Tucked away in the corner of Virginia Beach is a family-owned brewery and cidery, the first of its kind in the state. Farmhouse Brewing Co. rests on 8.6 acres in the heart of Kempsville and brews flavors inspired by the roots planted on the property over 100 years ago.
Farmhouse is the brainchild of Eddie Hewitt, who had the idea to keep the four-generation historic home in the Wood’s family and turn it into a brewery to share with the community. Eddie’s wife, Sarah, is the heir to the late William E. Wood, who built the home in 1912 for the love of his life, Lillie.
Eddie’s business savvy led him to partner with Josh Canada, beer connoisseur and owner of Back Bay Brewing Co., and bring their vision to life. From the conception of Farmhouse, every effort made was to preserve the family’s history and Virginia Beach’s history.
This spacious oasis welcomes you into the family from your first sip. “We want everyone to feel like they are at home the moment they step onto our grounds,” says Lauryn Adams, Director of Marketing. To the Farmhouse crew, home means feeling safe, comfortable, happy and peaceful. “When you are here, you do not feel like you are in Virginia Beach anymore,” Eddie says.
We were greeted by Eddie and Josh in the library of the Farmhouse to learn more about the motivation behind Farmhouse and their entrepreneurial journey together.
How It All Began
Originally spanning 500 acres of farmland, William E. Wood purchased the property to build a home and foundation for his family. Years passed and many memories were made on the property by the Woods family. Eventually, the house became office space for William E. Wood Associates, a local realty company that merged with Howard Hanna in 2014.
As time passed, the property became vacant and the family was inspired to create an environment for the community to enjoy together over a refreshing craft beer. Josh expresses it is a real testament to Eddie; when the tenant moved out, the farmhouse could have been torn down. He continues, “this is the jewel in Kempsville. Without you [Eddie] and your vision, it would not have happened.”
With a background in construction development, Eddie sparked the idea to transform the house into a brewery. But there was a piece missing. “I did not know about the beer industry,” Eddie says. A mutual friend connected him to Josh, owner of Back Bay Brewing Co. They put their heads together and created a destination brewery as an expansion of Back Bay Brewing. Josh says, “[Eddie] needed someone crazy to do this with. We linked up and said ‘let’s go!”
From conception to opening, it took nearly five years to launch Farmhouse. The preservation and renovation were a complete redevelopment, Eddie and Josh explained. It was more than placing a brewery inside the home. There was major infrastructure put in place to bring the home into the 21st century while maintaining its original charm.
The Farmhouse Experience
Farmhouse is a laid back, relaxing place to visit. Josh says, “You feel like you are on the farm. It is open to everybody.” He continues, “We are very serious about beer, but we have a large selection for people to enjoy various styles.”
Arrive at Farmhouse and the white house beams from the center of the property inviting you in to enjoy good conversation and good beer with friends and family. The home has undergone two renovations during its lifetime, aiming to keep as much originality as possible. The floors you walk on and the fireplaces you cozy up beside are original from 1912. The Parlor living room (pictured below) is elegantly decorated as if you flashed back to the 1920s. The Parlor walls are adorned with original family portraits, including Mama Lillie and William E. Wood above the fireplace. Subtle touches of the property’s character appear throughout the rooms of the home, such as arrows found on the farm. Additionally, the tasting room bars are made from the original front porch (pictured below).
“We are hoping people have an appreciation for the preservation of history and old architectural buildings as well as an interest in learning more about farming,” Eddie says. The farm is about biodiversity and the importance of pollinators. He continues, “it is good for everyone: the environment and the people.”
Farmhouse is so much more than beer, and the team hopes guests of all ages have an incredible experience—while sipping on a drink or two.
What’s On Tap
The release of every beer and cider is carefully nurtured and thought-out by the Farmhouse crew. As for the brew names, they are most often inspired by the Wood’s family, the neighborhood, the history and the farm.
Beers are available on draft at the downstairs and upstairs tasting rooms. From Belgian inspired brews and seasonal stouts to wheat beers and ciders ‘from the garden,’ a wide variety of thirst-quenching brews are waiting to be poured and enjoyed.
Farmhouse’s cider and wine offering is distinct to the area and makes up nearly 15% of their business in the tasting room, respectively. “After we opened, we noticed the big outdoor area drawing in a different demographic [families and kids]. We knew there was a desire for a brewery to serve cider and wine.” The hope is to serve refreshments that are unique to the area and balance great taste with great value.
The Farmhouse cidery has its own blend of apple juice, made up of six different Virginia apples. Eddie describes the juice’s flavor as a blend of tartness that yields to different flavor profiles. He continues, “Our cider is evolving. We kept it on the dry side versus sweet. It has become our own little experiment.” The farm plays a huge part in the experimentation phase as well. A recent batch mixed blackberries, strawberries and raspberries from the farm.
Eddie says he favors the Apricot Tripel. He describes it as ‘the transformer,’ alluding to the buzz the team heard around it being a major palate pleaser—even to those who aren’t drawn to beer. Josh is currently crushing on the newly launched Orange Crush IPA.
Tours & Tastings
The Farmhouse Tour and Tasting takes you on a one-hour guided walk through the farm, production facility and farmhouse. Enjoy a beer tasting at each stop as you hear the stories of the family and the history of the property, learn about the brewing process and get a glimpse of the farm’s inspiration to their craft. “There is so much to the tour; you cannot experience it all in one day. You learn something new every time and the beer rotates seasonally depending on what Farmhouse is pouring that day,” says Lauryn. Book the tour online.
Inspiration, Creation & Collaboration
There are several aspects that influence the creation of Farmhouse beers. Naturally, every brew is inspired by what the team likes—the taste, smell and appearance. While the flavor is obviously an important factor, Eddie explains “beer is more than taste.” Beyond the palate, you have to please your other senses. He tells us about the vibrant red beer they produced with beets and how it was “the most beautiful beer you have ever seen.”
They collaborate with their brewers and think outside of the box, continually asking themselves: what makes our beer different, and what is something that no one else has done? Experimenting and trying new things is at the heart of their beer brainstorming and brewing process.
Ingredients from the 1.5-acre on-site garden also lead many flavor combinations and ideas. Eddie asks, “What can we grow here and put in our beers? We have figs, blueberries, sweet potatoes, raspberries and more.” The menu reflects which beers were brewed with fresh produce from the garden, such as ‘Farmer John’s Sweet Potato Doppelbock.’ Everything at the farm serves a purpose for the ecosystem. Local Farmer John joined the team three years ago and is focused on recultivating the land to bring it back to its full and flourishing state.
Keep your eyes peeled for garden gnomes peeking out around the brewery. They are sprinkled around the property as a tribute to William Vincent Wood—grandson of William E. Wood—who was fond of collecting gnomes. Vincent came to the farmhouse to work as a real estate broker and was known for picking blueberries from the garden in between meetings.
Lillie Wood, also known as Mama Lillie, passed away in the home many years ago, and it has been said her friendly spirit remains on the property. A proud tradition Farmhouse holds in honor of Mama Lillie is to always keep her bedroom light on. Today, her bedroom has been transformed into the Farmhouse team’s office. Many have witnessed the calculator punching numbers as the wheels spin, in the days as a realtor office, and the upstairs lights flickering at closing time, which the team considers a sign she is making her presence and approval known.
Proudest Moment & Biggest Obstacle
“I think they are the same!” Eddie exclaims. He continues to share how proud he has been to see how well-received Farmhouse is. “It is way busier than we ever expected. We have been doing more in one week than we thought we would do in one month.” Adjustments come with popularity and demand, and these are the obstacles that pair with this extremely proud moment.
Josh shares, “I think the biggest obstacle was when we were at each other’s throats in the last month prior to opening. With a project like this, there are hundreds of decisions you have to make and you are trying to get it all done by the opening date.” He continues, “It was stressful for both of us.” On the flip side, the reward came shortly after opening when they sold over 10,000 beers in one day. “Our opening was one of the biggest in the state.” That is a proud moment to never forget.
Advice for Aspiring Business Owners
The duo expresses Josh is the dreamer and Eddie is the rationalizer.
Josh began channeling his entrepreneurial spirit at age 14, and he says with passion, “Make it happen. Go and do it!”
“You need to have some cash,” Eddie says and laughs. “In the beginning, it seems to be easier to have a partner. They compliment you and share the risk and responsibility.” He shares his experiences saying, “I typically have a partner in everything I do, so I am sharing the risks and rewards. You both share the experiences and grow together.”
As for what is to come, the Farmhouse family is looking forward to adding a barn, which will serve as an added space for events. Learning the property is weather dependent, they have set out to provide a more permanent solution.
An ongoing goal is to expand the Farmhouse brand for distribution, including the cidery. Small-can or special edition releases allow them to be nimble, diverse and more cost-effective. Therefore, they are able to release something different almost every two weeks, which continues to drive traffic to Farmhouse. Cheers to that!
How to Experience All That Farmhouse Has to Offer
Bring your friends and family (1805 Kempsville Rd) for refreshing cold one any day of the week. Farmhouse is open Monday through Thursday 3-9 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Host your own event at the farm or attend one of their many ongoing events, including the Food Truck Festival (once a month) and the Food Truck Rally (second and fourth Wednesday every month).