Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery
Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery is an inspired, sophisticated, organized and hands-on cultivated mish-mash of ‘Farmer’s Pitchfork and Brewer’s Mash Rake’, an innovative community based opportunity, about the applicability of terroir as it relates to beer, a tangible intact history lesson, a producer of the smoothest beer ever from its literal grassroots up and the active expression and pursuit of the long held dream for its new owners, Bonnie and John Branding and family. From my breathless run on opening sentence to a breathtaking endeavor, Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery is land beer at its best.
Returning to the US after ten years in Munich, Germany where they traveled, refined their tastes and advanced their knowledge and sophistication in the artistry of beer, the Brandings began searching for a site for their true farm brewery. They wanted to save something existing, nothing new. They found Wheatland Spring Farm in Waterford, Virginia, a 200 some year old farm founded in 1832. The original 19th century barn had been burned by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman as per his scorched earth policies against farms which he regarded as the breadbasket of the Confederate States. The old spring house still stands. Inside one can hear the underground water en route to feeding streams across the road.
Bonnie and John and Wheatland Spring Farm are growing their own grain for their own line of beers. They grow vegetables from a 2 acre garden which they sell at Farmers Markets and source locally. The rest of their over 18 acres are for the grain for their home grown brew. This, their first season, they celebrated a harvest of 50,000 pounds of wheat and next fall, they will be planting barley. They plan to brew with the seasons so that what comes out of the ground is unique to their own Wheatland Spring brews.
“We are farming for the brewery. We are not a brewery on a farm”, Bonnie clarifies. She believes in the notion of “terroir” of beer. Terroir is a centuries old french term traditionally used in the wine industry which suggests that a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain have a profound effect on the flavor and aroma of wine. In a similar vein, Bonnie believes in the notion of a terroir of beer in which the sunlight, the slope and elevation, the growing climate and conditions in general reflect regional differences and create a ‘taste of place’ for beer as well as wine. And speaking of tastes, the seriously unique brew selections on tap at Wheatland include Estate Hefeweizen, their debut estate-grown beer, delicate clove, ripe banana, sweet bread; Bygone Country, their traditional British pub ale balanced between hop and malt; Hardest Hue to Hold, ripe peach, candied mango, resinous pine sap, grapefruit juice built on a base of Virginia grown Pilsner malt. Listed in all are nine distinct selections with options for flights of four and growlers available.
The upper floor of a second barn on the Wheatland Spring property houses the cool ship, a 200-300 year old type of broad flat open brewing vessel using a method that existed before refrigeration in Belgium. The wort is pumped into open vats and spontaneously cools and ferments itself from the microflora in the air, a concept which wasn’t understood about fermentation at the time. The Wheatland Cool Ship was my personal favorite taste, smooth, non acidic, delicious. The lower level of this same building houses the old corn cribs and from its windows, open to the outdoors, serves brew and food. Wheatland invites musicians to perform frequently and sponsors a number of events throughout the year. Their calendar is available on their website.
Inside the quiet of this Waterford, Virginia farm, air scented by the fire pit mere feet away and warm from some cool ship brew, I watched the sun set over Wheatland Farm on a new early fall evening. It’s easy to understand the Brandings enthusiasm and hope for the future of Wheatland Spring Farm summed up nicely by Bonnie: “[Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery] is more than passion, more than hobby. It’s our dream for lifelong sustenance.”
Be sure to check out the Wheatland Spring website, nicely designed, a gallery of beautiful photos, description of the farming process, the history of the property, description of Fork and Rake, a CSFB (Community Supported Farm Brewery) initiated by Wheatland Spring Farm and listing the ales on tap, and more from scheduled entertainment to the availability of a lovely, peaceful cottage bed and breakfast.
Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery is located at 38506 John Wolford Road Waterford, VA 20197; firstname.lastname@example.org; 540-746-6080; Hours: Thursday through Sunday 12-8 p.m.; Food available during all open hours with catered sandwiches (Thursday and Friday) and weekend on site cooking by Market Table Bistro.