When Hillsborough Vineyards starts serving beer later this year, it will be one of only three craft beverage makers in Loudoun County to serve the two drinks side by side.
Kerem Baki, the winemaker at Hillsborough Vineyards, is getting together with his brother Tolga Baki, the owner and head brewer of Belly Love Brewing Company in Purcellville, to expand the operation to brew beer. Completely separate from Belly Love, the new brewhouse will bring beer into the tasting room overlooking the scenic, rolling vineyards.
The brothers can serve the two beverages in the same tasting room thanks to a change in the way the Virginia Alcoholic Beverages Commission interprets the rules governing wine and beer. And that shift in policy could open up possibilities across the county.
“There’s always been a tremendous amount of collaboration, whether it’s wine barrels being used in production, or whisky barrels used to fortify products,” said Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson. She said sharing a tasting room continues in that vein of collaboration. Her organization has studied the profiles of winery and brewery visitors, and she said they are very similar—except that winery visitors tend to be women, and brewery visitors tend to be men.
“I think that collaboration is always a good opportunity for Loudoun County, and the chance for our wineries and our breweries and our distilled products to work ever more closely together, I think, is an exciting opportunity,” Erickson said.
In the case of the Baki family, the brothers are starting a whole new brew house to take advantage of the loosened restrictions.
Kerem has been making wine for almost 20 years, starting with an internship at Chrysalis Vineyards near Middleburg his senior year of college. He went on to study oenology—the science of winemaking—in graduate school. He said the new venture at Hillsborough comes mostly because “I just wanted to work with my brother.”
“He’s proven himself to be a successful brewer and businessman in his other venture with Belly Love, and for a long time it was his ambition to also start a farm brewery,” Baki said. Kerem said his father told him rather than start a new farm somewhere else, why not work together at Hillsborough Vineyards?
At the time, the Baki family would not have been able to serve both beer and wine in the same tasting room. But after the change about a year ago, they are now only weeks away from serving their first beer at Hillsborough Vineyards and Brewery.
Before the rule was changed, they would have been required to maintain two separate tasting rooms—as was the case at Quattro Goombas Winery and Quattro Goombas Brewery.
Quattro Goombas, near Aldie, has been making both beer and wine for years. When it first started, a fence was required around the brewery area to separate it from the wine operations. The two tasting rooms are right next to each other—patrons in the beer tasting section could wave or even reach over and clink glasses with the people on the wine-tasting side. But with the change, beer lovers can pick up a pint at the brewery and wander over to visit their friends sipping wine, or share a picnic table outside.
“What I’ve seen a lot is you get a group of friends that are out there, and there are six wine drinkers and one beer drinker, or vice versa,” said Quatto Goombas owner Jay Decianno. “And that’s been really nice for them.”
Quattro Goombas head brewer Chris Jacques said his brewery is working on bringing wine into the beer hall. Already Quattro Goombas has prosecco on draft.
“Eventually we would like to sell glasses and bottles in the brewery since the brewery is open longer than the winery by two hours,” Jacques said. “It’s a matter of logistics—space for glassware, space to sell and taste.”
That also lends itself to new ideas like flights of half beer and half wine.
“For us, it’s been an awesome change in the law that allows us to do some fun things we couldn’t do before,” Jacques said. “Eventually too we’d like to do chocolate, cheese, fruit and other food pairings side by side with wine and beer.”
Kerem said with the rules change, “all the cards kind of fell into place.” Like at Quattro Goombas, co-locating allows the Bakis to use some of the tools of the winemaking trade in their beer, something with which Jacques has also experimented.
“I don’t want give out too much information, but a very simple crossover is taking fermented beer and aging it in wine casks,” Baki said. “That’ll kind of bring on some of the flavors of the wine.” He said they may also use grape skins or the grapes themselves in the beer recipe, and being on the farm allows them to experiment with using other farm products in the beer.
The spirit of collaboration is not lost on Doug Fabbioli, the owner and winemaker at Fabbioli Vineyards. He has been sending two custom wines to the tasting room at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Lucketts, a vidal blanc and a meritage. He said he has known Vanish’s founders, Jonathan and Hilda Staples, since that venture began, and fell into the business naturally.
“I always want to make sure that we’ve got a good neighborhood,” Fabbioli said. He has helped other winemakers get their start, and is growing both grapes and hops on the farmland around Vanish.
“Sure I’d love to sell more wine—I always want to sell more wine,” Fabbioli said. “But there’s a cultural aspect of it, too.”
“I think it unlocks more opportunity,” said Loudoun Department of Economic Development Agricultural Development Officer Kellie Hinkle. She said when people ask her which winery is her favorite, she first asks them what kind of wine and experience they want.
“There is a winery for every situation, and I feel like adding the beer to it just expands that situation and that opportunity,” Hinkle said. “Not every winery is going to add beer, and not every brewery is going to add wine.”
Other brewers and winemakers also do both, but not all think combining the two is the right move for them—such as the Zurschmeide family, who runs both Dirt Farm Brewery and Bluemont Vineyard. Janelle Zurschmeide said they’ll likely keep the two businesses separate. Both are already well-established in their own right. Similarly, the Corcoran family-owned Corcoran Vineyards and Cidery and Corcoran Brewing, although the brewing operation folded into B Chord Brewery.
But while historically breweries and wineries have been kept at arm’s length, Baki said his more than 1,000 wine club members are excited to try the craft beer.
“Every month I do an educational winery tour for our wine club members, and I always give them a brewery tour as well, and everybody’s excited about it,” Baki said.
The Bakis plan to start serving beer at Hillsborough Vineyards in mid-September.