I had an appointment to meet with Mandi and Taylor Smack to talk about their 10th anniversary and the new re-branding of Blue Mountain Brewery. I arrived a few minutes early and was amazed by the activity going on. Chefs, bartenders, the waitstaff were all moving at lightning speed, preparing for the day ahead. It was evident by the movement that the staff was well trained, organized, knowledgeable, and readying themselves for the busy day ahead.
Taylor joined me at a table to talk about Blue Mountain and South Street Brewery. I asked Taylor about his background. He mentioned that he had acquired a Certificate of Brewing Technology from Siebel Institute, and had been the brewmaster at South Street Brewery, one of the first breweries in Virginia. He said it was like going back home when they purchased South Street in 2014.
Blue Mountain Brewery sits in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountain in Afton. Opening in 2007, they were the first brewery in Nelson County, and Taylor describes the brewery as a farm brewery, growing some of their hops and sourcing their water from their 500 foot well. Taylor explained the importance of using artisan well water in brewing beer. When using city water, the reservoirs often change, allowing different trace minerals, and you lose the uniformity of the beer. All ales and lagers are brewed, bottled, canned, and kegged at Blue Mountain or their new barrel house located in Arrington.
The restaurant is a full-service restaurant featuring appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, specialty pizza, and desserts all made from scratch, using high-quality ingredients, many sourced locally. The indoor and outdoor facility has seating for 650 and serves over 1,000 people on an average day.
Blue Mountain Brewery will be celebrating their 10th anniversary following Oktoberfest in late October 2017 and early September. Taylor explained that in addition to the ten days of events planned at the brewery, they would also be holding ten events with various restaurants and bars that have partnered with them over the year. Along with the events held at Blue Mountain Brewery, there will be a release of big anniversary bottles of crafted beer, brewed specially for the anniversary. If this was not enough to keep Taylor and Mandi busy, they are re-branding the brewery. Taylor mentioned that they wanted the branding to reflect the fact that they were the first countryside farm brewery in Virginia and that Blue Mountain Brewery is leading the revolution of craft beer in Virginia. The new branding will emphasize the idea of…out of the city and back to the land. Part of the re-branding will be the packaging design, website, t-shirts, and a new menu for the restaurant.
From there the discussion centered on the fact that in the early 19th century there were hundreds of farm breweries in America. An interesting fact mentioned by Taylor, it was not until 2013 that the number of brewers- is in the United States matched the number of breweries before Prohibition. However, at that time the population was 60 million compared to our present population of 350 million, so from a per capita standpoint, we have a ways to go. He pointed out that since the General Assembly encouraged the development of brewpubs in July of 2012, there have been 144 new breweries open in Virginia.
I mentioned we are doing a story on this issue on the pairing of food and beer. Taylor suggested that I might want to attend one of their Brewmaster 5 course dinners, he believes a chef has more latitude with beer than with wine. He pointed out that just the yeast alone can produce 300 different flavors of beer. With that being said we concluded the interview, and realizing it was lunchtime, I went outside to the patio to take in the view of the Blue Ridge, while enjoying a cup of nitro chili, a beer baked local bratwurst, along with their beer sampler.
Another hard day at the office.