Sperryville column for July 16

The Carneys hop on the brew train

The brothers Carney (aka Pontiak), posing amid their budding brew operation in Sperryville, are (from left): Lain, Van and Jennings.
The brothers Carney (aka Pontiak), posing amid their budding brew operation in Sperryville, are (from left): Lain, Van and Jennings. Chris Green | Rappahannock News

If you are a successful band, enjoying worldwide tours and cutting albums, what do you do when you are home from the road? Play a round at Schoolhouse Nine golf course in Sperryville? Organize a Thursday night trivia team at the Griffin? Collect stamps? Watch Netflix movies?

If you are the Carney brothers, aka Pontiak (brotherspontiak.com), none of the above will do. In fact, if you are Van, Lain and Jennings Carney, you decide that your time at home, in between recording sessions, will be used to open up and run a brewery in Sperryville.

Pen Druid Brewing, named after the Woodville farm where the brothers grew up, arrives in the same general neighborhood as Rick Wasmund’s Copper Fox Distillery and the Hopkins Ordinary B&B Ale Works, the “nanobrewery” that opened last year in the B&B’s basement (Pen Druid qualifying as the somewhat larger microbrewery).

The Carney brothers will produce Belgian farmhouse-inspired, barrel-aged and mixed-fermentation ales. When the brewery opens (tentatively next month), Pen Druid will offer an outdoor deck with tables for folks to enjoy drinks and an interior tasting room with access to its production facility.

Huge metal fermenters glisten along one wall of the room and a large wooden bar, with growlers printed with the Carney family seal (a swan with a ring hanging precariously from its beak) give the room a special ambiance: in German, the word is Gemuetlich — cozy, comfortable, quaint and inviting.

The brothers have permission to allow picnickers, perhaps families with children, to use the grassy knoll between the brewery (at the far end of the Copper Fox Antiques building) and the Thornton River.  Jennings says the brothers want their brewery to mirror the breweries and pubs of Europe, where families enjoy afternoon and early-evening food and drink; family-friendly places where all are welcome and comfortable. He says the brothers plan on a few special events, and food in the future.

While Van and Lain work the brewery equipment on a recent pre-opening visit, Jennings takes the time to share his passion for brewing. He is brimming with enthusiasm, and talks excitedly of the Carneys’ plans, admitting with a sheepish grin to waking up in wee hours of the morning already thinking brewery-related thoughts.

He’s a self-described student of beer, constantly reading and walking about with a book clutched in his hands (a favored beermaking bible).

He tells me of growing up in Woodville, of loving Rappahannock, and his excitement to return back home (the brothers live in Fauquier County now). He also talks of his angst over the years that Rappahannock would become a place where development would crush the simplicity and beauty of nature’s wonders.

“I want a county where people can come back to, where they can create sustainable businesses, create jobs and yet still preserve the natural beauty,” Jennings says. The Carney brothers are trademark Rappahannock outdoorsman, campers and fishermen, hunters and hikers; men who appreciate nature. Their brewery business is meant to complement the wonders of nature, not destroy that delicate fabric.

They will offer a variety of beers, including eclectic craft beer delectables such as kettle sour, a pale and sour wheat beer. Jennings uses “funky” to describe the diversity of yeast strains he says the brothers will use. They also plan to grow local yeast in the future by isolating yeast samples from the eaves of the former apple packing warehouse in which the brewery is housed.

What inspired Jennings and his brothers to build a brewery? His answer is simple. “We wanted to brew beer, explore creative opportunities, to build something for ourselves,” he says.

The three brothers, well known in the county, enjoyed home beer brewing as a hobby for many years. During their band-related tours overseas, including Germany, Portugal, the UK and former Eastern Bloc countries, they were given opportunities to enjoy tours of local craft breweries, highly localized enterprises. The locals were proud to present their regional specialties and the Carney brothers appreciated the invitations and lapped up the knowledge (pun intended). They have incorporated many of the ideas they learned into their own brewing style.

“We don’t have fame, fortune or money, but we have passion,” says Jennings.

Yes Jennings, you and your brothers certainly have that, and I and others will look forward to savoring your brews in the months ahead.

Pen Druid Brewing is scheduled to open Aug. 8, and tentatively will be open 11 to 8 Thursday, 11 to 9 Friday-Saturday and 10 to 8 Sunday. It’s located just across the Thornton River from Cliff Miller’s family farm (but don’t try to reach it that way; take Water Street to the River District/Copper Fox complex, and head into the lower parking lot. Pen Druid is at the eastern end of the Copper Fox Antiques shed.

Chris Green
About Chris Green 158 Articles
Chris Green (formerly Chris Doxzen) is an an executive recruiter by profession who enjoys exploring and writing about all things Rappahannock. Friends and neighbors with potential stories for her Sperryville column should email her at chrisdoxzen@gmail.com.