If Loudoun is getting close to brewing all the beer it can drink, it’s not showing any signs.
This year, according to Alcoholic Beverages Commission records, at least 10 more breweries have applied or been granted licenses. They join Loudoun’s 24 existing breweries—not counting breweries that have two locations, like Lost Rhino and Crooked Run—to bring the total to 34.
The brewery boom continues, from industrial parks in Sterling to the far western reaches of the Blue Ridge.
And Loudoun Department of Economic Development Agricultural Development Officer Kellie Hinkle dismissed the idea of a brewery bubble and said there’s still room to grow.
“We have 44 wineries,” Hinkle said. “And we have had wineries that have changed ownership, wineries that are for sale, but none that have closed.” So, she said, why not 44 breweries? And those 44 wineries may have laid the path for the success of Loudoun’s breweries.
“I think that we are at an advantage in Loudoun because people expect their craft beverages to be local, because of the wine industry,” Hinkle said. “So I think everybody is jumping on board with the beer, because why not have their beer local, because their wine is local.”
This year’s new breweries range from the much-hyped Rocket Frog Brewing in Sterling, to Bear Chase Brewing Company on 35 scenic acres near Bluemont overlooking Loudoun from the west.
Bear Chase is at the historic Bear Chase Manor, and the owners are making the most of its rolling acreage. Beyond the expansive tasting room and unsurpassed view, the property also features trails, open space, and even a house that can comfortably accommodate 16 people with an indoor pool.
“There’s a million little nooks and crannies and little trails, and we haven’t developed all of it yet,” said Head Brewer Charles Noll.
Noll came to the company with 20 years of experience, most recently consulting in Montana. But part of the attraction was his familiarity with the area, having worked for eight years near College Park, MD.
One of the brewery’s owners, Justin Rufo, said he and the rest of the owners originally planned to open a wedding venue on the property. But after looking hard at the opportunities for a brewery, they decided to change course.
“There seemed to be plenty of appetite for destination breweries,” Rufo said. “If you look at the Dirt Farms [another scenic Bluemont-area brewery] of the world—Old 690, Vanish, B Chord—seemed to be really firing on all cylinders.”
And he said the other thing that brought them around to beer was Loudoun’s famously collaborative brewing community.
“We were initially apprehensive about sort of reaching out to, ostensibly, our competitors to socialize,” Rufo said. “When we did, what we found was this very sort of communal attitude about breweries in the county.”
The same was the case for twin brothers David and Richard Hartogs, who opened Rocket Frog Brewing in Sterling to the public last Saturday. David Hartogs, too, tried first in Arlington and Fairfax.
As another Arlington resident, he said he had support from some local politicians and businesses and a building within walking distance.
“But we just couldn’t make the lease work, and their zoning is awful there,” Hartogs said. “So we walked away from that, and we started looking in Fairfax”.
“Fairfax really doesn’t know what they’re doing with breweries.”
But at a craft brewer’s conference in Portland, Hartogs met people from Loudoun’s Department of Economic Development. He said working with the county government was “excellent.” One lease fell through, but just as they were ready to give up, the Hartogs brothers found the building they’re in now.
They also found the same welcoming brewery scene
“It’s just that kind of industry,” Hartogs said. “We’re all in it for our own breweries, but at the same time, we’re also craft beer fans.”
The name is a bit of serendipity, inspired by a video of an unfortunate frog sent flying by the launch of a Minotaur V rocket from Wallops Island. The launch happened to occur on the twins’ birthday, and the Minotaur V was designed only a few miles up the road at Dulles-based Orbital ATK. What started as the joking name of Richard Hartog’s fantasy football team ended up resonating with people following the journey to open a brewery.
Brewer Favio Garcia is no newcomer to Loudoun’s brewing scene. His résumé stretches back to one of Loudoun’s first and most famous breweries, the Old Dominion Brewing Company, which closed in 2007 after it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch affiliate Coastal Brewing.
Since then, he’s been part of Lost Rhino and Beltway Brewing, two of Loudoun’s most well-known and successful brewing operations, and now he’s launching another new project, Dynasty Brewing Company.
Dynasty might be a good name for Garcia’s career in Loudoun brewing, or for Loudoun brewing in general, but it refers to the Virginia Dynasty, when four of the first five U.S. presidents were Virginians.
He said the topic of a brewery bubble comes up often in Loudoun.
“Of course everybody’s been thinking about this, talking about this, because it’s pretty amazing how many breweries are opening up,” Garcia said. But he pointed out that Loudoun keeps growing—and said the brewing scene will only be helped when Metrorail service starts in Loudoun. “In a couple years it’s going to have more business and more people, so there’s a little more room for breweries,” Garcia said.
Despite his roots in Loudoun breweries, Garcia did not set out to open Dynasty in a Loudoun business park. An Arlington resident, he searched for a location both there and in Fairfax before landing in the same building as another planned brewery, The Craft of Brewing, and next door to another, Neal Bros.
“It’s a great location,” he said, referring to the brewery’s spot near One Loudoun and Loudoun County Parkway. And despite his involvement with some of Loudoun’s largest operations, he said for Dynasty, he’ll start by keeping it small.
Hinkle said the small, friendly feel of Loudoun’s breweries is an important part of their charm.
“We don’t have huge breweries in Loudoun, which honestly I think is what makes us successful,” Hinkle said. “You can still walk into the brewery and talk to the brewmaster, you can talk to the owner, and I think we’ve gotten so used to that.”
This article was updated Thursday, May 24 at 2:06 p.m. to correct the spelling of “Hartogs.”