McGAHEYSVILLE — It has been seven years since Virginia legislators passed a law allowing for breweries to sell full glasses of beer without a restaurant on-site, and the effects are being felt in Rockingham County.
Cave Hill Farms Brewery, owned and operated by the Hopkins family, became the first farm brewery to open in the county with its official ribbon cutting Tuesday.
“We are one of east Rockingham's oldest farms and we thank the legislators that allowed for on-farm activities,” said Walter “Gator” Hopkins. “We are going to keep this going for a long time.”
The farm has been in the Hopkins family since 1759 when the family received a land grant from King George II of England, Hopkins said.
From 1960 to 2008, the farm was home to more than 500 dairy cattle, spending time in the “loafing shed” being pampered to increase the yield of milk. With the cattle gone, the shed was transformed into the brewery tasting room to “please every guest in the same fashion,” according to its website.
“We are in a repurposed agriculture building and this is just the start of what we are going to do here,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins admitted that his father, John Hopkins, was skeptical of why someone would want to go to a farm brewery.
“We figured if we have the amenities and characteristics to develop the brewery, then people would come,” Hopkins said.
County Administrator Stephen King said Tuesday it was exciting to have the first farm brewery open in the county.
“It is all about the experience and quality of the product,” King said.
To bring out that quality, Hopkins hired brewer Jon Bowman, of North Carolina.
Bowman said Cave Hill Farms Brewery was the third brewery he has helped start from scratch.
“I saw an opportunity here to use local ingredients, like Virginia pumpkins, blueberries and peaches, and I think the beers speak for themselves,” he said.
Hopkins grows Cascade and Chinook hops, along with 60 acres of barley to be used in production. With the mixture of homegrown ingredients and a family farm six generations deep, it makes the perfect brew, according to Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture.
“This really tells the story of agriculture here,” Ring said.
With legislators' assistance passing bills allowing for beer to be sold without a restaurant on-site and a new license to grow, brew and sell on the property, Virginia became home to 300 craft breweries with more than 30 in the works, Ring said.
“There is an economic impact of $4.1 billion,” Ring said. “Craft breweries support jobs and are more than just a watering hole. They are only going to continue to grow.”
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Mount Solon, attended Tuesday’s grand opening, saying the type of activity happening at Cave Hill Farms Brewery is what legislators have been working on.
“It is exciting for new business activity to get up and going,” he said. “I am glad you can do this legally now.”
District 3 Supervisor Rick Chandler said Hopkins “laid down the foundation for this stuff to happen.”
“We want to open that door more and more to let that happen,” he said. “We will see more in the future.”
While Cave Hill Farms Brewery is the first, it surely won’t be the last as two more breweries are expected to come by early 2020, according to previous Daily News-Record reports.