Preserving history with beer: Brewery planned at Brandywine battle site

One of Chester County’s most treasured historic tracts of land will soon get a brewery.

Thornbury Farm, the site of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of the Brandywine, will be the home of Artillery Brewery, a startup nano that expects to open as early as July. A brewhouse will be operated out of the farm’s produce shed next to its existing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) market.

The brewery is a partnership of three couples, including a pair of homebrewers and the owner of the farm, Randell Spackman, and their wives.

The 310-year-old estate is a hallowed site in the founding of America, where the Continental Army led by Gen. George Washington fell to British and Hessian troops under Gen. William Howe in 1777. The Redcoats over-ran the Americans it what would be the largest land battle of the war, prompting the Continental Congress to abandon Philadelphia.

Much of the battlefield, near Chadds Ford, is now a National Historic Landmark. Thornbury Farm, which is privately owned, overlooks the landmark and was the scene of numerous skirmishes, including one that left the Marquis de Lafayette wounded.

I wondered if the group anticipated any push-back from preservationists over locating a brewery on a historic site.

Spackman, a board member on the local historical society, said instead that a brewery should help preserve the land.

“If we don’t find a way to support the farm, find income, it will be sold and developed,” he said.

Indeed, Spackman noted that an adjoining farm is being developed for residential housing by Toll Brothers.

“We’re not pillaging the land,” he continued. He said 110 of the farm’s 180 acres are preserved as open space. “This will help preserve the land.”

The beer-makers are hopeful they can use grain, hops and water from the farmland in their brews.

“This will be a family-friendly, farm-to-table experience,” said Mike Loveless, who joined with his home-brewing buddy, Paul Zippel, to form Artillery Brewing.

The pair gave up their original plans to build in Maryland over zoning issues, and instead refocused on Pennsylvania because of the state’s liberal brewery licensing and sales regs. Thornbury Farm was a natural fit for their military-themed brewery, and they signed a deal with Spackman within weeks of first meeting him.

The brewery expects to make American-, English- and Belgian-style ales with a small, one-barrel brewing system. The group hopes to make the beers available through a unique CSA arrangement, as well as for sale to the public.

Though the recent federal government shutdown has delayed necessary licensing, Loveless said the group anticipates it will up and running by early July. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to home brew and give away beer samples to test their recipes.

Beer Radar

When Broken Goblet, which is expanding into a new location, moves out of its facility in Bristol, another brewery will quickly take its place. Second Sin Brewing says it plans to take over the location this summer. If you want to get an early taste of Second Sin’s brews, follow its Instagram account for an upcoming raffle in which it’ll be giving away four-packs…  By the way, Broken Goblet will host a last-night bash on March 23, and hopes to open in its new brewery this spring at 2500 State Road, Bensalem… Autumn Arch (Newark, Del.) is up and brewing. Look for an opening day announcement soon…

Hidden River, a favorite along the Schuylkill out in Berks County, has expanded its hours. It’s now open on Wednesday for beer (no food)… Craft Hall, the new dining/entertainment complex at the former home of Yards Brewing in Fishtown, opened this week. In addition to Mainstay Independent Brewing, the food hall is home to Lost Bread Co. Bakery, several bars and seating areas and a playground for kids…

John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado who this week threw his hat into the ring for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, is a former brewery owner (Wynkoop in Denver). You say you knew that? Well, did you know he’s also a Philly guy? That’s right, he was born in Narberth and attended the Haverford School…

Weird Brewery Event of the Week

Essential Oils & Brew Tasting, Blueprint Brewing, March 10 – A fun afternoon of pairing 100% Pure Therapeutic-Grade Vitality Essential Oils with the brew you love. While sipping and enjoying oily infused snacks, we will be sharing simple and easy health strategies with essential oils on how to keep your family healthy, kick toxins out of your home and go green. Tix $15.

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