Notaviva Vineyards has joined the growing number of Loudoun craft beverage makers to expand their offerings and serve beer alongside their award-winning wines.
Visitors to the Hillsboro agritourism operation will find the business has been rebranded as Notaviva Craft Fermentations with fresh beer that will incorporate hops grown on the farm. This past weekend, co-owner and brewer Stephen Mackey opened the taps on two beers, the “Frölich” Kölsch and the “Ole Steeleye” Nut Brown Ale. Following this weekend will be a session IPA and a wineberry wheat made with fruit harvested on the farm, followed by an oatmeal stout and imperial cream ale. This month’s soft launch will kick off special events and extended hours beginning Labor Day weekend. In celebration of their 11th anniversary, the Mackeys will host a “Notaviva Goes To Eleven” event this fall.
“I began homebrewing over 25 years ago while on the road touring as an audio engineer,” Mackey said. “I had been making beer a long time before I ever made wine. We got into the winery business because at the time when Notaviva was launched [in 2008] it was the best option for an agritourism experience.”
Mackey and his wife, Shannon, operated the winery as a family business while raising three sons in the 4,500-square-foot tasting room that also served as their home. The Mackeys took some time off from Notaviva in 2016 to explore winery and brewery opportunities in Colorado. However, when the Virginia ABC revised the interpretation of rules regarding the serving of wine and beer in a joint hospitality space, they eagerly returned to the family farm in Virginia to transform Notaviva.
“When we made the decision to add beer to our current wine offering, we knew we couldn’t call it Notaviva Vineyards anymore. We had to be able to pivot the business and recreate the brand experience so people would know we’re doing something different,” Mackey said. He’s looking forward to leveraging his 10 years of experience making wine and applying some of those techniques to beer making.
“I’ll be looking at things like spontaneous fermentation; instead of inoculating products with cultured yeast, we’ll be experimenting with a coolship, where you set your wort outside overnight and just let natural yeast fall on it. We’ve done that with our wines before. In fact, our first international gold medal Viognier was a spontaneous fermentation with Notaviva yeast. We’ll also age some of our beers in used wine barrels to add complexity.”
He’ll be experimenting with different styles and will include seasonal offerings, like a pumpkin ale in the fall, a winter brau and summer shandys. “Personally, I’m a stout drinker; the heavier the better. My signature beers will be stouts and porters—again, complemented by produce grown here on the farm,” he said.
And just as Notaviva pairs wine products with music, they’re doing the same with their beers— for instance, providing German Schlager music to enhance the light, fun experience guests get while drinking a Kolsch. They envision expanding the music experience as well by supporting artists who play their own original music to the rotation of performers in the tasting room.
“I think as Loudoun County continues growing its cultural ecosystem, and having original music be a key part of that, we need to give more of these artists places to play. Given our location on Loudoun’s western edge, we’re going to look to the Shenandoah Valley, we’re going to look to the panhandle of West Virginia, we’re going to look for authentic roots, Americana and country music styles of these local singer-songwriters and help them build their name.”
Broadening the Notaviva experience will be a new “pub grub” menu once they receive commercial kitchen certification. Offerings will include pretzels, paninis, flatbread pizzas—“the kinds of things you enjoy on a Friday night with a couple of beers.”
While they anticipate scaling up the brewery in 2020, for now it remains a nanobrewery operation alongside their current winery and vineyard operation, with a quarter-acre hopyard and a 2-barrel pilot system housed in a 360-square-foot building just 2 feet from the tasting room. Like the property’s original building, whose construction was featured on HGTV’s “Dream House” in 2008, the brewery was built as a labor of love. They proudly tell everyone who asks about the brewery that their three boys all helped build the structure.
“That’s something they will carry with them forever – that they got to build the family business with their hands, swing a hammer and see it come to life,” Mackey said. “As much time as we spend building our business, I think raising a family and being a married couple in the middle of this whirlwind is really just the most amazing experience of our lives.”