Bald Top Brewing

Dave Fulton and Julie Haines stand in their hopyard, which consists of 400 plants of five hops varities. The hops will eventually be used to make beer at their brewery, Bald Top Brewing, which they plan to open this fall.

For Julie Haines and Dave Fulton the rolling hills surrounding their historic Madison farm are a stark contrast to the harsh environments that the couple has worked in for the last decades. Haines and Fulton are environmental engineers by trade, a type of scientist that applies engineering principles for the protection of people and the environment. The couple has spent their careers providing water, waste management and recycling systems to people in some of the poorest and harshest places on earth, like Afghanistan or Sudan.

Now, the couple is combining their engineering background with their desire to share their historical home and vision for an agricultural-based business to create Bald Top Brewing Company, the first business of its kind in Madison County.

Dave and Julie moved to the property four years ago from northern Virginia. Madison County was very attractive to the couple because of the stunning scenery and its rich history. They are the fifth owners of Woodbourne, the 1810 built property that is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

Both Dave and Julie were looking for an agricultural enterprise. They were looking for something that the whole family could be involved in. The couple brainstormed ideas and seriously considered growing grapes before coming up with the idea for the brewery.

“We want to preserve history and agriculture,” said Haines. “We want to create a clean, sustainable business; something the whole family can be involved with.”

The whole family is involved in the process. Dave’s son, Eric, will be overseeing the brewing operation. Eric’s girlfriend, Evanne Allen, has been involved with growing hops on the farm and is director of marketing for Walden Hall, the Reva bed and breakfast owned and operated by Fulton and Haines. Haines’ daughter plans to come home to run the tasting room at Bald Top.

The couple is taking a phased approach to the startup business. Fulton said they hope to open to the public in October 2016. They have “planned big and started conservatively” systematically transforming the historic farm into a totally sustainable craft brewery. They are working now to obtain the federal and state permits necessary for the brewery to open, a process expected to take a few months.

A hopyard was planted this past Mother’s Day. Four hundred plants of five varieties of hops have been planted and are being trained to grow up the rope and pole trellises.

The couple plans to renovate an existing barn to make a tasting room.

“You have to have vision,” said Fulton. “A few months ago none of this was here,” he said, pointing at the hopyard. “You have to be able to see what it can be.”

The brewery’s name comes from the clear view of Bald Top Mountain from the property.

“You can see the Blue Ridge from here,” said Haines. “The one peak that clearly stands out from here is Bald Top. That’s how we chose the name. We haven’t finalized the logo yet. Maybe we’ll do something with a bald eagle.”

Fulton has been pleased at the support of the community and expects the brewery to open later this year.

“We should be open early this fall,” he said. “We’re planning to hold a big kickoff event. Everybody has been enthusiastic and supportive of the project.”

Tracey Gardner, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, is enthusiastic about the new business venture.

“We’re very excited about this venture,” she said. “This will be a benefit to Madison County. Agritourism is one of the main economic drivers for our county. This will bring in increased tourism dollars and be a great place for locals, too.”

For more information about Bald Top Brewing Company and to keep up-to-date on its progress, visit https://www.facebook.com/baldtopbrewing/.