Last Sunday, I hopped in a van run by Reston Limo at the ungodly (for me) hour of 10:30 in the morning, My vanmates? A friend of mine and a group of five celebrating the birthday of their group’s resident beer nerd. We were on Reston Limo’s Loudoun West County Brewery Tour, heading to Corcoran Brewing Company, Adroit Theory Brewing Company, and Catoctin Creek Distillery.
On a scenic drive past Tyson’s Corner, Reston, and Dulles, we saw a sign advising drivers to avoid running over turtles (a sure clue that we were not in DC anymore) before arriving in Purcellville, which is about an hour outside of the District. Now I know what you’re thinking: “This is DCBeer.com, what are you doing talking about someplace a mere stone’s throw from West Virginia?”
That is a fair point I will happily address. In my opinion, DC’s neighbors play a large role in shaping DC’s craft beer reputation. I believe collaboration with, and the success of, our neighbors in Virginia and Maryland will go a long way toward making DC a beer destination. Furthermore, Purcellville is only eight miles further from DC than Frederick, Maryland, home to Flying Dog. Besides, who doesn’t love a good road trip? You have to get out of the city sometimes, and if you’re not trying out new beer on your road trip, you’re doing it wrong.
First up on our tour was Corcoran Brewing Company. Corcoran’s slogan is “great beer with a LoCo [Loudoun County] attitude.” Corcoran has done a lot of expanding over the course of their four years in existence. Jim and Lori Corcoran began the brewery on the same site as their winery and cidery in Waterford, Virginia. Still owned by the Corcorans, the brewery moved to its current site and installed a new 10-barrel system this past spring. Kevin Bills is the mind behind Corcoran’s many offerings and has been brewmaster here for the past four years.
My friend (fellow craft beer fan @_EricParker) and I were able to try all twelve of the offerings on draft at Corcoran. The sheer variety of styles offered at this small brewery was impressive; the selection included four versions of a pale ale, an IPL, an Oktoberfest, a German wheat and pilsner, a Kolsch, and a Belgian wit, with a barrel-aged imperial stout rounding out the selection. One of Corcoran’s staples is LoCo, an American-style IPA clocking in at 7.2% that has been a fan-favorite since they opened. This brew uses six varieties of hops: Summit, Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Zythos, and Falconer’s Flight. Jackie Hill, one of only three non-family employees at CBC, explained that part of their brewing philosophy is to appeal to the palates of beer drinkers and non-beer drinkers alike by utilizing a wide variety of accessible styles. This is admittedly not my favorite approach. None of the styles were as refined or remarkable as they could be, but favorites varied for everyone on the trip. My personal favorite of the twelve we tried was the Catoctin Ale, named after a creek that runs through the county. This English Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) made great use of lots of crystal malts, which balanced out the hops well and gave it a slightly dry finish. Dutchman’s Creek is a traditional German Hefeweizen and a staff favorite. Coming in at 4.5% ABV, Dutchman’s Creek features both a strong banana and a more mild clove flavor.
One of their upcoming special releases, Padawan Pumpkin, gets its name from the brewer’s own padawan, his then-five-year-old son who helped him make this brew. This will be one of the first two beers Corcoran will bottle when they begin bottling this fall. You will soon be able to find 750mml bottles of Padawan Pumpkin and Jeb Stuart Stout in local beer specialty stores surrounding Purcellville.
Created with flickr slideshow.
After heading out from our first stop, we drove a quarter mile to arrive at Adroit Theory Brewing Company. “Consume Life. Drink Art.” is the slogan behind this nano-brewery that specializes in barrel-aging. Our group had a small tasting session with Dan Segall, one of the brewers working with brewmaster Greg Skosko on their huge and rapidly changing repertoire. Dan explained how Adroit Theory operates and the philosophy behind their brand while he served us a delicious, unique, and surprising beer selection. The experimental imperial witbier with Bartlett pears we tried was crisp, clean, and flavorful—my favorite of the day.
The first thing Dan wanted us to know was: “All of our beers are big beers,” and he was absolutely right. Adroit Theory’s average beer comes in at 8-9%, and they make nothing under 7%. The warehouse-like space Adroit occupies has the feel of a much larger brewery, but they are only on a half-barrel state-of-the-art homebrew system. They release a new beer every week and have no flagship recipes. Most of their beers are served “regular” and then also in one or more barrel-aged styles. One of the last beers we tried was barrel-aged Legion, a 10.7% Belgian stout aged in red wine barrels, you could taste the alcohol in this one, and the rich red wine flavor was prominent. Legion is complex, layered, and a bit peppery.
Adroit’s high-gravity beers tend to hide their high alcohol content well, and their flavor profile lends much more toward flavorful and aromatic than hoppy or bitter. This was clear when we tried Love of the Damned, a gateway beer they use to win over the many winos who stop by during their tours of wineries in the area. Love of the Damned is an Old Ale that’s a little malty, a little fruity, and little musky. Last up on the docket was a nitro Pecan Bar Porter, buttery, caramel-ly, and delicious. Adroit uses aging, malts, and adjuncts to bring out many flavors in their beers. So while hops and yeast are also carefully used, many of their beers are not as hop-forward or bitter as the trend has been for many popular American brands.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experimental, creative, unrestrained philosophy at Adroit. They have only been operational for a year, but they already seem to have quite the loyal fan base. Adroit Theory is a very unique brewery and a great stop for any road tripping DC beer fans. I will definitely go out of my way to fill up a growler or two next time I head in that direction.
The third and final stop on our adventure was at Catoctin Creek Distillery. Catoctin has been in the area since 2009 and is the first distillery in Loudoun County since Prohibition. They offer a variety of rye whiskeys, gin, brandies, and white whiskeys. I had a delightful flight of three artisanal cocktails. We did not have time to take a tour, but there are tours offered at their downtown Purcellville distillery. You can also find Catoctin Creek spirits in Maryland, Virginia, DC, and several other states.
Exhausted after a day gallivanting around Loudoun County, our entire van napped on our way back to the East Falls Church Metro. All in all, Purcellville is a trek from the District (although it doesn’t feel quite so long when you have someone to drive you around), but it makes a great day trip and you’ll definitely be able to find some delicious brews.
Find more information about Reston Limos Beer and Wine Tours here: https://www.restonlimo.com/services/tours-trips/brewery-tours/
More information about Corcoran Brewing Company here: http://www.corcoranbrewing.com/
More information about Adroit Theory Brewing Company here: http://www.adroit-theory.com/
More information about Catoctin Creek here: http://catoctincreekdistilling.com/