Sunken City is Franklin’s first microbrewery
Smith Mountain Lake visitors will have a new option in cooling off this summer. Sunken City Brewery Co. recently opened in Hardy. The $2.3 million, 8,800‐square‐foot brewery, the first microbrewery in Franklin County, is expected to create 20 to 25 jobs within five years.
Named after the villages that were flooded when Smith Mountain Lake was created, Sunken City will be situated at Westlake Towne Center.
Many lake-area residents and tourists may be familiar with Sunken City’s Dam Lager, a low-hop beer with a hint of caramel that owner Jerome Parnell used to test-drive the market before launching the brewery. “I took a chance with it and people took well to this local Smith Mountain Lake beer,” Parnell says. “It gave me what I needed to put in some more capital and go to a bank and build the brewery around this local beer concept.”
Sunken City’s latest offering is Red Clay IPA. “We launched it in Roanoke [recently], and it got a great response,” Parnell says. “We think it’ll be a big winner across the state.”
Sunken City beer currently is being sold in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Danville. Parnell hopes to expand distribution to Northern Virginia, Richmond and Virginia Beach by this fall. The former chief operating officer for a biotech company, International Bio-Resources, Parnell has hired Jeremy Kirby as the company’s brewmaster. Kirby, who trained as a brewmaster in Germany, previously worked at the Gottberg Brewery in Nebraska.
Sunken City already produces kegs and plans to start offering canned beer by July 4. Canning beer has a number of advantages, Parnell says. Cans protect the product from light and air and are cheaper to ship. Sunken City has developed a canning line instead of using a mobile canning unit. “We think canning on premise keeps the ball going and keeps the industry afloat here,” Parnell says.
Sunken City is on target to produce 3,000 to 5,000 barrels of beer a year — and there’s room to grow, Parnell says. The plant has a production capacity of 15,000 to 20,000 barrels a year.
Besides the brewery, Sunken City has a beer garden and tasting room, which opened in May hosting 700 visitors on opening night. “It has been extraordinary,” Parnell says. “I’m really blown away by the support.”