Fairfax residents Antonio and Maha Maradiaga dreamed of opening their brewery in Fairfax County, and they really tried.
“So when we initially started, the rules that the zoning department was going by were, we could have a tasting room if it was no more than 20 percent of our space,” Antonio Maradiaga said. “As we went on, the space continued to decrease until, the last we talked, it was 10 percent.”
The Maradiagas began crowdfunding their brewery’s launch two years ago, and the family is ready to get started, but the restrictions and other regulatory headaches in the county to the east had the Maradiaga’s brewery, Twinpanzee Brewing Company, on hold.
And that’s when they talked to Loudoun County Department of Economic Development.
“I’m on a first name basis with a lot of people in Loudoun County, which is quite different from Fairfax County,” Maradiaga said. “In Fairfax County, there’s one individual I managed to kind of strike up a conversation with, and was quite receptive, but other than that, I would send emails and get no response.”
By contrast, he said, Loudoun’s people call him.
“We are really in tune with what’s happening in the craft beer industry, and they were actually one of the breweries in planning that were on our radar,” said Kelli Boles, Loudoun’s Agricultural Development Officer. “We’re paying attention to social media. We’re paying attention to who’s talking to who.”
In the past few years, Loudoun has positioned itself as Northern Virginia’s home for craft brewing, and the number of craft and farm breweries has ballooned, and Visit Loudoun’s LoCo Ale Trail has seven different itineraries across the county.
“It wasn’t something that happened over night,” Boles said. “We knew and were well aware of this craft beverage industry boom that was coming.”
Now, she said, new breweries find supportive elected officials and relatively few restrictions on farm breweries.
“What I’ve found is that the craft brewers, they’re a very collaborative group of people,” said Loudoun County Economic Development Assistant Director Miguel Salinas. “So when they see that level of collaboration, in terms of county infrastructure and regulation, they want to be here.”
New brewers in Loudoun also step into a business community that has been growing and sharing for years.
Maradiaga said Graham and Chris Burns, owners of Old Ox Brewery, are among the brewers his family have met so far.
Chris Burns said brewers starting their own operation often visit established breweries, introduce themselves, and learn from their experiences.
“It’s fun to see the new entrants come in, because everybody has a different approach, everybody has a different story,” Burns said. “While everybody faces the same challenges and uses the same ingredients, just like cooking, everybody’s approach to a similar beer style is always different, and it’s fun to see their interpretations.”
Visit Loudoun counts 18 breweries in Loudoun so far, and Boles said Loudoun is still a long way from having too many.
“We’re not even there yet with wine, and we have 45 wineries in Loudoun County,” Boles said. “I tell people, we’re about 20 breweries from even starting to have that conversation on beer.”
The Maradiagas have narrowed their options down to two locations in Sterling. When they have a site finalized, Antonio Maradiaga said, they plan to be open within six months, if not sooner.
And the brewery’s name comes from his 8-year-old twin boys. A lawyer had advised the Maradiagas that their first draft for a name might conflict with a larger company. One of their sons suggested the new name.
“One day, our son, he just comes up, he goes, ‘why don’t you call it Twinpanzee?’” Maradiaga said. “He said, ‘well, you guys always call us monkeys and chimps, and we’re twins, and you’re opening the brewery for us…’”
“We’ll be looking forward to their grand opening,” Burns said. “And I’m sure we’ll be there to toast their success.”