Crozet’s emergence as a tourist entrepot will advance another step later this summer when Pro Re Nata Brewery opens in the former Moose Lodge on Rt. 250 close by the Interstate 64 interchange.
Crozet dentist Dr. John Schoeb, joined by two other investors, bought the 3.2-acre Moose Lodge property, which has agricultural zoning, thinking it might work as a boarding kennel. But it turned out that use wouldn’t meet minimum sound distances. Then new state laws meant to stimulate farm enterprise came along. Now they are planting hops instead and transforming the lodge, which came into the world as a truck repair shop, into a small-scale brewery.
“The name Pro Re Nata, or PRN, is a Latin term we use in medicine when we write prescriptions for pain medication,” explained Schoeb. “I would write it like this: Take one or two Percocet every six hours PRN dental pain. So it means ‘as needed.’ So come to the brewery ‘as needed’ for relief.”
Word of the brewery has been creeping around and Schoeb said his patients have asked him about it. “People are ecstatic about it,” he said. “I have patients who were in the Moose Lodge and they are thrilled.”
He is being closely advised by a Charlottesville-area brewery on the art, science and business of brewing, but Schoeb said they preferred to stay in the background and he declined to name them, referring to them only as “well-known and very willing to help. They are overseeing production for quality.” He credited them with invaluable help in production design.
“We’re going to be a ‘green’ brewery,” said Schoeb. PRN has a well and septic system. Beer production will go into a separate waste system and the used grains will go to farmers as stock feed.
The brewery is expecting to produce 1,200 barrels of beer a year, or 2,400 kegs. It is limited to 15,000 barrels per year by law, he said.
Schoeb said he expects to hire eight to 10 employees to start ,and he will split time between his dental practice, Crozet Blue Ridge Dental, which is large, and the brewery.
Twenty dumpster loads came out in the demolition of the exterior and interior of the 5,000 square-foot block shell, Schoeb said.
“The structure is good and we kept the footprint. We’re just fixing it up,” he said.
The new exterior will “play off the board-and-batten barn across the road. It will have a standing seam metal roof, too.”
Inside, half of what was the Mooses’ dining room—and was previously the truck shop’s service floor—will become the brewery operation, a seven-barrel system with 14 stainless steel tanks, all being custom-made. High ceilings designed for trucks allow plenty of height for brewery vessels. The building is getting insulation (it had none) and the 15 large windows in the original construction, from the day when one hoped for a breeze to get cool, will be reinstalled.
Picking up on its history, two truck-size glass bay doors, like those on the Crozet firehouse, will be on the building’s front and rear walls.
“The bonded area—the untaxed stage—will be fenced off,” said Schoeb. “It will be open so you can watch the brewing process. Our total seating will be 200.”
The other half of high-ceilinged space will have tables, a spot for a small stage, and along the front wall, the highway side, there will be a L-shaped bar with 35 seats. Given Crozet’s affection for its history, the Moose Lodge’s road sign is coming inside and getting lit up to hang over it. They will start with six taps at the bar. “That’s six beers on day one,” said Schoeb.
“We’re going for a higher-end look,” he said. “We want it to be ridiculously cool.”
In the building’s remaining half, what had been a spacious kitchen and lobby is now a large, bright seating area with panoramic views of the Blue Ridge, plus bathrooms and office space toward the rear. It can be closed off from the production area by large barn doors on tracks and will be available for private parties. Outside will be a large patio seating 50 and a fire pit with shrubbery screening off the road.
The brewery won’t have a kitchen. It will have a food truck it owns and operates in the parking lot.
Hops will be grown on the back of the property and along the 100-space parking lot. The rear will also have a large lawn for kids to run on. There is enough room to enlarge the brewery at some point.
Schoeb said 15,000 cars a day presently pass the location, now sure to be another Crozet stop on the Brew Ridge Trail.