Native Species

Farm-to-glass initiatives produce entirely Virginia-grown brews.

Photo courtesy of Lost Rhino Brewing Company

Producing a beer entirely from Virginia-grown ingredients presents a challenge for brewers—the Commonwealth’s climate is not optimal for growing malting barley or hops, two of the four main ingredients in beer. 

However, there are a handful of brewers that are trying their hand at the challenging crops and making distinctly local brews. Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn has successfully produced a 100 percent Virginia-grown beer. Native Son, a Virginia table beer, is made with barley grown in the Northern Neck and malted at Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville, hops grown in Leesburg at Sage Hill Farms, and yeast harvested in Ashburn—it’s local down to the microbe. 

Other breweries grow their own hops, such as Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, which produces Blue Reserve, a Belgo-American ale brewed entirely with hops grown on site, and Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery in Goochland—which also sources its water from beneath the brewery’s farmland. Rising Silo Brewery in Blacksburg grows produce such as blueberries and squash that are often added to the brews alongside wild yeast that is harvested at the farm.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension at Virginia Tech and Virginia State University supports these farm-to-glass initiatives with programs that survey hop growth within the state and study factors such as soil and pests, as well as develop strains of barley ideal for malting. The extension estimates that crops yielded more than 1,000 pounds of dried hops in 2017—in other words, enough to ensure that you can sip on a brew harvested straight from the Virginia soil.

Other Virginia Farm-to-Glass Brews:

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond uses local malt and hops in its Richmond Lager.

O’Connor Brewing in Ghent sources hops from the nearby Norfolk Botanical Garden.

Fine Creek Brewing in Powhatan makes its Oktoberfest Märzen Lager with all Virginia malt from Charlottesville-based Murphy & Rudy Malting Co.

Port City Brewing in Alexandria brews Optimal Wit, a Belgian-style white ale, with Virginia wheat.

This article originally appeared in our Drink 2018 issue.

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