Nelson County, Virginia is home to the sights and sounds of the Appalachian wilderness. And 10 years ago, it became the birthplace of Blue Mountain Brewery. Opened in Afton, Virginia in 2007 by Mandi and Taylor Smack and Matt Nucci, the brewery was the first in the county, but has extended their reach across Virginia in the years since.
“There were a number of very wonderful wineries in Nelson County when we first arrived,” says Taylor Smack. “Notably Veritas, to whom we’ll always be indebted for their early support, and Cardinal Point, who also have remained great friends – but no other breweries [at that time]. Now Nelson boasts 14 wineries, five breweries, three distilleries and two hard apple cideries.”
As breweries like Devils Backbone, Wild Wolf and Wood Ridge made their way into Nelson, Blue Mountain kept growing and growing. With a budding distribution list and an expanding brewery built up over the years, Blue Mountain can now be readily found on tap and in stores in Northern Virginia.
Already established as both a brewery and restaurant, Blue Mountain expanded capacity with the establishment of the Blue Mountain Barrel House in 2012. Located in Arrington about 30 minutes from the brewery, the Barrel House serves as the R&D department for the brewery, and takes care of all canning and bottling.
“Barrel House has become the production facility to handle our expansion with all our beers,” Taylor explains. “We once did everything at the Afton Blue Mountain location – barrel-aging, bottling, canning, kegging – but now [that’s all] done [with] larger-scale, more technical equipment at the Barrel House.”
While growth is key, being environmentally sustainable is a core value at Blue Mountain, and the brewery practices what it preaches.
As the first Virginia brewery to join the Virginia Green program in 2007, they set out to be the example to follow. With two hop fields in Afton, a hop yard in Arrington and onsite water treatment at both locations, the Smacks have raised the bar on what can be done to grow your business while minimizing your footprint.
“We have always been committed to being green,” Mandi says enthusiastically. “We’ve used reusable glass bottles for draft fill-ups, recycled aluminum, glass and cardboard, sold back our kitchen grease for reuse, grown some of our own seasonal vegetables, used recycled to-go boxes, and always supported local farmers and growers.”
So what do you do when hard work and dedication have kept your business running for 10 years? Easy – throw a 10-day party for all to enjoy. Blue Mountain will feature 10 straight days of live, local music along with giveaways and daily discounts on draft beers, according to Mandi.
“We’re focusing on our original brews from the early years,” she says. “We’ve even brought back our original Nitro Porter to have during the celebration. Some of the live music that we’ll have are bands that grew up alongside of us. We’ve even asked a few bands that are no longer playing together to come back and do a reunion set for this anniversary soirée.”
Not only is Blue Mountain celebrating in-house, the brewery also has special events planned at bars and restaurants, Mandi says.
“We’re hosting 10 tap takeovers at different venues across the state – from Richmond to NoVA to Charlottesville. All of these events will have at least 10 [Blue Mountain] beers on draft during the event.”
The festivities begin Friday, October 27 and continue all the way through Sunday, November 5. So grab a pint and a friend, and let the good times roll.
Blue Mountain Barrel House: 495 Cooperative Way, Arrington, VA
Blue Mountain Brewery: 9519 Critzers Shop Rd. Afton, VA; www.bluemountainbrewery.com