Highmark Brewery Whurk Article

When great friends make great beer, good times are in store. That’s what this group of lifelong buddies is learning as they cut their teeth on a new business venture.

Tucked away in a Kings Highway strip off of Route 3 East is Stafford County’s newest corner of craft beer heaven: Highmark Brewery. Opened in early February, this 3,500 square-foot facility offers a brewery and tasting room, plus plenty of beer garden-style seating outdoors with an adjacent field. It was a cool Sunday afternoon when I made the trip to meet two of its co-owners, Chuck Rau and Brandon Newton. When I arrived, couples were lounging on wooden furniture outside, sunbathing as they enjoyed tasting flights. An open garage door near the bar allowed the interior to bathe in natural light and let in a soft breeze. I sat at a table, took in the relaxing, casual ambiance, and sipped on a Lone Wolf IPA, a pale ale with a spicy kick. It was one of Highmark’s six core offerings on tap, the rest being Freshwater Blonde, Blueberry Blonde, Blue Stone Kolsch, Highmark IPA, and River Rock Stout. Tasting notes from the bunch included common elements like citrus and hops, but also more notable ones like blueberry, chocolate, and ginger.

If you feel a laid-back, friendly atmosphere when you enter Highmark, it’s because that approach is at the core of the brewery’s existence. All of the owners and operators here are childhood friends and family from Fredericksburg. “We went to high school together, played baseball together,” Newton said. In fact, you could call Highmark a product of their artist collective. In addition to Rau and Newton, there are two other co-owners: Mark Thorsted, the tastemaker of the bunch, and Brad Birack, who covers logistics. Newton went on, “Mark started brewing some really good beer, it was his little home project. We all started brainstorming about getting a space and doing it larger scale.”

The design of the place is a minimalist’s dream. Newton, who is well-regarded for his oil paintings of local cityscapes and pastoral scenes, partnered with his wife to create the artwork and lettering adorning the interior. Across a prominent wall, the words “In pursuit of happiness” loom large, a motto that perfectly captures this communal space. On an opposite wall is the brewery’s logo, punctuated by two large stars, a staple of any self-respecting venue this side of the Mason-Dixon line. Between the inviting openness of the room and the blending of indoor and outdoor seating, there’s a low-key charm that’s often missing from your average bar. “We have freedom here to do what others sometimes can’t because they’re in downtown Fredericksburg,” said Rau. “I think we have some good space that we’re hoping to activate and have some fun.”

Brandon Newton

As for the location, Newton explained that they were looking for quite a while before settling on their Kings Highway digs. Things may look unassuming at the moment, but they have their eyes on future growth. With easy access from Route 3, ample parking, and relatively few neighbors, they anticipate collaborations with local artists, live music, food trucks, and potentially even an outdoor music festival. They already have their first concert under their belt as fellow Fredericksburg-native musician, Jay Starling of Love Canon, performed at their grand opening. Newton and Rau see it as their mission to push the Highmark brand beyond just the brewing business. After all, in the spirit of their familial atmosphere, all are welcome through their doors.

That ethos does bring up an interesting dilemma, however. Highmark is joining the ranks of a handful of microbreweries that have popped up around the greater Fredericksburg region in the last few years. As a new arrival, I wondered how they planned to establish a place within the already crowded local scene; I spied two crew members from Adventure Brewing Company, another popular brewery in Stafford, sitting at a nearby table. Nevertheless, Newton saw nothing to be alarmed about, saying, “They’ve been fast friends. We’ve needed help and they’ve offered advice when we needed it. Yeah, we’ve been really surprised to how welcoming they’ve been and it’s great. I feel like we have that ‘further together’ thing going with it.” He and Rau even went on to cite their friendship with Strangeways Brewing, a notable Richmond brewery expanding to Fredericksburg in the near future. It’s clear that the spirit among the local brewing community has been one of teamwork rather than cutthroat competition.

Even in its infancy, Highmark has been bustling. I was pleasantly surprised to see the high turnout during my visit, especially since Rau and Newton mentioned they had mostly been bringing in customers by word-of-mouth. The couple sitting at the next table over from me, both Fredericksburg locals and frequent patrons of other local breweries, Steve and Holly, decided to try out Highmark on a friend’s recommendation and were enjoying the offerings. When asked if they considered themselves craft beer enthusiasts, both having ordered a flight of all six beers on tap, Holly said, “I’m not a beer drinker and I love it.” To that, Steve retorted with a laugh, “I am a beer drinker and I love it.” If you can please both the novice and aficionado at the same time, you must be doing something right.

Highmark Brewery (390 Kings Hwy, Unit 107, Fredericksburg) will host a St. Patrick’s Day party on Friday, March 17 featuring live music, games, and food. Festivities start at 4 PM. Learn more at highmarkbrewery.com.

Read on Whurk’s website

Tales of the “Unemployable”: Being a Philosophy Major in our Career-centric Climate


“You won’t get a job with a major like that,” is something that senior philosophy major Briana Hutter has heard often during her four years at the University of Mary Washington. Hutter finds herself having to explain her choice in major a lot, but she doesn’t let it get to her.


There are many misconceptions surrounding her field in particular, like the most common assumption that students in the major can only aspire to be “teachers…or unemployed…or baristas,” said Hutter.


Though Hutter isn’t the only one trying to correct the general opinion on studying philosophy in college.


In fact, new research has come out recently disputing the prevalent “unemployment” conception. Last week, the publication PR Web published an article citing numerous findings by researchers debunking popular myths about the discipline.


One in particular was a recent study conducted by The Federal Reserve Bank of New York showing that in 2015 only five percent of philosophy majors were unemployed six months after graduation.


Another article, published the same week by Bloomberg claimed that philosophy majors were actually seeing their incomes increasing. “Beyond those with special technical skills, philosophy and public policy majors have also seen their earnings rise,” said Austin Weinstein, author of the article.


These findings show that the job market for philosophy majors could be much more open and receptive to this group of young thinkers than most would assume.


Hutter is one of many students rebelling against more practical considerations about choosing a “moneymaking” degree over a major they actually enjoy. Some would even go as far as to call these majors “useless”, which is something Hutter would adamantly disagree with.


But she admits that it wasn’t always a popular decision, especially when telling her parents during her first year at school.


“They initially were concerned that I wasn’t going to be a basic business major, but after, they realized it doesn’t matter what you major in. It just matters that you get that diploma. I would have a better time in college majoring in something I enjoyed studying,” said Hutter.


She’s still right about the enjoying herself part of that decision. Not many people get the opportunity to spend their days in pursuit of enlightened thought. This semester she’s decided to take a direct focus on the philosophy of western religion. Hutter spends her mornings discussing The Bible for her “Christian Beginnings” class and then she’s off to muse over “Death & Dying in Early Christianity”. When she’s not in class, Hutter is in the Simpson Library working on her thesis paper. In which, she discusses the cyclical universe, religious pluralism and nihilism.


Another obvious proponent of this academic course of study is UMW’s department chair, Craig Vasey, who had much to say about the negative discourse on the study of philosophy.


“It is a complete misconception. We had a career panel three weeks ago and two recent graduates (working as a technical writer/ consultant for Booze Allen and as Financial Director of the Kennedy School for Ethics at Georgetown) both told us that it is precisely their skills from philosophy that make them successful. They both credited their training in logic, and their ability to do research, to write well, and to think critically,” said Vasey.


“Paino was a philosophy major, by the way,” Vasey added, referring to the current president at the University of Mary Washington, Dr. Troy Paino.


Vasey might be right about the changing times, as more and more news publications have been buzzing over the resurgence of interest in philosophy.


A recent Forbes article entitled, “A Case For Majoring In Philosophy” spoke on the change in rhetoric surrounding the major. The Forbes contributor who wrote the article, Travis Chamberlain, was a proud philosophy major himself and even earned his Ph.D. in the subject. He wrote on the increasing interest in studying philosophy.


Chamberlain names another article in The Atlantic called, “The Earning Power of Philosophy Majors”, arguing that philosophy may be a good way to go in terms of real world benefits. The Atlantic article includes an impressive roster of very successful philosophy majors, including well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Peter Thiel.


But another philosophy major, Charlotte Ciobanu, believes that the field may be in jeopardy.


Ciobanu recently graduated from the University of California, Riverside with her BA in philosophy and is currently pursuing her Master’s in the discipline at the San Francisco State University. She currently teaches introductory undergraduate philosophy classes at her university.


She worries that, with the rampant misunderstandings about philosophy, departmental numbers could dwindle.


“It’s strange but much of the focus in academia has shifted to applied, practical knowledge–engineering, computer science, applied sciences. Philosophy explores the theoretical side of things. Philosophy of mathematics, of language, of science, all of these sub fields within the broader discipline of philosophy directly inform the way things like applied science are done,” said Ciobanu.


The one thing that remains unwavering is her dedication to the importance of philosophy.


“Everyone stands to benefit from studying philosophy–it will make you sharper, more capable of assessing and identifying good arguments, it will make you more articulate, more thoughtful. I have found it to be a very humbling discipline, in the sense that, I must remain vigilant in even assessing my own implicit biases, my own potentially bad arguments,” said Ciobanu.


In early March, the philosophy department at UMW held the aforementioned campus event where prospective students got to speak and interact with Vasey, philosophy and religion professors, and alumni. This on-campus gathering was a definitive move on the part of the department to attract more prospective philosophy students while also dispelling any misconceptions undeclared majors may have.


Some students begin cultivating their interest in philosophy even earlier than freshman year.


For Hutter, the bug bit her early on in high school. “I took a European history course and for the briefest of days we talked about existentialism and it got me hooked. Then, in AP English class we read Ayn Rand’s book Anthem and that completely changed my outlook on life and I wanted to be a philosophy major,” said Hutter.


It isn’t all a creative pursuit to her, as she uses the more practical aspects of her major at her part-time job in food service. Philosophy sharpens her empirical thinking skills and helps her anticipate people’s needs. But in a way, it has also imparted her with a passion for knowledge.


“Philosophy as a skill is literally a love of wisdom. So it gives you the skills to use logic and rationalize situations and organize the thought process in a way that isn’t taught in other majors. Other majors teach you specific job applicable skills where philosophy teaches you how to think effectively,” said Hutter.