Cally’s To Become Capital Ale House

Brent Finnegan -- June 20th, 2011

Capital Ale House announced last week that the Richmond-based restaurant chain will take possession of the space currently occupied by Cally’s Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Harrisonburg.

Bill Freehling reported on

Capital Ale President Matt Simmons said the success of the Fredericksburg location [currently one of four in Virginia] affected the decision to expand the business, which also has three Richmond-area restaurants and bars. He said Capital Ale didn’t ask for or receive any incentives to go to Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg City Councilmember Kai Degner remarked on his blog that “[this] marks the only non-locally owned chain restaurant in downtown Harrisonburg since (I think) the Daily Grind had a coffee shop on Court Square.”

Capital Ale House plans to begin renovations on July 12, with a projected opening in October 2011.


The Daily News Record reported today that Cally’s partner and brewery manager Eric Plowman is closing the restaurant to focus on making beer. Doug Manners reported:

The languishing economy didn’t factor much into closing Cally’s, according to Plowman, who added that business was on the upswing this year. “The biggest concern was the fact that we were running out of space for the brewery,” he said. “I decided to go ahead and focus 100 percent of my efforts on beer and beer production.”

Plowman is scouting locations for a “substantially bigger” brewery, but hasn’t found a new home for the brewing business yet.

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50 Responses to “Cally’s To Become Capital Ale House”

  1. Brooke says:

    I don’t begrudge the owners of Cally’s from making the financial decision they felt was best, BUT I am very sad to see us lose the only microbrewery in town. I hope Capital Ale House will mean good things for the downtown area, but Cally’s, particularly Eric’s fine brews, will be sorely missed.

  2. Emmy says:

    I guess they did what they had to do….but I think it sucks.

  3. nicklaus combs says:

    not disappointed one bit and actually rather excited about the possibilities for that place.

  4. Jason B says:

    What were the stated reasons for the decision to sell/vacate? I’m just curious, because I’ve noticed that most of downtown’s real estate is in the hands of only a few owners. If I recall correctly, the lease/rent payments for the Daily Grind became so burdensome that the owner could no longer make it worthwhile to stay open.

    I also remember hearing rumblings about a supposed Irish-style pub that was to open in the former Daily Grind place, but the payments went up again.

    If all of this is true (and I don’t know for sure, myself, hence my call for clarification), then downtown Hburg won’t thrive so long as the owners of the buildings don’t negotiate reasonable rent…

    • I could be mistaken, but I’m fairly certain that the building Cally’s is in is owned by the people that own Cally’s. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a rent issue.

  5. seth says:

    “…Cally’s, particularly Eric’s fine brews, will be sorely missed.”
    i heard through the grapevine that capital alehouse bought eric’s brewing recipes as well. here’s hoping that maybe it won’t be long before i’ll finally be able to pick up a six pack of smokin scottish at one our fine local retail establishments.

    • Brooke says:

      Well, I hope you’re right, but Capital Ale house is not known as a microbrewery. If you look at their menu, the offerings appear to be from other breweries. I’d be most happy to be wrong, though.

  6. Tori says:

    I divide my time between Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg, where Capital Ale House is near my apartment. I go there fairly regularly and have been pleased with the experience. For beer lovers like myself, it’s a no-brainer: 80 beers on tap, 300 bottled, including a nice selection of VA breweries. The beer menu is more like a book, with detailed descriptions of each beer, and printed/updated weekly.

    The menu is decent, semi-reasonably priced with good deals throughout the week, like dollar burger night, steal the pint, and happy hour specials. It won’t break your wallet but it’s not the cheapest either. The aesthetic is pretty trendy, but not annoyingly so, and they have cool features like a frost runner at the bar.

    While it may not be strictly local, it’s not a mega-chain either. It is Richmond based and this would be its second expansion. Cap Ale has a good reputation and can be a beneficial anchor to downtown! Change is hard but not always bad. I am excited to see how they fit into our downtown.

    That being said, I’m a bit heartbroken to say goodbye to the local microbrewery. I wish we could have both!

  7. Ross says:

    You have to admit that over a hundred of beers to choose from will be great! What is the food menu like? Brooke, would you post their menu for us? Thanks!

  8. While Cally’s was a great place to quaf great craft brews Capital Ale House will bring alot of local crafts to Harrisonburg. They have a proven, successful brand and will be a good partner in the community. Cheers to Capital Ale House. Steve C Owner Devils Backbone Brewing Company.

  9. I am a bit sad to see a locally owned business get bought out by a chain, especially Downtown. It may mean expanded selection, or other perks, but still…local, independent businesses are a dying breed.

  10. Lukas says:

    Harrisonburg has a lot of room to expand . Its normal for a growing town of this size 2 have even 3 or 4 breweries. Look @ Ashville NC they have I think 12 now. Its only a matter of time till we get at least a couple of are own micro breweries .

  11. Tori says:

    Capital Ale House has a reputation for supporting Virginia-based production. Their press release from 2009 outlines their commitment to going as local as possible, and supporting all of our state’s great breweries. They’ll also provide a good number of jobs downtown.

    Some excerpts:

    “Virginia Foods: Each of our restaurants will feature a daily 100 Mile Special. The main ingredient in these specials will have been produced, raised or caught by Virginians. We will, whenever possible, choose Virginia products first.”

    “Beer Corps: We will pay any Capital Ale House employee for up to 4 hours per week up to 10 hours per month for community service or allow them to use community service hours worked to meet their minimum hours for health insurance eligibility.”

  12. David Miller says:

    I hate change, that being said I’m happy that such a cool seeming place will be coming downtown. I hope that Eric starts a bottling line or at least starts offering kegs of his brews when his brewery reopens. Can’t wait to hear about what he has planned. btw, the mention of pool tables made me smile!

  13. Tim says:

    I think this is a poor location for Captital Ale House because of the lack of parking spaces.

    • David Miller says:

      The parking lot next to the building has the same owner as the Cally’s building. I would bet on it being transferred to the new tenants. There is also a near empty parking garage two blocks from the bar and another near full garage the other way, two blocks in the other/southerly direction.

  14. Daniel says:

    I wonder if Eric will take advantage of the water quality in the Grottoes/Rockey Bar area. That would be exciting to see a brewery such as this in a place like Elkton or Grottoes. There is that old abandoned warehouse off Dogwood Ave in Grottoes…

    As for Capital Ale House, I could take it or leave it. I like the concept, but would much rather see a local businessman open up shop and not a chain.

  15. Emmy says:

    I don’t drink Ross :)

  16. Ross says:

    Perhaps they will have a beer tasting event, kinda like a wine tasting event. That would be a great way to introduce their products to the burg.

  17. David Miller says:

    I just hate this though, change is inevitable but man I love Calhoun’s/Cally’s

  18. Andy says:

    If by “revitalization” we mean making our city more consumer friendly at the expense of our cultural identity, then I welcome the arrival of Capital Ale House. I think it’s sad that a locally owned business that has occupied one of the most coveted pieces of restaurant real estate in Harrisonburg for decades will be replaced with a regional chain that is directly associated (even in name) with a nearby city.

    I’ll miss Calhoun’s, but the closing doesn’t exactly come out of the blue. The only cultural benefit I see to having Capital Ale House in Harrisonburg is access to a few more beers. I’d rather do without that access and maintain a unique culture in downtown.

  19. bpmarkowitz says:

    I am moving back to Harrisonburg in a week after living in Richmond for about 4 years. I was pretty disappointed when I first heard about this – love the Cally’s beer. I am feeling much better about it now that it sounds like the brewery will live on.

    Cap Ale is a decent enough spot. They have a few locations in Richmond. Excellent beer selection, decent burgers (dollar burger night). The one in downtown Richmond frequently has live music and both locations do a decent Oktoberfest every year with large take home steins and live music.

  20. David Miller says:

    I’m with you in general but its not some abstract loss of culture, its a business decision that we the public have to cope with. I’ll miss the hell out of Calhoun’s/Cally’s but its not a water way or a forest or a mountain top. New culture will arise from the new joint and 20 years from now the lucky among us can reminisce about the good old days of Downtown (as though that were a static thing).

    now if only I can get a Cally’s staff member to give me their ranch and buffalo chicken tenders recipes……

    • Bazrik says:

      Very well put, Dave.

    • Andy says:

      As you point out, we’re not losing culture, it’s just a change. That being said, all change is not equal. Will I want to be a part of the culture that “arises” from Capital Ale House? If I did, I’d move to Richmond. Just because I resist this change doesn’t mean I’m resistant to all change. This particular change is a blow to our unique identity.

      For the record, I don’t think there’s anyone to blame here. A business deal was struck, and now we have to cope with it.

      Here are some more proposed changes for downtown while we’re at it: Maybe Cavalier Diner wants to buy L&S? Bring in Wright’s Dairy Rite to replace Kline’s? Change the Joshua Wilton House to Old Waterstreet Inn? At some point, we have to acknowledge that not all change is good, even if it’s economically beneficial for downtown. It’s not that I want to keep Harrisonburg just like it is, it’s that I hoped to continue to see patient, thoughtful growth through channels that don’t obscure or contaminate downtown’s unique identity.

      • Bazrik says:

        That’s a pretty astute expression of your point of view, Andy, and it really made me think. I like your comparison re: other businesses being bought out such as Kline’s, the L&S, etc. Very nicely phrased, and great points all around.

      • David Miller says:

        Andy, like I said, we have pretty close perspectives. That being said I just think that we have to remember that either we’re spectators whom haven’t been to Cally’s in a long time to support their locally owned business or activists who spend their dollar locally to support such businesses who build the culture of Harrisonburg that we love. We welcome new locally owned places such as Clementine and Local Chop without realizing that there is a limited pie of customers. Perhaps Cally’s wasn’t facing financial pressures to sell or perhaps they were (not any of my business). Either way I’m just happy that no one went the way of Fuzionz and Cuchi Guidos. At least the restaurant will live on in some way shape or form. I think I’m just rambling on so I’ll stop there but I respect your respect for Harrisonburg culture, I love this place too.

  21. I’ll miss Calhoun’s beer, but (not to kick them as they’re on their way out) I really can’t stand their food, and, for that reason, am not as bummed out by this change as I might be. But the beer is a major loss, IMHO.

    • Brooke says:

      I didn’t love all their food, but man, I will miss their Cobb salad and the righteous mac-n-cheese. Shoot, now I’m hungry. LOL

  22. David Miller says:

    agreed, and their buffalo chicken tenders with Harrisonburg’s best ranch.

  23. Daniel says:

    I thought their food was so-so as well. I’m not sure that I ever had the Ranch, though – if it was good, it was probably made fresh and did not come out of a Sysco jug like most of the other restaurants around use. I really liked Cally’s beer, but I don’t think I would have ever ordered their chicken tenders/wings; that’s like ordering chicken tenders and fries at a steak house, or eating tacos at BW3’s, or a steak at Jess’. It just seems wrong.

    IMO, I think Downtown could benefit from two totally different restaurants. 1) a breakfast all-day establishment that features local foods such as free-range chicken and eggs, grass fed beef, and signature biscuits, mimosas, and bloody-mary’s. No beer or loud rock-band music or sports on the TV’s. Sidewalk seating. Just a nice place you would feel comfortable taking your grandmother out to for mothers day at. 2) Taco’s and beer. I’m not talking Taco Bell type taco’s…I’m talking Rico’s Tacos type tacos. Homemade gourmet style with fresh ingredients and fresh tortillas. Coke-Cola products in long-neck bottles, TV’s all over the place, entertainment on a regular basis, and lunch specials (with a drink) under $6.00.

    • Emmy says:

      Daniel you might want to try Mrs. Hardesty’s Tea Room and El Sol (though I don’t thin they serve alcohol).

      I did LOVE Cally’s ranch dressing. Perhaps Capital Ale House can get the recipe for that as well.

  24. Mrs. S says:

    Did anyone ever eat at Union Place or Union Square? I think an all-day breakfast restaurant would be a good choice for downtown.

  25. Mrs. S says:

    California Dreaming is a great chain but it doesnt feel or taste like a chain. I’ve been to the one based in Columbia SC. That would be a good choice for Harrisonburg too.

  26. Rob Lane says:

    I first found Calhoun’s the first Saturday they were in business. I have had very few weeks without a pint or two of Eric’s brew since then. I think I am in mourning. On the other hand, Cap Ale has been sponsoring the MS150 team for which I, and this year my wife, ride. It is one of my favorite places to dine when in Richmond as the beer selection is huge and the food generally very good. If we have to lose our local pub I will take a bit of comfort in knowing that we’ll get a beer lover’s restaurant in return. I wonder if Cap Ale would let us keep our Cally’s mugs on the premises? Cheers everyone!

  27. Emmy says:

    I always went there at lunch while at work so I never noticed if they had alcohol…but the tacos are great!

  28. Mark says:

    Assuming that Plowman lands somewhere in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area, I can’t see how this is anything other than a win/win: Calhoun’s has great beer, but the food is terribly mediocre. Capital Ale House will bring a FANTASTIC beer line-up to the Burg, as well as a step up with grub — if Plowman expands his brewing operation and continues the quality we’ve grown accustomed to, these are exciting times indeed.

  29. RyanB says:

    I live in Fredericksburg, and have for awhile. I’m right down the street from Capital Ale and it’s usually my bar of choice. It’s a nice atmosphere and attracts the most diverse, friendliest crowd in a town where you know the cops will be showing up at every other bar before last call. I hope they bring the same good things to HBurg that they did to Fred.

  30. wharfrat says:

    Callys was great,I hate to see it go,now we have Capitol Ale in it’s place with hundreds of beers,thats right,the students come to JMU to get educated,now they’re going to be a bunch of broke,drunks,Mom and Dad will have to remove them and end their education and a chance to have a great life.

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