The building that once housed the Winchester Star’s printing and distribution facility is being converted into a craft beer brewery.
Front Royal Brewing Co., established in 2018 on Main Street in Front Royal, extends to 2 N. Kent St. in Winchester. Owners Kerry Barnhart, Tim Barnhart and Jeffrey Carroll signed papers on Tuesday to lease 13,000 square feet of the 35,680 square foot building owned by the Byrd family, former publishers of The Winchester Star.
“This is the perfect space,” said Mike McCarthy, managing director and chief brewer of Front Royal Brewing Co.
“We are very pleased,” added Thomas W. Byrd, a former Managing Director of The Winchester Star who now oversees the North Kent Street property on behalf of North Kent Properties LLC. “This is exactly the type of tenant we were hoping to find for this location.
The Byrd family owned and operated The Star from 1897 until they sold the business to Ogden Newspapers Inc. of Wheeling, West Virginia on April 1, 2018. A year later, The Star offices moved to Ogden Newspapers Inc. moved to 100 N. Loudoun St., suite 110, and the Byrds retained ownership of 2 N. Kent. St. property.
The original Kent Street structure was built in 1946 but expanded several times over the years to accommodate printing presses, mailroom, loading dock, and additional offices. According to the city of Winchester, the entire structure has an estimated value of nearly $ 3 million.
The Byrds previously announced that the south end of the building, consisting of the original structure and a 1989 addition to the rear, was undergoing renovations to eventually house offices and apartments. The brewery plans to occupy most of the space at the north end of the property, which was built in 1964 and 1981 to accommodate the printing operations and broadcast service of the Winchester Star.
With its expansion to Winchester, Front Royal Brewing Co. is also renaming its line of craft beers. As of today, McCarthy has stated that the beer brand name is Vibrissa.
“It’s more difficult to distribute beer outside of your area with a name that locates you geographically in that area,” McCarthy said of the new name.
Currently, Front Royal Brewing Co.’s line of beers can be purchased at independent stores and restaurants throughout the North Shenandoah Valley and in Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and Washington, DC counties.
It is selling so well, Carroll said, that the Front Royal Brewery cannot keep pace with demand, which has led company officials to seek a second larger location in Winchester. While Front Royal’s equipment is just large enough to make around 20 kegs of beer at a time, the Winchester Brewery will be able to produce around 40 kegs per batch.
“We just can’t make enough beer,” Carroll said.
“We love the Shenandoah Valley and didn’t want to come out of it to develop,” said Kerry Barnhart. “We thought of a whole bunch of different places, but Winchester made the most sense to us.”
As well as being home to a brewery that will produce a range of craft beers, Winchester’s new location – just like Front Royal – will feature a family tasting room with an assortment of pub food and, of course, a variety of Vibrissa. beers. There will also be a gift shop and lounge.
Carroll said he believed Front Royal Brewing Co.’s two breweries and tap rooms would eventually draw beer lovers from across the country to the North Shenandoah Valley.
“We want beer drinkers from Maine to Florida to even California,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, McCarthy said the Winchester Brewery is expected to start producing Vibrissa beer in March. The taproom should open two to three months later.
Winchester Development Services Director Shawn Hershberger said he was happy to welcome Front Royal Brewing Co. to Old Town, where it will be a few blocks from three other craft breweries – Winchester Brewing Plant, Alesatian Brewing Co., Broken Window Brewing Co. Another brewery, Escutcheon Brewing, is located just outside the city center.
“The growth of our downtown has always been strong and the existing breweries have established an exceptional local brewing scene,” said Hershberger. “Vibrissa will only add another layer to what is already a strong draw within Winchester.”
For more information on Front Royal Brewing Co. and its line of Vibrissa craft beers, visit frontroyalbrewing.com.