Guest blog and photos provided by Brian Hennighausen of "Brewscapes"
Downtown Leesburg's Breweries
Nothing exemplifies the dramatic growth of craft beer in Loudoun County quite like the scene in downtown Leesburg, which is now home to six different breweries within the historic downtown as well as at least three different restaurants with a heavy focus on domestic and imported craft beer. Historic Leesburg has quite literally become a craft beer lover’s paradise and is gaining a regional reputation as a “can’t miss” on any craft beer lover’s itinerary.
And why wouldn’t it? From the outdoorsy and laid-back vibe of Bike TrAle Brewing to the excellent pub grub and more at Dog Money Restaurant and Brewery, there is something for everyone in this incredibly compact and diverse craft brewing hotbed. And it pretty much all started with Crooked Run Brewing. Let’s pay them a visit.
Crooked Run Brewing
You simply cannot have a discussion on Loudoun County craft beer without a significant focus on Crooked Run Brewing. This is “The Little Brewery that Could,” which started on a shoestring budget as a literal but charming hole in the wall and has grown over the course of the last decade into a regional powerhouse brewing adventurous and sought-after beers at two different county locations and recently opened its own full service restaurant as well.
I met co-owners Jake Endres and Lee Rogan at their newer Sterling location, but as I’ve been a fan of Crooked Run for years, the interview location was irrelevant. Their story starts with Endres’ Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to open a small 1.5 barrel production brewery in downtown Leesburg. He managed to raise over $10,000 in a very short period through some very inventive incentivization techniques ($1k for your own beer on tap, anyone?) and soon thereafter opened a small space in Market Station in 2013. If you visited in those early days, you no doubt ran into Endres’ mom helping to tend bar, his dog entertaining guests and himself doing everything from mopping the floors to brewing the beer. All of this hard work paid off handsomely, with Crooked Run gaining an outsized reputation regionally and internationally, even winning a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2016 for the exceptional hibiscus saison.
Seeking additional capacity to continue brewing outstanding beers, Endres and Rogan opened their second and much larger facility in Sterling in 2017. They have continued to develop an outstanding lineup of exceptional and inventive beers. Endres and Rogan describe their lineup as being somewhat non-traditional and not necessarily always “brewed to style,” which is not necessarily a bad thing. Their IPAs have always been very creative; including a variety of pepper spiced brews early on and some ridiculously inventive and delicious hazy IPAs today. What’s more, they are passionate brewers of delicious barrel-aged stouts and kettle sours and have one of the very few cool ships in Northern Virginia to brew their wild ales. A cool ship is a large fermentation vessel in which the pre-beer wort is exposed to natural yeast to produce a wild and somewhat unpredictable fermentation.
When that the owners say they are passionate about Loudoun County they mean it, right down to using our own natural airborne yeast to ferment some of their beers. Try any of these consistently outstanding and rotating brews and definitely try the Ambrosia sour that was released as part of the 6th anniversary celebrations in July. Whether you’re in the charming original location in Downtown Leesburg or the new site in Sterling, you are sure to find something you love to drink. And if you go to Sterling don’t miss the new Nectar and Day Break full-service restaurants!
Check back next week for insider information, tips and insights on how you can #ConquertheTrail!
Guest Blogger and Certified Cicerone Brian Hennighausen is a lifelong Northern Virginia resident and craft beer lover. You can follow him on Instagram @brewscapes or on his website www.brewscapes.org!