Get hoppy: Taylor Smack, Mandi Smack and Matt Nucci (left to right) are cultivating the main ingredient for their Blue Mountain brews coming this fall.
Picture this: You’re relaxing with friends on a balmy afternoon and enjoying the Blue Ridge Mountain views while you snack on a plate of cheese and charcuterie. You’re swirling your glass with pinky held high and feeling übersophisticated as you comment on the color and aroma of your…beer? Yep, that’s right. Such scenes are not the exclusive province of the Chardonnay and Cab Franc peddlers, say the folks at Blue Ridge Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm—a new brewery and tasting room slated to open on Critzer Shop Road in Afton this fall. Taylor Smack, South Street Brewery’s nationally decorated brew master for the last six years, has left that establishment to launch the “farm brewery” along with his wife, Mandi Smack, and friend Matt Nucci. Smack says Charlottesville is a savvy beer drinking area and is ready for an experience that’s a little more cerebral—“a little more touch and feel than walking into a brew pub and ordering a plate of nachos.”
To create an atmosphere more conducive to sipping a crafted beverage than pounding a brewski, Blue Mountain will offer indoor bistro seating by a fireplace of local river rock and alfresco munching (on light fare such as cheese, meats and gourmet sandwiches) on a patio overlooking the mountains and the hops growing on the brewery’s four acres. As for the main attraction, a tasting bar will offer samplings of six different styles of brew from a pale ale to a lager to “big, high alcohol style” beers, says Smack. There also will be seasonal selections including a strawberry wheat varietal to take advantage of the strawberry crops growing nearby. All will be served in their appropriately shaped glass to emphasize their particular flavors and colors. Did you think only winos were glass snobs? And all the selections will be brewed with the farm’s own hops, cultivated yeast and Shenandoah Valley-bred water, meaning the brewery will have a claim to “agricultural authenticity,” says Smack.
Patrons will be able to tour the state of the art brewery, which at four times the size of South Street’s facility, will produce up to 3,500 barrels a year (that’s about 7,000 kegs) expected to be available by six-pack at local stores and on tap at local restaurants. Blue Mountain plans to open its doors in time for Octoberfest. To that Restaurantarama says Prost!
In the same spirit of less pounding and more sipping, the Ix project folks (the gang refurbishing the old Frank Ix and Sons factory building Downtown) say a German-style biergarten will be the first restaurant to open in the Piazza planned for the center of the development. Inspired by the success of last summer’s Wunderkammer carnival at the Ix ruins? Not exactly, this place would be PG-rated—a “family place” says Katrin Naess, a native of Bavaria (as is Ix developer Ludwig Kuttner) who is consulting with the Ix project. She says Charlottesville’s Blue Ridge Mountains remind her of pre-Alps Bavaria, and she’s hoping to bring a more Bavarian sensibility to local imbibing—to create a culture “where you don’t get drunk, but sit and meet with your friends and family.” Naess says the place would feature authentic German-style food incorporating local ingredients and locally-brewed German style beers. She’s already talking with the Blue Mountain folks about providing the brewing. But don’t grab your lederhosen just yet—Naess says the biergarten is at least two years off.
In other beer news, Starr Hill Brewery’s planned tasting room at the old ConAgra building in Crozet, which we told you about last year, is getting a lot of other media buzz as the brewery gets ready to open the doors for tours mid-summer or early fall, and rumor has it yet another brewery/brew pub may be coming to the Afton/Crozet area—more on that later. Look out Fort Collins, Colorado—Central Virginia may be fast becoming the new center of the beer-drinking universe. Monticello beer trail, anyone?
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