Stories by Daniel Ware
Photos by Tia DeVincenzo and Nick Fanelli
Blue Mountain Brewery
Virginia state Route 151 is home to numerous breweries, including the Blue Mountain Brewery. It, along with breweries such as Starr Hill Brewery, South Street Brewery and Devils Backbone Brewing Company, forms an integral part of the so- called “Brew Ridge Trail.” When it opened in October 2007, Blue Mountain was the first brewery in Nelson County. “We were avid homebrewers with a passion for making beer,” says co-owner Matt Nucci. “We’ve doubled the size of our Afton brewery since we opened.”
All of Blue Mountain’s ales and lagers are brewed, bottled, canned and kegged either onsite in Afton. or at its new barrel house in Arrington. — about 30 miles south. This year, the brewery will craft close to 10,000 barrels — about 310,000 gallons — of beer specially made from water found deep in wells. Blue Mountain describes its beer as the “best barley malt and hops the world has to offer.” When it comes to brewing, Blue Mountain keeps it simple.
“Beers are primarily made by four brewers with just four ingredients: malted barley, water, yeast and hops,” Nucci said. “It usually takes about 21 days for full fermentation.” In 2011, one of the brewery’s most popular seasonal beers, Blue Reserve, won the silver medal at the world’s largest beer competition: the Great American Beer Festival. The pale ale has a citrus flavor, won in the American-Belgo Ale category and was the first-ever medal for a beer hopped solely with Virginia hops. It is exclusively available from late April to late June. Blue Mountain is also the only Virginia brewery to win back-to-back gold medals at the 2010 and 2011 Great American Beer Festivals. Its Sandy Bottom won in 2010 in the American- Style Wheat Beer category, beating out 22 other entries, and Summer Lovin’ topped 32 competitors in the English-Style Summer Ale category.
The brewery has a restaurant with a diverse menu with salads, burgers, specialty pizzas, steak tacos, pulled pork and specialty sandwiches, hot and cold. Dining options include an indoor dining space, outdoor picnic area with a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and a screened-in porch area. The outdoor picnic space is a large patio with each table sheltered with its own umbrella, creating a sense of shade and privacy. The space has a dog-friendly section as well, which is on the grass area to the side of the patio. Blue Mountain is also a member of the Virginia Green Program. It takes the recycling of materials, reduction of waste and treatment of the brewery and restaurant very seriously. It processes the waste steam exhausted during the brewing process through a water treatment facility before returning clean water back to the earth.
One of the newest breweries on Route 151 is Wild Wolf Brewing Co., which opened in 2011. Mary Wolf and her son, Danny, renovated a 105-year-old schoolhouse, which was the original schoolhouse for Nelson County. The company opened for business on Nov. 11, 2011, at 11:11 a.m. The brewery is home to six house beers, available year-round, and 12 seasonal beers that are on a constant rotation. Danny, who is the company’s brewmaster, favors the house beer “Primal Instinct,” an American IPA. It is the newest addition to the house beer collection and contains hops harvested from the hopyard on site at the brewery. “Danny is the reason this place exists,” Christopher McVey, the marketing and events manager at Wild Wolf, says. “His passion and gift for making phenomenal beer is what keeps us continually growing.”
Since opening, the brewery has raised its production level from zero barrels to 4,800 barrels. The brewery distributes to restaurants, bars and grocery stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C., but hopes to expand to more states within the next five years. Most beers on the menu take about two to three weeks to finish, but some beers, like the Quadrupel Belgian and Imperial Stout, take a full year to age before the company is ready to sell it. Growing its own hops is one way the company tries to be environmentally sustainable. The hopyard is also home to the company’s own chickens and ducks, which fertilize the hopyard without using harmful chemicals. The company received the Green Brewery of the Year award from the Virginia Green Travel Alliance last year.
The brewery prides itself on being able to get much of its food from right here in the Valley. All of its meat comes from within a 30 miles radius and all of its bread is made in-house. The menu is filled with a variety of savory dishes so anyone will be able to find something they can enjoy. From burgers and pulled pork nachos to fish tacos, barbecue and vegetarian options, there’s something for everyone at Wild Wolf. “Being a chef is about creating new things,” Executive Chef Chris Jack says. “Taking dishes you enjoyed your grandmother making and elevating it.”
If you’re thinking about dining at the brewery, there are four options available for visitors: the dining room, which is great for dinner with the family; the bar area, a more laid back option with TVs; the four season pavilion, which allows visitors great views of the Blue Ridge mountains year-round; and the dog-friendly Biergarten, the best option on a warm and sunnyday. While small and new, Wild Wolf has a unique story to its founding and has a passion for creating the best craft beers. It’s a can’t miss stop along 151.