Beer Born of Legends

A historic site, an old drinking tale, and exceptional brews. 

Russel Tinsley was a police officer with the Newport News narcotic unit looking for a less stressful and less risky career. A home brewer, he and his wife, Rebekah, had considered opening a brewery as a potential retirement gig. “My only passions were police work and making beer,” says Tinsley. Deciding the time was right, they were scouting locations at Fort Monroe within days. Tinsley left the police force in 2016, and Oozlefinch Craft Brewery opened that fall.

Lazy Sunhaze Hazy IPA.

When developing the brand, Tinsley wanted to “find something significant to the fort itself to tell its history.” That’s when Tinsley learned of the Oozlefinch—a strange, mythic bird with large eyes that Captain H.M. Merriam claimed he saw outside the Fort Monroe Officer’s Club one night in 1905 and that would eventually become the club’s mascot. “It was an old drinking story from Fort Monroe history,” Tinsley says. “It was too hard to pass up bringing that story to life.” 

The brewery’s “heart and soul is in the sour program,” says Tinsley. Producing live sour ales and lagers and barrel-aged sours, brewmaster Mike Donovan and assistant brewer Rachel Edwards specialize in challenging experimental styles. Their Dr. Rendezvous barrel-aged sour was awarded a gold medal by the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild in 2018 for the American Wild Ale category. This year, the brewery began canning its live sours and expects to release eight to 10 each month. OozlefinchBeers.com


This article originally appeared in our June 2019 issue.

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