Craft breweries are always on the lookout for the latest ploy that will increase their sales over their local competitors. Whether it is a healthy bottom line for them individually or for a group that is competing against another, sales are an important grounding in giving craft breweries a heads up on their own future. One of these is setting an experimental brewery and I had to privilege to visit one put in operation by Old Ox Brewery.
I went out to Middleburg, VA to check out an experimental brewery that is connected to Old Ox Brewing in Ashburn, VA. The brewery, named Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg, is an attempt to conduct some small scale brewing and sort out that beer production before Old Ox Brewing is prepared to move up to the larger scale at the established brewery. By conducting these small scale experiments at the 5 gallon level, brewers are able to sort out which beers they are going to keep maturing and ones that seemed like a good idea at the time, but they are going to try something else for now.
Old Ox Brewery has reached a point in their brewing process where they need to have more control over their various brews. They need to employ this sort of experimental brewing because they can not brew everything that have dreamed up. By going to experimental brewing, they can keep the stream of brewery ideas alive and kicking and maintain a process for maturing beers that they believe have a good chance of succeeding.
Finding Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg was easy – go west on US 50 and turn left at the first, and only, stoplight in Middleburg, on S. Madison Street and it will be on your right in the first block. (14 S. Madison Street, Middleburg, VA 20117; 1-540-326-8943) www.oldoxbrewery.com; Opens at 4pm on Tuesday; Closed on Mondays.) It is below street level, but there are signs indicating its location. It is the old Middleburg Police Station and it still shares the building with number of doctors.
They have twelve beers to choose from: four from the Ashburn facility, four from the Middleburg facility and four from surrounding craft breweries. There is seating for twenty to twenty- four patrons and about eight people at the bar. Prices are reasonable and the whole place has a nice, comfortable vibe. Food is available from the on-site chef, and again, at reasonable prices.
Now for the weird part. I was chatting with the bartender (Warden) who works on Saturday, and he asked me if I would like to see their brewing facility. I agreed and we walked out back to a old four car garage where Old Ox was converting it to a brewery. But nothing was finished. No brewing equipment was in place, but they had a brand new sink and kitchen equipment. They had been working for a two weeks and they had nothing finished when it came to brewing beer. The chef was working on a bbq and outdoor fry top and had all of his orders tacked up on a wall. But they had all of the required permits and that was what counted.
Behind the chef, was a door that Warden quickly drew my attention to – this was their cold room. The cold room had a state of the art with a cooling system that allowed Middleburg staff to swap kegs of beer and evacuate their lines in 20 seconds. Impressive. He took me outside and there was a PVC pipe that carried all twelve (or more) of their lines from the cold room to the bar – and this was twenty five yards from point to point. Proof that you need to work miracles even in the quaint town of Middleburg if you are going to have things to work!
The brewery equipment issues should be done in a couple of weeks, but until then, the beer will be brewed at the headquarters in Ashburn. New ideas for beer will be fulminating at the Middleburg branch, but if you have a favorite, you will have to let them know because next week maybe too late. Old Ox Brewing – Middleburg promises to deliver good and tasty beer selections!