By Stefanie Gans & Evan Milberg
A bill that will allow breweries on rurally zoned land has passed both houses of the Virginia General Assembly this week. SB 430 creates a specific license for farmers to brew, grow and maintain a residence on the same property. Previously, says Kate Zurschmeide of Great Country Farms, “you can open a brewery in one of the towns or the commercially owned areas, but it’s not an activity that’s permitted use on agricultural land.”
Once signed by the governor, the law will create greater equality for breweries to operate in the counties now dominated by wineries. By being able to grow hops, barley and other ingredients on the same land as the production facility, breweries can impart terrior into the beer, just like how grapes grown on vineyards mirror the personality of that land and come through in the wine.
“For Northern Virginia, it creates an opportunity for more businesses and farms to be part of this growing trend,” says Zurschmeide, whose family farm is based in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “I think it’s going to open up opportunities for farmers to grow grains and expand as demand grows.” With this new legislation, Zurschmeide’s sister- and brother-in-law, Janell and Bruce Zurschmeide, can go forward with Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont. Dirt Farm is hoping for an early fall debut, as an old farm building is converted into a tasting room.
“We are farmers,” says Janell, ticking off the ways the land will inspire the beer. Peaches and blackberries grown on the land will flavor beers, with the hop farm—containing standard Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops and 10 experimental varieties, including Magnum, Galena and Sterling—building the essence of the brew.
“We’re super excited,” says Sean-Thomas Pumphrey, brewer and co-founder of Lickinghole Creek, one of the strongest proponents of the legislation and drafter of a Change.org petition on the bill. “I just really think it’s the beginning of a farm brewery renaissance in Virginia.”