Craft beers increasingly made with Virginia ingredients

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RICHMOND—Virginia’s drink industry is overflowing with more than 175 craft breweries, 14 cideries, 47 distilleries and 282 wineries, and that’s leading to more opportunities for farmers to grow ingredients.

“Craft beverage makers invest a substantial amount of time and energy into the quality of their product,” said Virginia Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Dr. Basil Gooden. “That means using the best and freshest ingredients available throughout their supply chain, which typically come from local growers.”

Gooden added that many Virginia farmers have begun thinking about the high demand for quality, locally grown ingredients for craft beverages. “We’ve got some of the best grain producers in the nation growing breeds of barley specifically for beer making.”

Something that’s contributed to the growth of local products in craft beverages was the General Assembly’s passage of a 2014 bill that eased regulations for farm breweries that choose to grow ingredients for beer on site.

Lisa and Sean-Thomas Pumphrey, co-owners of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland County, began growing their own hops after passage of that bill. They bought their property in 2005 with the intent of farming it and leaving its pastureland for wildlife. “It wasn’t enough land to make a living growing grains, but adding the brewery enabled us to have a sustainable livelihood and expand the farm,” Lisa Pumphrey said. They now employ two farmers who grow barley, hay, rye and wheat, while Sean-Thomas Pumphrey concentrates on growing hops.

Craig Nargi, owner of Stable Craft Brewing in Augusta County, grows his own hops as well. The former chef and restaurateur said he prefers the purity of whole-leaf hops to readily available pelletized hops. He flash-freezes freshly picked hops from his farm and uses them in the beers he brews.

While Nargi uses his own hops, he buys grains from malt suppliers in the Midwest. “If they were more readily available, I’d buy them from Virginia growers,” he remarked.

The time is right, Nargi said, for Virginia landowners—whether they are brewers or farmers—to grow hops, barley and other ingredients for craft beers. “The idea is there, but we need more malting facilities. Eventually, making beer with 100 percent Virginia ingredients is doable.”

Gooden noted that Virginia craft brewers, “especially those located on a farm, have really started to hone in on the terroir of their region and are developing distinctly Virginian beverages.”

And Virginia is home to the largest hops processing facility on the East Coast, Lucketts Mill HopWorks in Loudoun County. It operates in collaboration with Black Hops Farm, which grows hops for James River Distillery and other breweries and restaurants.

Media: Contact Pumphrey at 804-314-4380 or Nargi at 540-490-2609.

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