Jon Humerick, Drew “Wiley” Wiles, and Mike Arms aren’t starting small.
They’re hard at work building Solace Brewing Company in a vast commercial building in Arcola, and they believe they have more floor space than any other brewery in Loudoun.
Solace Brewing Company began as much at Beltway Brewing Company as in their heads. Solace is among a number of new businesses who can trace their origins to Beltway in Sterling, and Wiles and Humerick were some of the first employees when Beltway opened.
“We both worked at Beltway because we both wanted to own a brewery one day, but both felt like we needed the experience,” Humerick said. “I started business planning—jeeze—back in like 2010-ish, somewhere in that timeframe, so a couple years before I even started working at Beltway I was business planning.”
Humerick and Wiles both knew they would need industry experience to get started.
And that foresight is typical of Solace’s founders. Humerick has a degree and experience in business administration, Wiles is a microbiologist whose family opened Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, and Arms is a Certified Public Accountant. They ran the numbers for production at other breweries to figure out what they could expect to produce, and they’re building to grow.
“What I like about this space is we have space to add tanks,” Wiles said. “We’re building it structurally to add tanks.” He has oversized much of his equipment too, so it will be ready to support a much bigger operation. “We’re not going to have to pick up and sell our old equipment and buy new equipment just to grow. We’ve made the numbers work.”
“I feel it has to be meticulously planned these days, especially if you’re going to do something this size,” Humerick said.
They’ve planned out their business for years into the future, and have a vision to be more than a tasting room.
“I still think that as saturated as people might think Loudoun County and the Northern Virginia market to be, there’s so much room on the shelves for packaged product that people don’t really understand,” Humerick said. “There’s tons of awesome great Loudoun County beer, there’s stuff from Baltimore, from DC, from Maryland, from southern Virginia, but when you look at your Harris Teeters, your Giants, your grocery stores, you might see Lost Rhino. You might see Old Ox now. And that’s about it when it comes to packaged beers.”
While Humerick plans the business in meticulous detail for years in advance, Wiles brings a similarly precise ethic to his work. He credits that in part to his scientific training and part to his work at Beltway.
“We’re taking care of somebody else’s baby here,” Wiles said of his time at Beltway. “We’ve got somebody’s image at stake, we don’t want to make a bad batch here.”
He has space in his building and in the budget set aside for lab equipment.
All that brewing equipment is American-made in Detroit. They went to Detroit, met the welders, and tested out all their equipment before it was put on a truck and transported to Virginia.
Maybe the only part of the business that wasn’t planned out in meticulous detail: the name. Humerick said a previous name wasn’t working out well—people couldn’t spell or pronounce it.
“Literally it happened one night, it was the middle of the night, and I woke up out of a dead sleep and I said, ‘find your solace,’” Humerick said. “And I was like, Solace Brewing Company. That’s it.”
Solace Brewing Company hopes to start brewing as soon as April, and they hope to open in May. Find the brewery on Facebook and Twitter.
This article was updated Thursday, Jan. 19 at 2:19 p.m. to correct a misprinted quote.