How This Local Coffee Shop Defies Norms

Next to Bella’s Italian Restaurant on West Main Street and across from the Amtrak station lies an atypical coffee shop.

Snowing in Space opened its doors in April of last year and is the only coffee shop that specializes in nitro cold brew on tap in Charlottesville. Since then, it has been frequented by local residents, students, and travelers who stop in for a quick drink after getting off the train.

In an interview from December, one of the co-founders explained that the name of the shop comes from a line in the movie Groundhog Day, a favorite among the founders.

WUVA News got a chance to speak with “Space Lab Commander,” Julia Minnerly, who joined the team in December of 2016 and currently manages the shop.

Space Lab Commander, Julia Minnerly

With this obsession over actor Bill Murray and Groundhog Day, it was only fitting that the “Space Lab” gave away free twelve ounce nitro and hot coffees this past Friday to celebrate the holiday. According to Minnerly, the shop gave out 200 coffees by 2:30 pm.

Minnerly emphasized how the mission to create nitro cold brew on tap was inspired by craft beer. The co-founders wanted to create an image that resembled that of a “tasting room” to distinguish Snowing in Space from other coffee shops.

A Coffee Flight

“Our brand is focused on creation,” said Minnerly. “We are like outsiders because we don’t have an espresso machine.”

Instead, the Space Lab uses a super-concentrated type of espresso that is more caffeinated than the average product. This produces a more flavorful coffee that is not as acidic and is better for digestion.

“Our coffee is about one and a half times the strength of regular coffee,” noted the commander.

The process for creating this coffee involves steeping cold brew coarse ground for sixteen to eighteen hours. This helps bring out the caffeine and flavor. After the coffee is kegged, it is infused with nitrogen gas and sits on the nitro for a few days. It is then hooked to a nitro generator to push it to the tap.

The coffee bar also aims to collaborate with multiple different roasters as a non-competitive and inclusive effort whereas traditional coffee shops usually pick one roaster to work with. Mudhouse and Shenandoah Joe are two local vendors partnering with the Space Lab.

Minnerly explained how Snowing in Space has around ten flavors on tap. Typically three of those rotate while there are seven flagships that the shop always keeps in stock. One of their flagships is the “Big Blue Thing,” which has notes of blueberry and chocolate.

Co-founder Damian Warshall is the head brewer and has developed his own process for choosing flavors. He helps pick beans from the different local roasters.

“We test them and see what the public likes the most,” said Minnerly.

Snowing in Space also has five different flavors sold in cans throughout Virginia.  In Charlottesville, you can find these cans at Newcomb Hall on grounds or downtown at places like Jack Brown’s, Violent Crown and more. 

As of right now, the coffee bar carries locally sourced food from Paradox Pastry and Wonderment Creamery but is planning to introduce a new food menu in the future.

“We are going to start to do sandwiches and nitro shakes,” said Minnerly.

Snowing in Space has live music on Fridays and Saturdays along with comedy and poetry on the last Sunday of every month. Even without these frills, the West Main Street shop is unlike most.


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