National Beer Day is Thursday, April 7th and since Loudoun is home to more than 35 breweries linked by the popular LoCo Ale Trail, it’s the perfect excuse to pay a visit. In anticipation of the day in question (and the night before – happy New Beer’s Eve!), we look at all the ways you can celebrate. From visiting the newest breweries to open to learning about some of the dynamic personalities who are putting Loudoun beer on the map, to sampling some of the more peculiar brews Loudoun is famous for – beer we go!
Bluemont Station Brewery & Winery is the newest kid on Loudoun’s brewing block and located on the handsome 50-acre with a historic manor house. The station name is a tribute to the long since defunct Southern Railway line that had its western terminus in Bluemont and ran through the farm. In tribute to this history, try the LoCoMotive Amber Lager, a refreshing darkish brew that’s perfect in the cool of spring. The owners offer a slate of wines, too. Combination beverage destinations are catching on. Opened in 2021 Flying Ace Distillery & Brewery outside Lovettsville is a craft brewery and bourbon distillery with a long and inventive list of ales, lagers and stouts on the menu. Go with the classic Pilot’s Pilsner, a malty-sweet lager balanced with Hallertau and Tettnang hops for a smooth, crisp finish.
Loudoun Beer Personalities
The Scientist: Jasper Akerboom was a microbiologist at Loudoun’s world-renowned Janelia Research labs when he quit to focus on his real love: beer. As the former Brewing Scientist at Ashburn’s Lost Rhino Brewing Co., he helped make their famous Bone Dusters amber ale – using yeast from protocetid whale fossils. Today he runs Jasper Yeast consultancy in Sterling with brewer Travis Tedrow, advising local breweries on fermentation. They share a building – and sometimes fridge space – with Sterling’s much-loved Ocelot Brewing Company.
The Agri-Beer Pioneers: John and Bonnie Branding, owners of Wheatland Spring Farm + Brewery outside Waterford, take “local” to new levels with what they call “Land Beer." Brewing with ancient German techniques, they produce perfectly balanced, beautifully packaged ales, lagers, IPA’s and stouts. In 2021 they made the first 100% Loudoun beer – “Loudoun Grown” - with water, malt, grain and yeast all coming from the county, most within a few miles of the farm. On Saturday June 4 they will be hosting their 3rd annual Land Beer Fest based around a celebration of the fourth year of their home-grown Estate Grain. “Beer is an agricultural product and has the capacity to reflect the character of the farm, surroundings and region where it’s grown,” said Bonnie.
The Family Dynasty: Bob Zurschmeide started out in the 1970s as a weekend “dirt farmer” in Loudoun. Fifty years later his son Bruce oversees Dirt Farm Brewing on steep slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains above Bluemont, famous for its craft ales and stunning views. Bluemont Vineyard next door, Henway Hard Cider and Great Country Farms below and the newly opened 21-and-older Reserve at Bluemont Vineyard on a south facing slope of the Blue Ridge are all outposts of the same empire. From dirt farm to dynasty – quite a journey.
Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling not only makes its own superb craft beer, but it also harnesses its equipment and expertise to make beer for other breweries and companies around the country. Known as “Contract Brewing”, clients as diverse as George Mason University, Hoboken Brewing in New Jersey and Buffalo Wing Factory have hired Beltway to brew beers to exact specifications. Beltway will also custom label beers for clients who want a personal motif on a bottle or can to impress their friends.
Quirky Rocket Frog Brewing in the heart of the Route 28 tech corridor in Sterling is named for the famous frog hurled into a cloud of smoke from the force of the LADEE spacecraft launch on Wallops Island in 2013, captured in a stunning image by a NASA photographer. Aside from the cute frog icon on all cans and bottles, the brewer also makes space-themed beers like the Minotaur V Blonde Ale and the Roscosmos Russian Imperial Stout, as well as a Wallops Island Brown Ale, a two-time winner at the Great American Beer Festival. Space out.
House 6 Brewing Co. in Ashburn is the dream child of the local brewer and firefighter Rolando Rivera, long-time volunteer at Station 6 and Station 22 in Ashburn. A popular community hangout that hosts frequent events for local first responders, the beers run the gamut from a light and crisp El Bombero Kolsch to the heavier fruit-forward Cherry Rivera Stout named for its owner. Try the perfectly balanced Smoke Eater Smoked Porter – smoke eater being the slang term for a firefighter.
Beers and Bands
Want live music with your malt? B Chord Brewing Company on the slopes of the Blue Ridge north of Round Hill leads the way, hosting frequent local acts such as the Woodshedders and Jules & The Agreeables, as well as world-famous performers like Del McCoury, the most awarded artist in Bluegrass history. Over in Lucketts, sprawling and very lively Vanish Farmwoods Brewery set in 50 acres of fields and forest off Route 15, has live music most weekends with frequent appearances by the likes of Train Wreck Endings, Whiskey Neat and blues rocker Patty Reese.
You Drank What? Bizarre Ingredients Found in Loudoun Beer
Adroit Theory’s “The Death of Cthulhu”
The esoteric Purcellville nano brewery’s Russian Imperial Milk Stout contains espresso coffee, toasted coconut, macadamia nuts and Scotch Bonnet Pepper, infused with bourbon honey. Quite a trip. If not currently on tap, try the equally ominous sounding “Death of Civilization in Slow Motion V” made with notes of tangerine, grapefruit and pine.
Crooked Run’s “Merrang!”
Innovative Crooked Run Brewing caused a stir with this Berliner infused with lemons, Mexican vanilla, milk sugar and er, Graham Crackers. Yep – a liquid Lemon Meringue Pie. Surreal. If not currently on tap, try the “Neapolitik” – an imperial milk stout with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.
Belly Love’s “The Duke”
The names of the beers at this Purcellville brewery are bizarre enough – “Son of A Dicktator” anyone? – but The Duke, a purple-hued Belgian triple brewed with orange peel and blue starflower petals take the cake: hold it up to the light and it changes from purple to red and orange. If not currently on tap, try the far more classical “Narcissist”, a rich, light golden, malty lager.
Old Ox’s “FestivALE Farmhouse Cherry Ale”
A cherry blossom ale? This fruity farmhouse beer from Chris Burns’ popular brewery has herbs, spices and fruit, and has a limited release made to commemorate the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. If not on tap, try the “Funky Face Margarita”, a tart, summery margarita inspired ale infused with lime juice, salt, and sweet orange peel.