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Farm-based breweries are on tap in Loudoun

Old 690 Brewing Company in western Loudoun was one of the first farm breweries to open in the state. Courtesy Photo
LEESBURG, Va. (AP) -- Beer lovers can look forward to the arrival of farm-based breweries across Loudoun County this spring, after the Board of Supervisors' recent passage of an ordinance that allows brewery businesses and tasting rooms on land where ingredients for beer are grown.

Last year, state lawmakers passed legislation that relaxed regulations for farm-based breweries across Virginia. The Board of Supervisors' approval of the farm brewery ordinance at a Jan. 21 meeting made Loudoun the first county in Virginia to incorporate the new state law into local legislation.

Jay DeCianno, a farmer who is preparing to open a brewery now that the ordinance has passed, said in a statement that Loudoun's aspiring brewers were "thrilled" that the board had authorized farm breweries.

"This demonstrates their support for entrepreneurs and small business owners like us," DeCianno said. "We depend on this for our success."

Virginia is home to 93 craft breweries, according to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, eight of which are operating in Loudoun. The Brewers Association estimates that these businesses have a statewide economic value of more than $650 million.

The ordinance will allow farmers outside Loudoun's incorporated towns to begin farm brewery operations, county officials said in a statement. The county's department of economic development is working with six new businesses that plan to begin production this year, officials said.

"We have everything in Loudoun to make farm breweries an incredibly successful industry," Loudoun Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer said in the statement.

Loudoun's increasingly popular craft brewery industry will also be fueled by the addition of the largest hops yard in the state -- the first commercial-scale hops processing facility located in the Mid-Atlantic region -- at Black Hops Farm in Lucketts. The project, which will convert 15 acres of former pasture land into a sprawling hops yard, was announced in November by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Within days of the governor's announcement, the popular, Frederick, Maryland-based Flying Dog brewery moved to set up shop in Loudoun, county officials said.

"Every day we get calls from people who want to start breweries or grow hops or specialty grains," Rizer said in the statement.

Kellie Boles, the county's agricultural business development officer, anticipates that the local brewery industry will follow the path of the county's explosive winery scene.

"Our winery industry has doubled in the last decade, and there's a pent-up demand for farm breweries," Boles said in the statement. "These businesses will make a big contribution to the Loudoun economy in a short time."

Officials with Visit Loudoun, the county's tourism organization, said they plan to build on Loudoun's prominence as a beer destination by creating a "craft beer trail," similar to local wine trails that have lured visitors to the county's 42 wineries. A "beer traveler" survey conducted by Visit Loudoun last year showed that the county's breweries were already drawing visitors -- most of whom were well educated and affluent -- from across the region and beyond, adding to the $1 billion generated annually by Loudoun's tourism industry.

"Passing this legislation allows us to grow our brewery product offerings and extend our visitor experience into western Loudoun," Beth Erickson, Visit Loudoun president and chief executive, said in an email. "This paves the way for Loudoun to have a vibrant craft beer scene that has the potential to rival similar brewery destinations in Virginia and across the country."

Brian Jenkins, Visit Loudoun's director of strategy and research, said the organization was aware of at least eight brewers that were waiting for the board's vote before moving forward with plans to establish their businesses.

"The potential of tourism-generated economic impact is immense," he said. "We expect the number of farm breweries to grow exponentially, now that the legislation is passed."


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