It’s always fun to experience local beer goodness off the beaten path, but Virginia farmland is not where I’d expect to find yummy craft brews – yet Loudoun county, VA boasts close to 25 breweries in its 147,000 acres of farmland (the colloquial response when I our tour guides about the size of the county.) Leesburg is the only urban sprawl in Loudoun County.
Thanks to the kind folks at the I took part in a LoCo (Loudoun County) media brewery tour day as a precursor to the Craft Brewers Conference #CBC in April in Washington DC. The full day tour featured several stops:
1. Adroit Theory Brewing. (Adroit Theory Brewing 404 Browning Ct. Unit C Purcellville, Virginia 20132)
Owner Mark Osborne provided an overview of the brewery operations, generous samplings of their brews on tap, and insights (definitely non-conformist) behind this innovative brewery:
- Androit Theory self-distributes in MD/VA, and has no big plans to go beyond (at this point in time.) Their limited production line specializes in “big, boozy beers” such as their EBK, a New England style DIPA (a “sessionable” 8.5% abv brew with citra/mosaic/Galaxy hops)
- “Consume life, drink art,” and “brewed to destroy” pay homage to the metal bands that are inspiration behind the brews, labels, and decor.
My favorite brew on tap was the cask Belgian Quad “All I see is Carrion” aged in Bourbon barrel a with cherries, almonds, and coconut, a 12.2% abv glass of smooth finish deliciousness. The non-cask (bottled) version is available in limited supply at the brewery, and even without the almonds and coconut, it’s an outstanding value. (I purchased one for an upcoming FL bottle share!)
Adroit Theory is DEFINITELY worth a stop based on the beer variety (a range of styles on tap) and the ambiance. Merchandise available in the tap-room includes limited release bottles, t-shirts, winter headgear, glassware, and books.
2. Vanish Brewing/Black Hops Farm (42245 Black Hops Lane | Leesburg, VA 20176)
A truly organic hop farm and brewery operation featuring 4 acres of hops growing on structures fabricated out of recycled drilling pipe from Texas.
Inside the hop harvesting building sits the Polish manufactured/Slovenian-sourced hop picking and processing machine (purchased with the support of a VA state and Loudoun County matching grant) facilitates the 90 minute picking to processing timeline.
Brews include tangerine and orange brews, IPAs and a selection of always available brews.
My favorite was the tangerine on tap – served up in a six taster flight – Delish! Merchandise available includes t-shirts, glassware, and other swag collectibles.
3. Delirium Cafe USA (101 S. King Street, Leesburg, Virginia 20175)
This first of its kind in the U.S. – a formal location of the famed Delirium Cafe (Brussels) – hopes to be open “in 3 weeks” (it’s been 6 years in the making) according to the owners/partners whose patience with licensing, contractors, and other delays is beyond the realm of most business people. Their dedication to the craft of craft beer (in particular Delirium and other Belgian delights) carries over to their renovation of a relic 170-year old building in downtown Leesburg. Delirium Cafes in other countries are known for their brews but not their locations (often seedy) – and it’s nice to witness a new tradition in the making with this new locale. It’s a standalone building (two suites were annexed into one) boasting hardwood floors and brick that creates a cozy, turn of the century, yet upscale/urban space that already feels like a trendy new spot even before it’s open. I can’t wait to visit and try a few of their 25 draught taps and over 150 bottle varieties.
While the traditional Delirium Cafe in Amsterdam (and other locations throughout the world) typically focus on beer, this Leesburg space will also feature on-premise prepared food to go along with the fine brews.
Scheduled (for real!) to open this week (May 10, 2017!) in downtown Leesburg, VA.
4. Lost Rhino Brewing Co (21730 Red Rum Drive, Suite 142, Ashburn, VA 20147)
I love artistic spaces that celebrate beer and art and Lost Rhino is a perfect example! Chalk art (by local Instagram artist “Chalkoholic Chalk Designs”) is everywhere creating an inviting and colorful tasting room. If pictures say 1000 words, then the gallery below speaks volumes but doesn’t do justice to the innovation of the brews (more about that below,) and the ambiance created by the decor.
Lost Rhino Brewing gained international recognition in part due to it’s moniker “Rhino Chaser” (in surfer lingo it means seeking the largest wave) and due to the attention garnered by their “Bone Duster” Amber Ale, a 6.5% amber ale brewed with the yeast extracted from a millions of years old whale fossil. The brew was featured in both the Scientific American Journal and PlayBoy’s 2014 online list of the World’s 10 most Interesting Beers.
In addition to creativity, support for Rhino adoption in Africa, and great brews, Lost Rhino also features live weekend entertainment staged in front of their lighted wall of empty beer cans (awaiting packaging.) A must stop if you’re in the area!
5. Old Ox Brewing (44652 GUILFORD DRIVE, UNIT 114, ASHBURN, VA 20147)
According to the Old Ox Brewery owners (a family business named after a notable county road), the brewery caters “first and foremost” to their customers in Northern Virginia with local package distribution. As a 3-year old, community-focused company, Old Ox believes that it is more important to service their cadre of bar, restaurant and grocery accounts personally than it is to expand quickly, and they count their community partners and charitable causes as friends.
And they are innovative! Old Ox’s imperial IPA embraced a bold step to brewing by using powdered hops (Humulus Lupulus) to gain a better batch yield. IPA fans on our tour loved the brew, but as a non-hophead (come drink with me and you can have all the IPA’s!), I gravitated to the Funky Face Cherry Sour (a 5% ABV cherry sour) and enjoyed it thoroughly against the backdrop of VA cherry blossoms.
What a wonderful and delicious day it was – and a true testament to the imagination of craft brewers everywhere. With 25 (and counting) craft breweries in Loudoun County (LoCo) alone, VA is becoming a BEERcation destination.
Many thanks to the Loudoun County organizers and the breweries who participated!
I’ll be back. 🙂