If you’re in a successful rock band, enjoying worldwide tours and cutting albums on the regular, what do you do while you’re back at home in Sperryville? For the brothers in Pontiak, Lain, Van, and Jennings Carney, the answer was to open a brewery – specifically, Pen Druid Brewery. Named after the Woodville farm where the three grew up, they officially opened this past August. As Jennings explained the operation to me, he was brimming with enthusiasm, walking about with a favored beermaking bible clutched in his hands.
What types of beer do you offer?
We are a barrel-fermenting and barrel-aging brewery. We focus on mixed fermentation and seasonal beers inspired by the Belgian and English traditions. Mixed fermentation means we use several cultured and wild yeast and bacteria to make (and to sometimes sour) our beers.
Why open a brewery in Sperryville?
After leaving the county for a while, my brothers and I decided to return to Rappahannock. We wanted to locate the brewery here because of the unique natural beauty of the county and because of the community here. Also, it was a way for us to have an ecologically and economically sustainable business. We didn’t have to make a choice between preserving the natural beauty and making money.
What inspires your recipes?
Our brewing is inspired by the beer, wine, and spirits we have tasted while on tour. More than that, our brewing is inspired by everything we encounter: books, art, music, and food. All experience is inspiration.
How did you decide on the brewery’s layout, including the outdoor deck?
Like beer gardens in lots of towns and cities, our outdoor seating allows people to enjoy the weather when it’s beautiful. It’s a family environment. Good vibes.
How have you been getting your beer out into the community?
John McPherson, chef at the Foster Harris House Inn, has been using our beer in his recipes as a braising liquid. It’s awesome to have that connection with food much in the same way that beer is employed in the recipes for Czech goulash and German bratwurst. Before widely available potable water, beer was the safest way to hydrate. Beer is food (liquid bread), it’s alive (at least our beer is), and it’s delicious!
Pen Druid Beer Braised Short Rib
by John McPherson
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs boneless beef short ribs
½ cup flour
4 carrots, peeled
2 sweet onions, chopped
8 garlic cloves
24 ounces Pen Druid Mellow Fellow
2 cups beef stock
1 bunch thyme sprigs
1 bunch rosemary sprigs
8 sage leaves
black pepper, freshly ground
Trim fat from beef and cut into six 2x4 inch pieces. Cut carrots on the bias ¼ inch thick.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large, heavy-bottomed ovenproof Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the short ribs with salt and pepper, then dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. Place them in the hot oil and sear until deep brown on all sides, about 15 minutes per batch. Do not crowd the pan. Transfer the ribs to a plate and set aside.
Add carrots, onions, and garlic to the skillet and cook over high heat until browned and softened, 6 to 7 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, then stir in beer, stock, and herb bundle. Stir well, scraping up all the brown bits in the bottom of the pot, then bring the mixture to a boil. Return the short ribs to the skillet, cover, and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours. Uncover the skillet and continue to cook for 30 minutes or until the meat is fork-tender.
Remove from oven and skim the fat from the braising liquid. Serve with roasted vegetables and a parsnip puree.
Photography by Ronda Gregorio