Irish pub prepares to open downtown

Source: Patrick Murphy, collegiatetimes.com

Tuesday, 20th Sept, 2011

Tales of leprechauns and four-leaf clovers may be thousands of miles away from Blacksburg, but a new local pub is looking to capture the Irish spirit.

Castle’s Kettle and Pub, set to open in early-to-mid November, has deep roots in not only Irish, but also Hokie heritage. Two fraternity brothers from Phi Kappa Psi, both 2000 Virginia Tech graduates, had the first rumblings of an idea about a year ago.

“Last October we met up at a football game and decided we wanted to do a business venture together,” said Tony Faulds, the pub’s co-owner.

Faulds and Joe Castle, his business partner, decided their business venture would be building an Irish-style pub. Coordinating the process has not been easy, as Faulds lives in California, leaving Castle to manage the day-to-day construction. Once the pub is complete, Castle will become the general manager.

Still, the plan came together quickly, as the men acquired a property last January and had architects begin drawing up designs. Construction began this past July at 607 N. Main St. — just a short walk from downtown and campus.

With this location, Faulds hopes to reach students and locals. He also hopes to bring something truly unique to Blacksburg, far different than what the town offers so far.

“We wanted to do something with a very European feel to it — not too American,” Faulds said. “We feel there’s a great niche market for that.”

While the downtown restaurant and bar market in Blacksburg may seem fairly saturated, Faulds said he remains confident the pub can compete with places such as Sharkey’s and Top of the Stairs. He said some of what will set the pub apart is its food, live music, community involvement and impressive beer selection.

“We’ll run the gamut (on food),” Faulds said. “My wife is vegan, so along with all the Irish staples, we’ll have vegan and vegetarian options.”

Faulds promises there is something for everyone, yet the concentration is still decidedly Irish. A few favorites already cemented into the menu include fish and chips, bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie. Faulds hopes the hearty Irish entrees won’t leave customers too full for dessert though. The pub will offer Irish coffee, homemade ice cream and a few other options for those watching their waistlines or wallets.

“We aim to have bite size dessert items for a dollar or two,” Faulds said. “You could get a shot glass size of ice cream or cake. It’s perfect if you don’t have enough for a full dessert.”

But what’s authentic Irish good without the music to match? Castle’s Kettle and Pub aims to fill the establishment with traditional Irish tunes, with a particular emphasis on live music several nights a week. Additionally, musicians may even walk around and play directly for a table.

In addition to music lovers, the pub will also cater to foodies and those who like to consume adult beverages. Three different clubs will meet to engage the community in their common interest. The Kettle Club will bring together food lovers for taste testing. The Mug Club will unite beer drinkers, particularly those that enjoy “good” beer, and the Horseshoe Club will join whiskey connoisseurs and novices alike to taste the amber liquid.

Castle, the other owner, has been working on a project that specifically impacts the Mug Club, among other beer enthusiasts. He has been in talks with a local brewery, Roanoke Railhouse, to develop a custom beer. The end result, likely a cask beer, will be called Castle’s Irish Red.

For Castle, getting to create and name his own beer is a bit of a surreal experience. He said he’s always wanted to own an Irish pub. Setting one up in Blacksburg, where he has a wife and two kids, seemed like a perfect fit. Opening the pub also allowed Castle to explore his Irish roots.

“My heritage comes from my mother’s side,” Castle said. “I come from Murphys and Fosters — both very Irish names. I grew up with an Irish extended family (since) my mom is one of 12 kids. So I’ve been around the Irish tradition a long time, and I’ve been to Ireland a few times and absolutely fell in love with it.”

It is this love of Ireland that Castle hopes will come across in his pub. He said the most difficult aspect of opening the business thus far has been the design process. The space is small, although it still seats around 160 patrons. The pub is also divided into two levels, with the upstairs being a more typical bar and the downstairs housing the majority of the restaurant. There will also be additional seating outside.

Castle’s aim is for customers to really feel like they’re walking into an Irish pub. Despite the extra time he’s had to spend on design, he believes it will be well worth it in the end.

“A lot of people are excited about it,” Castle said. “I just want to open the doors and let people experience what I did in Ireland.”

Faulds also eagerly awaits the grand opening of the pub and believes that their business could have real staying
power.

“We’re proud to be a part of this community, and (we) want to be a staple,” Faulds said. “If we’re able to execute all our ideas, I think we’ll be successful and be here for a long time.”

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