Whereas wine may be Virginia’s history, craft beer is its future. The recent years have ushered in a new era in Loudoun County, one where a frosty pint is brewed from wholesome ingredients and served at the neighborhood brewpub. The craft brewing community encompasses more than just a happy-hour joint. It’s not your standard hops or malts. Each pour is a glass brimming full of community, heritage and relationships.
Matt Hagerman, founder of Lost Rhino Brewing Company, began his journey into brewing at Old Dominion Brewing Company. After spending several years in the beer industry on both coasts, he raised enough funds and took up residence in Ashburn, VA. There, he was able to store the brewing equipment that he purchased from Old Dominion before their closing.
“I literally have the Old Dominion brew house,” Hagerman said. In keeping their community loyalty strong, Lost Rhino has yet to expand outside of Virginia and D.C. with distribution. Eventually, he plans to open a Lost Rhino brewpub in the Brambleton Center in Ashburn, VA. Hagerman credits the success of the Loudoun craft beer market to Virginia’s wine trail, noting that people familiar with the wine industry have the right mindset and appreciation of the craft beverage artistry.
Old Ox Brewery’s Chris Burn attributes craft beer’s recent popularity to the legislation that allowed breweries to serve beer out of their tasting rooms without serving food. “It provides an immediate revenue stream that helps you get on your feet,” he says. Burns, who owns Old Ox Brewery with his wife Kristin and his father and mother, started as a home brewer. Named after Old Ox Road, Burns said that the name spoke to their family’s beer philosophy and their desire for it to be a point of connection in the community. “It’s fun to watch people come in and connect with each other,” adds Burns. Sten Sellier started as a home brewer, too, before opening Beltway Brewing Company. Looking to take his beers to the next level, Sellier couldn’t find a production facility that would let him brew. Instead, he built a company that would only brew for others. “We’re a craft beer incubator,” Sellier joked. Currently brewing for 14 clients, Beltway Brewing Company has helped foster beers to fruition from local breweries, as well as ones from Florida, Alabama and Ohio. Their state-of-the-art production facility handles other breweries’ beers from brew to bottle.
Unanimously, all brew masters stated that attention to detail was key to a good craft brew. At Beltway Brewing Company, quality control is taken seriously and their vigorous testing for recipe adherence, yeast levels and spoilage speak to their commitment to details.
“It’s way too important to risk sending bad beer out there,” Sellier said. “This isn’t home brew, and it has to last longer than a couple weeks.”
The growth and development of the craft beer culture has attracted not only the attention of local breweries choosing to open in Loudoun, but also larger breweries looking to expand. Victory Brewing Company, based out of Pennsylvania, chose Leesburg as the location for their first brewpub outside of their home state. Victory Brewing Company opened its doors in 1996 with best friends Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet at the helm. They remain intrinsically involved in the operation of the facility. When it came time to choose where to open their next location, Covaleski said the Loudoun area felt like home to them. No stranger to Northern Virginia, Barchet served as brewmaster at Old Dominion before moving on to found Victory.
“[Loudoun] has a well-travelled, intelligent community that also respects a little bit of rural lifestyle,” Covaleski said. “We feel we’ll be able to integrate with the community well.”
Victory’s Leesburg brewpub, scheduled to open in 2016, will span three floors at Courthouse Square, featuring a restaurant, outdoor dining and an attached brewery. It will produce brews specific and unique to the Leesburg location, according to Amy DePaoli, Marketing Director for Victory.
The surge in the craft beer industry in Loudoun is only gaining momentum. From the hopheads to the lager-lovers, Loudoun has enough variety to satisfy any beer drinker. “There’s always something different and unique that people want to try,” DePaoli noted. “Craft beer really is an art.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRACI MEDLOCK