America’s Premier Beer-Biking Trail Is Less Than an Hour From DC
The Loudoun County Ale Trail makes for a perfect fall weekend
Own a bike and want to get outdoors this fall? Great. Like beer? Even better.
As the hot days of summer make their way toward an eventual end, it’s time to start thinking about what activities you can add to your fall weekending checklist. To make the most of this extremely limited time, we suggest taking advantage of a perfect two-fer adventure that combines scenic fall biking with some of the region’s best craft brews: the LoCo Ale Trail in Loudoun County, Virginia.
Located only an hour’s drive from DC, Loudoun County is actually known as “DC’s wine country” for estates like Stone Tower Winery and Fabbioli Cellars. What many don’t realize is that Loudoun is also now popping with over 30 great breweries.
Though you can also obviously access the breweries by car, biking it by way of the W&OD Trail brings you through the small towns and across scenic country roads in Northern Virginia, from Arlington all the way to Purcellville, providing opportunities to explore and eventually stop in to catch your breath and grab some beers along the way. Tasting rooms can be found on farms, industrial parks, mountain tops, historic downtowns and right off the bike trail, so you’re pretty much spoiled for choice. We decided to make things a bit easier for you by putting together a checklist of recommended breweries that deserve a stop, along with what to order from each.
So grab your buddies and your bike and get ready to pedal through 45 miles of trails, experiencing everything from nano breweries to larger, more established tap rooms as you take in the fresh country air.
Getting on the Trail
If you only plan on spending one day on the trail, you’ll have to be selective about your brewery stops, and probably won’t make it through all 45 miles (which is really 90 miles roundtrip). Regardless, your journey starts at the Mile 1 Marker of the W&OD, or Washington and Old Dominion Trail in Shirlington. If you’re driving there from DC proper, it’s about a 15- to 25-minute drive. Those without cars can take the Metro to Ballston or Pentagon City and then a bus to the Shirlington Station in Arlington.
The LoCo Ale Trail is divided into four clusters of breweries: Leesburg Downtown, Purcellville Gateway, Dulles Corridor and Farm Breweries. Many of our suggested breweries are grouped together around mile 25. For those of you only spending a day on the trail, we suggest locking your bike up at a brewery and spending a few hours kicked back with some beers before heading back.
For a full list of all the participating tasting rooms, check out this handy guide by Visit Loudoun.
Mile 23: Crooked Run Brewing
Crooked Run started back in 2013 with a tiny operation in downtown Leesburg and now operates in two different locations: Leesburg and Sterling. Their Sterling location can be found right off the W&OD Trail and features a bustling taproom, outdoor biergarten and taqueria.. On weekends you can also look forward to live music.
Brew of choice: The Coast Pilsner
This “brewers pick” pils is made with Motueka and Wakatu hops and has a lower, biking-friendly ABV at 5%.
Mile 23: Rocket Frog Brewing Company
Just down the street from Crooked Run is Rocket Frog, a quirky brewery named after the frog whose photo was captured during a lift off of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in 2013. They’re running a small yet award-winning operation of only 12 taps featuring four flagships, seasonals, one-offs and barrel-aged beers. You can also check out their Facebook page to see which food trucks will be visiting on weekends and for one-off events and trivia nights.
Brew of Choice: The Minotaur V Blonde Ale
Recommended to us by Assistant Taproom Manager Austin Alvarado, this nice and crisp blonde ale is on the lighter side at 4.5% ABV. Alvarado also recommends their award-winning flagship, the Wallop’s Island Brown Ale, which delivers a bolder, more roasty flavor.
Mile 25: Old Ox Brewery
Right off the trail past mile 25 is Old Ox, a family-owned and -operated brewery inspired by Old Ox Road, one of the oldest in Loudoun County. Their 30-barrel brewhouse is pretty huge compared to many others on the trail. Sit outside on their patio and enjoy a brew or cool off inside and play cornhole. They also have a giant production warehouse behind their tasting room for special events, like the Science on Tap and Tech on Tap series they host several times a month with the Loudoun County Library.
Brew of Choice: The Oxtober Bier
Recommended by their ABC (alcohol beverage control) Manager Darren Gustaveson is this super popular seasonal lager. At 6% ABV, the Oxtober Bier is a Märzen with Vienna malts and a nice toastiness balanced by hoppy bitterness. Gustaveson also suggests the Hoppier Place Frazz, an American IPA that’s a hit with runners and cyclists looking for something citrusy and refreshing. It has a juicy mouthfeel and a lower ABV at 5.5%, making it dangerously sessionable.
Mile 27: The Craft of Brewing
With 20 of their 34 taps being self-service, The Craft of Brewing is the perfect spot to rest your weary legs for a while. They also offer free billiards, shuffleboard, playing cards and board games. For those who aren’t on a biking tour, they also offer a dedicated Brew On-Premise program for novice or experienced home brewers.
Brew of Choice: Ain’t Afraid of No Gose – Raspberry Lemonade
For something a little different, cleanse your palate with this sour gose, aged on raspberries and infused with lemonade for easy drinking in warm weather. They offer two other flavor variations: a Mango Habanero and a Cherry Lime.
Mile 27: Lost Rhino Brewing Company
One of the most popular stops on the trail, Lost Rhino was the second craft brewery to open in the county, after Old Dominion. It gets its name from the surfing term “rhino chaser,” referring to a true adventurer who’s always on the lookout for giants. They’ve grown significantly since first opening in 2011, introducing live music and events as well as rhino activism. You can also take a 30-minute Safari Brewery Tour that includes a tasting on the first Saturday of every month from 1-5 p.m. for $11.
Brew of Choice: The Hop Shove-It Wet Hop Ale
Every August, the Lost Rhino crew travels to the Whippoorwill Manor Farm in Madison County, Virginia, to hand-pick fresh Cascade hops growing on their property and then immediately adds them to their Hop Shove-It brew. Their method of using freshly picked whole cone hops in the brewing process is what makes a Wet Hop Ale “wet” and results in a sweet floral scent, a fresh hop flavor and a mild bitterness and smooth finish.
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