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Photo: Josiah Everly

Aslin Beer Taps Into Wider DMV Market

If you wanted to get your hands on the highly sought-after cans of beer from Aslin Brewing Company prior to this summer, you had to get in the car and make the pilgrimage to a humble strip mall in Herndon, Virginia. Beer aficionados have been camping out in line outside Aslin in the hopes of snagging a few cans since 2015, like New York City tourists waiting for a cronut outside of Dominique Ansel Bakery. Coming up on their fourth anniversary, it seems Aslin’s brews have earned a reputation as the cronut of the beer industry.

This July, beer drinkers across the DMV welcomed Aslin’s long-awaited new outpost in Alexandria with open arms and empty growlers. Gone are the days of trekking out to Herndon solely for beer to-go.

“[Because] people [can] come in and drink a few beers and get their cans, there’s rarely much of a line,” says Aslin Brand Manager Erik Raines.

The “real test,” he says, will be what the wait is like on the day of a major stout release. Though enjoying a beer onsite in the Herndon space is not allowed, Aslin has an extremely committed following. On one particular beer release day, Alexandria resident Justin Booth got in line two hours before they opened.

“People will post pictures on social media with line updates,” Booth says. “I waited for about 30 minutes after they opened, so it was about two-and-a-half hours.”

Raines says being go-to for the last few years created quite a trek for some Aslin fans.

“I get it,” he says. “I get having to schlep all the way out [to Herndon] just to get some cans and get right back into your car and get back on 66. We’ve gotten feedback from guests who are so pumped to have us five or 10 minutes from their house now.”

When Alexandria city planners reached out to Aslin about coming to their neck of the woods, the company found the 25,000-square-foot warehouse space was more than big enough to offer them the growth they needed. One of the hardest parts, Raines mentions, was trying to decide how to utilize all that wall space with four years’ worth of beer can art by artist Mike Van Hall, who has been instrumental in helping to define their brand.

“It’s just such a luxury to have someone like [Van Hall] that you can give minimal direction to and just know that he’s going to completely knock it out of the park,” Raines notes.

With endless wall space to fill, the team at Aslin set out looking for someone to incorporate Van Hall’s art into the taproom. They enlisted their new neighbors across the street, CSI Printing & Graphics, to make his beer can art come to life – literally from floor-to-ceiling.

“We got so lucky,” Raines says.

The resulting partnership brought colorful, minimalistic wall designs practically begging to be posted on Instagram. While art is a core component of their brand, Aslin’s focus continues to be on making beer people are willing to wait for – even if the waiting part isn’t as much of a commitment as it once was.

Aslin plans to make its beer even more accessible in the near future. They are expanding their reach beyond Alexandria and Herndon and recently signed with DC-based distributor Hop & Wine Beverage. They expect to begin distributing Aslin beer across the wider Northern Virginia area this fall. In the meantime, Aslin’s new Alexandria taproom is open daily and family-friendly until 7 p.m.

“After 7 p.m., ‘Adult Swim’ is in effect and patrons must be 21 and over,” states their website.

Purchase tickets to Aslin’s four-year anniversary party on Saturday, September 14 on Eventbrite; tickets start at $65. For more information about Aslin’s new Alexandria space, visit www.aslinbeer.com.

Aslin Brewing Company: 847 South Pickett St. Alexandria, VA; 703-787-5766; www.aslinbeer.com

Founder Tristan Wright // Photo: Misha Enriquez for Visit Alexandria

Lost Boy Cider Plants Itself in Alexandria

When former banker Tristan Wright was diagnosed with a severe soy allergy a few years ago, he realized he wanted to make some changes in his life.

“I had spent 16 years in the industry,” he says. “And one day when looking in the mirror, I realized I was doing something that I didn’t love and wasn’t passionate about any longer. A lot of that had to do with that diagnosis. As you get older, you begin to hear that ticking clock and think more about your mortality. I didn’t want to wake up in a hospital room one day and not be able to say I had done something in life that was worth the risk.”

Wright had recently started drinking cider because he needed to give up whiskey and beer. He researched what was out there, and couldn’t find too many ciders that he wanted to drink. Like kismet, he was sitting on the couch one day watching a ballgame when a commercial for Angry Orchard cider came on, and he had a light bulb moment.

“It was almost like someone was telling me I should start a cider company. I was looking for something to do, and here was an opportunity to do something really cool.”

A month later, he found himself at Widmer Brothers Brewery in Portland, Oregon sitting in a cider production class led by cider professionals from the Pacific Northwest.

“I immediately connected with those in the room and spent a couple of weeks out there going through 19 different cideries,” he says. “From there, I enrolled in Cornell’s viticulture and enology [the study of grape cultivation and the study of wines, respectively] program, studying yeast cultures they use in wine and the science behind the craft.”

His business plan was finally on its way. On June 8, Wright opened Lost Boy Cider – the first cidery in Northern Virginia – in Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood. His cidery produces a variety of traditional and innovative hard ciders, with almost 100 percent of their sourced apples grown in Virginia.

“Our ciders are all bone-dry with no residual sugars. They are in the 6.9 percent range. Our belief is you can go and source very good apples, hand ferment them and introduce dry cider the way it should be.”

For now, the cider is coming from trees on Glaize Apples’ properties in the Shenandoah Valley. The process involves Lost Boy fermenting the squeezed apple juice and then crafting the liquid into one of the cidery’s signature ciders. The menu features Bottle Rocket, made with jalapeños; Spicoli, made with pineapple; and Slasher, made with raspberries.

Lost Boy Cider has an apple orchard onsite adjacent to its tasting room with semi-Dwarf Golden Delicious varieties from Stark Bro’s, a Mississippi Delta-based company. Once fully grown to roughly nine feet, the apple trees will produce nearly 80 gallons of juice. The first harvest is planned for fall of 2020.

“We are licensed in the state as a farm winery and you cannot do that in the state without controlling land where 65 percent of your product comes from,” Wright explains. “You must control an orchard in continuous or adjacent space to where your tasting room operates from.”
Lost Boy Cider will also receive a $60,000 Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) program grant.

“We’re incredibly grateful for it, and we’ll use that money to build out and deepen our laboratory area so we can continue to understand what type of ciders we are making. The money comes in waves and it requires me to utilize Virginia resources, which we planned on doing anyway. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The theme of the Lost Boy logo is to motivate people to explore the opportunities they are presented with.

“It’s not about being lost, but really about being found.”

Lost Boy’s instant popularity at the grand opening last month proved to Wright this is a place people wanted to see.

“I knew our cider was good and we worked very, very hard on it, but I had no idea that the community would support us in the way that they did. I opened the doors at noon and by 12:04, we had exceeded our occupancy load. There was a line of 80 people outside and throughout the day, people were waiting up to 45 minutes in line to get in.”

About 1,400 people came through the doors by day’s end, and cider was flying off the shelves.

“It was just incredible and we’re looking forward to more. It feels really good to know the hard work we have put in the last couple of years is hopefully going to pay off.”

Lost Boy Cider: 317 Hooffs Run Dr. Alexandria, VA; 703-868-4865; www.lostboycider.com

Photo: courtesy of The Study

The Study at Morrison House Brings Cocktails to Cozy Alexandria Space

It has always been said to never judge a book by its cover, at least that was always told to me as a child. This is how I felt as I approached Morrison House, a new member of the Autograph collection. As I opened the door I was greeted by a softly lit entrance with a fresh linen scent, almost as if I stepped right off King Street into a storybook, providing a quiet reprieve from the heat and chaos of the outside. I was swiftly swept into a cozy bar area, immediately made to feel at home.

The Study at Morrison House is an intimate bar located within Morrison House, a boutique hotel. Situated in a small residential street, just a block over from the hustle and bustle of King Street, they specialize in a seasonal rotation of small plates and signature house-made cocktails.

As I settled into the soft leather backed bar chairs, the bartender Cynthia immediately introduced herself and offered me the signature cocktail of the evening and the rest of the summer, the Gin Chamomile Milk Punch. The punch was incredibly refreshing, and proved to be a good choice even for those who are not fans of gin. The mixture of gin and chamomile was a lovely floral experience for the tongue, and the pre-frosted glasses were a nice added touch for the warm weather.

As the taste was something I had never encountered before, I was intrigued – so much so that I asked Cynthia how it was made. The process takes two days and involves a bottle of gin and many bags of chamomile tea, eventually combined together with milk. As the process is incredibly lengthy, she informed me she gages the necessity based on any events that are being hosted at the hotel.

As I sipped my punch, I noticed the variety of ages and faces around me, telling me that while it can feel like an old fashioned hotel from the outside, you walk in and all your expectations are immediately transformed, especially with the incredibly friendly and knowledgeable staff. This space is made for everyone, no matter their age or food and drink favorites. Whether you want a small bite or a glass of local Virginia rosé, The Study at Morrison House has something to offer for your particular palate.

As I finished my drink, food slowly began to be passed around, starting with “Mom’s Pimento Cheese,” a creamy pimento cheese served on the flakiest crostini I have ever encountered. As soon as I finished my bite, I was able to speak to Chef Peter McCall, the mastermind behind the spot’s food program. He told me his focus was on seasonal ingredients and plates, he rotates the menu based on the fresh vegetables and other ingredients he can get from the farmer’s market. On top of that, he wanted the emphasis to be on the cocktails, with a nice flavorful bite to go along with their signature drinks. When I mentioned how much I enjoyed the pimento cheese, he smiled and said it was actually his mother’s recipe. The small plates aspect adds to the overall experience in the sense that you can hold a nice conversation and be able to enjoy rotating varieties of fresh food as well.

If you are looking for an elegant bar where you can come relax and enjoy a refreshing cocktail for a good value, The Study is the ideal place. The concept here is that of a best-kept secret, a place where you can have a cocktail and conversation, away from everything else going on. Especially in the hot days we are bound to encounter in the DC area’s summer, it is a welcome break from the overpowering haze and humidity outside.

Allen Brooks, Brad Halsey and Albert Vega // Photo: Trent Johnson

Forward-Thinking Building Momentum Opens The Garden

When Brad Halsey and Albert Vega established tech training and education business Building Momentum in 2014, they didn’t have any plans to open a coworking space. Neither expressed dreams of housing creative individuals under one roof, nor of fostering unlikely collaborations like welding and wine tasting. Though it may sound cliché to say the small company “built momentum,” this organic growth was a product of just that.

When Crystal City-based workspace TechShop shuttered in late 2017, Building Momentum stepped in to help fill the void in NoVA’s DIY community. The new business was still located in Fairfax at the time, and chief operating officer Allen Brooks says they were approached immediately by locals in need of a new space.

“People came knocking, asking to use our laser cutters [and other workshop materials], and four or five companies asked if they could just hang out every day and pay us,” Brooks says.

Building Momentum was founded on the notion of training service members to solve problems with any tool available through innovation and critical thinking, and last June, the co-owners took their own advice and opened The Garden in Alexandria’s West End neighborhood.

“It’s a simple idea and it made sense,” Brooks says. “What we wanted to do was a build a small community garden. A traditional community garden involves a place where people come together around growth, where different crops benefit one another by enriching the soil. Awesome things come from that and the ground is better because of the diversity and ingredients intermingling. That’s what we wanted to emulate.”

The Garden is located in a large industrial area with a range of neighboring businesses, including a Sportrock Climbing Center, FedEx shipping center and Restaurant Depot. The West End is still an up-and-coming area without many coffee shops and cafes, and even though the neighborhood is easily accessible via the Van Dorn Street Metro station, the stop is reportedly one of the least used in the WMATA system.

Modular offices, open areas, and lots of technology (think 3D printers and drones) fill the 20,000-square-foot modern space at The Garden. Walk a little further down the winding halls and you’ll eventually enter the adjoining workshop area, which smells and looks like a Home Depot minus the plastic packaging.

“There’s makerspaces and there’s coworking spaces, and we are obviously not [just one or the other],” Brooks says. “If an artist wants to come in and crash [an office] with paint, we say go for it. The space is organic and well-worn. We’re not protective of it. This is a co-building community.”

Community and diversity are words Brooks goes back to a lot as he describes The Garden’s tremendous efforts to be inclusive to all, from musicians to engineers. But they’re not looking to simply fill the space with people interested in using their state-of-the-art equipment.

“Makerspaces traditionally aren’t the most open-armed spaces for diversity, [with] people or industry,” Brooks says, speaking with refreshing candor. “It’s a lot of people making technological gadgets or widgets, and it’s a lot of 35 to 45-year-old white dudes who look like me. We want to have a diversity of industry represented across our coworking space, and it allows us to let small businesses support each other.”

Business is booming for Building Momentum as an individual company, with a client list ranging from the Department of Defense to the Smithsonian. But with The Garden, Brooks says there’s still a challenge in getting people to their West End location. To fight the stigma of an up-and-coming neighborhood and better reach locals, they’ve morphed their multi-use space into an events venue including their own recurring Wine and Welding events.

“By the end of these events, couples or individuals are saying to themselves, ‘Holy sh-t, I can do this,’” Brooks says. “We have to get events in here and let people know we have the space. We want people to be happy with our work and benefit from it. Building Momentum is successful the more that our members are successful.”

With more unique events and a growing membership count, Brooks says The Garden isn’t waiting on Alexandria to develop the area around them and is instead taking initiative to form an energetic campus. The company has never shied away from stepping up and being innovative, so why halt the momentum now?

To learn more about The Garden, Building Momentum and their upcoming events, visit www.buildingmomentum.us.

Building Momentum: 5380 Eisenhower Ave. Ste. C, Alexandria, VA; 571-451-6885; www.buildingmomentum.us