CHRISTIANSBURG — A group of friends who met at Virginia Tech are planning to launch the town’s first microbrewery early next year.

Iron Tree Brewing Company has begun renovations on a small storefront on Roanoke Street, beside the Montgomery County courthouse downtown.

None of the founders have brewed professionally before, but they’ve been avid homebrewers for years.

Seth Locklear, a 29-year-old construction consultant, was the first to try it out when he saw a bunch of equipment on Craigslist about five years ago.

“This is a hobby I don’t have yet,” he remembers thinking at the time.

A few years later Locklear was brewing all the beer for his own wedding in 2016, and a few years after that he was preparing to dive into professional beer making.

He’s joined by co-founders Jansen Lee, a 34-year-old telecommunication professional, and Stephen Peter, a 30-year-old employee of an automotive auction company.

The group says Iron Tree is focusing on menu variety, so they have a beer for everyone. They plan to offer lagers, complex Scotch ales, dark beers and sours.

Iron Tree doesn’t plan to offer its own food, but instead will encourage delivery from food trucks and neighboring restaurants.

Seth Locklear’s wife, Stefanie Locklear, is an interior designer who is helping the business hone the handcrafted, “lunch pail mentality” aesthetic they’re going for.

She says the store design will feature a lot of natural woods and metals.

But that all still only exists on paper.

So far, the group has an empty shop with concrete floors, bare walls, beams across the ceiling and an exposed toilet in the corner.

They’ve purchased most of the brewing equipment they’ll need and have drawn up plans for the rest of the store.

The next step is to work out zoning issues with Christiansburg planning officials. Then they’ll apply for all the brewing licenses they’ll need to begin trying out recipes.

If all goes according to plan, Iron Tree hopes to open for business at the beginning of 2020.

“The vibe here is going to be super relaxed, chill — hopefully,” Lee said. “That’s the attempt.”

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Jacob Demmitt covers business and technology out of the New River Valley bureau.

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