Four years ago two Loudoun families teamed up to open Loudoun’s first farm brewery—even before the local government had finalized rules for their operations. On Thursday, those pioneers will open the county’s newest—and northernmost—brewery on a bluff high above the Potomac River.
Mark and Ronda Powell and Darren and Tammi Gryniuk, the founders of Old 690 Brewing Company south of Hillsboro, have spent the past year building Harpers Ferry Brewing in the footprint of the Blue Ridge Rod and Gun Club, which was destroyed by fire decades ago. The result is a large tasting room that retains the hunting lodge atmosphere and acres of outdoor picnic spots that offer sweeping views of the Potomac River and historic Harpers Ferry.
“It’s kinda cool. There is a lot of history up here,” Ronda Powell said on Sunday during a friends and family unveiling of their work. “We tried to recreate a lodge feel—hence the deer heads, the elk and the caribou—and the boar in the bathroom.”
The Old 690 team was invited to the property by their new partners George “J.R.” Heffner and his wife, Holly. The Heffners have been busy in recent years, too, building the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center into Loudoun’s largest outdoor recreation business.
“We hope that this becomes just a really big destination for people. We have camping. We have hiking. We have rafting. We have tubing. We have Segway tours. We have the ropes course. There’s the zip line. There’s so much here to offer people,”Ronda Powell said.”I’m really hoping that this becomes not only a farm brewery, but also a destination where people can hang out for a day and come for the weekend.”
Seemingly secluded at the northern edge of Loudoun County, the brewery isn’t off the beaten track. At the intersection of Rt. 340 and Harpers Ferry Road, the brewery is bordered by one of the area’s busiest commuter routes, just a mile or so from one of the region’s top tourism site, and just up the road from a planned state park in Neersville.
“Harper’s Ferry gets 500,000 visitors a year and I don’t think Loudoun County has ever tried to tap into that market, and we get 34,000 cars passing by our entrance every day,” Powell said. “Everybody comes up here, and they’re like, you know, you forget you’re still in Loudoun County.”
The new brewery doesn’t just offer something special for visitors. Head brewer Eric Zupko is excited, too. At Old 690, Zupko worked with seven-barrel system of 1950s-era Grundy tanks. At Harpers Ferry Brewing, he’s got a state-of-the-art, 15-barrel system that will greatly accelerate the brewing process. He’s been brewing on the site for about a month, last week making a Belgian dubbel and planning a brut IPA this week.
In the tasting room, patrons will find Ambrosia maple wood reclaimed from a property in Aldie and tables built by Brian Jenkins, the owner of Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville. Blue lights hanging from the ceiling pay homage to the water rushing by in the Potomac below. As for the mounted boar’s head in the restroom, that’s one only the guys will see.
If Old 690 is known for its popcorn snacks, Harpers Ferry Brewing might quickly gain a reputation for its soft-serve ice cream—and beer floats—available from the tasting room snack bar. Outside, the Hill Top Grille food truck, operated by another Loudoun family, will offer sandwiches and other fare.
Since Old 690 opened four years ago, farm breweries have opened all across rural Loudoun, joining the wineries as regional tourism magnates.
“I never thought that when we became Old 690 and the battles we had to fight that we would ever get to this point,” Powell said, marveling not only at the industry’s rapid growth, but also the friendships that have resulted.
“I never envisioned that the county would have so many amazing breweries and it is such a great community—whether it is a farm brewery, whether it is an industrial setting—no matter where it’s at everybody embraces you like you see right here. These were never friends of ours and now they’re like family because we met them through the brewery.”
Harpers Ferry Brewing Company is located at 37412 Adventure Center Lanenorth of Hillsboro. Starting Sept. 27, the brewery will be open Thursday through Sunday each week. The website, harpersferrybrewing.com, was still under construction this week, but additional information can be found on the brewery’s Facebook page.