In 2010, Tom Sullivan and Paul Karns launched a homebrewers co-operative and purchased a Sabco half-barrel pilot brewing system to further their brewing knowledge and experience. Tom and Paul had been homebrewers for several years, and while setting up the co-op, they met Kevin O’Leary, who had recently moved to Richmond from Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he served as a brewer at Cambridge Brewing Company. The three men began brewing with other members of the co-op on Sundays in a Church Hill garage, where they opened their doors to members of the local community who were interested in brewing and beer. The community response was overwhelming: week after week, people visited the garage in order to learn about the brewing process and taste various beer styles. As the weeks turned into months, the partners concentrated on recipe development. They reviewed and brewed traditional styles made with traditional ingredients, and then varied the ingredients in order to create beers that reflected these styles but that were distinctly their own. To further their knowledge, they attended seminars on brewing technology, brewery management, and brewery marketing at the annual Craft Brewer's Conferences.
In 2012, the partners wrote their business plan, and began their pitch to potential investors. In July 2013, the generosity of friends old and new allowed Ardent Craft Ales to officially join the community of Richmond breweries. A lease was signed and renovations were begun on a 1940s warehouse in Scott’s Addition, a 15-barrel DME brewhouse was purchased, and orders for raw materials were placed. Thanks to the kindness and belief of many, Ardent Craft Ales, a brewery and taproom, opened in June 2014. Kevin, Tom, and Paul look forward to a lifetime of celebrating beer with the Richmond community.
Head Brewer + Co-Founder
Kevin O’Leary is Co-founder of and Head Brewer at Ardent. He runs all brewing operations, including the management of beer consistency and quality. Kevin was introduced to craft beer in college while working at Boston’s beer-centric Sunset Tap Room, where he built his knowledge of beer history, beer profiles, and brewing styles. In 2005, he joined the team at Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC) and was soon brought on to the brewing staff. There, Kevin created recipes for a Berlinweisse and a Pre-Prohibition classic hoppy Lager, and was on the team that developed the Scottish Heather Ale that earned CBC the gold at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. In addition, he had a hand in the recipes that earned CBC’s Arquebus Barleywine a gold medal in 2007 and Cambridge Amber the silver honor in 2008. Kevin also helped manage CBC’s barrel room and, during this time, he studied the craft of cellaring and barrel-aging. After moving to Richmond in 2010, he met Tom and Paul and joined the brewing co-op from which Ardent was born.
Operations Director +
Tom Sullivan is Co-founder of and Operations Director at Ardent. He oversees all aspects of brewery operations as well as business management and development. Tom's interest in brewing began when he was a teenager and was heightened when, as a college student, he tasted his first Hefeweizen in Germany. The balanced, smooth flavors of the style made a distinct impression on Tom, and later caused him to seek out other styles, including IPAs and sour beers. A 2007 trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Virginia, inspired him to home brew. After stopping by a local tavern, he realized that no one in the area was making beer that reflected the styles brewed in the early years of America. A week later, Tom bought his first brewing kit. He experimented with different processes and ingredients, and reached out to the local brewing community in order to share his interest. There he found the camaraderie, respect, and collaborative spirit that affirmed his decision to devote more and more time to making beer.
His interests ultimately led him to Kevin, Paul, and the brewing co-op that would eventually become Ardent. Over the years, Tom collaborated with the team on nearly every recipe, and he brewed the first versions of the IPA and Saison. He studied brewing technology and brewery management at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, where he was fortunate enough to work with a number of talented students and brewery owners. Before turning to brewing full-time, Tom worked as an Information Technology Operations Manager at Wyeth, Pfizer, and Fareva. If you ever share a beer with him, be sure to ask about his days playing bass in a punk band.
Paul Karns is Co-founder, and helped form and run the garage co-op in Church Hill that ultimately became Ardent Craft Ales. He currently serves as Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Mystery Brewing Company in Hillsborough, NC.