As microbreweries continue to spring up all over the region, it’s a rarity to see one that brews beer with its own hops.
Purcellville hop-growing company Dragon Hops is doing just that. Three years into growing and harvesting hops, the Dragon Hops team will open a brewery in the former Purcellville Town Hall building on Main Street later this summer.
Owned and operated by the mother-son duo of CEO Emily Coryell and President Jamie Horris, Dragon Hops Brewing will brew beer using its own USDA-certified organic hops, which are grown on their 3-acre hop yard just a few miles south of town.
Having grown and sold hops for the past three years, the idea to make beer and open a brewery came just a few months ago. The company signed the lease on the property in January. It now plans for a late-July, early-August grand opening.
“Initially, we were just going to be growers,” Horris said. “We had a lot [of hops] left over and we knew it would make good beer.”
The 8,000-square-foot space will allow the brewery to accommodate a lounge area, a tasting room, a private event space, an area for live entertainment and space for local vendors to set up and sell food.
On its opening day, DHB plans to have five different beers on tap. Quality will be the brewery’s top priority.
“I’d rather have five fantastic beers that everybody knows about, that everybody likes,” Horris said. “Our philosophy is that it’s better to have less variety of high-quality beer than vice versa.”
The beers DHB will start with include a green ale, an IPA, a pilsner and a dark lager. The fifth beer will be up to the creativity of their brewmaster, who has been chosen but has not yet been announced. Moving forward, Coryell and Horris plan to expand their beer list to include seasonals, tipels, dubbels and other Trappist-style beer.
DHB also plans to sell beer from other area breweries in an effort to provide guests with a variety of options and to lend a helping hand to other breweries.
According to Horris, the goal isn’t to compete with other breweries and local businesses. Instead, DHB wants to coexist with them by selling their food and drinks.
Local food and beverage makers aren’t the only ones who may profit from DHB opening its doors. The brewery’s new Main Street neighbor, Sign Design, was commissioned to create the distinctive hand-painted sign for the front of the brewery.
“I am excited about having the brewery for a neighbor,” said Patti House, owner of Sign Design. “I’m sure I will be a good customer.”
Coryell and Horris will continue to grow and sell hops, but will now keep some of the harvest to make their own beers.
They specialize in difficult-to-grow hop strains, including galena, cascade, willamette, nugget, crystal and teamaker. They’re USDA-certified organic, a bit more expensive and take a lot of love and care.
“To maintain [the hop harvest] and actually get it to a healthy yield requires an insane amount of work,” Horris said.
DHB and other organic growers must avoid chemicals and instead come up with natural remedies to crop damage.
“When you think of pest control you think of a bottle of Raid,” Horris said. “I think of ducks, chickens, lady bugs, deer fences and BB guns.”
DHB is also environmentally conscious when it comes to watering the hops. Instead of tapping into the area’s water table, Coryell and Horris collect rainfall on their property’s buildings to feed the farm’s in-line drip irrigation.
It is precisely this hop-growing operation that has even merited the attention of the Purcellville mayor. According to Coryell, Mayor Kwasi Fraser recently stopped by the DHB farm to ask for some help with growing hops.
“The mayor… asked me for a proposal to expand hops growing on the Town of Purcellville’s property,” she said. “So they can actually, in the long term, really become the anchor point in Virginia for hops and beer.” If it blooms, the partnership could be the next step in the Town Council’s efforts to generate revenue from under used town properties. They hope money from leasing or selling land could help keep utility rates down.
After accruing so much knowledge and experience in growing hops, Coryell and Horris will now be tasked with learning the ins and outs of turning their harvest into beer and running a fully operational brewery.
“We want to develop and perfect as much as possible our stable of ales and lagers,” Horris said. “Everybody will probably like something on the list.”
For more information on Dragon Hops Brewing, go to dragonhops.com or follow them on Facebook.