From a former Cobra helicopter pilot opening a brewery in Sterling to honor veterans to a former Navy Medical Research Institute chemist experimenting with hemp and CBD on a farm in Lovettsville, Loudoun is home to several talented veterans who have opened innovative and inspirational businesses in the community. This Veterans Day, we highlight seven veteran-owned businesses to support not just over the commemoration, but throughout the year.
The Loudoun iteration of Honor Brewing, which has locations in Chantilly and Fairfax, features 16 beers on tap, a full restaurant and a contract brewing facility for smaller brewers. Founded in 2014 by Allen Cage, a 24-year military vet who spent 12 years as a Cobra pilot, the concept is to “honor” men and women who have served in uniform. The Sterling location spans a vast 45,000 square-foot facility and includes a Wall of Honor, display patches and wall taps designed to look like dog tags in remembrance of those who have given their lives in service. Most movingly, the first beer poured each day is an Honor Pour, dedicated to a veteran who gets a saved seat whether he is present or not. You can order the Honor Pour in person or online in memory of a loved one and the brewery will share a picture of the Honor Pour to the social media handle or email you provide. We salute you.
Buffalo’s iconic Anchor Bar – quite literally the restaurant that gave us the Buffalo Wing – has several franchises across the US but the 2023 opening of this edition in Leesburg is cause for celebration among more than wings and Bills fans. Located at the Village at Leesburg, the team behind it are four friends, three of whom are military veterans from the Air Force, Marines and Army with almost 40 years of service among them. The Leesburg operation features several local beers on tap from favorites like Lost Rhino Brewing Company, Old Ox Brewery, Solace Brewing Company and Crooked Run Fermentation; veterans get a discount on all drinks and this Veterans Day they pay half-price for a special breakfast. “Most Anchor Bar franchises are run by veterans,” said Lee Shabe, one of the Leesburg partners. “This is our way of giving back.” As for the space itself, there is a long bar, dozens of beers on tap, an extensive food and cocktail menu and banks of TVs in a room out back to watch live sports. The highlight however are those wings. Created in the original Anchor Bar in Buffalo one night in 1964 by owner Teressa Bellissimo, they are crisp and spicy on the outside, hot and juicy inside and go down perfectly with Loudoun beer. Cheers!
Founded by Paul Olsen and his late brother Kenny – self-described “weird brothers” with a life-long love affair with fresh roasted coffee – the Loudoun location of Weird Brothers Coffee opened in the Village at Leesburg in 2023, although the roastery itself is in nearby Herndon. Army veteran Paul was inspired to go into the bean game after a trip to the ancient city of Harar in Ethiopia, where coffee originated, while Kenny had traveled extensively and worked as a roaster and barista out West. On top of excellent espresso drinks and nitro cold brews, the cozy café offers an Espresso Flight: any three espresso or cold brew beverages. On Sundays, 15 percent of the proceeds go to a charity of the day.
“There’s a direct line between me growing up on a farm in Oregon to working in a Navy research lab in Maryland to this,” said Jeff Boogaard, founder-owner of Cannabreeze CBD Hemp Farm & Co in Lovettsville. At Cannabreeze, Boogaard and his team grow, produce and sell a wide range of premium CBD and CBG hemp products, from oils, soaps and balms to edibles and gels. “Farming is chemistry and the combination came together in the fields here and in the lab on site.” Boogaard spent eight years in the Navy including two as a chemist in the hyperbaric medicine department of the Navy Medical Research Institute in Bethesda. While Cannabreeze is open to all, with a stylish tasting room on site where visitors can sample and purchase products, Boogaard says any veteran can get a free 600mg bottle of CBD Oil to try.
Many couples planning on getting married or hosting showers in Loudoun are turning to Leesburg-based floral and balloon design catering company Lucy Blossoms for décor arrangements – everything from elaborate flower garden walls to decorative organic balloon garlands. What they probably don’t know is that talented Lucy Blossoms owner-founder Jami Switzer and her husband Jonathan are both military veterans. Jami spent nine years in the Pennsylvania National Guard from 2008 to 2016, reaching the rank of sergeant, while Jonathan is a Marine veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan from 2012-2013. Jami, who tends to the clients and design and oversees front of house, was inspired to get into custom displays after seeing the Instagram designs of a Houston floral decorator. “I thought – I can do that!” So, she did. As for Lucy Blossoms, it is named for Jami’s deaf French bulldog Lucy.
The Virts family has farmed in western Loudoun since the 1700s. In 2020, US Marine veteran Mike Virts, who grew up in the county and did two tours in Iraq between 2006 and 2010, turned a section of the family’s farm in Hillsboro into Harvest Gap Brewery. It’s been an instant success. A Navy veteran helped build the rustic timber barn-style tasting room, several veterans work as farm hands on the land and there’s reserved parking for veterans in the lot. Aside from the beer, the highlight is the enormous corn maze on the land which, this year, is carved into the shape of the combine harvester they use for harvesting their barley, corn and soybeans. Which beer to drink? “Try the Devil Dog, a German style Helles lager,” said Virts. “Devil Dog has been a nickname for the Marines since World War One.”
In a short span of time Bleu Frog Vineyards, winery of Jan and Joe Kernan on Route 15 north of Leesburg, has gained a stellar reputation for its bold red blends, delicate rosés, superb food and gorgeous hillside setting – popular with wedding parties for ceremonies in the vines. What is less well known is that before he turned his interests to growing grapes and making wine, Joe Kernan served as Navy Seal “frogman.” In fact, the winery name combines that popular nickname for the Seals with Jan’s career as a cordon bleu chef. Toast the Seals and their armed forces brothers with a bottle of the 2020 Bullfrog Meritage – a bold fruit-forward blend that’s the perfect winter warmer.