Haven’t tried Barnhouse Brewery, one of Loudoun’s longest-running breweries? Don’t be surprised.
Roger Knoell and Rob Larrick ran their brewery out of a garage and under the radar since 2012, spreading the word about their beer only through word of mouth. It was wildly popular among those in the know. People would gather at Knoell’s garage for a weekend only every four to six weeks or so, trying out the experienced homebrewer’s latest craft, or stop by during off weeks to fill up growlers.
“If you have to find the silver lining in everything, the fact is that it throttled us,” Knoell, the brewer, said. “It gave us an opportunity to catch up. We always had eight things on tap, because we had four weeks to keep brewing for the next round.”
No longer. In May, they moved up to a much bigger space with much bigger brewing capacity and are now open every weekend, but the people running the brewery are the same: Knoell, Larrick, their wives and children, and a few friends. And they hope the feel of the place is the same, too.
“We want people to come here and feel like they’re coming to a cookout at our house,” Larrick said. “Horseshoe pits, bocce ball courts, just hanging around and not being inundated with a lot of pomp and circumstance.” It fits with their motto: “Laid back beers for laid back people.”
Behind the backyard atmosphere and laid-back people is a gleaming, modern brewery, which has quadrupled Knoell’s batch size and multiplied the amount of beer he can make in a year. He has been home brewing since 1995, but even after starting the brewery in 2012 he was limited to about a barrel and a half at a time.
“Now he can get anywhere up to seven barrels out of it,” Larrick said. “Now from a capacity, end-of-year standpoint, we’re probably 10 times, maybe 15 times [that].”
And the new brewery does it using even less water and energy than the old one, and that has Knoell effusive about his fancy new setup as he paces excitedly around his new equipment, pointing out and explaining every feature.
“I use less propane to make seven barrels than I was to make one and a half barrels,” Knoell said. “It was so little water. It was just amazing. I am just astonished at how efficient that damn thing is.”
The county’s brewery scene has changed significantly since Knoell and Larrick got started in 2012.
“I think Roger probably was the first brewery in our rural policy area,” said Loudoun County Department of Economic Development Agricultural Development Officer Kellie Hinkle. Barnhouse Brewery predated the state’s farm brewery law, and predated the county’s own brewery zoning rules. Knoell and Larrick, along with Hinkle and other brewers, had to take a step back and wait for the state to pass its own farm brewery law before charging ahead with helping to shape Loudoun’s.
“We were out in front of it, and that part of this that I think is important is we saw the movement coming,” Hinkle said. The department launched educational programs on growing the ingredients for beer, and now with Pilot Malt House at nearby Black Hops Farm and many local farms growing hops and other ingredients, Loudoun is becoming an agricultural center for breweries.
“Other breweries across the state are looking at us for our hops,” Hinkle said.
Meanwhile, Knoell and Larrick hope Barnhouse Brewery, tucked away down a gravel road in Lucketts, keeps growing. They get as many of their ingredients as they can locally, including growing their own hops. The new system opens up the possibilities for brewing more types of beer, and Knoell is excited to start lagering in the new tanks. Soon, they hope, their beer will start appearing at local restaurants and in stores. They’re already meeting with distributors, hoping to work out an agreement by the beginning of January.
“Ultimately, if everything was great, the goal would be to have a brewer to help me out, some staff here, and then we would just be doing more of the larger picture stuff,” Knoell said. “I mean, I still want to brew, don’t get me wrong … but certainly it would be great if I could have a little more time with the family.”