History and hops come together at Evergreen Farm Brewing
Adam Sommer lives along Metamora-Washington Blacktop in rural Tazewell County, just like four generations of Sommers before him.
Modern trends have pushed small family farms around the country to the brink of extinction, and the Sommer property, once an active 225-acre farm, was no exception. Now, thanks to some classic Sommer-family ingenuity, Adam and his family have started to breathe new life into the remaining 20 acres with Evergreen Farm Brewing.
“It’s a fifth generation farm, I’m the fifth generation back. When I was still a kid, we still farmed. When I was roughly fourteen, we sold off most of the fields and we kept a little under 20 acres,” said Sommer. “Moved back here in 2017, and with that chunk still sitting here, just kind of decided we’ve got enough we could play around with and it slowly turned into doing this farmhouse brewery.”
An electrician by trade, Sommer is new to the brewing industry, but brewing beer isn’t an entirely new quest for the family. Adam’s great grandfather Al, who was an active member of the local Mennonite Church, tried his hand at home-brewing when he lived at the farm. According to Adam, it was just one of his many exploits in a lifetime of curiosity.
“He was kind of a jack of all trades, but he excelled in most of the things that he did. He was actually the first Sommer to brew beer here,” said Sommer. “He had a group over, [and] the elders from the church were over in the old farmhouse and he had bottled a batch of beer that was down in the basement, and it was building up too much pressure, it was popping the caps off. So they heard it, and were like ‘What in the world’s going on in the basement?’ and he’s like ‘Oh, we got rats in the cellar.’ So I have a beer named after him called ‘Rats in the Cellar.’”
The Evergreen Farm property consists of the farmhouse and multiple other structures Sommer plans to make use of—a renovated wash house is now the taproom, and the farm workshop will become the tasting room. From the beer to the buildings, there is no shortage of history that comes with the farm.
“My grandpa just turned 92, and he actually remembers hearing his grandma talk about watching Abraham Lincoln ride past our house out front,” said Sommer.
When it comes to the beer itself, Sommer plans to incorporate as many homegrown ingredients as possible and become a “destination brewery” for visitors near and far.
“Being a family farm with a lot of history, we want that to be a major part of the story. It’s kind of the main reason why we’re doing it,” said Sommer. “Our motto is actually ‘Ground to Growler,’ so as things progress and we expand, we want to grow more and more of our ingredients that we’re putting into the beer.”
The journey to becoming a brewer has been an unexpected one for Sommer, navigating careers until landing back home at the farm. Pieces of his story can be found in the names of the beers, as can his hopes for continuing the family legacy.
“My saison names, I’m kind of keeping those more philosophical, a little more deeper meaning. The first one I did, called ‘Furthest Step From Home,’ the thought behind that was I never would’ve dreamed I would’ve been starting a brewery...but it’s literally at my house,” said Sommer. “The second one’s called ‘More Than a Lifetime,’ so that ties in with the generational thing of wanting to build something here to where my kids have something to hang on to.”
While they have not yet set a date, Evergreen Farm Brewing plans to open to the public this fall.