Stable Craft Brewing Welcomes New Executive Chef

Joseph Bissonnette, Stable Craft Brewing’s new executive chef, started working at the brewery in January 2018.

Stable Craft Brewing recently welcomed a new executive chef to the company’s brew crew. The newly appointed executive chef, Joseph Bissonnette, is already hard at work creating new specials and reworking the current menu.

Bissonnette’s humble introduction to cooking began in his Grandma Grzemkowski’s kitchen.

“I know it is real cliche for everyone to say that standing in their grandma’s kitchen and watching her cook inspired them, but, after working in the industry and looking back and asking myself why I am doing this, I would think that is an important person who inspired me and does daily,” he said.

Bissonnette’s grandma is Polish and the dishes they made together paid tribute to his family’s eastern European heritage. These dishes included: cabbage rolls, perogies, kapusta, different kinds of sausages and Polish angel wings, or chrusciki.

Bissonnette chose to pursue a career in the culinary arts after graduating high school and college.

He spent five years working as a sous chef at the Devils Grill at Wintergreen Resort. The Devils Grill serves contemporary American fare and sources local ingredients, just like Stable Craft Brewing.

In this role, Bissonnette worked under three different executive chefs, and he described the experience as his most influential job to date.

“I learned quite a few things as far as the levels of standards and consistency,” Bissonnette said.

Stable Craft Brewing represents a couple of firsts for his career; it is his first time working as an executive chef and his first time working at a brewery.

Bissonnette’s Polish cooking knowledge is excellent and compliments the beer very well as certain dishes from Poland share similarities in Austrian and German cuisine, specifically beer-paired foods, Craig Nargi, the owner of Stable Craft Brewing, said.

Polish cooking is rich in meat, especially beef, chicken and pork, and winter vegetables and pairs well with English Pale Ales.

An example of a special that Bissonnette has already created in his short time at Stable Craft includes porter-braised steak tips with pepper jam cornbread and garlic bacon green beans.

Adaptability, understanding the clientele and making the guest feel welcome by knowing what they want and preparing foods that complement the region are all important attributes of a chef, according to Nargi. The brewery’s goal behind welcoming a new executive chef is not to completely change what is already being offered, but to adapt to the ever-changing culinary desires of the clientele by utilizing the talents and skills of a professional chef.

Guests can expect a short-term menu change for Stable Craft Brewing’s tasting room courtesy of Bissonnette in the next week or two. A greater transformation of the menu is expected to be released in about three months.

Constant Government Support Drives Brewery Success

By Katherine Hensley

Stable Craft Brewing has enjoyed the support of federal, state and local government funds since its very beginning.

Craig and Nikki Nargi, Stable Craft Brewing’s owners, built a reputable wedding venue, Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, after purchasing their property in Hermitage, Va. in 2006. The property was originally a Tennessee Walking Horse facility, but, after extensive renovations, the Nargis turned it into a four-season venue capable of accommodating up to 200 guests for both ceremonies and receptions.

The barn and lookout tower at Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables. The venue is available year-round. Photo by Katherine Hensley.

Hermitage Hill Farm & Stables, which officially opened its doors to wedding clientele in 2008, proved to be so successful that the couple decided to expand their offerings to a second business, Stable Craft Brewing, that includes a hop farm and brewery.

Craig Nargi began growing hops in 2011, and, to supplement his operation, applied for a United States Department of Agriculture Value-Added Producer Grant, or VAPG, in 2014, which he was awarded. The USDA VAPG program, “helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and/or marketing of new products,” according to the USDA.

The terms of the grant were that USDA would match spent funds up to $250,000, and the funds had to be spent, “for planning activities or for working capital expenses related to producing and marketing a value-added agricultural product,” according to the USDA.

“You had to show you had the means first,” Craig Nargi said. “The matching grant was only for labor, ingredients and inputs to make beer.”

It could also be applied to energy consumption and the brewer’s time, but it was specifically for expenses related to the beer making process, he explained.

The federal grant did not match expenses related to the construction of new buildings or the salaries of the agricultural employees who helped to grow the hops, Craig Nargi said.

With the assistance of the federal funds, he was able to use the profits to grow the business. The next major step for the Nargis in growing their successful businesses was opening Stable Craft Brewing up to even more clientele via a top-of-the-line tasting room.

The tasting room officially opened in May 2016 and has been an economical benefit to the Augusta County community ever since. The agri-pub menu includes items, such as burgers, sandwiches and skillet plates, that are prepared with fresh, local ingredients.

In the spirit of contributing to the local economy and farmers, the Nargis established a business relationship with McNett Angus Beef of Grottoes, Va. McNett Angus Beef supplies the tasting room with the farm’s all natural beef for the burgers while Stable Craft Brewing supplies McNett Angus Beef with the spent grain from the brewery to feed the farm’s cattle.

The brewery, along with the tasting room, will continue to build relationships with local proprietors not only because of Stable Craft Brewing’s business model, but also because of a second grant the owners received.

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe formally announced at the brewery that the Nargis had been awarded a $15,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development, or AFID, facility grant in September 2017. This a state grant that Augusta County matched with an additional $15,000 of local funds.

The terms of the AFID grant are that, “a minimum of 30% of the agricultural or forestry products to which the facility is adding value are produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia on an annual basis in normal production years,” according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The AFID grant and county funds are a portion of an even larger $500,000 brewery expansion that will create 13 new jobs. The expansion includes the purchasing of new equipment, such as a bottling line and additional fermentation vessels, as well as a new warehouse.

The new warehouse was constructed in fall of 2017.

The warehouse will have a barrel-aging room with the capacity to hold 250 53-gallon wooden kegs, an exclusive tasting room and room for storage.

The popularity of the company in the Augusta Community has motivated much of the support the brewery has received up to this point.

Craig and Nikki Nargi work around-the-clock to constantly improve both of their businesses and appreciate the support the federal, state and local governments have granted them over the years that help to make their visions successful.


Stable Craft Brewing Hires Consultant for Brewery Expansion

Stable Craft Brewing is now working with esteemed brewing consultant Peter Boettcher who will help with the brewery’s rapid expansion.

Boettcher has owned and operated his own brewing consultant agency for five years, but his experience in the brewing industry expands over 30 years. He got his start in the industry when he became a journeyman brewer and maltster through the chamber of commerce in his native Germany.

Peter Boettcher will help Stable Craft Brewing with the brewery’s rapid expansion. Photo Credit: Megan Harris/Eastfield College

From there, Boettcher attended the Technical University of Weihenstephan and Doemens World Brewing Academy where he earned a certification in brewing science and a degree in brewing science, respectively. Boettcher relocated to the United States and started his professional career at the Pennsylvania Brewing Company in Pittsburgh, Pa.

He was responsible for the creation of award-winning recipes at the Pennsylvania Brewing Company, as well as the production and quality control of bottom and top fermenting beers, supervision of staff and purchasing of raw materials. Boettcher significantly increased brew house efficiency and reduced the cost of operation throughout the company.

Boettcher has also worked for the Baltimore Brewing Company in Maryland, Abita Brewing Company in Louisiana, Pall Corporation in New York, Pacific Western Brewing Company in Canada and, most recently, the MillerCoors Brewing Company out of the its Fort Worth, Texas location.

Over the years, Boettcher has been responsible for a variety of tasks related to brewing, including consistent involvement in quality control, production and business planning, at the range of locations he has worked.

He has also been a Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winner four times, a Great American Beer Festival Silver Medal Winner once and a Great American Beer Festival Bronze Medal Winner twice. The medals were received in different categories, but most often in the German-style lager category.

Three of the four new 20-barrel fermentation vessels.

Boettcher currently lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas where he not only operates his brewing consultant agency, but also instructs students at Eastfield Community College in Dallas. He aided in the development of the brewery program at the college, which boasts a 98 percent job placement rate.

Within his consulting services, Boettcher provides technological and technical expertise for process and quality improvements throughout the production process. He works with large brewing companies, craft breweries, malting plants and cider companies.

Highlights of his consulting career include project management for Anheuser-Busch InBev in Russia where he took on the task of helping the company to modernize and expand its production facility and consulting for the European Union funded SARD III project in Turkmenistan. He has also had clients as far away as South America and Australia.

Boettcher is passionate about his work with both large and small breweries and enjoys passing on his expansive knowledge of the industry for the improvement of operations. Boettcher will assist Stable Craft Brewing with charting the brewery’s continued growth.

Pork U Collaboration Beer

Pork U’s collaboration beer is officially fermenting.

Stable Craft Brewing’s brewers, Christopher Fann and Issac Peglow, and beer bloggers, Jason Baker and Josh Hall, began brewing the Pork U collaboration beer, a chocolate vanilla milk stout, together on Saturday, Dec. 16. Pork U is a beer and bacon pairing class that will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 13 as part of Porkuary, an all-day pork celebration.

Josh Hall from “Swill and Swine” has homebrewed in the past, but this was the first time brewing beer for Jason Baker from “Beer, Bacon and More.” It was Hall’s idea to brew a milk stout as he prefers that type of beer.

The collaboration beer was brewed on Stable Craft’s pilot system with the help of Fann and Peglow. The first step for Baker and Hall was to mill the barley to be used in the beer.

Hall poured the barley into the smaller mill used for the pilot system while Baker operated the drill. Using a drill is easier than hand-cranking the mill, Peglow said.

Josh Hall from “Swill and Swine” pours barley into the mill while Jason Baker from “Beer, Bacon and More” operates the drill. This is both of their first times collaborating on a beer with Stable Craft Brewing.

Jason Baker operates the drill on the small mill for the pilot brewing system.

Once the barley was milled, it was added to the mash tun. From there, the brewing process on the pilot brewing system is the same as the brewery’s larger brewing system designed for mass production.

As most familiar with brewing beer are aware, there is a lot of downtime while the brewers wait for one step to end before they can move onto the next step. Hall and Baker took this time to ask Fann and Peglow questions and learn more about brewing beer.

Baker took on the tasks of removing the spent grain from the mash tun and adding the sugar to the beer while it was in the boil kettle.

Baker cleans out the spent grain from the mash tun.

Baker adds the Nugget hops, which are pelletized, to the chocolate vanilla milk stout.

The collaboration beer will get its chocolate flavor from chocolate malt, an ingredient in the beer, Peglow explained. As for the vanilla flavor, the beer will soak in vanilla beans for a couple of days between fermentation and being transferred to the brite tank, Fann said. The Pork U collaboration beer will ferment for about a week and a half in total.

The chocolate vanilla milk stout will be one of the six beers that will be paired with a special type of bacon during Pork U.

Matt Milhit, Stable Craft Brewing’s taproom manager, will cure all of the bacon for Pork U himself. He plans to have the following types of bacon available for the class:

  1. A maple whiskey brined bacon smoked on hickory
  2. An agave syrup and tequila brined bacon smoked on mesquite
  3. A brown sugar and cinnamon dry-rubbed bacon smoked on applewood
  4. A black pepper and coffee dry-rubbed bacon smoked on hickory
  5. A chili dry-rubbed bacon smoked on cherry
  6. A dry-cured Italian bacon, or pancetta

The following Stable Craft beers will be paired with the above types of bacon:

  1. Porter
  2. Roostered Red
  3. Blue Ridge Sunryes Lager
  4. Throatlatch
  5. Britchin Brown
  6. Special Collaboration Beer – a chocolate vanilla milk stout

Sign yourself or a friend up today to experience this one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn about pairing quality craft beer with delicious bacon.
Tickets are available for purchase online or in our taproom.
Buy Now
Space is limited.

Join Christopher Fann, Josh Hall and Jason Baker for Pork U, Stable Craft’s educational beer and bacon pairing class, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. January 13.

Stable Craft’s Brewing Process: A Labor of Love

Malted barley waiting for the mill.

Stable Craft Brewing just expanded its market by over 50% and can now be found in a local Virginia retailer near you. Take a look behind the scenes, as we talk about our brewing process.

Craft breweries are incredibly popular, especially in Virginia, but few may know the actual extent of what it takes to make beer. Fortunately, Chris Fann, head brewer at Stable Craft Brewing, possesses a wealth of knowledge and is willing to share it.

Fann has been the head brewer at Stable Craft for over a year, but his experience in the industry goes back almost five years. He started by cleaning kegs and worked his way up to brewing beer. Fann now makes all of the recipes for Stable Craft, which has 16 beers on tap in the brewery’s tasting room with a new small batch release every other week. These beers are also available in restaurants, bars and taverns and, just recently, in bottles at grocery and convenience stores.

Chris Fann starts the brewing process off by measuring out various malts and adding them to mill.

Chris Fann adding various malts to the mill.

I like tasting the nuisances in craft beer and then creating those nuisances myself, Fann said.

The brewing process starts at Stable Craft when Fann and Issac Peglow, assistant brewer, fill the mash tun, a device used to convert starches from crushed grains into sugars for fermentation, with water being added until the water level in the machine is above its false bottom. Once the false bottom is covered, Fann adds malt to the mill.

Malt is a germinated cereal grain that has been dried. The specific type of malt used in the brewery’s Appalachian Divide, an easy drinking ale, is sour malt.

The mash tun – hot water is added to the malts here.

As the malt enters the mash tun, it is sprayed with water via the mash hydrator. Fortunately, Stable Craft operates on well water and is not required to go through the extra steps city water requires, such as chloride filtration.

The mash rake, which looks like an enormous fork, rotates in a perfect circle to mix the grain evenly in the mash tun. The rake prevents “dough balls” that could otherwise form, Fann said.

Once mashing is finished, the brewer rests the product for 20 minutes before moving onto the next stage, known as vorlauf. Vorlauf is when the wort, or liquid extracted from mashing, is clarified. In practice, vorlauf simply looks like the mixture is recirculated with the mash rake.

After vorlauf, the next stage of brewing is sparging, and it takes about an hour and a half to sparge the beer. For sparging, water is added to the top of the grain bed, and, subsequently, the wort is gravity fed into the kettle. The brewer adds hops to the mash in the kettle.

Katherine Hensley taking notes on the brewing process.

Ten minutes before the boil is complete in the kettle, Fann also adds a yeast nutrient and Whirlfloc, an Irish moss blend, which acts as a kettle fining agent by pulling trub, or unwanted sediment, to the bottom of the kettle.

The mixture goes through a 10-minute whirlpool after boiling. This is when the Whirlfloc does its job and pulls unwanted materials to the bottom of the kettle. The mixture rests for 20 minutes after the whirlpool.

Between boiling and fermentation, Fann runs hot water to sanitize the heat exchanger. The fermentation tanks have already been sanitized beforehand and are ready to go. A blow-off tube is placed in a bucket filled with water beside the fermentation tank for the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast during the fermentation process.

The wort is pumped from the bottom of the kettle into the heat exchanger and then, lastly, into the fermentation tank. Fermentation takes about a week for Appalachian Divide. During this time, the yeast will convert the sugars in the wort to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

After fermentation, Appalachian Divide is filtered and moved into a bright beer tank where it stays for about a day. The level of carbon dioxide is adjusted in the bright beer tank with a carbonation stone.

The final step is bottling or kegging Appalachian Divide and distributing it to Virginia’s craft beer drinkers.

appalachian Divide

The finished product, ready to enjoy.

What Are We Smoking?

(Why a fresh array of meat, of course)
Stable Craft has been taking full of advantage of the smoker located right outside our taproom. Nothing warms the soul or whets the appetite more, than the delicious aroma of meat smoking. And there is that joyous feeling of smelling your dinner cook; while you kick back and enjoy that farm fresh brew – nothing can be more relaxing.
At Stable Craft Brewing, we keep the fresh smoked pulled pork on our menu daily for your enjoyment…but then, Friday rolls around, and we shake things up a bit. (Except beer, that is no bueno!)
The rotation is never the same and we are always looking for suggestions on what to smoke next so don’t miss the next fun and exciting smoker night! Currently in our rotation: (Let your taproom server know of if you have a favorite suggestion to add to our line-up…let’s have some fun with this).
Fresh Smoked Prime Rib
Just one there really anything more stunning than a perfect cut of Prime Rib delivered to your table? It is possible that here at Stable Craft, we may have found a way to one up that wonderful feeling of joy when your Prime Rib is within sight. We, at Stable Craft, have teamed up with McNette Angus Beef Co., from right down the road, to bring you locally-raised farm fresh Angus beef, quite possibly the freshest cut of Prime Rib, you could ever dream of. When enjoying this Prime Rib, you will be introduced to a heavenly smoked flavor on the skin of this Prime Rib, followed by a delicious, melt in your mouth pink center. Barley fed, medium rare, locally-smoked decadence.
Smoked Chicken Wings
We’ve figured out a way to make your favorite all-time snack food even better. Stable Craft slow smokes large chicken wings to juicy perfection. Our wings are served up with that evening’s variety of scratch-made dry rubs, buffalo or BBQ sauces. We serve up these delectable wings with our own secret recipe chunky blue cheese dip and a side of crisp celery to complete the entire smoked wing experience.
Slow Smoked BBQ Brisket
There is this little rumor that brisket can be a tough cut of meat. Here at Stable Craft, we challenge that notion. We’ve figured out that brisket is perfect meat to slap on the ole smoker. Homemade BBQ sauce, plus hours of low-heat smoking, make this a luscious, tender cut of meat – fit for a king (or queen, or even your little prince and princess).
Smoked BBQ Ribs
One of life’s greatest pleasures is a rack of ribs smoked to pure perfection. Stable Craft has gotten the science of smoked ribs down to the bone. Of which the meat will fall right off, of said bone. These ribs are smoked all day to give them the flavor your taste buds crave and desire. Once these ribs are pulled, we sauce them down and serve them up- just the way you like. Served with a sweet bbq sauce to complement the smokey flavor of these ribs!

The Farm Fresh Fixins’
To accompany whatever we may be smoking that day, our in-house chef, Gary, makes all the sides from scratch – to pair deliciously with the main course of the day. Gary is constantly trying new flavor combinations and this keeps things fresh and appealing. Scratch-made mac & cheese with gouda, spinach and tomato, or perfectly stuffed twice-baked potatoes are just some of Gary’s creations. Fresh mixed greens with scratch-made dressings round out this one-of-a-kind dining experience and add a bit of healthy green to that dinner plate.

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