If you search google for, “Virginia wine country,” you will get over a 100,000 hits.
“Virginia beer country?” A one-hitter, at least for now.
Not to worry though hoppers. The craft beer industry is growing, and this coming weekend marks the “First Annual Virginia Brewersfest.”
Can’t make that one, but put me down as an early visitor to Corcoran Brewing Company, a new nanobrewery in Purcellville. Lavanya Ramanathan of the Washington Post recommends it in the Weekend section. The owners are Lori and Jim Corcoran, who also operate a winery on their rural spread about ten minutes north of town.
We made a day trip out of it, stopping for the first time in Purcellville. This is what I love about this part of Northern Virginia. Not that long after the mountains come into view, you’re driving past the western edge of suburban sprawl. As the traffic thins and the mountains come closer, your mood lightens up.
Our first stop was the Market Street Coffee House on E. Main Street. I don’t know what it is about these out of town places. Their coffee tastes better, their chairs are more inviting, and perhaps answering the question, they’re less hectic than in the city. I do have to ding this one for its strip mall locale, but still, not a bad place to read the paper and relax.
After our coffee, we drove down Main Street to the center of town. Purcellville was devastated by fire late in the 19th Century, but a walk along the first block of N. 21st Street conjures up enough oldness to contrast with the burby part of town we were just in.
Driving slowly along, our eyes beheld quite a sight, a place begging you to get out of the car. On the left, Trail’s End, a bike shop housed in what looks like could have been a country store. On the right, “Magnolias on the Mill” restaurant.
On the other side of the refurbished station, a circle in the pavement notes the end of the line for the W&OD Trail, which begins in Arlington. As such, this spot is popular with cyclists. We talked with three from Herndon. They love the trail, not as crowded as the urban others.
Population 8,000, Purcelville was one of the pearls on that long necklace of Northern Virginia towns and cities running from the Shenandoah Mountains to the Potomac River. Several interpretive signs along the W&OD Trail document some of that history. One notes the connections with Alexandria. Although the trail begins in Arlington, the railroad’s eastern terminus was located in Alexandria at Princess and N. Fairfax. The line was one of four in the seaport city at that time.
Around 11, our tummies growl. Ramanathan’s piece turned us on to not only the beer, but also Monk’s BBQ,, whose stand partners with the Corcorans. My mouth was watering for that touchstone combination, but their place doesn’t open until noon. "Magnolia on the Mills," standing tall beside the train station, opens at 11.
I gave the better half the choice.
“Let’s eat now.”
Great decision. My hickory-grilled burger was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. R liked her corned beefed hash and sunny-side up eggs. The outdoor patio is large and completely covered.
Picking up on our curiosity about the place, our friendly server Kim hands us their primer. Much is owed to W.H. Adams and his son who stored seed for corn, wheat and other grains. The mill was restored in 2004. It sits on the spot where stagecoaches stopped on the Winchester and Leesburg Pike.
Happy campers, we pulled away for the brewery. Google maps had told me the road in to Corcoran’s was also the way out, but I had no idea gravel was involved. A dusty half-mile later, we’re still not there. Our destination was Post-approved, but still I worry a bit. On a side road, a smashed-up SUV that has probably been there a while is not an inviting sign.
We drove some more and finally arrived at the remote site. More cars than we thought are already there. The Post’s article was paying the Corcaran’s big dividends.
Inside the small brewery, the early arrivals swill samples from small glasses. We found the last position and check out their offerings. One of the workers pulled out a jug and started filling it with one of their half-dozen choices. Somewhere a moonshiner is smiling.
Corcoran’s operation is small right now, but I have a strong feeling they are going to succeed. I tried the LoCo. I don’t have the brew vocabulary, but I’ve downed a few pints in England and Germany, and I know good beer. Their LoCo reminds me of a Guinness. It is very good.
Wrapping things up, we got some ‘cue to go. I have to say the hushpuppies were not moist. But the pulled pork, and cole slaw will have folks coming back for more.
All in all, a great road trip. The experience reminded me that some Americans are rejecting mass production, and choosing the slower-made stuff. Whether your glass is filled with wine or beer, cheers to those of you making it happen.