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.
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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.

Back on Tap: Madridiculous IPA

Madridiculous is exclusively available in six packs in the Stable Craft Brewing tasting room.

Madridiculous was welcomed back into the Stable Craft Brewing tasting room this November after last being on tap this past summer.

It was a popular beer, and we brought it back because people were asking about it often, Chris Fann, Stable Craft’s head brewer, said.

Madridiculous is the first New England Style IPA Fann has ever brewed, and he said he wanted to experiment with the different techniques of that brewing style.

“In a lot of your New England IPAs, you get a soft mouth feel,” Fann said. “A well that is not filtered is a unique challenge to get close to what you need for a soft IPA.”

Fann altered the recipe in the mash while brewing to create the softer mouthfeel desired in a New England Style IPA. There are also certain malts that can be added to the beer to help soften and give a creamy mouthfeel, Fann said.

In addition to certain malts creating a creamy mouthfeel, flaked oats and flaked wheat also create a silky mouthfeel and were ingredients in Madridiculous. The flaked oats and flaked wheat promote body and create haze as well.

Traditionally, haze, or cloudiness, in beer has been a byproduct of brewing that brewers avoided, but beer drinkers now notably seek haze in IPAs. The phenomenon, which began in late 2016, has been nicknamed the, “Haze Craze,” in the craft brewing industry.

Madridiculous fermented for a week before being transferred to the brite tank and then bottled and kegged. The IPA is currently on tap and available in six packs in the Stable Craft Brewing tasting room.

The pervading taste in Madridiculous is citrus with tangerine, grapefruit and pineapple dominating the senses. Copious amounts of Citra and Amarillo hops were used in Madridiculous in both the whirlpool and the three different dry hop stages.

Tangerine is one of the many citrusy flavors in Madridiculous. Photo Credit: Neil Conway.

The brewery is currently only producing half batches of Madridiculous, according to Fann, and that is for a couple of reasons. Half batches allow the brewers to always keep the beer fresh, and it allows them to tweak the recipe if needed.

The plan for Madridiculous is to now have it on tap in the tasting room year-round and, in the future, to do small bottling runs, Fann said.

As for the name, Fann created the name Madridiculous and was inspired by the road the brewery is located on, Madrid Road.

Counter Service: Allowing Stable Craft Beer Education Since 2016

By Katherine Hensley

For those who have not had the pleasure of walking into Stable Craft Brewing for the first time, take a minute to imagine what it may be like. The breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains are in the distance, the rolling green hills of the Virginia countryside are right there and Clydesdales are grazing happily in their pastures just feet away.

The tasting room itself is a beautiful sight with its finished wood interior and equestrian-themed decorations, such as the colorful prints hanging on the walls and horseshoe chandelier. The enticing aromas of farm fresh beer and burgers are in the air. It’s a positively overwhelming experience for the senses of sight and smell, and this is before taste is even in the picture.

The first-time guest, or even returning guest, is trying to take everything in when they are then asked to choose from 16 different beers on tap, not an easy task. This is where the craft beertender with professional beer tasting experience comes in to save the day, and they are able to do so because of Stable Craft’s style of service.

Craft Beertender John Harman, left, and Taproom Manager Matt Milhit, right, assist guests with craft beer orders. Milhit has years of experience pairing craft beer with food.


Just like everything else at Stable Craft Brewing, the counter style service chosen for the tasting room was selected with the utmost care and concern for the guests’ experience. When the guest walks up to the counter, or bar, and asks the beertender about the beers, the beertender is able to talk to them about what the guest likes, what they do not like and what they are looking to drink.

The counter service allows the beertender to take this necessary time to converse with the guest one-on-one about what beer they are looking to experience because, after all, Stable Craft Brewing offers an enticing experience for the senses.

Once the guest has chosen a beer or flight of beers with the beertender’s help, the guest will then provide a card for their tab, take a number from the beertender and choose a spot for enjoying their beer. One of the craft beertenders will serve them their beer, food or both by matching the order with the table number.


Craft Beertender Shane Atwood pours a beer during a Steal the Glass night. Atwood has been educating guests about Stable Craft beers since June 2017.

Counter style service is not the style of every restaurant or even brewery, but that is because Stable Craft Brewing is not like any other restaurant or brewery. It is an agri-pub and working farm where educating guests about the beers and agricultural practices are major priorities. Counter service maximizes the beertender’s time spent educating, answering questions while hosting the start to an unparalleled farm brewery experience and minimizes time spent running to and from tables.

For guests planning a visit or for those who are returning, do not hesitate to take the time to ask the beertender behind the bar about Britchin Brown, Throatlatch, Peach Gose or any other beer on tap. Craft beertenders are there to educate and serve, and Stable Craft Brewing’s style of service maximizes their ability to converse one-on-one with guests to find the best beer for them.

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.

Craft Beer Lineup Series: Britchin’ Brown Ale

Craft Beer – Robust, dark, & enjoyable

Next up in our craft beer lineup series is the Britchin Brown Ale! With a name like “Britchin Brown” it is hard to overlook this beer. This brown ale has a roasted, nutty taste that truly showcases the malt flavor with a ABV of 5.5%. It has a strong-pull mouthfeel that is enough to lure in any craft beer lover. A well-made brown ale is typically characterized as a combination of toffee, nuts, and toast flavors. Chocolate notes are notorious for brown ales, while moderate hop bitterness brings a brassy middle. Far from boring, good brown ales will delight the taste buds-they are typically the perfect balance of not too heavy and not too light! If you fall in love with the Britchin Brown Ale, it is bottled and distributed from buds to suds!

Britichin Brown Ale

Brown ales pair well with hearty foods, such as smoked salmon, brisket, or smoked sausage. Cheeses such as aged gouda also go well with the Britchin Brown, perhaps try pairing it with our cheese plate containing: asiago, cheddar, pimento, sun-dried tomato, and goat cheese served with pickled veggies. Tomorrow our featured beer is the Night Latch American Stout. This beer is a close cousin to the Britchin’ Brown, as it is also a dark beer with a roasty, chocolate finish. Stay tuned as our craft beer week lineup continues on!

Craft Beer Lineup Series: Nightlatch American Stout

Tiramasu in a Glass

Cheers to farm fresh beers! Today’s craft beer spotlight is on the Nightlatch American Stout. Fun fact: Nightlatch is a noun, meaning a door locking having a spring bolt operated from outside by key. Being the third featured beer in our series, the Night Latch exhibits a strong body and presence with 6.6% ABV. This creamy stout is big on flavor! It is sensible and well balanced, with a roasty, soft chocolate finish.

On our menu, the Nightlatch is comparable to the Whoa Bucker Oatmeal stout due to the roasted coffee and chocolate notes, however, the Nightlatch is a bit sweeter. We suggest pairing the Nightlatch with our brewer’s grain brownie, which is made with the leftover Nightlatch grain making this a killer combo for anyone with a sweet tooth. Stay tuned for our next entry on the Throatlatch Imperial IPA, for the fourth of the craft beer spotlight series!

Craft Beer Lineup Series: The Appalachian Divide

This craft beer is a real palate pleaser

In honor of National American Craft Beer week, Stable Craft Brewing wants to take the time to re-introduce our craft beer lineup. With four staple beers and dozens of seasonal brews, Stable Craft has everything a craft-beer lover could desire. According to, the United States now has more than 150 types of beer and over 20,000 brands to choose from, making our country the largest beer market in the world, wow! So why not join in on the fun this week?

The first beer of the Stable Craft lineup is the Appalachian Divide, American Blonde Ale. This light ale sits at a 4.0% ABV. It gives beer lovers a balanced, yet fresh finish. It does not have an overwhelming hoppy or malty flavor which makes this a versatile fan favorite for new beer drinkers as well. The Appalachian Divide is an American classic and is well known for its simplicity. The lightness of this beer makes it easy to pair with a variety of food. The Stable Craft Brewing team recommends trying the Appalachian Divide with the salad of your choice or any burger your heart desires. Those options don’t suit you? Well, you’re in luck because this beer pairs well with just about anything!

In honor of National Craft Beer Week, stop by Stable Craft to try our Appalachian Divide. This light, crisp beer is perfect for a new craft beer lover and is a classic for those with experienced taste buds. The Appalachian Divide is truly both a crowd and palate pleaser, come give it a taste!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog takeover all about the Britchin’ Brown Ale as the celebration of National Craft Beer week continues!