It’s a great time to be a beer lover. New breweries are popping up while established brewmasters are experimenting with styles from around the globe. Beer bars spreading the gospel of craft beer are celebrating ales from their back yards as well as from across the ocean. Restaurants are offering special dinners that pair local produce with award-winning beers.
And all of this is just in Leesburg.
Loudoun County’s seat is better known for its antique shops than for its night spots, and the county itself is a destination for wine, not lagers. But the historic town has a growing concentration of beer-centric establishments. MacDowell Brew Kitchen and Crooked Run Brewing both include nanobreweries that produce just enough beer to sell on site. Leesburg Brewing Company, a joint venture from the owners of the Leesburg Vintner wine shop and the nearby Corcoran Brewing Company, is due to become a brewpub in December. In the meantime, it’s just serving great local beer.
A few miles from downtown, in Lucketts, Roger Knoell’s Barnhouse Brewery sells beers from his back yard one weekend a month. He hopes to begin supplying bars with his products soon.
Loudoun County isn’t the first Northern Virginia suburb to create a bustling beer scene. Nearly every other month brings an announcement of a brewery in the works. Just in the past 15 months, we’ve heard about Corcoran Brewing and Adroit Theory in Purcellville, Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, Old 690 Brewing in Hillsboro, Portner Brewing in Alexandria and Prince William Brewing in Gainesville. Manassas’s BadWolf nanobrewery opened in June, and Lovettsville’s Mad Horse Brewpub had its “Grand-er Opening” to welcome a new brewer this summer. These join such established breweries as Lost Rhino in Ashburn, Port City in Alexandria and the Sweetwater brewpubs in Sterling, Merrifield and Centreville.
The mix of breweries and beer bars in Leesburg, however, is richer than in most other towns. One factor behind the growth is the number of breweries and beer bars that already call Leesburg home, such as Tuscarora Mill (lovingly referred to as “Tuskies”), which has been selling craft beer since 1985, and the six-year-old Vintage 50 brewpub.
Brewer Jake Endres says that when he was looking for places to open Crooked Run, “having such good craft beer bars around me” was part of the attraction of coming to Leesburg’s historic Market Station. “You can go to five different places in one night,” he adds. “That’s unusual in western Loudoun, where everything is usually spread out.”
“It’s like gravity,” explains Shawn Malone, a co-owner of the beer-centric Tuscarora Mill and Fire Works Pizza, which sit next to each other at Market Station. “It just attracts other [craft beer] businesses, and it shows no signs of letting up. When you look at Fire Works and Tuskies, you think they’d cannibalize each other, but they’re both selling buckets of beer.”
And once visitors get used to good beer, they only want more, making Leesburg ripe to continue its sudsy growth, Malone argues.
“Every day, I’m trying a great new beer that I haven’t had before,” Malone says. “We always say that once you get hooked on something good, whether it’s food or wine or beer, you can’t go back to what you had before. People are trying more good beer, and it’s opening their eyes.”