Batesville gets its store back; beer flows from Hermitage Hill Farm; Champion launches new brew

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Downtown Batesville’s hopping again with the opening of The Batesville Market. Photo by Emily Morone. Downtown Batesville’s hopping again with the opening of The Batesville Market. Photo by Emily Morone.

The historic Batesville Store was reopened as The Batesville Market on October 18 after a nearly 16-month hiatus. The town centerpiece, located in the same building as Batesville’s small post office, has been in on-and-off operation since 1913, and new owners David and Stacy Struminger, and David’s brother, Alex, intend to restore it to its rightful status as the town’s central grocery, café, and meeting place.

“The small community of Batesville didn’t have a center without it,” David Struminger said. “The town needed that communal place to meet, where all the locals go to get staples.”

The market will offer organic and locally sourced produce, meat, cheese, and eggs, as well as deli sandwiches, coffee, and beer. David Struminger said the goal is to sell quality homegrown goods at decent prices. The prepared foods will all be made from scratch—the Strumingers have had local chefs help out on that front—and music will be offered with no cover charge on Saturday nights.

Longtime Richmond residents, David  and Stacy are relative newcomers to Batesville, but they immediately recognized the market as a critical hub when they bought a country house in the area several years ago. The store was a place to grab breakfast sandwiches while walking their dog, a quick stop-off for coffee on the way to work, a place to grab a beer in the evenings, and a stage for Batesville’s colorful artists and musicians.

“I always felt like I was in a movie when I was in the store,” Stacy Struminger said. “You see the whole community, and you get to understand Batesville is full of cool people.”

The historic location, originally built around 1890, was opened as Page’s Store before becoming The Batesville Store and Plank Road Exchange in later years. The Strumingers have tried to keep the latest iteration connected to its origins, maintaining a relationship with Charlie Page, whose family started the store, and hiring former employee and Page family friend Roberta Keil to manage day-to-day operations.

“The store means everything to the community and everything to me,” Keil said. “Last year, when Rose [Page] was sick, I took care of her. I promised her I would do whatever I could to make sure the store was reopened.”

With a history of stops and starts, there’s no guarantee The Batesville Market will be around forever. David Struminger admits the place is never likely to be hugely profitable, but it’s a risk he and his wife are willing to take.

“We’re still feeling our way out,” he said. “Because this is an endeavor from the heart, we’re taking a lot of great constructive criticism and trying to do everything based on what the community is looking for.”

Beer for my horses

Farmers are just the teats these days, aren’t they? They’re improving the quality of our food, they’re rediscovering their place in the economy, and they just seem to get hipper and hipper. Now, they’re bringing us beer.

The latest farm to take its wares to market via brewing is Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables in Waynesboro. The farm and event venue has announced plans to start making beer in early 2015. It’s not a leap for Craig Nargi’s farm, which began growing and selling hops last year. The farm reports it’s doubled its hop production in that time and plans to add a second hop yard to increase production to 1,500 plants.

“We pride ourselves on the ability to share our gorgeous farm property,” Nargi said. “The brewery will allow us to do this on an even larger scale while providing local beer aficionados with a unique addition to the craft brewery landscape.”

Expect the new brewery to have 10-12 craft beers brewed by Nargi himself on tap when it’s at full strength, with food provided by Hermitage Hill’s onsite catering operation. Few hints to the beer or food menu are available, but the farm’s website indicates its produce, poultry, and livestock will play a role in creating the flavors in items like gourmet burgers and farm pizzas.

Introducing: beer

Champion Brewing Company is planning to release its first-ever bottled beer, the Megalodon imperial porter aged in King Family Vineyards port barrels, and if response to the brew on tap is any indication, the results should be scary good. Bottle sales will start at 4pm before the brewery’s Halloween party on October 31. Customers are limited to three 22-ounce bombers per person, so don’t be frightened away by the long line of beer geeks waiting for their share.

“We put a limit on it to make sure it goes to as many people as possible,” brewmaster Hunter Smith said. “It’s taken a long time to make it, so I’d like to see it hang around.” Smith expects about 500 bottles to be available at the release.

No, the Port Barrel Megalodon isn’t likely to draw the around-the-block crowds some barrel-aged bottle releases do across the country these days, but with the momentum Champion’s building, its limited production offerings are bound to grow in popularity. Smith said the brewery, which was recently named by Esquire magazine as one of the reasons Virginia was its Best Food Region of 2014, will start releasing barrel-aged products about quarterly now that its new production facility has opened up inventory space at the original Belmont location.

If you can wait to crack your first bottle of Port Barrel Megalodon (FYI: it will likely age well), the Champion Halloween party will feature music by DJ Phil Free, grub by The Bavarian Chef food truck, and tapping of the brewery’s new Blood Red Hefeweizen. Let the hefe flow.