Located in beautiful Goochland, VA, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery has been making its presence known on the RVA craft beer scene lately with its water-
Located in beautiful Goochland, VA, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery has been making its presence known on the RVA craft beer scene lately with its water-conscious, farm-produced brews. Growing hops, barley, herbs, and spices on location for use in their Estate Series of craft beers, they’ve overseen every step of the brewing process in order to ensure that their product is both environmentally friendly and of the highest quality.
This article ran in RVA 21 Summer 2015, to check out the entire mag – CLICK HERE
We caught up with Lickinghole Creek co-owner Sean-Thomas Pumphrey to get the lowdown on their process and the fine results they’ve obtained.
Could you tell me a little bit about your land?
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is on a 290 acre plot of land. It used to be an old timber company, and they just clear-cut everything. Over the past decade, we’ve taken a piece of it at a time, like a land reclamation project; gotten all the stumps and rocks out of the way, planted something, put nitrogen in the soil, and taken it back piece by piece, so it can be a working farm.
When I was out talking to your wife she said, “Welcome to Lickinghole Creek, the farm brewery.”
If we need to be technical, Thomas Jefferson probably had Virginia’s first farm brewery. But Lisa [Pumphrey] and Virginia Manufacturers Association wrote the law which defines what farm breweries are for the Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s how we’re Virginia’s first farm brewery, in certain aspects.
You had to be part of making that legislation and fighting towards getting this done?
Yeah, we actually wrote the code of Goochland to amend what farm breweries are for Goochland. So you can open up a microbrewery on agricultural land–you have a bi-right use. Bi-right use means you don’t have to get approval [to farm your land]. We wanted to get a bi-right use for this project because as you can see, there’s lots of money and time invested. You don’t want to have a conditional use permit where you have a 10-15 year window, and then maybe you have a group in the county who isn’t supportive of you and they say “No, you can’t renew your conditional use permit.” So we wanted to make sure we had some more control over our own destiny.
You grow your own herbs. The beer that I’ve heard about was your Rosemary Saison, and of course I had to try it.
Whenever we can, we try and grow at least one ingredient for some of our beers, specifically in the estate series of beers. We grew sugar pumpkins for Pumpkin Ain’t Easy. We grew hops for Gentleman Farmer, barley for Mango Habanero Brown Ale. I’m working on a carrot cake beer, and we grow the carrots here. I’m also working on a cucumber summer ale, stuff like that. So that’s been really fun.
Your water system is one of the things that makes Lickinghole Creek unique to the beer scene in Richmond.
Yeah, very much so. All of our beers are made with well water. All of it is untreated–we don’t filter, we don’t do anything to it. We’ve had it tested and it’s just a very good, clean base. If anything, it could use a little more mineral content–and we use some more minerals for our big IPAs, so they’ll have a little stronger nose on their flavor. We treat all of our wastewater here on site too. We’re a water conscious brewery. Water is a part of everything we do; it’s the base of what makes our beer unique and fresh.
Can you tell me the history of the beer itself?
My start as a home brewer was about 13 years ago. I started because when I lived in Montana, we had all of those really great West Coast beers. I was drinking Moose Drool, Deschutes Pale, Black Bear Porter, all those wonderful beers. I came back home, and it wasn’t like it is now, where you got such a great selection at Whole Foods.There was no great place to go to get really good domestic craft beer. So I started home-brewing those types of beers. I picked up an extract kit and I was like, “Oh well, this beer doesn’t suck.” I started making some more, got really into it, and became an all-grain brewer. Then I started messing around with my own ideas. So I have a home-brewing background, with zero professional training. That’s why we hired David Achkio, who’s been brewing for 20 years. He’s brewed at Pyramid, he has worked with a bunch of breweries out in Pennsylvania, he’s got a long professional career. My home brew background mixed with his professional background helps create all the beers that we have.
To turn a home brew into something you can package and sell is a completely different thing.
It’s a completely different thing. As a home brewer, you can do whatever you want. But if you put it on this scale, you have to make really good beer, but you also have to make it so it’s repeatable and profitable. You don’t want to just throw every single beer ingredient in the world into it and say, “Here you go. That’ll be three dollars.”
Here’s the most expensive beer in the world, we’re giving it to you and losing money.
That’s right. So you want to try to avoid that.