Microbreweries poised to boom in Loudoun
George Prusha loved making beer at home, and his wife Dawn thought the business could work well. The two believe home brewing, while not a new trend or phenomenon, could pick up popularity here in Loudoun over the next few years.
Kettles and Grains, the couple's new venture, is located at 161 Fort Evans Road in Leesburg.
The shop's brew-on-premises facility, complete with six 15-gallon steam-fired kettles that make beer from start to finish, allow locals to brew up to 90 gallons of beer at a time.
Patrons do everything from choose their hops, pick an extract, add the yeast and bottle their beer at the store.
The Prusha's understand that yeast, grains, hops, siphons, tubing, sanitary solutions and all the steps that go into home brewing can be daunting.
A quick solution, the Prusha's believe, could be to simply watch them brew a batch at their facility to see how it's done.
The couple hopes Kettles and Grains isn't simply a store, but one of the first home brewing supply locations people turn to as the county and state rapidly embraces the trend of local nano and microbreweries.
Most breweries start out as home-based operations and evolve from there; the brewery ecosystem is more collegial than other industries, with more mutual support.
The next few years might be the best time in awhile to be a home or farm-based brewer in the state of Virginia.
New legislation and proposed zoning amendments make it seem like the pro-business side of Virginia is convincing the teetotaler side of the commonwealth that beer can be good for business.
In 2013 and now in 2014, new laws make it easier to market happy hours and operate farm breweries and brewpubs, slowly breaking down the regulatory burdens on buying and selling alcohol in the Commonwealth.
Current zoning in the county makes it quite difficult to open a brewery anywhere except in towns like Leesburg or Purcellville or in industrial zones.
As part of the Board of Supervisors' strategic plan, zoning amendments for breweries and agricultural processing were made a priority for 2014.
Board documents indicate that Supervisors are considering zoning amendments "to identify zoning districts within the County that are suitable to allow breweries and the manufacturing of agricultural products and to establish corresponding regulations," according to documents from the Economic Development Advisory Commission.
The documents also mentioned that, "There is increasing interest to establish breweries with tasting rooms in the western part of the County within agricultural zoning districts, where they are not permitted."
Virginia Senate Bill 430 could also provide relief for potential farm breweries.
The bill would allow farm breweries to sell beverages.
A provisions states that no locality will be able to regulate "the on-premises sale, tasting, or consumption of beer during regular business hours within the normal course of business of the licensed farm brewery."
Local wineries could begin to grow crops necessary for brewing beer as well. Some wineries are already in on the mix, creating brewing components of their business in towns where breweries are allowed.
In October 2013, the state also made it easier for brew pubs to operate by stripping away the requirement to sell food along with beer.
Food sales have high overhead costs and much lower revenue margins than alcohol sales, so the business case was much easier for a brewpub after Senate Bill 604 was passed.
Senate Bill 430 is set to come up in the Rehab and Social Services Committee next week.
The Board of Supervisors is not slated to make a decision on breweries until October, but the signs point to a more business-friendly future for breweries.
Kettles and Grains will have a grand opening ceremony Jan, 24th at 5:00 p.m., which will include craft beer and wine tastings as well as gourmet cheese and food samples.