Since I learned of their inception all the way back in the late aughts when I made the transition from someone who only drank light beer to someone who doesn’t know the difference between Simcoe and Cascade hops, but can name check them, I’ve been obsessed with the concept of farm breweries. I remember the first one I went to, situated in the central Virginia countryside just north of Richmond. We drove down a long dirt road to reach it, passing fences that clearly weren’t decorative, but built to keep animals from the hops that grew right on the property. The brewery was situated in an imposing building that could’ve been an old barn or Quaker church, and we listened to an acoustic guitarist on a patio, surrounded by long, sloping lawns that ended in fields of sunflowers and corn.
The scenery was pastoral. Bucolic. Agrarian. I almost want to say rustic, but this was clearly a working farm and not the dream wedding locale of your Pinterest-obsessed coworker Lauren. I was not inclined to say scatological, but said brewery was indeed called Licking Hole Creek, located smack dab in the middle of the town of Goochland. You can’t make this shit up.
Licking Hole Creek lived up to the hype. Drinking is more fun on a farm than in an industrial park, so I was excited upon my move to Asheville to find a farm brewery advertised 20 minutes away in the town of Etowah. The Sideways Farm Brewery had a pretty tasty spicy pale ale and a solid stout. It had a nice back deck, the woman serving the beer was very pleasant, and there was a chicken coop on the property. It was not however the farm brewery I was looking for. The views from the back deck were of the back of homes in a subdivision, the kind of place Pinterest-obsessed Lauren probably grew up. There’s a chance I’ll be back to Sideways Farm. I have nothing against it, but it didn’t invoke those bucolic vibes I was looking for. The greater Asheville area has a number of breweries that could be considered rustic. Turgua Brewing out in Fairview (which I’m a pretty big fan of) has heavy farm vibes, and the country views I’m looking for, but there aren’t any corn fields. No crops. No sunflowers. No corn.
Enter Flora Fonta Brewery’s Whippoorwill Farm in the unincorporated community of Nebo, just south of where I was hiking at the Linville Gorge this past weekend (and just north of Lake James for those trying to figure out why maybe you’ve heard of Nebo). The brewery, which is housed in an old dairy barn, has everything my rustic little heart desired: the aforementioned barn! Weathered looking fencing! Picnic tables spread out in a pasture! Rows of corn! And least you think I’m being sarcastic, I assure you I’m not. It was the perfect place to stop post hike, and exactly the kind of spot I want to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It also had the added bonus of the gorgeous gorge mountains sitting in exactly the perfect spot at the end of the pasture, a sourdough pizza food truck (I had a white pizza with ranch that I keep talking to people at work about), and alcoholic slushies. It was much more than pastoral. It was idyllic. I’m already excited about a fall-foliage visit.