Friday, September 07, 2012

SML;s new brewery breaks ground

Sunken City Brewing Company is scheduled to open in January.

Smith Mountain Lake's answer to the growing craft brewing industry officially broke ground Aug. 30. Sunken City Brewing Company, founded by Jerome Parnell III, will be located near Westlake Towne Center on Virginia 122.

The name of the company refers to the villages that allegedly are submerged beneath the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.

"Craft beer is a booming business right now in the state of Virginia and also nationwide," said Parnell. "As the overall beer market in the U.S. has declined over the past five years, craft beers have seen double-digit growth in the past three years, and is expected to steadily grow in the next five years."

The $2.3 million, 8,800-square-foot brewery will feature a 25-barrel brewhouse, automatic canning distribution, a tasting room, pub and an outdoor beer garden. The brewery is projected to produce 1,000 barrels of beer in its first year and up to 10,000 barrels in the fifth year, with distribution stretching throughout the state, Parnell said.

Dam Lager will be the signature brew. In addition, an India Pale Ale and a draft currently in the planning stages will be offered on tap, as well as "rotating" seasonal beers. A German-trained brewmaster, Jeremy Kirby, who has managed breweries in Nebraska and Colorado, will oversee production.

Community leaders said they are hopeful that the brewery will be an additional tourist draw to the lake region.

"It's a very competitive market out there," said Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. "And I think that now, in addition to our other businesses, we have the competitive edge to be out there, and attracting people, and saying, 'Come to Smith Mountain Lake because you can do all of this.' "

"I'm a beer lover, and I intend to support the business to the fullest extent possible," said Franklin County supervisor Bob Camicia.

"In the meantime, very personally, I want to say that I expect to help your volume of business considerably," he added.

Parnell said construction of Sunken City's facility is expected to take five months. The brewery is set to open in January, and Parnell said he expects the venture will ultimately create 20 to 25 new jobs over a five-year span.

"This has been a long project, and it's taken an entire community to get this groundbreaking under way," said Parnell. "I am merely just the catalyst behind this movement that the whole community embraced."