Flush with farm knowledge, a love of the great outdoors, and a deeply rooted entrepreneurial spirit, Garrett Thayer is a homebrew veteran on the cusp of introducing a niche of artisan farmhouse-style beers. Oh, and he’s doing it in an intimate, family-friendly environment. Welcome to Culpeper, Garrett.
An Old Mass Family
Thayer’s ancestors landed in New England in 1620 and began working the land, and farming has been ingrained into each generation. Garrett even recalls a family-operated bake house that hosted clam bakes for 50 years. His path didn’t veer too far away, industry-wise, as he worked hard landscaping from the age of 12 into adulthood. A degree from UMass Dartmouth and a job opportunity in Washington, D.C. led him south where his future wife crossed his path.
An Anniversary Gift to Inspire a Life
Whether she intended it or not, Garrett’s wife, Sara, gave him a valentine’s gift of a home brewing kit that sparked something deep inside her husband. From the kit to a 12-week winemaking course in Loudoun County, Garrett shifted his thoughts from beverage tinkering to a beverage business. With his wife’s help, he formulated a business model to determine the route to take: wine or beer. The numbers pointed toward beer.
Location, Location, Location
Garrett and Sara enjoy traveling the wine trails and seeking the latest craft breweries, as well as outdoor adventure. Much of their time seemed to be spent in the Piedmont of Virginia between Richmond and Shenandoah National Park. After looking at 35 farms across Virginia and Maryland, they decided on Brandy Station in Culpeper County. Why? “I like the history of Brandy Station and being off Route 29. We’re on 20 acres, but we’re surrounded by thousands of acres of farmland,” Garrett explained. The hybrid farm brewery was the goal, and the goal has become a reality.
The Farm & Brewery
The Thayer farm in Brandy Station is home to Old Trade Brewing Company. You’ll find the tasting room inside an old 12-stall barn, of which two stalls were kept: one for child’s play and one for a more intimate experience.
The farm includes a hop field where centennial, chinook, willamette, and nugget hops are grown. This is the second year of beekeeping on the farm, and 65 cider trees will play a part in the flavors of the brews, as will a variety of homegrown fruit.
Kids are Encouraged
The Thayer’s are parents to a sweet four-year-old son and have another on the way. In their travels, they’ve taken note of which breweries and wineries offer amenities that have helped them as parents. With those ideas in mind and several of their own, Old Trade will be as family-friendly as a brewery can be. A few things you can expect:
- At the grand opening, a kid’s corner in the tasting room barn will include, a kitchen area, books, an easel, blocks, and more fun to be added incrementally.
- A playground with a swing set will also include a three-story pirate ship for adventure play.
- Stools in the bathrooms will help little ones better reach the sink, and of course, a changing table will be available.
A glimpse into the future shows there may be a possibility for a small petting zoo and free-range chickens.
About the Beer
Garrett is dedicated to sourcing Virginia farm herbs, fruits, and grains to craft his beer. Native yeasts from blueberries, plums, and other on-site crops also have a role to play.
For the grand opening, four Old Trade beers will definitely be on tap, though eight is the goal.
A key brew for your radar is the Robust Porter, a seven-year labor of love and refinement that Garrett is certain will be his flagship. Others to expect: a lower, sessionable Belgian Saison; a Rye IPA that Garrett says is near double; a Brown Nut Ale; and a Berliner Weisse, his gateway into sours.
The historic location of Old Trade has Garrett’s wheels turning toward beers that reflect heritage. The chances are good that a Civil War beer will find its way onto the menu, but it will be brewed true to recipes of the period and not merely a namesake nod.
About the Name “Old Trade”
We were curious about the brewery name, so we asked. Garrett said, “It’s from a song that goes something like, ‘I loved to be in the old trade …’ plus the family’s old trade of farming.” A quick Google search turned up The Head and the Heart’s “Down in the Valley,” which opens with “I wish I was a slave to an age-old trade.”
What Visitors Can Expect
Old Trade Brewing is a small business free of investors. “We really are a small town family brewery. A bootstrap operation,” Garrett emphasized. He’s put in 16 hours a day for 16 months to see this dream become a reality. “I’d love for it to become a publick … a meeting place … to host festivals and events.” For now, visitors who arrive for the grand opening and in the near future will be treated to live music during the month (likely folk or blues) with pretzels, premium meats and cheeses, and a popcorn cart. Carefully curated food trucks will be invited to serve on the weekends, and Garrett hopes to work with some of those vendors to create sauces from his beers, as well as create pairing suggestions.
A dog park will be available by mid-summer. When your pooch isn’t in the park, a leash will be expected, and non-service dogs are to remain outside of the brewery tasting room per Virginia law.
While the weather is perfect for outdoor play with the kids or enjoying beer on the patio, the Thayer’s have the inside cozy for you, too. Two large screen TVs will have sports for your entertainment, but know that one of them will always be dedicated to airing the Patriots.
Besides leaning heavily toward families with small children, Garrett’s goal is to “make it so you can stay and feel comfortable.”
HOURS OF OPERATION
- Thursday, 1 to 8 p.m.
- Friday, 1 to 10 p.m. (those Fridays with live music, open until 11 p.m.)
- Saturday, 1 to 10 p.m.
- Sunday, 1 to 8 p.m.