Editor’s Note: With more and more breweries opening in Northern Virginia, there is sure to be some backlash. After an article citing Clifton residents’ anger during a community debate on a brewery headed for their town, Cody Specketer reacts to the negativity.
For more on the local beer scene, pick up this month’s issue of Northern Virginia Magazine with beer and brewery awards; stories on Kickstarter funding failures and hop growing; and a directory of breweries both open and almost-open.
By Cody Specketer
Have you ever read something so unsettling you simply could not idly stand by without interjecting a more accurate viewpoint? This sums up my feelings after reading the May 1 article in the Fairfax County Times, “A powder keg looms in Clifton” by Gregg MacDonald.
The article lays out a current battle between the residents of Clifton and Marcus Silva who is attempting to open Loudmouth Brewing Co., which could become Fairfax County’s first farm brewery.
Recently the Virginia General Assembly passed into law Senate Bill 430, known as the Farm Brewery Bill. Under this law Silva is attempting to open not only a brewery but a local small business in the secluded and quiet area of Clifton. In an attempt to hear the concerns of the residents, Silva held a Q&A session. Not surprisingly “…nearly 200 Clifton residents—nearly two-thirds of the town—showed up at the meeting to voice their displeasure with the brewery concept,” writes MacDonald.
While I was not at this meeting I want to say it is reasonable for residents of Clifton to be concerned with another alcohol-serving business in close proximity (the other being Paradise Springs Winery). I would be willing to go out on a limb and say some of the same residents who were initially against Paradise Springs are also voicing their same feelings against Loudmouth. However, some of the direct quotes provided in the article are questionable at best and are borderline fear mongering.
Residents are concerned, cites MacDonald, that a brewery would “…bring in an even younger and rowdier crowd…” to the Clifton area. My wife and I have visited nearly a dozen breweries in the Northern Virginia area, and that statement is far from the actual truth. Our experiences would accurately suggest patrons of these local businesses are families—some with young children, fellow business owners and overall those wishing to support not only small businesses but great local craft beer in a respectable manner.
Perhaps the distinct inaccuracy placed on breweries is they somehow resemble an actual bar that is open past midnight, where it is well known some of the heaviest alcohol consumption takes place. In reality nearly all breweries are open until roughly 9 p.m., and the patrons are more focused on a common theme— sharing in the enjoyment of hand crafted, artisanal beers in a responsible manner.
A second concern echoed by the residents was the current increase in traffic and vehicle-related accidents at the hands of Paradise Springs Winery. If these incidents occurred at such a high frequency as reported, then I would urge Fairfax County officials to separate fact from fiction and provide statistical data that either supports or refutes these reports. The article then took a somewhat unfortunate turn when elected leaders Del. Tim Hugo and State Senator George Barker both expressed concerns.
Senator Barker, who voted in support of SB 430, has now requested an official opinion from the state attorney general to seemingly levy whether the law—as written and approved—would qualify Loudmouth from establishing itself on Yates Ford Road. The shocking fact is that SB 430 was approved 37-1, so it would appear Senator Barker is now bowing to the scare tactics of his residents instead of questioning his own approving vote and the possible outcome as it applies to his district.
Furthermore, Del. Hugo also expressed deep concerns about this project and asked the senior attorney from the General Assembly who wrote the original bill for her comment and opinion. (Hugo also voted in favor of the measure.) So now we have two elected officials essentially back tracking on their votes to appease these possibly unfounded and unfortunate accusations.
I honestly have no dog in this fight. It’s my love of local craft beer and support of small businesses that is driving my urgency to write this letter. The residents of Clifton have every right to be heard and the elected officials have their own right to request official opinions. It does not take much research to see there is an increasing demand and support for local breweries in Virginia.
There is more to understand about local, craft breweries, and the foot stomping, personal opinions cast in questionable basis is certainly beneath the great residents of Fairfax County. I would strongly urge anyone—beer drinkers or not—to visit any of the Northern Virginia breweries and see what they represent and talk to the very patrons who are supporting small, local Virginia businesses.
Centreville resident Cody Specketer works in IT for the federal government, and with his wife, writes Bites, Barrels and Brews.
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