By Steve Deason
The three Carney brothers have toured for over ten years as the psych-rock band Pontiak. Van says he and his brothers, Lain and Jennings, thought “wouldn’t it be cool once we have kids and aren’t hitting the road as much, to start a brewery.” Western, the first baby for the group was born to Van and his wife earlier this year and the dream is becoming a reality. Pen Druid Brewing is slated to open late July in Sperryville just two miles from the Carney brother’s home town of Woodville. The brothers knew exactly where they wanted the brewery to be, a facility that once housed a thriving apple packing warehouse on the Thornton River. The brothers used to work there on weekends at an aunt’s antique store located in the front. Located nearby on Thornton River was the family farm named Pen Druid. The name was derived from their grandmother’s childhood farm of Druid Oaks and the Carney Family Crest of an adult female swan, known as a pen.
Pontiak often toured Europe where Van says they did their “homework, drinking lots of beers in lots of places.” They became big fans of the pilsners they drank in the Czech Republic. However, the brothers plan to concentrate on creative Farmhouse Style Ales, including wild and sour varieties instead. Van says they have strong feelings about how the beer will tie into the organic and historical feel of the location. The bar at Pen Druid will help set the tone. It was built by “Smiggy” Smith using wood salvaged long ago from a barn built nearby in the 1890’s. The top of the bar is made from chestnut floor joists and the corners are made from poplar beams. The brothers have been “hands on” in the physical transformation of the warehouse and the set- up of their two and a half barrel system. Van says they got used to a “DIY” mentality in their years of touring.
The Carney Brothers have been home brewing for many years. One of their recipes slated for Pen Druid uses Pilsner, Vienna and Red Wheat Malts plus American Hops. Van says they “toned down” the bitterness of the hops and used a clean traditional European Yeast to create this hoppy pale ale. They also have a kettle sour recipe ready and are working on an American Black Ale made “funky” with 100% Brettanomyces yeast. The brothers are working on a new recipe featuring an interesting experimental batch of hops called Janis Hoplin. Van says they are into mixed fermentation and expect these brews to be among the first they would bottle.
If planning a visit, Copper Fox Distillery and its unique wood fired kiln for roasting malts conveniently shares a parking area with Pen Druid Brewing and offers tours and tastings every day. The brothers plan to source malt from Copper Fox for some of their recipes. Also, less than a mile away, is the Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works. This one barrel system is in the cellar of a bed and breakfast. Pen Druid’s taproom will be open Thursday-Sunday and is sure to be a popular stop for tourists visiting Luray Caverns and other mountain attractions nearby. However, creating the brewery is about much more than building a new tourist attraction to Van, Lain, and Jennings Carney. Pen Druid Brewing is a reconnection to a community they cherish and where a new generation of Carneys will call home.