Dragon Run Brewing hopes to break new ground this fall as the county's first craft brewery.
Co-founder Tommy Adkins wants to create a brewery and in-house restaurant that is both family-friendly and authentically Tidewater. His vision is of a place where out-of-town visitors and locals alike can come together to enjoy a pint and a meal, all in the name of enriching the community.
With a projected spring opening, Dragon Run Brewing will continue the momentum craft brewers have continued building statewide in recent years.
Virginia is now home to 206 licensed breweries, according to the governor's office. The number of breweries throughout the state has increased 25 percent in the past three years, and the number of breweries now rival the total number of wineries (261) located in Old Dominion.
"Craft breweries across the Commonwealth are using locally grown ingredients to shape the Virginia terroir," said Basil Gooden, state secretary of agriculture and forestry in mid-June. Beer tourism is a major driver of agritourism, especially in rural areas. These businesses are critical to the continued strength of Virginia's top private industry – agriculture."
A unique destination
For Adkins, Dragon Run will keep its focus on local ingredients and local people on a site that's well-known to King William residents.
"This whole thing is about the local area," Adkins said as he gestured toward the farmland surrounding the future home of Dragon Run Brewing at Prestley Park's barn.
A local landmark for close to a century, the big red barn at Prestley Park was built in 1925 and used as part of a dairy farm into the 1970s. Just yards away and also in Adkin's possession is the Old Virginia Barn, which predates the red barn by a century.
The area was once part of an 800-acre working dairy farm, property which was part of the Upper College Tract. King William III gave the land to William and Mary in 1693.
Local preservationist Carroll Lee Walker restored the buildings in 2014. Adkins hasn't determined what he'll do with the Old Virginia Barn.
Local fare and service
Distinct from most other small brewing operations, Dragon Run Brewing will include an on-site restaurant serving seafood, barbeque and other foods made with ingredients grown by local farmers, said Adkins, who has worked in hospitality for more than a decade.
While the menu is still being hashed out, Adkins hopes to craft a culinary lineup focused on seafood, with a particular focus on all manner of fried, steamed and charbroiled oysters. Other items on Dragon Run Brewing's tentative menu include crabcakes and Brunswick stew. The owner said he wants to focus on hiring local people as well.
While many craft breweries team up with food trucks to provide something to wash down with a beer, Adkins passed on that model to ensure food is consistently available during operation hours.
Locally sourced ingredients will also be on tap in the beers, which boast of its local roots with names like Tucker Beach Blonde Ale. The brewery expects to have up to 12 beers on tap at a given time, including year-round, seasonal and special edition drinks. Adkins, a homebrewer with years of experience, looks to get creative with fruity flavors provided by locally grown produce in some of his more unique concoctions.
Besides brews and food, Dragon Run Brewing plans to have a patio space complete with craft brewery essentials like corn hole and horseshoe games.
New kind of business
County officials expect Dragon Run Brewing to provide a unique addition to King William's economic landscape as the county's first craft brewery.
"It's a great opportunity for King William," board of supervisors chairman Travis Moskalski said of the county's entry into the growing craft beer industry.
Retail dollar value of the craft beer industry was pegged at $23.5 billion nationally in 2016, a 10 percent increase compared to the previous year, according to a Brewers Association report. The Brewers Association is a national craft beer nonprofit.
Travel shouldn't be too difficult for visitors. Dragon Run Brewing's location on Route 360 puts it in easy reach of Richmond. Richmond's city limit is about 17 miles away.
Dragon Run Brewing also represents a chance for new jobs and tax revenue to improve the county's economic profile, Economic Development Authority chairman Gene Campbell said.
Virginia's 200-plus breweries contribute $9.3 billion to the state's economy last year, according to the governor's office. Sales and excise taxes on beer consumption generated $280 million during that timeframe.
That compares to a more-established wine industry that contributes more than $1.4 billion to the state economy annually, according to the governor's office.
Moskalski said Dragon Run could draw visitors from throughout Tidewater.
"People will travel to have an experience like that," Moskalski said.
Jacobs can be reached by phone at 757-298-6007.