Breweries and bars turn Leesburg into the craft beer capital of Northern Virginia

Like beer? You’ll love Leesburg

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.”


Is There Such a Thing As Too Much Coffee Beer?

Welcome to “I’d Tap That,” in which Aaron Goldfarb and a panel of tasters pit “whales” against “shelf turds” in an effort to understand everything from Imperial IPA to Saison. This round: a look at the coffee beer explosion.

Every February for the last three years, Chicago has played host to the beer world’s most niche festival. A partnership between World Barista Champion Stephen Morrissey and beer industry impresario Michael Kiser, Uppers & Downers, as it’s cheekily called, is an all coffee beer festival. This year, paying guests can attend one of two Saturday afternoon sessions where they will have unlimited access to single-origin coffees, cold brew, coffee cocktails and, most importantly, 20 experimental coffee beers made specifically for the event.

There have always been beers that tasted like coffee, but for most of brewing history, that was because these beers—usually stouts and porters—were made with roasted malts. As anyone who’s ever drank a Guinness knows, dark roasts often express themselves with espresso-like notes. But adding actual coffee to beer is something else entirely.

Coffee-infused beer has been discussed in homebrewing circles as early as 1991, when a coffee beer recipe appeared in Charlie Papazian’s The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing (he recommended adding freshly ground beans in the final five minutes of the brewing process). But the first commercial appearance of coffee beer is generally attributed to New Glarus’s Coffee Stout. Launched in 1994, it caused a bit of a kerfuffle with the ATF, who claimed it was illegal to add caffeine to packaged alcohol.

Fast-forward a decade and geeks were lining up to nab the then-No. 1 beer in the world, 3 Floyds Dark Lord, which featured Mexican vanilla, Indian sugar and Intelligentsia Coffee’s Black Cat espresso. Pretty soon nearly every brewery would have a big, bold imperial stout packed with a local roaster’s coffee on offer. Brewers have now moved beyond the coffee stout.

“Coffee beers have undergone a bit of a renaissance,” wrote Michael Kiser, introducing the first Uppers & Downers event in 2013. “While the porters and stouts that define this style have been tweaked, refined and nearly perfected, others have branched out into new styles, techniques and coffees to try and find new territory in the brew.”

Today, nearly every style has been paired with coffee. No longer is it just dark roasts with dark beer; these days, you’re just as likely to see fruity, citrusy, lightly roasted beans matched to lighter beers. In fact, many modern coffee beers are less about smacking you over the head with dark-roasted coffee than trying to seamlessly integrate it into the brew, using the coffee variety’s unique aromas and flavors for added complexity. But, as we found out, it’s a tricky balancing act.


A Mostly True Story: Homebrewing

Homebrewing Wood Chipper Irish Red Ale

Earlier this year I took a bugbeater plane to Fargo, N.D., to attend the Prairie Homebrew Companions’ annual Hoppy Halloween Competition. In addition to being a fun contest with skits, costumes, and decorated bottles (in a special category, mind you), I found myself reminded why it’s important to get away from your usual haunts.

It’s tempting to think regionalism has been homogenized out of existence, but a little trip can remind you that things do look different in other places. From my West Coast perch, the world seems dominated by IPAs and Saisons. In Fargo, I was reminded of flavors that I rarely see anymore—namely malt. I kept running into malt-forward beers like Irish Red Ales, a style I didn’t realize I missed.

My first introduction to the style (so to speak) was ages ago with Coors’ Killian’s Irish Red, which is as dubiously Irish as those “Pub in a Box” Irish bars. The true style is a bit confused between the export versions we see in the US and domestic Irish examples. Too often our copies of the style are super sweet crystal bombs, while the Irish versions are variations on Bitters.

This take involves a bunch of pale malt, a restrained bit of crystal, and a smidge of roasted barley for more brilliant color. You could use Red-X or Sacchra-50 for a modern “blood red” beer, but I think you’ll miss the roundness from the crystal.

For 5.5 gallons at 1.049 OG | 22 IBU | 15.2 SRM | 4.9% ABV

9.5 lbs pale malt
0.5 lbs medium British crystal malt
0.25 lbs roasted barley

Rest at 152°F for 60 minutes.

Hops (Pellets)
0.5 oz Target | 11% AA | 60 minutes
0.5 oz Bramling Cross | 6% AA | 0 minutes

Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale, WLP004 Irish Ale, or your favorite low-ester ale strain. ■



Gold Label: A Revolutionary Beer

Gold Label: A Revolutionary Beer

The 1950s were a time of great optimism, and also a time when Strong Ales made a comeback in Britain, after more than a decade of austerity.

One of the most renowned was Gold Label, a revolutionary type of Barleywine, which, unlike those that had gone before it, was pale in color. Tennant Brothers, a large regional brewery based in Sheffield that owned 700 pubs across the North of England, developed the recipe.

Tennant already brewed a dark Barleywine, but for this innovative pale version they needed new techniques. Because they brewed single-gyle, the long boil required to concentrate the wort to the appropriate strength became a big problem. Their solution was to employ the palest materials and to use a high percentage—over 30 percent of the total—of sugar and flaked corn in the grist.

At a mighty 10.6 percent ABV, Gold Label was the strongest regularly brewed beer in the UK. It sold in surprisingly large quantities for its strength, no doubt boosted by a newspaper advertising campaign in the mid-1950s. But it wasn’t a quick beer to produce. After primary fermentation it was racked into 54-gallon hogsheads and left to mature in a cellar for six to 12 months. When it was considered ready, different batches of beer were mixed to produce the perfect blend.

But how did it taste? I’ll leave that description to Frank Priestly, a brewer at Tennant and a great admirer of Gold Label:

“By choosing a suitably old one, I would find myself with a glass of perfectly matured barley wine. The drinking experience was incredible. The smooth malty, hoppy flavour was wonderful and as it went down, you could feel the warm alcoholic glow diffuse throughout your body.”
The Brewer’s Tale by Frank Priestley, 2010, page 20.

In 1961 Tennant, afraid of being bought and butchered by asset-strippers, sold to national brewer Whitbread. Despite assurances that they could continue trading as before, most of Tennant’s draft and bottled beers were soon replaced by Whitbread equivalents. Things didn’t look good for Gold Label. By this time Whitbread was brewing a Barleywine of its own, Final Selection.

However, Gold Label had built a considerable following and, surprisingly, Whitbread decided to retain two Barleywines, at least initially.

“We also had a rival beer on our hands. Our own Final Selection with a virile supporters’ club. With shelf space like gold dust and delivery costs crippling, it seemed wise to give one of them the chop. But which one? We just couldn’t decide. So now we sell them both throughout the country where you see our sign. The buck is passed, the choice is yours. Not ours.”
Illustrated London News, Saturday 10 February 1968, page 38.

Ultimately, Final Selection was the loser. In the 1970s Whitbread pushed Gold Label heavily and with 6,500 pubs, the company had plenty of outlets for it. I can remember the billboards: “As strong as a double whisky and half the price.” It was such a success that they also started brewing it at their London headquarters.

Despite not being CAMRA-approved, I always had a soft spot for this Barleywine; the perfect drink to close a winter session down the pub. It was just as Frank Priestley described it: smooth and warming.

Unlike most of the beers I write about, Gold Label isn’t dead. It’s managed to outlive both Tennant Brothers and Whitbread. Though it’s been pared back to a feeble 7.5 percent ABV. If you’re ever in the UK, look for the little gold can and have a taste of history.


Dogfish Head Brewery Tour

Like kids to a candy store, Brewing TV finally makes the pilgrimage to the World of Dogfish Head, its mothership brewery in Milton, DE and the O.G. brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. Join BTV as we learn about Dogfish Head’s homebrew-scale Small Batch Brewing program and see how the ideas behind small-batch experimental brewing influence the brewery’s large-scale commercial releases. Off-Centered brew for all!



The Ultimate Thanksgiving Beer Pairing Guide

Any true foodie knows that Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food. What you’re pairing with your food is equally important, as it will enhance and bring out the delicious flavors in your feast. What better way to celebrate giving thanks than with your favorite food and beer? Our Thanksgiving beer pairing guide, detailing beers for the first course to dessert, should help you enjoy the most delicious meal possible this holiday season.

Snack and Starter Pregame: Oktoberfest

Easy-drinking Oktoberfest beers are perfect for salty snacks, like nuts and crackers, along with mild or sweet cheeses. They’re also festive, making them a great way to kick off a fall holiday such as Thanksgiving. Berghoff’s Oktoberfest is deeply malty with enough hops to balance out the sweetness, resulting in a crisp and complex finish. It’ll cut through salty snacks and starters beautifully, while enhancing the creaminess and sweetness of mild cheeses.

First Course: Hefeweizens

If your first course includes a seasonal soup or salad, a bottle of hefeweizen will be your ideal companion. A hefeweizen’s creamy mouthfeel and subtle layers of sweet banana, bubblegum and spicy clove will enhance notes of  cranberry, pear, nuts, and squash. It’s a delightfully smooth beer for a light first course. Check out our classic Straight-Up Hefe-Weizen.

Main Course & Autumn Desserts: American Strong Ale

Your average beer won’t be able to keep up with a gravy-flooded plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and veggies. You need to pair your main Thanksgiving dish with a beer that has big flavor. American Strong Ales should do the job, with rich, strong, malty flavor. The complex cookie, caramel and raisin notes of our Winter Ale combined with its floral and citrus hop flavor will enhance the complex sweet-and-savory flavor of a glazed turkey, along with rich gravy.

The complex sweet notes of our Winter Ale also pair beautifully with rich autumn desserts, like pecan and pumpkin pies. If you’re having a different type of dessert, a weizenbock may be a better choice for you.

Chocolate and Caramel Desserts: Weizenbock

With strong toasted caramel and fruity flavor followed by a warming spicy clove finish, weizenbocks are the perfect way to finish off your Thanksgiving feast. The beer’s complex and rich flavors enhance chocolate and caramel desserts, and its carbonated body and spicy notes help to cut through heavy, creamy dishes. A weizenbock will keep you warm and comforted through the evening. Take a look at our version of the classic weizenbock: Rockin’ Bock.

We hope this guide helps you make your Thanksgiving gathering more deliciously unique than any you’ve had before! You can use our beer finder below to find the Berghoff beers we listed in the guide near you. Happy Turkey Day!