When Loudoun County fine wine merchant Bush Nichols opened his business in 2014, the idea was to sell local and international wines to discerning oenophiles. Pop into the upscale wine shop he oversees at Mom’s Apple Pie, Hill High Marketplace, and you will find imported vintages from Sonoma to South Africa. In recent years, however, fine wines have been sharing shelf space with another world class beverage: craft beer – much of it from Loudoun.
“I now call myself a Craft Beer and Wine Merchant,” Nichols said. “When I moved to Loudoun in the 1980s there were no breweries. Now, there’s more variety of high-quality beer and more diversity of breweries than in many states. I don’t want to single any of them out – they’re all good!”
With Virginia Craft Beer Month this August, it’s worth paying tribute to the astonishing craft beer revolution that has taken place in Loudoun.
You want accolades?
In May, Leesburg’s Black Hoof Brewing won bronze at the World Beer Cup for its German-style Dominator Dopplebock – beating out more than 100 competitors. In March, Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery won glowing praise from world famous beer writer Jeff Alworth for “reviving farmhouse brewing, growing their own barley, using wild yeast from the land and brewing it up in a barn.”
There’s also no shortage of brewery experiences.
Crooked Run Fermentation in Sterling hosts a bingo night every Tuesday, raising money for charity. Harvest Gap Brewing in Hillsboro hosts trivia nights on Thursdays and suggests you come during “Gappy Hour.” Dirt Farm Brewing hosts an artisanal craft market on the second and last Sundays of every month. There’s lots of music too, from rock at Vanish to bluegrass at B Chord and heavy metal at Adroit Theory.
For an all-encompassing experience, conquer the LoCo Ale Trail by collecting stamps at each stop then turn your stamped passport in to Visit Loudoun to win prizes.
As with all creative subcultures, there’s constant innovation too. In Loudoun you’ll find everything from crisp pilsners and hoppy ales to malty barrel-aged stouts fused with herbs, honey, wine or whiskey. Loudoun even has its own yeast scientist: Jasper Akerboom, a microbiologist who isolates unique yeast strains for local brewers at his Sterling lab, Jasper Yeast.
Most of all though it’s the warm and welcoming scene, from trendy urban taprooms to mountaintop beerhalls, that sets Loudoun apart. On a recent Friday at Belly Love in Purcellville five couples walked in and sat at their regular table. Within minutes, without even ordering, their beer was poured. “This is our Cheers,” smiled Kristen. “We come every Friday and the bartenders know our names and our drinks. “
Join them there.
Or head over to Bush Nichols’s shop at Hill High Marketplace for a taste.