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Berry farm to add nanobrewery

David and Lynn St. Clair hold a batch of their Columbus hops beside this portable brewing station they purchased to brew beer at their Swover Creek Farm west of Edinburg. A bill passed in the General Assembly creates a limited brewery license for farmers using their own ingredients that produce fewer than 15,000 barrels a year. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Ryan Cornell

EDINBURG -- Few watched Senate Bill 430 as closely as David and Lynn St. Clair.

The couple, who own Swover Creek Farms and Kitchen in Edinburg, checked the bill's progress "every half-hour" until it was approved in the Virginia General Assembly and signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe last week.

The bill creates a new limited brewery license for breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 barrels a year, are located on a farm in Virginia and use agricultural products in their beer that are grown on the farm. It takes effect July 1.

This limited brewery license has made it possible for the St. Clairs to open a nanobrewery on their berry farm later this year.

According to David St. Clair, breweries in Virginia have always been under industrial or commercial zoning. He said a limited brewery falls under agricultural zoning and operates similar to a farm winery.

Swover Creek grows a variety of berries, including blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, which will be used in their fruit beers. Last year, the St. Clairs decided to plant hops to support the area's growing homebrewers, and the community response was massive.

"That's what got us talking," David St. Clair said. "I'll bet any money if we just made some beer, these guys would come out every other weekend and bring the families to pick berries."

He said the brewery will produce beer in 10-gallon batches and in four different varieties at a time.

"We don't want to be very big, we just want to have some artisanal beers," he said. "Very unique, not high-volume, but every time you drink a beer, it's a different beer."

Lynn St. Clair said they're not planning on bottling their beers, but would like to sell kegs to local restaurants.

"Our whole thing is to get people out to the farm and pick some berries," she said.

The farm also makes its own sausage from locally sourced meat.

"[O]nce we get the brewery going, we're going to be berries, brews and brats," she said.

Depending on how long the permit process takes, the nanobrewery could open as early as late summer.

The two farmers, who started homebrewing last fall after a lengthy hiatus, began operating the Edinburg farm in 1998. The farm has been in Lynn St. Clair's family for more than 100 years.

The farm is a member of the O Shenandoah County Artisan Trail and will be brewing beer at the spring event on April 26 and 27.

Last month, they brought their amber ale to the Shenandoah Valley Homebrewers Guild in Winchester and received "rave reviews," according to David St. Clair.

"As we grow, as it kicks up, we're definitely going to have to expand," he said. "And how big is going to depend on how popular it gets."

For more information, visit swovercreekfarms.com or call 540-984-8973.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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