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Last Tuesday the, Prince William Board of County Supervisors announced its intent to sell the old Thomasson Dairy Barn, on Hornbaker Road in Innovation Park, in Manassas along with 6 acres of land surrounding the site, for $1 million to Silva Holdings, Co. Silva Holdings is the group that withdrew their application for a destination Farm Brewery in Clifton, VA last May after the community did not support the project.
In an open letter to the community of Clifton Mark Silva, one of the partners said “Your concerns and fears have NOT fallen on deaf ears and now it’s time to walk the talk. In the spirit of cooperation and understanding, I have decided to forego bringing Loudmouth Brewing Co. to Clifton, Virginia, and accordingly, we intend to withdraw our application to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control by COB tomorrow. I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love for the community... I look forward to having a pint of craft beer with all of you very soon...just somewhere else! “
Well, that somewhere else is here in Prince William County. Mr. Silva told me that he had initially considered the old Thomasson Dairy Barn as the site for his destination Farm Brewery and after giving up plans for Clifton approached the Prince William County Department of Economic Development and negotiated a deal. “The preservation and reuse of the Thomasson Barn has long been a desire of the Board, and is identified as a strategic priority in our Comprehensive Plan,” said Corey A. Stewart, Chairman, of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “The planned use as a microbrewery and bistro will provide an amenity for the companies located in and around Innovation Park and will make the area even more attractive for companies that are considering locating to the area.”
As part of the sales agreement, Silva Holdings will restore the historical landmark which will be incorporated into an $8 million destination brewery, bistro and distribution facility operating under the name 2 Silos Brewing Company. In addition to the $8 million in capital investment, the project is expected to create more than 100 new jobs for our community and turn the Thomasson Dairy Barn from County surplus to gem.
The Thomasson Dairy Barn built in 1929 was once the milking barn of a dairy operated by William Thomasson. The barn was constructed using textile hollow-tile terracotta blocks and is an example of a two-story barn of that era, utilizing the two silos for grain feed storage, the first floor for milking cows and the second floor for hay storage. The protracted decline of the dairy industry in Prince William County led to the eventual ceasing of operations and barn has been vacant for over 50 years. As Supervisor Jeanine Lawson said, “This project embodies the type of development I have been pushing for in Prince William County. It supports our agribusiness community, provides for family gatherings and enhances Innovation Park for our business community.”
This restoration project moves the Thomasson Barn from County surplus to a new category of commercial real estate property and will generate tax revenue, while enabling citizens and visitors to appreciate their rich agricultural heritage anew. Prince William County will extend the road and provide access to public water and sewer to the site. The Thomasson Dairy Barn is zoned M1 and not part of the Rural Crescent, but rather part of the Innovation Plan.
Though 2 Silos Brewing Company will still meet the requirement of Virginia SB 430 the law that created an easy to obtain limited brewery license for breweries that operate on a farm. The Initial Phase will include renovation of the Barn, construction of the beer garden and brewery with a capacity of 2,500-3,000 barrels a year. Subsequent Phases if the project is successful, could expand capacity to 15,000 barrels of beer a year and if rezoned to M2 higher production is possible. Farm breweries are limited to no more than 15,000 barrels of beer per calendar year, must be located on a farm in Virginia, and use agricultural products that are grown on that farm in the brewing of the beer.
Beer production has very few environmental issues. Excluding an accidental spill of a hazardous chemical such as anhydrous ammonia or chlorine (typically used to treat water), the main discharge from beer production is wastewater high in organic matter. However, 2 Silos Brewing Company will be connected to public water and sewage and presented a series of plans to incorporate low impact development strategies at the site.
Beer is about 95% water; however the amount of water used to produce a pint of beer is far greater that the amount of water contained in the beer. Although water usage varies widely among breweries and is dependent upon specific processes, the U.S. average is about 7 gallons of water for each gallon of beer produced, but varies from 3.26-7.44 gallons of water to gallons of beer. That figure is from the 2011 study by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER). Craft breweries tend to be on the higher end of the range because small packaging uses more water and the size of the brewery, but water recycling equipment packages are available. According to the BIER study facilities with larger production volumes tend to have lower water use ratios.
However, the brewery will be on public water and its water usage for beer production 3,000 barrels will be equivalent to about the water use of about 24 people. At the full production of 15,000 the water usage would be equivalent to about 120 people. There will also be water usage for growing hops, and operating the bistro and beer garden. Silva Holdings estimated water usage for their previous (and abandoned) project at 20,376 gallons of water a week for their Phase I which produced 2,500 barrels of beer a year, 42,212 gallons of water a week for Phase II which produced 5,000 barrels of beer a year, and 84,760 gallons of water a week for Phase III which produced 12,500 barrels of beer a year. While this might have had a significant impact on the water table from a groundwater well producing most of that water over several days in Clifton, the impact on public water and sewer is not significant. Silva Holdings intends to minimize impact and I look forward to learning more about their plans when I speak to their team next week.