In 1979 there were just a handful of craft breweries in the United States. It was also the year President Jimmy Carter signed legislation allowing home brewing. What started out as a few snow flakes of homebrewers turned into an avalanche of commercial artisan brewmasters.
An avalanche? Indeed. From a scattering of craft breweries in the early 1980s, the industry has burgeoned to nearly 3,600 today. Itâ??s a classic example of free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit being unleashed by market opportunity.
Moreover, it has catapulted the U.S. into the worldâ??s leading craft beer producer. Today, some of the finest beer in the world is being produced in America.
Craft beer has joined forces with artisanal wine and distilled spirits as a growth industry. Across the spectrum of â??social lubricantsâ? quality is trumping quantity.
The phenomenon is evident in communities across the country and Culpeper is no exception. With the opening of Wicked Barn Brewery in September the town will be home to three craft breweries.
The latest brewer to enter the local craft beer scene is a native of Culpeper. William Jones, 43, was born at Culpeper Regional Hospital and grew up on a nearby dairy farm. His family raised Holstein cattle and farmed hay, alfalfa and other grain crops.
Much of the farm was sold in 1985 but the 300 foot long dairy barn remained in the family. It will be repurposed from milk production to beer. â??Itâ??s in rough shape. Itâ??s been sitting for 30 years but it still has some good bones to it,â? Jones said.
Jones plans to make the barn his brewing location and eventually a brew pub. In the interim, he will establish retail presence in downtown Culpeper in September while his full business plan unfolds over the next three years.
Currently Jones is not selling beer. The basement of his home is his â??pilot beer houseâ? where he is perfecting his lineup of brews. Lovers of the hop will be rewarded for their patience when his beers start flowing from the taps.
The diversity of his selections is impressive and includes black Irish stout, Ruby-Brown ale, West Coast India Pale Ale, German wheat beer, American Brown ale and a German pilsner, among others. A total of eight beers will grace his menu when he opens.
In addition to brewing, the former farm boy will return to his roots by growing hops on the barn property. Hops are a key ingredient in beer providing flavoring and stability and imparting a bitter, tangy flavor to balance the malt flavor of the barley grain.
There are only a few hop farmers in the Old Dominion today. The plants are called bines and grow 25 feet in height on a network of poles and trellising. â??I believe they will do well in Virginia. The plants take a lot of water. I will grow Columbus, Cascade, Centennial and other varieties. I will initially plant an acre but ultimately grow five acres,â? Jones said. In addition to locally grown hops he will use barley also grown in Virginia.
â??I want to use local products as much as I can. I want to engage local companies to help leverage their businesses. I want to give back to the community,â? Jones said.
As his business grows, Jones will bring other employees on board. He will hire an assistant brewer and someone to run the pub plus employees to work there. â??I will manage and operate it but there will be other employees that will help. I will continue to work my regular job.â? said Jones.
That day job by the way is vice president of engineering and production at Euro-Composites at the Culpeper Airport Industrial Park.
The firm, headquartered in Luxembourg, invested $11 million in its Culpeper plant in 2011 and today employees 82 people. The company manufactures honeycomb composite material used in aerospace and other industry sectors.
Clearly this brewmaster has earned his business bona fides and will bring a wealth of expertise to his hobby turned second career.
Name that brewery
So how did Wicked Barn earn its moniker? Jones laughs and says, â??Itâ??s long story.â?
It seems one of his favorite songs as a young man was called Wicked Ways by the heavy metal band Leatherwolf. At the time, he had rebuilt a 1994 Chevy pickup, dropped a racing motor in it and dubbed the truck Wicked Ways.
Subsequently, he took up motorcycle racing and called the bike Wicked II. â??So the wicked thing has been in my family a long time.â? It made sense to continue the theme with his brewery. Not to mention that the beer will likely taste â??wicked goodâ?.
In summing up his emerging role as a brewmaster, Jones said, â??I am really looking forward to opening. Iâ??m excited. I incorporated the business on April 4 and the closer I get to opening the more anxious Iâ??m to get going.â?
What a coincidence. Beer lovers throughout Virginia will also be eager to have Wicked Barn join the stateâ??s brewery scene.
John Hagarty is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For wine tales and more visit his blog at Hagarty on Wine.
Culpeper Brew Scene
When Wicked Barn Brewery opens in September, it will join two other current breweries in town. If you havenâ??t had a chance to check them out, grab your beer hat and head out to:
Beer Hound Brewery
Opened in 2014, Beer Hound Brewery is a nanobrewery and strives to keep beer local by brewing and serving beer direct to customers. All of the beers at Beer Hound are named after famous hounds in movies and history. Stop by and howl with the best of them.
201 Waters Place #2
Culpeper, VA 22701
For information on brews and hours visit http://www.beerhoundbrewery.com/
Far Gohn Brewing Company
A â??Tavern Breweryâ? that celebrates the German immigrant contributions to the American beer tradition and embraces a variety of beer worldwide. A fresh lineup of beers is rotated on the menu including British ales, Belgian styles, and American craft brews. Every weekend a cask of ale is tapped and served as it was centuries ago.
301 South East Street
Culpeper, VA 22701