In 2015, Josh Chapman moved his family to Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s eastern shore with plans to open a brewery, though at the time he was brewing at Bluejacket in Navy Yard. In 2017, Josh and his family opened Black Narrows Brewing Company; that same year they sourced bloody butcher corn for use in their beer, a centuries-old variety of corn that in 2010 medaled at a Virginia Food and Beverage Expo. Now their beer, How Bout It, prominently featuring bloody butcher corn, is a finalist at the 2023 Good Food Awards.
Out of 32 breweries nominated for the awards, only Black Narrows is in the area. There are some popular breweries and highly regarded competition on the list, including beers from Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Vermont, Almanac Beer Co. in California, Fullsteam in North Carolina, Reuben’s Brews in Washington, and Firestone Walker in California. Some of these breweries have more than one beer as an award finalist. Two other Virginia craft beverage makers, whose products are also available in the DC metro region, are in the finals as well: Castle Hill Cider, and Winchester Ciderworks. But to our knowledge, Black Narrows’ How Bout It is the only beer to feature the bloody butcher corn variety. The red dent variety, at least 178 years old and likely much older, nearly went extinct earlier in this century, but is having a revival thanks to chefs, distillers, and brewers.
Black Narrows works closely with local agricultural purveyors throughout Virginia. Partnering with farms, maltsters, and agricultural purveyors including Turtle Pace Farm, Murphy & Rude Malting Co., Seaside Hops, Perennial Roots Farm, Cutfresh Organics, Tom’s Cove, and Pungo Creek Mills, among others.
As if life wasn’t full of enough challenges, Chapman plans to take the Bloody Butcher corn growing on, as it will be the last year the Pungo Creek Mills grows the storied corn. The future, and the past, literally relies on the hands of Josh Chapman. With corn grown by Pungo Creek owners Bill & Bob Savage, the bloody butcher corn variety won a medal in 2010’s Virginia Food & Beverage Expo where their cornbread mix won the Best New Food Product – Diamond Award. Not long after Virginia distilleries began sourcing the Pungo Farms corn and in 2017, Black Narrows began forecasting annual poundage of corn for their beers, akin to how many brewers predict and procure hop contracts. The brewer has become the farmer; Chapman has begun his own corn growing operation.
Over the course of the next few months, Chapman will dedicate a significant amount of time to growing, harvesting, and eventually selling corn. He’s already got the land and equipment dedicated for this undertaking, the only other variables are mother nature and father time. In the meantime, we wish Black Narrows continued success on their beer, How Bout It, becoming a finalist at the 2023 Good Food Awards.
If all goes to plan, Black Narrows plans to have another shipment of beer in DC next week. In the meantime, The Red Hen has How Bout It on draft, but call ahead if you plan to go specifically for the lager brewed with centuries-old bloody butcher corn.