Tag Archives: Beer

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. ■





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!


Specialty Malts and You

Before getting too deep into the waters, let’s first discuss what makes a specialty grain, well, special. Any brewer would probably admit that all malts are pretty special, given they are usually beer by the time we finish with them. However, when you want to branch out into certain styles, you need something a little different. Something a bit … special-er.

Specialty malts are created by the maltster, by kilning or roasting the grains at varying times and temperatures. The two main categories being caramelized malts and roasted malts.

Caramelized malts are created when the maltster mashes uncrushed malt in the kernel to hydrate it. When the water is heated to around 150°F the malt enzymes begin to break down the starch. Much of the starch will convert into simple sugars. From this point, the maltster will dry the mashed malt kernels at varying degrees between 180°F and 350°F, causing the sugars to crystalize. This also causes the acids and proteins to undergo a reaction that forms melanoidin, which is what gives crystal/caramel malts their red or brown hue.  The higher the drying temperature, the darker the resulting malt.

Roasted malts are not kettle mashed like caramelized malts, and get its color and flavors from the heat of the kilning process. Roasted malts can vary from as low as Vienna malt (around 4° Lovibond) to roasted barley (around 575° Lovibond).


Specialty malts provide a lot of flavor and mouthfeel, in a surprisingly small package. Many people start out with specialty malts adding a lot more than necessary, thinking it will provide them a deeper range of flavors. Don’t go for 40% Chocolate malt in that stout, it’s not going to taste more like a candy bar because of it. What you’ll be left with is an under-attenuated, unbalanced, tannin filled mess. 5-15% is generally the safe range you’ll want to stick with.  At only 10% of a grain bill, 1 lb of roasted barley will take your SRM from 2, all the way to 37. Imagine what it’ll do to your flavor. Always heir on the side of less is more when designing a recipe. You can always tweak it the next time if you think it needs more.



People often forget that specialty grains will provide less fermentable sugars than base malts. Keep this in mind when building your recipe and planning for your final gravity. The higher the percentage of specialty malts, the higher your final gravity after fermentation.



Caramelized Malts

Crystal malts are a great way to add some sweetness to your beer. They are also a great way to add mouthfeel and head-retention. Depending on the style, this is where many people turn to when they are looking to add some red or brown coloring to their beers.

Low levels of caramel malts such as 10L will mostly add light sweetness and caramel flavors (such a pale ales and mild ales), while darker versions like 120L will begin to bring out notes of burnt sugar and raisins (think Belgian Dubbel). With many variants between these two polar opposites, you are sure to find something that works for your style.

Like crystal malts, there are many other caramelized malts such as Cara-Munich, Cara-Vienne and Cara-Pils that do a great job of adding body, head retention and varying flavors and colors to your beer. I’ve been known to throw a handful of Cara-Pils in most of my recipes due to its very light color (less than 2°L) and almost devoid flavor. It adds great head retention, mountain like foam, and a smooth mouthfeel.

Roasted Malts

Roasted malts also vary in color and flavor and definitely pack a punch.  Most have little to no enzymatic activity and rely on your base malts for starch conversion. On the low side, you will find malts such as aromatic malt and biscuit malt. Aromatic malt will provide a clean, yet intense malt flavor; while biscuit malt, true to its name, will give more of a bread or cracker like aroma. When you want to go darker, think Chocolate, Black or Roasted. These provide a lot of color and flavor, but when overused can also add astringency, which can be very off putting. Save these for your stouts and porters.


Other Specialty Grains

Now that we’ve discussed malts, we should address the other specialty grain options. These are non-barley malts or unmalted grains. These include your wheats, oats, ryes, corns and rices.

Want a dryer, more crisp beer? Consider wheat or rye as a major player in your grain bill. Replacing around 60% of your base malt with these options is a nice twist on some classic recipes.

Making an oatmeal stout? You’re going to need flaked oats, up to 10% sometimes. This will give your stout a sweeter smoother finish.

Whatever you are doing, remember that making beer is a lot like getting a haircut. Once you’ve gone too far, it’s not always something you can fix. So best to stay on the lighter side at first until you are comfortable and adjust your notes for next time.

Below is my go to Black IPA. I’ve made this a few times and I absolutely love it. It’s got the perfect balance of hops to roasted malts. I think it’s a great example of what a Black IPA should be. Not to roasty, very hop forward, and goes down easy.

Man in Black IPAblackipa

OG: 1.066
FG: 1.013
ABV: 6.9%
IBU: 81
SRM: 31
Batch Size: 5.5 Gallons
Mash: Single Temp. Infusion – 150°F for 60 min.

Grain Bill
11 lb. – Pale 2-Row
.75 lb – Crystal 80L
.4 lb – Special B
.3 lb – Black Malt
.3 lb. – Chocolate Malt
.3 lb. – Victory Malt
.3 lb – Roasted Barley

1 oz – Northern Brewer @ 60 min.
.75 oz – CTZ @ 30 min.
.75 oz – Cascade @ 30 min.
.75 oz – CTZ @ 10 min.
.75 oz – Cascade @ 10 min.
2 oz – Cascade @ 5 Days Dry Hop

Safale S-05 (Fermented @ 68°F)