National Beer Day is Wednesday, 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!
Lost Barrel Brewing is a sleek new Middleburg operation specializing in farm-brewed ales, lagers, IPAs and stouts in a multi-purpose setting. Drink indoors, take a seat on the heated porch or the Adirondacks around the firepits and in between sips of Belgian-style Farm Light or malty Amber Ale, sample cheese and charcuterie from Chef José Marty’s LoCo Kitchen on the premises. Over in Hillsboro, Harvest Gap is a gorgeous new brewery set in the former timber frame barn of a working cattle and grain farm. Enjoy stunning views of the Blue Ridge at sunset from the flagstone porch with bench tables next to firepits or relax in the greenhouse – literally the farm’s former greenhouse – with its own bar and a small stage for live acts. Which beer to try? We’re partial to the crisp and light Devil Dog Helles Lager and the classic German-style P’ville Road German Pilsner. Not yet opened but coming soon to the Lovettsville area are two new operations: One Family Brewing, entrepreneur David Keuhner’s brewery on 27-acres off Berlin Turnpike, and Flying Ace Farm the brewery, distillery and BBQ joint – “beer, bourbon and brisket!” - from the team behind Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville.
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 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. They are about to make the first 100% Loudoun beer, where the water, malt, grain and yeast will come from the county, most within a few miles of the farm. “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 above Bluemont, famous for its craft ales and stunning views. Bluemont Vineyard next door, and Henway Hard Cider and Great Country Farms below are also outposts of the family empire. From dirt farm to dynasty – quite a journey.
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 contained 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 their “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.
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 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.