From Dirt to Glass

Lovingston leads the farm-to-brew movement.

“We’re a throwback to how beer was made here 200 years ago when communities had farmhouse breweries where everything was done locally,” says Barry Wood, owner of Lovingston’s Wood Ridge Farm Brewery. “Our goal is that every beer we offer will be made from ingredients found right here on the farm.”

The mission began in 2011 when the 62-year-old cattle and poultry farmer was approached by a Nelson County distillery about growing barley for them on his 300-acre farm. “They were interested in buying locally-sourced grains,” he says. “I thought it was a great idea and started working to make it happen.” Partnering with Virginia Tech and Iowa University, Wood experimented to identify grain varieties amenable to the climate. Realizing the crops were valuable to the area’s brewing industry, in 2013, he brought professional malter Cory Hall onboard and founded a malting facility.

But there was a catch. “The area’s breweries wanted to jump onboard, but they only wanted to do one beer a year with all-local stuff,” says Wood. “That didn’t do us any good, because we need to be malting upward of 4,000 pounds a week—in order to keep us going, we have to sell three times a year, not just once. And because you can get the stuff cheaper out west, that’s where breweries source from the rest of the year.”

Then came state law SB 430. Enabling Virginia farmers to open small-scale breweries (15,000 barrels or fewer) on the rurally zoned properties where they live, the 2014 bill was sponsored by state senator John Watkins with the intention to create jobs that support the local economy and conserve farmland.

“Aside from that final thing, I had all the pieces to the puzzle—so opening our own brewery was a no-brainer,” says Wood. “Instead of stopping at growing and malting the wheat, we decided we were going to take it right from the dirt all the way to the glass.”

Last fall, Wood Ridge installed its own hop yards, and opened a taproom. By sourcing spring-water, wheat, yeast and herbs from the farm, and doing its own malting and brewing, Wood Ridge’s beers constitute a nearly closed-circuit product. Aside from coffee, chocolate and other necessary imports, next year’s process will feature ingredients grown entirely on-site. Present offerings include a kolsch, pale ale, IPA, mocha porter, shandy and blonde with lemon-basil. $4 per pint.

Find A Farm-to-Brew Near You

Dirt Farm Brewing, Loudon,
Farm Brew LIVE, Chantilly,
Licking Hole Creek Craft Brewery, Goochland,
Rising Silo Brewery, Blacksburg,
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