?' The key piece was determining what we would grow."
Complemented by tasty pub fare created by Longwood chefs, the beer garden has three Victory selections on tap, including a signature brew called Longwood Seasons: Summer Zest, a Saison beer brewed by Victory that uses lemons grown at Longwood Gardens. In September, guests will be able to enjoy Longwood Seasons: Autumn Harvest, a wheat ale featuring floral flavors from Longwood-harvested honey.
While the nighttime exhibit "Nightscape" will take guests on a tour of moving imagery and lights set to original music, the beer garden has a lineup of entertainment of its own. Several local musicians will play at the beer garden through October. Bluegrass performer Marc Silver will play on Aug. 16, Sept. 10 and Oct. 8 and 15; gypsy jazz performer Jon Dichter will perform on July 16 and 30, Aug. 27, Sept. 24 and Oct. 29; and innovative musician Angela Sheik will perform on July 23, Aug. 20, Sept. 17 and Oct. 22.
For Redman, incorporating the beer garden at Longwood is the simple act of catching a wave and clinging onto it.
"There's definitely a trend out there where people are loving beer gardens," he said. "What the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has done with their pop-up beer gardens has captured my attention. With Victory and the other local beers being made in our region, we thought that putting all of that energy together and placing it in our setting would be very successful. It's a way of creating a new selling point, getting our guests to come back, and appealing to younger audiences."
The Longwood Gardens Beer Garden will be open Wednesday through Saturday evenings from 6 to 11 p.m. through Oct. 31. Beer garden guests require a "Nightscape" ticket or member reservation to enter. For more information, visit www.longwoodgardens.org.