a hop and a skip: swover creek farms and brewery.

burgimg_7371I was excited enough about seeing a real life chainsaw artist and drinking some new beer. I totally didn’t anticipate the beauty of the drive.

If you leave my house in Timberville and head north on 42, you’ll drive over a high ridge — a narrow ribbon with rolling farmland falling away on both sides. The naked trees of winter are no longer a visual barrier to the golden mountains in the distance, and the wind howls around your car. Onward through Forestville, Getz Corner, and Hudson Crossroads, you’ll see centuries-old farmhouses, barns, and buildings that in the suburbs would translate into “dilapidated.” Here, though, in this rocky and imperfect terrain, they are rustic, if not downright beautiful. It’s like driving through the landscape of history itself. There is something comforting about traveling over that ancient bedrock, so heavy, solid, and rooted to the earth.

When you get to Conicville, you’re close. Swover Creek Farms and Brewery, officially located in Edinburg, feels like a combination of everything outdoorsy: a little bit summer camp, a little bit ski lodge, a little bit cabin on the river, a little bit grandpa’s farm. Plus a chainsaw artist. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Lynn and Dave St. Clair started Swover Creek Farms in 1998. In 2011, the farm began producing sausages, and little by little, yet with consistent progress, beer came along — starting with the planting of hops in 2013, the nano-brewery in the old tractor garage in 2014, and then in 2015 moving into the current brewery building with a 3.5 barrel brew system. In fact, up until 2014, the land where the brewery now sits was mostly land and cows.

burgimg_7458When you arrive, you might think you’re at someone’s private residence, because that’s how it looks. You’ll see a wide front porch with colorful Adirondack chairs, a patio with a fire pit, and some dogs and kids running around in the yard. Yep, you’re welcome to bring your dogs and your children. The owners of the place are quite friendly and love company: on Fridays they host Dart Night (7pm) and the third Thursday of the month is Trivia Night (7pm).

Just inside the front door is the taproom. A long bar runs along the back wall, and comfortable seating (and a couple TVs) fill the rest of the warm and cozy (yes, fireplace) space. The large room to the right is called the “Loafing Shed.” It’s an enclosed and heated space where the farm’s cows used to hang out. This room boasts seating for nearly 50 guests, a little play area for the kiddos, two dart boards, and an 11-foot TV screen! You can access the patio from this room, and beyond the patio is a nice grassy area.

burgimg_7404So, the beer and the menu. On tap they usually have six or eight beers, like the Dirty Blonde, the Vanilla Sour Wheat, or the Nitro Oatmeal Porter. You can order a flight, fill your growler, or even join their Farmer in the Ale club and get your very own, one-of-a-kind mug crafted by SENK Pottery. Looking around the place, you might not realize how close to Interstate 81 it is. But the brewery enjoys consistent patronage from locals and from travelers passing through. We’ve all had that point on a long trip where you say, “GAHD I NEED A DANG BEER.” Plus, there are three wineries within just a few miles, which makes for a nice little tour. This is one reason why Swover Creek tries to keep a Belgian on tap — Belgians appeal to wine drinkers. Since business at the brewery is hopping, there are no plans for distribution. For now, they’re happy to be a beer destination. However, they will start bottling soon (12 and 22oz) for purchase at the brewery. Also on tap for 2017 is a non-alcoholic beer, a gluten-free beer, and “Firkin Friday,” when they’ll brew a special firkin (11 gallon cask).

burgimg_7382In the Swover Creek Farm Store and Kitchen (on the other side of their parking lot), you can buy many many many wonderful items. Made-on-site quiche using local duck eggs, jams, pretzels, mustard. About a dozen kinds of smoked sausage, produced on site. Black raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Smoked chicken salad and sweet zucchini relish. And you can even pick your own hops in their hop yard (but this requires a reservation, so call first!).

You can order food in the brewery: the Farm Store and Kitchen makes it and then delivers it to the brewery. They offer about ten different brick-oven pizzas (and they make the dough on site), about a dozen smoked sausage products served on homemade pretzel rolls (such as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, kielbasa, and even apple maple), plus pepperoni rolls, baked jalapeño poppers, chipotle cheese dip, beer cheese, and Firefly Hot Sauces, made at nearby Passage Creek Farm.

There is a story in here… I know it.

So on this particular day, Brandy and I drove on out to Swover Creek Brewery for the purpose of (drinking beer and) seeing a chainsaw portrait artist doing live portraits on the patio. His name is Glen Richardson, and it was a sight to behold. His subject sat in a chair with a barber cape around his neck while Glen carved (WITH A CHAIN SAW) the man’s profile into a slab of tree. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to complete the carving, and then Glen charred the portrait with a propane torch, and he let the subject help with that part, too. He advised the subject to lightly sand the portrait once it cooled down. It was amazing.

burgimg_7387burgimg_7386burgimg_7420burgimg_7427burgimg_7426burgimg_7425burgimg_7422burgimg_7438At Glen’s website called Sawaddict, you’ll see photos of the many characters he creates, such as Fraidy Dance and Slug Boy. He’s done series like “Rabbit Folk” and “Wackadoodles,” and he’s created lawn furniture based on the phrases “putting your butt in danger” or “bite my ass.” You can follow Glen on Facebook to keep up with his events or to reach out if you’re interested in a carving.

burgimg_7372Once the sun went down, Glen’s carving demonstration ended and we all piled into the Loafing Shed for another beer, some pizza, and an awesome chorizo/pretzel sandwich. The brewery has a friendly, welcoming, relaxed vibe that’ll leave you warm and fuzzy. It’s open Thursday from 4 –  8pm, Friday and Saturday from noon – 8pm, and Sunday from noon – 7pm. Go try ’em out — it’s just a hop and a skip, and well worth the journey.

burgimg_7460Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

freezer burn: pale fire brewing.

burgPaleFire29After months and months of waiting, viewing mouthwatering photos of what’s to come, and receiving countless tantalizing updates, the day is finally here: today is the day that Pale Fire Brewing officially opens for all to patronize, covet, admire, and dream of, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Anticipation is one of my favorite sensations: looking forward to a fun trip, the aroma of a simmering meal, excitement about a visit from an old friend, knowing a rare book I ordered is en route via UPS and will be on my doorstep soon. So I have thoroughly enjoyed savoring the delicious weeks leading up to today’s grand opening. But you know what else is a great feeling? My butt in a chair on a sunny patio, enjoying the company of a fresh, cold beer. That first sip is the exact moment when anticipation fuses with the present and everything is perfect.

burgPaleFire18So, wait no longer! Go today! Go tomorrow! And go every single chance you get – here’s what’s waiting for YOU, as Brandy and I discovered when we got a sneak peek earlier this week:

These beers, as described by the brewer himself:
Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV – 45 IBU
~ American two row malt, Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal
~ Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
Deadly Rhythm, by its very name, creates a graceful balance between Pacific Northwest hops and a blend of American and English malts. Floral and fruity hop aromas provide the introduction to the lightly toasted malt backbone of this beer. This American pale ale finishes dry with a smooth but lingering bitterness.

Salad Days American Saison – 7.0% ABV – 40 IBU
~ American two row malt, Rye, Wheat
~ Warrior, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe
American two row barley and malted rye provide the canvas for pungent Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade hops to mingle with our house Saison yeast. Notes of grapefruit, peach, and bubblegum dance out of the glass and mellow into a refreshingly tart, dry finish.

Saving Grace Table Beer – 4.2% ABV – 26 IBU
~ Pilsner malt, Wheat, Carapils
~ Northern Brewer, Czech Saaz
Saving Grace is based on the Belgian “patersbier” which Trappist monks used to brew for sustenance that would allow them to continue to work during the day. This low-alcohol farmhouse beer is brewed with Pilsner malt, Czech Saaz hops and our house Saison yeast to provide a satisfying end to a long day of hard work.

Double India Pale Ale – 8.0% ABV – 100 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Crystal, Wheat
~ Warrior, Summit, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, CTZ
Double IPA is intensely hopped with six hop varieties that offer a cornucopia of aromas ranging from passion fruit, peach, and pineapple to grapefruit and lemon zest. We use English Maris Otter to balance the intense hop aromas producing a malt-balanced East Coast version of a Double IPA.

Smoking Scottish – 5.6% ABV – 20 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Victory, Roasted Barley, Crystal, Beech-smoked malt
~ Perle
Smoking Scottish is a legacy beer from Calhoun’s, Harrisonburg’s first modern brewpub. This Scottish ale features a complex blend of English Maris Otter, roasted and caramel malts for a rich malt backbone. German Perle hops add a clean bitterness to balance the toasted caramel flavors from the malt.

Get a tissue – you’re drooling.
burgPaleFire09 burgPaleFire28You can also anticipate a large, blonde, modern bar in the taproom with plenty of seats, in addition to several bar tables.

burgPaleFire16A spacious and inviting patio becomes one with the inside once the large, glass garage doors are raised.

burgPaleFire12 burgPaleFire11burgPaleFire06A cozy (and by that I mean comfortable, not small) lounge area centers around a functioning fireplace and a Little Free Library, AND a turn table and record collection for Album Night. (From what I understand there’s also a secret TV hidden behind a secret panel in some secret section of the bookshelves.) Seriously, it feels like home. I wonder if there’s a way I can make a little house in the secret compartment and hide in there.

burgPaleFire08 burgPaleFire07Expect to be astounded by the amazing view from the taproom into the gleaming brewery itself, with its perfectly polished vessels and pale fire floors. And a happy, relaxed staff waits ready to shake your hand, share a laugh, and pour something perfect.

burgIMG_8077And if you haven’t toured the rest of the Ice House yet, give yourself a little time to do that today, too. You can visit the Yellow Button at their new location, stop in at Black Sheep Coffee, browse vintage jewelry at Hugo A. Kohl’s shop, and check out Breathe and The Center which now share a space called Ice House Studios.

Winter’s finally over, a Pale Fire is smoldering, and the Ice House has permanently thawed. Grab a friend and go get warmed up today!

burgPaleFire17burgIMG_8066burgPaleFire24Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

family guys: three brothers brewing co.

brewery signIt started awkwardly, as it sometimes does. Like the nerds we are, Brandy and I got to Three Brothers Brewing Co. before they opened. In our defense, we’d started back to work that week and were just a wee bit anxious to get in there and finally see Harrisonburg’s new brewery and taproom. Adding to the awkwardness, Brandy’s car door make a strange sound as she opened it, sending the kids into spasms of giggles as the sound reverberated across the parking lot. To make matters MORE awkward, my coffee thermos had leaked all over the passenger seat, and when Brandy decided to get in my car so we could chat while we waited, she sat right in it. And because I always have a large quantity of cardboard in the back of my car (?), I made her a cardboard blotter to sit on. Thank goodness the time to go in came quickly. We were getting less presentable by the minute.

three brothers cardboardWe met Jason behind the bar, one of the three brothers. Adam, Jason, and Tyler own and operate the facility, and Adam’s wife was our bartender. She and Jason graciously served and described several samples to us. I asked about food… and at first I was a little surprised when Jason said they don’t have a food menu. BUT, get this — as a brewery, they operate on “vineyard rules.” Customers can bring in any food they want! You can order food and have it delivered there! You can pack your own picnic! You can come in with a giant tub of cheese puffs if you want! The possibilities are endless. For some reason, this completely blew my mind. It’s a new level of freedom for me. I’m thinking about just rolling a mini-fridge and a hot plate in there and pitching a tent.

three brothers brewing bartender three brothers brewing tapsFurthermore. The place is ridickers beautiful. And huge. You can sit out on the patio at a cute little table, there’s no shortage of stools at the lengthy bar, and they even have a nice, cushy lounge area with leather seating. Decadent. The rich tones of the wooden wall above the bar, the rustic lighting, the aqua sea foam green tiles in what used to be the old Coca Cola plant, the spacious taproom, and the gleaming metal equipment create an elegant blend of vintage and modern, warm and cool.

three brothers brewing vessels three brothers brewing wooden wallhanging light fixtureThey offer 5-sample flights for $8, or you can get a full-size draft, or you can buy a growler and have it filled. They also distribute their beer for purchase at various locations all over town. We sampled several beers, including their Pilsner, the American Amber, the Tri Brathair (this one would be enough for me for dessert), the Hoptimization, and the Admiral (super hoppy and bold). Brandy is partial to the Belgians, so she really liked the Belgian Dubbel and the Belgian Blonde, and my favorites were the Virginia Dark Ale, which has a smooth milky texture, and the Great Outdoors, a pale ale not quite so bitey as an IPA, and it tasted a little buttery to me.

three brothers brewing bottles three brothers brewing flightthree brothers brewing empty flightI have to say, since I’ve lived here, Harrisonburg has had a beer-splosion of sorts. You can find almost any beer you want in this town, whether it’s at a restaurant or a festival, a wine shop or even a convenience store. And now we have this awesome hometown brewery to enjoy. It’s no wonder we’re about to be named Best Beer Town. (Have you voted yet? Good grief, do it!!)

the three brothers1 the three brothers2Hopefully we’ve convinced you to go visit the Three Brothers as soon as you can. Their normal hours are Thursday – Saturday, 4 – 9pm. From time to time they feature live music and stay open a little later. And if you’re not sure where they’re located, it’s easy. They’re at 800 North Main. Just head north like you’re going to the Little Grill, and go a little further, and it’s on the right side of the street. Here’s to good beer!

three brothers brewing cheers bwCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.