By Callie Hietala
Jake Abel has been all around the world, but he came back home to open a brewery. After a year and a half of brewing and building, he saw his dream realized when Scuffle Hill Brewing Company opened its doors on September 1.
Abel said that ties to the community are what separates Scuffle Hill Brewing from other craft breweries in the area. Even the name, Scuffle Hill, has deep ties to area history.
The brewery takes its name from General Joseph Martin, who named the first plot of land he owned in Henry County Scuffle Hill because he had to scuffle to come up with the money to buy it. Able had to do the same—most of his life savings are invested in the brewery.
Community ties continue to the menu, as well. The flagship blonde ale, called The Big Chair, takes its name from the world’s largest chair, manufactured by Bassett Furniture, which was once on display in Uptown Martinsville. A new ‘big chair’ has since been installed in the Uptown to commemorate the original. The Dick and Willie oatmeal stout is named for the railroad that once ran through Martinsville while the Tricorn IPA goes back once more to the days when Joseph Martin was living in the area.
The current menu also includes pineapple seltzer, a historical beer style called the Kentucky Common, a Mexican-style beer called Da ‘Rona, and a light American ale dubbed The Lawnmower.
Before he was the county’s newest craft brewer, Abel served in the Marine Corps from 2015 to 2019 as a Military Police officer. As a field MP, he did multiple deployments, including training Marines in Korea and then, in Mongolia, he trained Mongolian soldiers to support UN missions. He also served as presidential security for President Trump, working as security with Air Force One and coordinating with the Secret Service.
He fell in love with craft beer while stationed in San Diego, where, at the time, more than 150 craft breweries were in operation.
“It’s the capitol of craft beer in America,” Abel said, and added that he loved the experience of going to a brewery, seeing local acts perform, trying different beers, and “drinking beer with a friend and not having to worry about going to a bar where everyone’s shouting over each other.”
He decided he wanted to bring that experience to his hometown.
“My hometown doesn’t have anything for the younger generation like myself to do,” he said. “Instead of going to work for another brewer, I decided to come back to Henry County and invest in the county here and make this business.”
He moved back home in November 2019 and, in that same month, started a program through Virginia Tech and the University of Richmond to become a certified beer brewery. Once his certification was complete, he got to work on the dream that became Scuffle Hill. Even while managing a new business and brewing all the beer, Abel is currently enrolled in Patrick & Henry Community College working toward a small business and entrepreneurship degree. After that, he plans to earn a degree in business administration.
All this work will go toward growing Scuffle Hill.
“There’s so much more I want to do in here,” Abel said. Eventually, Abel said he hopes to upgrade the barrel system to produce more beer and eventually, start distributing it. Toward the end of this year, he and his business partners plan to install televisions to show live sporting events. The business is already beginning to showcase live music and hope to grow that.
“We have a lot of events planned, we just have to get the community invested in us and be that community-oriented place that everybody wants to come,” said Abel. “I think beer makes great friends. Come to Scuffle Hill. Make a friend or bring a friend. When you get off work and you want to get a beer and you want to chill out and talk, this is the place to be.”