Jake Endres is 25 years old, but he has already won three awards for brewing beer and he is just a few months from becoming Leesburg’s newest small business owner as he prepares to open Crooked Run Brewing’s nanobrewery in Leesburg’s Market Station this spring.
Endres also is the youngest face in an exploding movement in Loudoun County of nanobreweries opening up, directly correlated to the passage of Senate Bill 604 last April, which allows breweries to sell their beer on-premise.
Since the bill’s passage, at least six nanobreweries, brewpubs and/or tasting rooms have either opened or begun plans to open: Crooked Run; Barnhouse Brewery in Lucketts; Mad Horse Brewpub in Lovettsville; Mud Hound Brewing, which has partnered with MacDowell Brew Kitchen in Leesburg; Adroit Theory in Purcellville; Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn; and Bald Guy Brewing, which is looking for a place to launch.
Those businesses join some larger craft brewers, including Lost Rhino in Ashburn, Vintage 50 in Leesburg and Corcoran Brewing, owned by Jim and Lori Corcoran, an offshoot of their more well-known winery, Corcoran Vineyards.
Corcoran Vineyards is among the dozens of vineyards in western Loudoun that have become a popular destination for weekend visitors. This summer, assuming the breweries successfully open for business by then, the same tourism experience could be available to beer enthusiasts.
“I hope the same thing that happened with the wine industry in western Loudoun happens with beer,” Endres said.
This discussion is not purely theoretical. The brewers are not independent entities, operating on islands. Endres has received lots of counsel from many brewers, including Jim Corcoran, and particularly Roger Knoell, the owner of Barnhouse Brewing.
Knoell says he loves interacting with the visitors to his little brewery—he only has a half-barrel system and it is actually set up at his home—and frequently recommends they visit Corcoran or Mad Horse. He said the owners at Mad Horse frequently return the favor.
“It’s not like we’re hiding from each other,” Knoell said. “People are really anxious to come out to Loudoun County, and there’s starting to be not a wine trail, but a brewery trail. Folks are coming out on the weekends to visit all the small breweries.”
That has meant working together, almost exclusively by word of mouth, to generate the kind of buzz needed to keep the burgeoning cottage industry afloat.
One small concern is the notion that this all may be a little too much, too soon. Mark Osborne, the founder of Adroit Theory along with his wife, Nina, said after the shine wears off a new nanobrewery, keeping a consistent following might be difficult.
“I think unless these guys are doing something to differentiate themselves and come out with some neat products, getting people to consistently come to your brewery is going to be a challenge,” Osborne said. Adroit Theory will specialize is esoteric beers and market as some wineries do, funding his business by mailing his bottled beers to members who sign up to receive regular shipments.
Before now, Loudoun has lagged behind the craft beer movement. Osborne said that, in Northern Virginia, there are approximately 1.2 million people per brewery. In some markets, like Portland, OR, or San Diego, CA, there is a brewery for every 7,000 people.
“There’s a lot of interest in Loudoun, which I think is in part because there’s a dearth of options,” he said. “I really think there’s just a lot of pent-up demand.”
Endres has taken a slightly different path, and one that seems more in line with his generation. Knoell has been brewing for 15 years and is into middle age, as is Jim Corcoran, while Endres is not yet sniffing his 30th birthday.
What Endres lacks in experience however, he makes up for with unbridled confidence and a stout business plan, which includes fundraising through Kickstarter, a website that allows people to donate to a cause, or business, in which they believe.
Endres set his fundraising goal at $10,000 when he launched his Kickstarter Feb. 5. As of Tuesday evening, he surpassed $3,000, and he has given himself until March 7 to achieve his goal. The Kickstarter funds will be his financial backing to apply for a Small Business Administration loan, he said, after which he’ll sign a lease for 900 square feet of prime real estate in Market Station on Harrison Street in downtown Leesburg.
That is, if everything goes according to plan.
“I’m 100 percent confident in my brewing ability,” he said. “The learning experience has been the business side. I’m 25, but if you have any doubt about the integrity of this project, look at my Kickstarter page.”
Considering he is at 30 percent of his goal less than a week after starting fundraising, it is hard not to see his point. What’s more, the concept behind the brewery itself is unusual, even for the typically eccentric craft beer scene.
Endres’ day job is working at Endless Summer Harvest farm, and he’s learned how to grow hydroponically as well as naturally. He has his own hop garden and is using only local ingredients. He built his electric brewing system himself and has already developed recipes for beers including a Belgian quadruple and a saison made with Endless Summer’s basil.
Endres plans to open Crooked Run Brewing in early May. He is just one of a number of new nanobreweries in Loudoun County. Many may see simply a trend that may not be destined to last, but Endres, Knoell and the handful of brewers starting this movement are riding the wave of the future.
Go to www.kickstarter.com; keyword: Crooked Run.