By Annie Tobey | Photos by Todd Wright
If you tried to cram everything Loudoun County offers into just one trip, you would either drive yourself to exhaustion or destroy your liver – or both.
The eastern part of the county embraces the urban Northern Virginia lifestyle, while the north and west present pastoral landscapes peppered with small towns, outdoor activities, and entrepreneurial businesses.
But the state’s fastest growing county, in its fastest growing region, has in a relatively short amount of time turned into something of a drinker’s Disneyland, with 25 breweries (more, if you wait a few months), 40 wineries, four cideries and distilleries, and one meadery.
So let us help you make the most out of your trip. To experience Loudoun’s best, put these top destinations on your itinerary.
Crooked Run Brewing
The success of the Crooked Run nano-brewery and tiny tasting room in Leesburg led to the larger Crooked Run Brewing Central in Sterling. Central shares space with Señor Ramon Taqueria, so you can pair your beer with tacos.
Crooked Run beers play across the spectrum of styles and include frequent creative touches. In 2016, the Supernatural, a hibiscus imperial saison, won gold at the World Beer Cup. A recent lineup included an India pale lager, Baltic porter, three IPAs and two double IPAs, a sour farmhouse ale with raspberries, Belgian quad aged in rum barrels, an altbier, and a mead-based braggot.
Ocelot Brewing Company
While music fans experience an insider thrill at Ocelot, spotting allusions to song lyrics in the beer names, the rest of us can nonetheless fully appreciate the constantly rotating lineup of quality beers: Sunnyside Dweller pilsner; Cosmic Jive IPA; Holy Experience Black IPA; Devil’s Got a New Disguise saison; Marmalade Skies ESB; Gravity Always Wins Scotch ale; and more. The spacious tasting room in Dulles features a large, wholly appropriate, psychedelic wall mural.
Lost Rhino Brewing Company
As a Virginia craft brewing pioneer, Lost Rhino led the way in innovative beers and the use of local ingredients – notably Native Son, the first beer made from 100 percent Virginia ingredients. There was also Bone Dusters, fermented with wild yeast from protocetid whale fossils found near the Dismal Swamp.
Yet Lost Rhino, located in Ashburn, still maintains a base of true-to-style options, including Face Plant IPA, Rhin O’fest Märzen lager and New River pale ale, plus sours, barrel-aged beers and a nonalcoholic root beer.
In 2015, the owners opened Lost Rhino Retreat, a modern, airy full-service brewpub. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, Lost Rhino brews, guest taps, cider and wine, providing sustenance and cheers for all.
Black Hoof Brewing Company
Several breweries cluster in easy walking distance in historic Leesburg. Black Hoof Brewing distinguishes itself for its reverence of German- and British-style lagers and ales. But while it specializes in bocks — doppelbocks, rauchbier and the like — the brewery also offers an American IPA to please the hopheads.
Adroit Theory Brewing Company
If you’re hankering for something massive and edgy, head to Adroit in Purcellville. The brewery’s dark, dramatic themes resonate in the beers, many of which are high ABV, barrel-aged and with variants on a strong base beer, such as All I See Is Carrion 12 percent Belgian-style quad; B/A/Y/S (black as your soul) 10 percent Russian Imperial Stout; and 10 percent Tenebris barleywine. The industrial-lodge tasting room serves from 24 tap lines and a cask line. Be sure to pre-arrange a designated driver or Uber!
Vanish Farmwoods Brewery
Make tracks north to experience laid-back Loudoun’s agricultural roots. Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Leesburg is part of Black Hops Farm, which grows and processes hops. The setting offers a natural background for enjoying the beer, either outside in the covered pavilions or in the spacious, rustic tasting room. Vanish uses its 20 taps to serve up a variety of styles. A recent scan of the menu showed a saison, pilsner, mango sour, chai latte dunkelweizen, brown, dubbel, stout, IPAs, and more. Can’t decide? Try the mega flight with 12 tasters.
Dirt Farm Brewing
A tribute to Loudoun’s rural roots and arguably the best brewery view in Virginia lies at Dirt Farm Brewing, on the slopes of the Blue Ridge in Bluemont. The brewery springs from family-owned Great Country Farms, a 400-acre working farm plus farm market, bakery and more. Year-round beers include malty and hoppy styles, but seasonal beers vary according to the year’s harvest, such as peaches, strawberries and pumpkins. (Neighboring Bluemont Vineyard offers wine and matching gorgeous views.)
Other stuff to drink
Catoctin Creek Distilling Company
Sample the spirits straight or in cocktails made with fresh ingredients, artisanal mixers and the award-winning liquors at Catoctin Creek Distillery Purcellville. Offerings include rye whiskey, American gin, brandy, and fruit brandies that draw from local farms and orchards.
Mt. Defiance Hard Cider & Distillery
In fall 2017, Middleburg’s Mt. Defiance expanded into a larger tasting room and cider production facility. The original location offers tastings and spirits sales, including rum, cassis liqueur and traditional absinthe, while the new “Barn” offers tastings and sales of cider, sweet vermouth, and apple brandy.
The Barns at Hamilton Station Vineyards
Celebrated winemaker Michael Shaps creates classic wines in a Bordeaux style using Virginia grapes, including the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, which won the 2017 Virginia Governor’s Cup. The tasting room in Hamilton resides in a tastefully restored dairy barn, and the countryside surrounding the barn adds a dose of natural delight.
Sunset Hills Vineyard
Also boasting a beautifully restored barn, relaxing view and award-winning winemaker is Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville.
Though the county is awash in restaurant options, some are especially suited for beer lovers.
Delirium Café in Leesburg brings the Belgian beer café to America.
Magnolias at the Mill in Purcellville serves affordable farm-to-table food, accompanied by a wide selection of beer and wine.
Two nearby restaurants by the same group in Leesburg also offer quality food and drink: Fire Works American Pizzeria and Tuscarora Mill Restaurant (fondly known as Tuskie’s).
For mouthwatering barbecue and beer, stop by Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville.
For more information, go to www.visitloudoun.org. Follow the LoCo Ale Trail for updated brewery information.