Come the fall, an historic downtown building will be the site of a new craft brewery.
Black Hoof Brewing announced this week that it will open its first taproom at 11 S. King St. in downtown Leesburg. If that address sounds familiar, it’s because for more than 50 years it housed Caulkins Jewelers, a downtown fixture owned and operated by brothers Stanley and Roger Caulkins.
The jewelry shop had no plans to move out of the downtown area until a fire at a second-floor residence above Caulkins Jewelers and the next-door Leesburg Diner last June closed it for repairs. The Caulkins brothers recently decided to make the shop’s temporary location at the Virginia Village shopping center a permanent one, enjoying the abundant parking and easy access for customers.
For Bill Haase, Black Hoof’s company president and head brewer, the King Street location stood out to him among all the other locations he scouted.
“It just kind of popped,” he said. “It’s the perfect size for what we want to do.”
And what Haase is looking to bring to Leesburg and the greater beer-loving community is similar to what one would find in Europe—a biergarten atmosphere where patrons are welcome to bring in their own food and wash it down with one of Haase’s German- or English-inspired brews.
After spending 12 years in the Marine Corps, Haase earned a degree in environmental engineering, which turned out to be the basis for a newfound hobby in the past decade—homebrewing. Near his former home in Florida, Haase was able to use a nearby “brew-on-premise” business, where he could experiment with creating different beers. But when he moved to Leesburg in 2006 he found that the two closest brew-on-premise businesses – in Frederick, MD, and the Shenandoah area – were not very convenient for him. So after reading books and doing his research, he began homebrewing.
“Being an engineer I really enjoyed the science of brewing,” he said. “I start out with reverse osmosis and build water profiles to build specific kinds of beers. By building your own water you can create profiles for different types of beers that you cannot do if you use regular tap water or just dilute.”
Haase’s experiments soon gained a following from neighbors and friends.
“It came to the point where all my friends would say ‘Your beers are great; you should enter competitions’. But instead of entering local competitions I went straight to the top,” he recalled.
By straight to the top Haase means the National Homebrewers Association’s annual competition, the largest competition in the world for homebrewers. At the 2014 contest, two of his beers, a German Marzen and a German Helles, would advance to the finals, with the Marzen winning a medal. The victory sealed his fate, as he knew at that point a storefront was in his future.
Two years later Haase finds himself about six months out—an October opening is eyed for the taproom—from realizing that dream. Initial plans are to produce seven different styles of a beer on premises: a Porter, an IPA, a Helles, a Hefeweizen, a Marzen, a Nut Brown Ale as well as a seasonal beer. Although outside food will be permitted, light fare will be offered. Haase said he plans to have Bavarian-style pretzels, chips, popcorn and possibly a German obatzda, which is a type of cheese spread, for purchase. The brewery also plans to offer live music and outdoor seating.
Haase’s landlord Mike O’Connor, who also owns and operates Palio Ristorante Italiano and counts many downtown buildings as his own, said he is thrilled about the opening of Black Hoof. Both he and Haase believe the brewery can further add to downtown Leesburg’s vibrancy and varied offerings.
“It fits the new effort in Leesburg to bring down new people and add some more spice to what is already becoming a very vibrant downtown,” O’Connor said.
For O’Connor, as for Caulkins, the last year recovering from that June fire has been an exhausting one. But O’Connor was happy to report that the “long and arduous process” of dealing with the insurance company to recover damages from the fire has finally ended, so the rebuilding process can begin in earnest.
“We’re still deciding what the use will be on the second floor,” O’Connor said. But as it stands right now we’re having the roofs replaced and we will just be in a rebuild mode and look to get ourselves back in good shape probably within the month.”
Although O’Connor said he is sad to have Caulkins leave the downtown area, he believes everything has worked out for the best—the jewelry shop has a comfortable new home in Virginia Village, and Black Hoof promises to create its own following in its King Street fold.
“Everything has a plan to it,” he surmised, “and I think if you work hard everything turns out right.”