RUCKERSVILLE — Local craft beer enthusiast Jeff Hittinger believes every community should have its own coffee shop, bakery and brewery. Starting on New Year’s Eve 2019, he’s brought that tradition alive in Greene by opening his new brewery at the intersection of U.S. 29 and 33 in Ruckersville.
“I’ve been living in Greene County for about eight years and we don’t have a brewery here. It felt like we needed one,” Hittinger said. “I’ve been home brewing for more than 20 years.”
His wife, Tina, said that Jeff Hittinger was actually late to their wedding because he was finishing brewing the beer for their wedding reception.
Octonia Stone Brew Works is named for a historic boundary marker located near Stanardsville. According to the brewery’s website, the Octonia stone is a granite rock that is part of a natural outcropping in a hay field, which marks the westernmost boundary line of the 24,000-acre Octonia Grant and is engraved with a pre-Revolutionary War symbol of a figure eight with a cross touching the top.
Before the Mason-Dixon Line was mapped out in the 1760s, this property boundary was the westernmost mark of English settlements in the area and the designating divider line between northern and southern Virginia. Inscribed stone boundary markers were very rare in Virginia in the 18th century, so this marker was designated a historic landmark in 1970.
As the brewery’s owner and chief brewer, Hittinger believes in keeping local history alive and came up with the name to honor the unique history of Greene County. He said he also hopes to give back to the county with a seasonal donation tap, a percentage of the proceeds of which will be donated to local establishments, such as the firehouse, which once was housed in the brewery building.
When asked what inspired him to start a brewery, Hittinger remembered a particular find.
“My grandfather passed away and I found a home brew that I’d given him when I first started. It was still good, so if the beer can last for 15 to 20 years in a bottle it’s got to be pretty good,” he said.
After being laid off from a sales job, Hittinger went to visit the unemployment office.
“They said, if you could have any job what job would you want it to be?” Hittinger said.
After 20 years of home brewing, opening a brewery sounded like a fun job, so he decided to give it a shot.
While it may appear small on the outside, the taproom features seating for 50 with a game room and private party room upstairs. Comfortably decorated using recycled benches and booth seating rescued from old Steak ‘N Shake establishments that closed down and a quilt featuring the brewery’s logo and colors (handmade by the owner’s mother), one could easily picture an intimate gathering of friends, sports fans or gaming enthusiasts sipping a pint together in the tasting room or celebrating a birthday in the private party space.
Hittinger, who works at the University of Virginia, as well, hopes to make the brewery his full-time job. Ashley Martin, the taproom manager, hopes to bring in local bands to perform frequently in the space. The brewery does not have a kitchen, but will bring in various snacks and local eats to go with the drinks.
“We’ll have snacky-type things available and we are going to have food trucks that will come and provide food,” Martin said. “We are trying to get as much local stuff in as we can.”
For the non-alcoholic options, the brewery is bringing in fresh brewed ginger ale from Planet Earth Diversified in Stanardsville. Pottery masks decorating the main bar were made by an artist at Noon Whistle Pottery.
Octonia will focus on wheat beers.
“I kind of look at breweries as art museums,” Hittinger said. “Even though there can be three or four in the same location, what’s inside is going to be completely different.”
As the only brewery in Greene, they hope to draw in the local crowd, but are open to clients coming up from Charlottesville, as well.
Visit www.octonia.beer or @OSBWXbeer on Facebook to learn more about events and operating hours.