Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Heritage Brewing Co. co-founder Ryan Arroyo serves in the Marine Corps. He serves in the Army. This version has been corrected.
When the first Virginia Craft Beer Month was held in August 2012, there were more than 40 craft breweries operating in the state. Two years later, that number has climbed to more than 80, with even more on the horizon, including a massive brewery from California’s Stone Brewing Co., which could open in Richmond as soon as 2016.
Last fall, we toured Loudoun County’s growing brewpub and nanobrewery scene. To continue our exploration of the commonwealth’s homegrown beers, we headed southwest for Prince William and Fauquier counties, where three breweries have opened since June 2013: BadWolf Brewing, which celebrated its first year in Manassas earlier this year; Heritage, which opened across the street from BadWolf on New Year’s Eve 2013; and Old Bust Head, which brewed its first beers in Vint Hill this spring, but only unveiled its tasting room in August.
The three breweries are close enough to each other that it’s possible to make a day of visiting them: Stop along the way for New York-style pizza or brisket at a new barbecue joint; detour through farm country to enjoy the changing fall colors; and watch horses wander through white-fenced fields. All three breweries offer tasting flights and full pints — as well as growlers to go, so the designated driver can enjoy a glass at home.
Most brewery taprooms embrace a form of industrial warehouse chic: exposed concrete, uncovered pipes and taps just a few feet from gleaming metal fermenters holding the precious beer. That’s not the case at Old Bust Head, where the light-filled tasting room feels more like a beer hall. Long communal picnic tables and high, round two-tops make it a place where you’d be happy to spend a few hours sampling flights of Chinquapin Chestnut Porter and Old Jail Pumpkin Ale, chatting with friends or listening to the local bluegrass and classic rock bands that perform Saturday evenings. “We wanted [the taproom] to be a place to hang out, where the community can come and have fun,” explains Ike Broaddus, one of the brewery’s three founders. To wit: Sunday morning yoga sessions and family fun days with goats and rabbits for petting.
If you live in Virginia and haven’t heard of Old Bust Head, you probably will soon. The Vint Hill brewery made its first beers in January and began distributing around Fauquier in late March and early April; by early October, Old Bust Head beers were available in “about 200” bars and restaurants, Broaddus says, and hundreds more in supermarkets and stores in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville and beyond.
Old Bust Head started somewhat conservatively, with an English Pale Ale, an IPA and a pilsner on tap and in bottles. But Broaddus says they started to hear from bars that “wanted us to get a little edgier, offer more variety.” They were smart to listen. The Virginia Hop Harvest Smoked IPA gets its big, piney notes from fresh Fauquier-grown hops, balanced by malts smoked with local cherry and apple wood. The full-bodied espresso and bitter chocolate notes of the Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout will be calling our names when temperatures begin to drop.
Coming soon: Graffiti House, a fruity West Coast IPA, should be on tap and in bars around Thanksgiving, bringing Old Bust Head’s offerings to 11. Like the rest of the lineup, the beer takes its name from local history and folklore: The Graffiti House is a Brandy Station historic landmark, its walls covered with signatures and stories from Civil War soldiers who fought in the area. The brewery is also experimenting with one-off beers, such as a version of Gold Cup made with chocolate and chilies, which will be unveiled at Rustico Alexandria’s Novemberfest on Nov. 1.
The brewery is growing fast: It can produce between 6,000 and 7,000 31-gallon barrels of beer a year, but new fermenting tanks, which should be ready by the end of the month, will increase capacity to 10,000 to 11,000 barrels, Broaddus says. The goal is to get up to 40,000 barrels a year, which would make Old Bust Head one of the area’s busiest breweries; Broaddus says he expects to be there in four to five years.
7134 Lineweaver Rd., Vint Hill, Va. 540-347-4777. www.oldbusthead.com. Open Wednesday-Friday from 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Brewery tours offered weekdays at 5 and 7 p.m. Saturdays at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 4 p.m.
While you’re in the neighborhood . . .
Just a few miles from Old Bust Head on Lee Highway sits the venerable Spitony’s Pizza, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The local favorite, sandwiched between a 7-Eleven and some roadside picnic tables, has long been described as a dive, but no one has ever complained about the pizza, which has a thin, New York-style crust. And the restaurant got a sprucing-up for its 40th, with new tables pushing out the video games and the walls getting cleared for a fresh coat of paint. Not in the mood for pizza? These guys sling subs and Greek staples — think gyros and souvlaki — as well. (Spiro Chakolos and his brother, Tony Harris, combined their names to create Spitony’s when they opened the restaurant in the 1970s.)
Spitony’s Pizza, 5063 Lee Hwy., Warrenton. 540-347-9666. www.spitonyspizza.com.
Heritage Brewing Company’s logo is a coiled rattlesnake, similar to the one on the Gadsden flag of the Revolutionary War. Inside the warehouselike brewery, a large American flag occupies the wall behind the gleaming brewing tanks; beers sport names like Freedom Isn’t Free IPA and the Battle of White Marsh, a spiced winter ale named after a Revolutionary War engagement; T-shirts for sale feature a drawing of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
“Obviously, we’re really big patriots,” says Sean Arroyo, one of Heritage’s founders.
Arroyo served in the Marines for 10 years; his brother and brewery co-founder, Ryan, is in the Army, and 70 percent of Heritage’s employees are veterans. While he was still in the service, Sean Arroyo got into home-brewing because, he says, “I was sick and tired of drinking the crappy beers that Marines drink.” He left the Marines almost two years ago and decided to go into business for himself. “I thought, ‘If I’m not doing something that I love, which is serving my country, I’ll do something else I love, which is brewing beer.’”
Assisted by a federal program that helps veterans start small businesses, the Arroyos and their friends opened Heritage on New Year’s Eve 2013. The young brewery’s output is around 3,000 barrels per year, but a December expansion will increase capacity to 18,000 to 20,000 barrels, which would put Heritage ahead of some Washington brewers that have been open for much longer.
Heritage’s beers are still trying to stand out. The best we tried was a version of the Kings Mountain Scotch Ale — named for another Revolutionary War battle — that spent three months aging in Catoctin Creek rye barrels, lending a warm whiskey flavor to the already malty Scotch ale. We also enjoyed Teddy, a refreshing wet-hopped American Pale Ale that gets its slightly dank flavor from Virginia hops. There are constant “experimental” batches being released at the brewery, including a bacon stout collaboration with the Bone, a barbecue shop nearby.
Heritage sells beers for on-premises consumption two ways: as a full pint or as part of a tasting flight of four four-ounce pours. If you’re taking beer home, Heritage started canning Freedom Isn’t Free and Kings Mountain earlier this month; they’re available for $8 per six-pack or $12 for a 64-ounce growler fill.
For Veterans Day, Heritage is working with two other veteran-owned breweries, Northern Virginia’s Fidelis (which doesn’t have a physical brewery space yet) and Virginia Beach’s Young Veterans, to brew a collaboration beer. Proceeds from the sale of the beer, which Arroyo plans to tap on the Nov. 11 holiday, will support the Aaron Grider Foundation, which helps spouses and children of fallen service members.
9436 Center Point Lane, Manassas. www.heritagebrewing.com. Open Thursday-Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. Brewery tours offered Saturdays at noon. $5 admission includes a tasting flight of four beers.
When Jeremy Meyers shows up for work each weekday, he follows a simple routine: He starts heating water on the three-kettle brewing system behind the bar and asks himself, “What do I feel like brewing today?”
It’s a philosophical, but also a practical, approach to making beer for Meyers, who opened BadWolf Brewing Company in the early summer of 2013 with his wife, Sarah. It’s a creative outlet for the former home-brewer and his team, who craft small batches of beer using unique ingredients, or by slightly tweaking recipes depending on what they have on hand. But there’s only so much room for brewing, storage and fermentation in the tiny, storefront nanobrewery, so the tap turnover remains constant.
Manassas’s first brewery sits right across the street from Heritage Brewing Company in a nondescript strip mall between a hair salon and a print shop. As intimate as Heritage and Old Bust Head are spacious, BadWolf more closely resembles tiny Crooked Run Brewing, the Leesburg nanobrewery that opened about the same time.
But Badwolf makes the most of that space. Three tables fill the front room, and the colorful bar — decorated with beer caps — can sit another handful of folks. Each batch ferments in one of many plastic tanks in a storage closet.
And the six taps are guaranteed to be pouring something interesting. The Meyerses are working with about 190 recipes while revisiting only a few, such as the popular Jesse’s Girl, an American amber ale. So while they’ll put a seasonal pumpkin saison on tap, as they did during their recent fall festival, BadWolf might also have a smoked rauchbier or a recent favorite of Jeremy Meyers’s, Ignis Infernalis, a rye amber made with smoked malt and habanero.
But even with the near-constant brewing, producing about 200 gallons a week, Meyers says it’s hard for BadWolf to keep up with demand. The brewery’s convenient spot on busy Route 28 near Old Town Manassas keeps business steady, and the company has exceeded early expectations. “It built a lot faster than we expected it to,” Meyers says. “We get very close to running out of beer on a weekly basis.”
Come next spring or summer, that shouldn’t be a concern. BadWolf plans to expand to a second location — this one in a warehouse, about three miles from the storefront — that will house a 10-barrel system, a large tasting room with 12 taps, and plenty of space for events and music performances. Meyers says BadWolf also has plans to start bottling and distributing, starting with the restaurants in Manassas and working into Northern Virginia.
The new brewery also plans to serve coffee from their friends (and BadWolf regulars) Ryan and Alycia Otte, who are working to open Monument Coffee Roasters in Manassas. That brewing friendship has led to a collaboration, flowing very soon through one of BadWolf’s taps: the Monument Coffee Imperial Stout. Meyers jokingly calls this milk stout a “latte,” but it checks in at 8.5 percent ABV, giving it a bit more kick than your late-afternoon coffee.
9776 Center St., Manassas. 571-208-1064. www.badwolfbrewingcompany.com. Open Wednesday-Thursday from 4 to 9 p.m., Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from 2 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.
While you’re in the neighborhood ...
You’ll smell smoke at least a block away from the Bone, a barbecue restaurant that opened this summer in Old Town Manassas. This streamlined version of the popular Bad to the Bone Smokehouse in Gainesville offers sandwiches, platters, salads and stuffed potatoes with one of four smoked meats: brisket, pulled pork, turkey and chicken. (The Bone recently added ribs to the menu, by popular demand.) And there’s synergy at work with one of the local breweries: The Bone uses Heritage beers to make two of its barbecue sauces, including Freedom Gold, a spicy mustard made with the Freedom Isn’t Free IPA; Heritage, meanwhile, uses pork from the Bone to flavor its smoky, rich Bacon Stout.
The Bone, 9420 Battle St., Manassas. 703-330-3820. www.thebonebbq.com.
If you want to try new beers without veering too far off Interstate 66, here are two places that should be on your radar.
Beltway Brewing Company isn’t your typical brewery: It’s a full-scale production facility that offers nanobreweries and breweries-in-name-only the resources, including kegging and canning, to make their beers on a much larger scale. Breweries that have taken advantage of Beltway’s contract system include Crooked Run (Leesburg), Back Forty (Gadsden, Ala.) and Grimm (Brooklyn). That’s why visitors to Beltway’s weekly growler hours can sample beers from all over, such as Hilton Head, S.C.’s Wooden Skiff and Purcellville’s Adroit Theory, or even a beer they didn’t know existed: Beltway hosted the launch party for the first beer from Northern Virginia’s Fidelis Brewing last month.
22620 Davis Dr., Suite 110, Sterling, Va. www.beltwaybrewco.com. Open Thursday and Friday 4 to 9 p.m. and Saturday 1 to 9 p.m. Prices vary by brewery.
The brewhouse at Vienna’s Caboose Brewing looks like a construction zone: The floor is a mix of broken stone and dirt in spots; fermenters are wrapped in protective material; the decor is – how to put this nicely? – nonexistent. But there is beer, including a spicy saison and rich, sweet brown ale. Every other Thursday, including Oct. 23, the brewers open the doors to offer samples and fill growlers. Just get there early: At the last filling day, several beers had kicked before 7 p.m.
520 Mill St. NE, Vienna. 703-865-8580. www.caboosebrewing.com. Open every other Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. Next event is Oct. 23. Growler fills $14.