WORK Beer coming back to RVA

In 1999, a local advertising agency created a popular beer, and after a decade’s absence, that beer is coming back.

Work Beer

A local beer that first poured from taps 15 years ago is coming back to RVA this spring. But unlike most beer, WORK Beer wasn’t conceived in a brewery–it’s the brainchild of a local advertising agency.

“How many times have you seen an ad agency advertise themselves?” said Cabell Harris, president and co-founder of Richmond-based advertising company Work Labs. It’s a fair point: how do advertisers like Work Labs advertise what they do?

“I thought the best proof of [our advertising abilities] is to practice what we preach.” That meant Work Labs1 would create its own product.

In 1999, Work Labs took on local Main Street Beer Company as a client, but instead of taking traditional payment for their services, Work Labs had an idea. “Why don’t we do an exchange?” Harris said. “We’ll brew a beer and we’ll license it to you.” Main Street Beer Company would brew the beer, and Work Labs would brand and market it.2

What resulted was WORK Beer, a meticulously designed, packaged, and marketed beer that celebrated the notion of hard working people having a cold brew at the end of the day.

Where to find WORK Beer:

  • Gallery5
  • Commercial Taphouse
  • Comfort
  • Joe’s Inn
  • Sedona Taphouse
  • Beer Run
  • Champion Brewing Company
  • Whole Foods

“It’s more than just putting a logo on a bottle or can,” Harris said about the branding. “I think everything about the WORK brand is saluting the workers and the job that they do.”

Not only was the marketing successful in Richmond, but in other cities too. Within seven months, WORK became the top selling craft beer in four states.

“It made a lot of attention with the packaging and advertising,” Harris said. “It worked really well.”

But in 2003, Main Street Beer Company shut down, and with it WORK Beer. Work Labs didn’t have the resources to keep the beer afloat. So for about a decade, WORK was furloughed. “We still get calls for the beer from all over the country,” Harris said. But recently, an opportunity to revive the beer materialized.

Work Labs has partnered with Breckenridge Brewery (Denver, CO) and Champion Brewery (Charlottesville, VA) to brew a Dunkel Weiss (a dark beer) with Galaxy Hops.

This next incarnation of WORK Beer will be available later this month at several area locations (see sidebar). The Work Labs founder said more beer may soon follow. “It looks like we will start brewing beer on a regular basis,” Harris said. Production details should be announced in the coming weeks.

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Footnotes

  1. Harris founded Work Labs in Los Angeles in 1995, but later moved the company to Richmond. 
  2. Work Labs has gone on to create other items like coffee, pencils, and other products
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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