Loudoun’s booming beer scene has attracted more brewers every year, and this year it also brought in beer bloggers and writers from around the country and the world.
The 2018 Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference brought more than a hundred beer writers, bloggers, photographers, podcasters and videographers to Loudoun for their annual gathering.
The writers came from across the country, Canada, and in one case Poland for presentations on the beer industry and writing about it during the day and sampling it at night. The Loudoun County Brewers Associations hosted a reception at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Lucketts with 19 brewers Friday night to give the writers a taste of what the county has to offer. Vanish founder Jonathan Staples gave attendees a tour of his operation, along with his work to jumpstart the hops industry in Loudoun.
And he said the tour of Loudoun gave the writers a view of an unexpected beer and wine destination.
“If you’ve never been there, it’s just a giant sprawling suburb,” Staples said. “And for them to see that it was a place with an identity and sort of cohesive brewery culture was, I think, a pretty great thing.”
Founded in 2010, the conference has previously been hosted in beer hot spots like Milwaukee, WI; Asheville, NC; and Portland, OR. Staples said “Asheville and Portland are about as hipster as you can get.”
“It’s a really cool thing about the culture of Loudoun that even though we’re not a compact city like they are, that we have this really great sort of social culture,” Staples said.
Part of that, he said, is the same thing that makes his hops farm a possibility, Loudoun’s still-extant rural and agricultural landscape. That also comes with something almost no other beer destinations can boast: a thriving winery scene, with 42 wineries in the county.
“The concentration of wineries, breweries, and jobs, that really doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Portland,” Staples said. “And as a tourist destination, what an amazing place. You would have to go a new place every hour to cover it in a week.”
Saturday night, brewers from across Virginia gathered for a reception at Lost Rhino Brewing Company in Ashburn.
Tomasz Kopyra, a brewer and beer judge from Poland, said he was impressed with Loudoun’s beer scene, particularly with Vanish’s White Wine Project IPA, aged in wine barrels, and the general concept of a hops farm, brewery and a place to spend time with friends or family. He said he was also impressed with Crooked Run Brewing, which hosted a lunch and tour on Thursday.
“Generally USA are leading in craft beer,” Kopyra said over Facebook messenger from Poland. “But at first when I saw Loudoun County it tells me nothing. When I realized, that it was near to Washington DC, or even Washington Dulles is actually in Loudoun County, I’ve decided to visit. And I am happy, I made this decision.”
“Hosting the conference positions Loudoun and Virginia with other well recognized beer destinations that have hosted previously,” said Visit Loudoun Vice President of Marketing Jackie Saunders. She added that beyond the immediate financial impact of hosting the conference at the DoubleTree Dulles Airport Hotel, “the coverage and potential future coverage from the bloggers and writers is invaluable.”
Saunders said her office was able to put together an attractive proposal for the conference organizers that included an announcement from then-governor Terry McAuliffe when the location was decided. He called it “another clear indicator that the Commonwealth is a national beer industry leader.”