Category Archives: Craft Brewery

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.


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!

Starr Hill Brewery Announces 2017 Lineup & New Releases

Starr Hill Brewery is heading out on tour in 2017 with a setlist of beers featuring nine new brands across three rotating series. The New Year will also see the return of some old favorites, along with several limited release variety packs.

All Access Series showcases some of the Starr Hill’s most unique and inspired beers. Each release in this series will be available in 4-packs and on draft.


  • Double Bass Double Chocolate Stout (January) is brewed with generous cocoa additions for a mocha aroma with a bittersweet chocolate and dark fruit finish.
  • Hop Buzz Coffee IPA (April) is dry-hopped with whole coffee beans for a roasty aroma with subtle coffee flavor and citrus hops on the finish.
  • Resinate Imperial Red IPA (July) is brewed with specialty malts for a ruby-red hue and firm maltiness, with American hops imparting citrus aroma and flavor.
  • Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout (October) is a full-bodied milk stout with chocolate, caramel and coffee notes from beans roasted by Red Rooster in Floyd, VA.

Heavy Rotation Series spins an ongoing playlist of new beer and music with something fresh available in 6-packs and on draft every three months.

  • Warehouse Pils (March), a draft-only release in 2016, is a German Pilsner dry-hopped with German hops, golden in color with a mildly floral flavor and a crisp malt finish.
  • Sublime Citrus Wit (June) is a juicy Belgian-style witbier with real lemon and lime zest that repeats after winning a gold medal at the 2016 Virginia Brewers Cup.
  • Festie Oktoberfest Lager (September), a smooth and malty tribute to the great German Märzen, makes its awaited return to 6-packs for the first time in over four years.
  • Two-Tone Vanilla Porter (December) melds the aroma and flavor of real vanilla beans with the sweetness of chocolate, malt and subtle caramel notes.

Debut Series represents the first time in the spotlight for each release in this draft-only lineup, showcasing the brewing team’s passion for creating full-bodied, high-gravity beers.

  • Scotch Ale (January) is characterized by its huge malty nose and features a full, sweet palate with very little hop bitterness.
  • Denali Double IPA (April) highlights the fruity aroma of Denali hops.
  • Farmhouse IPA (July) blends American hops with spicy notes from the French yeast.
  • Russian Imperial Stout (October) for the holidays with special ingredients to be announced.


Starr Hill will release its first Spring Tour Variety Pack in 2017, joining the brewery’s lineup of seasonal variety 12-packs of bottles. Spring Tour’s debut will feature Grateful Pale Ale, Reviver Red IPA, The Love Wheat Beer, and Warehouse Pils and kicks off February 1. Several limited release variety packs will follow throughout 2017, including the return of the Four Kings IPA Pack with all-new variants of King of Hop Imperial IPA.

To find where Starr Hill beers are available, visit


Born in a Charlottesville music hall in 1999, Starr Hill is an independent, regional craft brewery founded out of a passion for great beer and live music. Among the most award-winning craft breweries on the East Coast, Starr Hill has won 22 Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and Great British Beer Festival medals. Starr Hill beer is distributed throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions.


Starr Hill Brewery Announces 2017 Lineup & New Releases