The Dulles Corridor is home to Loudoun’s booming tech economy and is also the LoCo Ale Trail’s largest cluster with 14 breweries.
This is where Loudoun’s brewing renaissance began in 1996 with the now sold-and-relocated Old Dominion Brewery. Long time county residents and regional beer fans no doubt remember the annual Old Dominion Beer Festivals in Ashburn, which were a huge factor in generating early excitement for the NOVA craft beer scene, and personally for me were one of the events that inspired and drove my love for craft beer. The festivals ended in 2006 and the brewery was closed and moved to Delaware in 2008, but what Old Dominion began has blossomed into the beating industrial heart of the Loudoun craft beer scene. This cluster includes regional stalwarts like Lost Rhino Brewing and Old Ox Brewery, hot newcomers like Ocelot Brewing and even brew pubs like Sweet Water Tavern. Most of the breweries in this cluster share an industrial aesthetic and are typically housed in warehouse developments but their stories and their specialties are diverse.
Speaking of stories, let’s drop in on Rocket Frog Brewing Company in Sterling. What’s up with that name, anyway?!
Rocket Frog is just a very friendly place.
I visited on a Thursday afternoon and couldn’t help but notice the laid-back vibe and friendly conversation of the regulars at the bar. Co-owner Richard Hartogs greeted me personally and immediately set me up with a pint of the flagship Angry Alice IPA as we sat down to talk. Of course the first question I had was about the unique “Rocket Frog” name and logo. As it turns out the brewery is named for a viral photo of an actual frog being propelled into the air by a rocket launch in Wallops Island, VA, back in 2013. Richard thought the photo was funny and suggested the name “Rocket Frog” to his brother and business partner David, and the legend was born. Don’t miss seeing a blow up of this famous photo which now hangs proudly behind the Rocket Frog bar.
Marketing matters a lot in craft brewing, but of course it’s not the only thing. And now that they had a name, they needed a location. While also considering other locations, the brothers happened to meet the Loudoun County delegation at the annual Brewer’s Association Craft Brewer’s Conference. Loudoun was very supportive of their vision and it didn’t take the Hartogs long to set their sights on Sterling, VA. The rest was history, culminating in the grand opening of Rocket Frog Brewing Company in May 2018. As fate would have it, they opened less than a mile from Orbital Corporation, the company that built the rocket that sent the original frog on his adventure!
Hartogs describes the brewery as “welcoming and comfortable” and as a place for his customers to enjoy good beer.
He truly enjoys seeing his regulars develop friendships with each other and is very proud that Rocket Frog is a “catalyst” for that. He even extends that philosophy to his nearby brewery neighbors Crooked Run Brewing and Beltway Brewing. He describes both as friends as much as they are competitors, each with their own niche and each bringing something valuable to the Loudoun brewing community.
Rocket Frog’s niche could be best described as expertly crafted and unpretentious beer. Try the excellent flagships, including the Angry Alice IPA, the Angry, Angry Alice DIPA variant and the GABF award-winning Wallops Island Brown Ale, which is brewed with an astounding 12 different malts. Also very good are the Shame and Torment barley wine aged in seven different spirt barrels and the kettle sours; especially the Kai Gose series. Stop in and grab a pint while you make new friends. That’s what Rocket Frog Brewing Company is all about!