First brewery opens in Shenandoah County

Craft brewing, all the rage these days from Oregon to the Old Dominion, has come to Shenandoah County.

Last month, Swover Creek Farms, located in Edinburg, expanded its operations to include a brewery, with a capacity to produce 20 gallons of beer a day. Co-owned by Lynn and David St. Clair, the farm has been in Lynn’s family for over 100 years and has served locals and visitors as a “pick your own berry” farm during the summer time, as well as a selling local sausages, jams and baked goods.

Lynn St. Clair said the idea to start brewing beer began two years ago, when the farm started growing hops.

“We had a ‘pick your own hops’ to coincide with our berry picking and before long, people started asking where was our beer,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair said the farm is in an experimental stage with the beers it brews.

“We don’t have a set recipe or a set style we want to sell,” St. Clair said. “We just want to produce different kinds of beers and see what people like.”

Presently, the farm offers four varieties of beer on tap, including a black IPA, blonde ale, a West Coast Common beer and pale ale. St. Clair said over the winter, she expects to expand both the brewery and the beer selection.

“We have a barn we’re looking to renovate over the winter time so we can install a larger brew system, more room for kegs, a tasting room with eight beers on tap and an outdoor area for people to sit and enjoy their beer,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair said part of the reason for getting into the craft brewing business is the farm was able to do it.

“We are fortunate we already had the space to do this kind of expansion,” St. Clair said. “But we also had a name for ourselves as an agro-tourism destination, so people are already coming to the farm anyways.”

With six wineries in Shenandoah Valley and another on the way, St. Clair said she hopes more farms in the county establish breweries to create an experience akin to the Brew Ridge Trail located in Nelson and Albemarle counties.

“A lot of these breweries are located in the cities and towns, so if we can get a few more farm breweries, we can make Shenandoah County a destination for people to enjoy a laid back country atmosphere and enjoy some great beers,” St. Clair said.

Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County, said she anticipates the brewery will contribute to the popularity of the wine trail in the county.

“The craft beer industry has been growing in recent years and we anticipate the interest in it will bring more people from Northern Virginia and other areas of the state to Shenandoah,” French said.

French also said there is a brewpub slated to open in 2015 in Woodstock, called the Woodstock Brew House. French said the county is looking into finding grants to establish a beer, wine and spirits trail for visitors.

“Trails centered around visiting craft, small scale production sites is a growing market and we see people planning trips every year to go to places to taste beers, wines and liquors,” French said. “We are currently looking into a grant to establish a trail encompassing all those industries.”

French said when people visit to taste craft alcohol, they ultimately spend money at other attractions as well.

“They might check into a hotel, they might dine at a restaurant or visit our caverns,” French said. “By promoting this one part of our tourism market, we ultimately strengthen every attraction we have to offer.”

Swover Creek Farms is located at 4176 Swover Creek Road in Edinburg. Those interested in tasting the brews can visit the farms Fridays 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays noon to 7 p.m.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com