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Caboose Co-owner Jennifer McLaughlin // Photo: Trent Johnson

What’s On Tap: Mosaic District’s Caboose Commons Hopping with Uncommon Flavors

When I first stepped into the cavernous space in NoVa’s Mosaic District, I was met by soft voices, laughter and striking steel structures – quite intimate for a vast brewery. Caboose Brewing Company opened its second location last September, following its original location on the W&OD Trail in Vienna. Caboose Commons, which sits in what was previously a United Rentals warehouse, offers an array of beer – plus food, coffee and even cocktails. I sat down with co-owner Jennifer McLaughlin to chat about why the brewery chose the burgeoning neighborhood and how it has changed their business for the better.

On Tap: How did the name Caboose come about?
Jennifer McLaughlin: Our original location is in Vienna, and it sits right on the W&OD Trail. One of our key focuses has always been building community, so we were looking for a name that also had a subtle shout-out to our community. Caboose being on the W&OD fit into a train theme, and it helped that there was a big red caboose train in Vienna.

OT: Why did you pick Mosaic District for your second location?
JM: We looked into different spaces, but ideally, we wanted a space with a big beer garden. This space provided us with a beautiful warehouse setting – but that was it, an empty space. We had to build out the entire space on our own, but it was our own empty canvas that we could create for the community. On top of that, there were already people here shopping, eating and drinking – a built-in community.

OT: What obstacles have you faced with Caboose Commons? What wins have you had?
JM: In terms of obstacles, building out the location was just quite an expense. There was no drywall whatsoever and no other structures besides the shell of the building. On the other hand, in terms of wins, there have been several. Mosaic has been very inclusive of us within their own marketing and that has been incredibly helpful.

OT: What are your signature drinks for the summer?
JM: We have quite a few! The first and most popular is our summer beer called Bienvenidos, which is a Mexican-inspired lager. After that would be the maibock, also known as To Helles and Bock, which has a sweeter malt flavor. Finally, our Raspberry Lokaal is a Belgian blonde, which came out last Friday and is so light and perfect for summer.

OT: Your Vienna location highlights a lot of farm-to-table options on the food menu. Did you follow that same theme here?
JM: Following farm-to-table can be incredibly expensive and at the other location, we just were not making our margins with the food prices we were offering. In this location, we do have a lot of local purveyors. We also have non-local, but we have kept the high quality still.

OT: Which beer has been your best seller so far this summer? What food item does that pair best with?
JM: Definitely the Bienvenidos. When we first rolled it out, it sold out a lot faster than we had intended and we did not have the ingredients to immediately recreate it. Customers had to wait two weeks for more. In terms of pairings, beer is such an easy thing to pair with food. The half-smoke we have been offering has been pretty solid.

OT: How did you decide on the pup-friendly Ruff Tuesdays?
JM: We’re always looking for interesting ways to engage with our community, and Ruff Tuesdays not only involves having customers bring their pups, but we also invite local vendors. Overall, it is just fun to engage the community and loop in a good cause.

Caboose Commons is open from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 p.m. – 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Follow them on Instagram @caboosecommons. For more information about the brewery and its locations, visit www.caboosebrewing.com.

Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; 703-663-8833; www.caboosebrewing.com


Greetings, beer nerds! As you know, there are a number of fantastic spots in the DMV where you can grab a pint, and their menus are always evolving and adapting to your tastes. If you’d rather avoid the guessing game, check out what’s up next at a few of these locations.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 6

BYOV (Bring Your Own Vinyl)
Lost Rhino Brewing Company hosts vinyl night every Tuesday evening. This is not a DJ night, because there are no DJ/mixing skills needed. All you need is a love for music and a vinyl collection you are willing to share with everyone. Each week will have a different theme and Lost Rhino will be giving away a weekly gift card to one lucky winner who helps celebrate the chosen theme. 5-9 p.m. Free to attend. Lost Rhino Brewing Co: 21730 Red Rum Dr. Ashburn, VA; www.lostrhino.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

The Brew Gentlemen 5th Anniversary Party
Join ChurchKey as they welcome the fine folks of Brew Gentlemen. On this night, they will celebrate the Pennsylvania brewery’s fifth anniversary by pouring five beers with cofounder Matt Katase. Located in Braddock, Pennsylvania, this exciting young brewery’s product is rarely found outside their home state. Don’t miss your chance to try these out-of-market beers, including standouts Akamai, V and Mise en Rose. 4:30-11:30 p.m. Free to attend. ChurchKey: 1337 14th St. NW, DC; www.churchkeydc.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Beer Yoga (Cheers & Namah’ste)
Flow through a flight of your brewery favorites during this one-hour power yoga class. By purchasing a yoga class, a three-glass flight is included within the price of the ticket. You must also bring your own mat, as well as anything else you need to have a proper flow. This event is 21-plus. Please make sure you arrive 15 minutes prior to receive your beer flight before the class. Class starts at 12 p.m. Tickets are $15. Right Proper Brewing Company: 920 Girard St. NE, DC; www.rightproperbrewing.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13

Drag Bingo with Desiree Dik
Sassy meets fabulous as drag queen sensation Desiree Dik hosts an evening of bingo at Red Bear Brewing. It is free to play and four games will be played in a span of two hours, with prizes each round and a drag show. Event starts at 7 p.m. Free to attend. Red Bear Brewing: 209 M St. NE, DC; www.redbear.beer.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Trivia Night at CSBC
Think you’re a wiz at trivia? Come and prove it by grabbing a table early for trivia night at Chubby Squirrel Brewing. Wind down the week with a brew and some food and enjoy two hours of free fun and laughs. 6-8 p.m. Chubby Squirrel Brewing Company: 10382 Willard Way, Fairfax, VA; www.chubbysquirrelbrewing.com

SATURDAY, AUGUST 17

DC Brau Oktoberfest Bash
DC Brau is kicking off O’fest season with a Brau-style Oktoberfest celebration at the brewery complete with an Oompah band, brats and of course, beer. In addition to the release of this year’s Oktoberfest, they’ll be pouring Keller Pils, Cha Cha Cha Weisenbock and El Hefe Speaks in the outdoor beer garden all afternoon. 1-6 p.m. Free to attend. DC Brau: 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE, DC; www.dcbrau.com

TUESDAY, AUGUST 20

Tuesday Trivia at Atlas Brew Works
Every Tuesday night, join Atlas Brew Works for a fantastic night of trivia hosted by the Capital City Showcase’s Christian Hunt. The winning team receives $50 off their tab and second place gets a free six-pack of Atlas beer. Bring your own team or find friends to make a new one. Event starts at 7:30 p.m. Learn more at www.atlasbrewworks.com. Atlas Brew Works: 2052 Virginia Ave. NE, DC; www.atlasbrewworks.com

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21

Ballroom at the Brewery
Come give your best shot at ballroom dance in a no-judgment zone. The professionals from Mosaic Ballroom are coming by to show everyone what ballroom dance is all about. Join every third Wednesday of the month. There is no cost to dance, plus enjoy an extended happy hour from 4-9 p.m. Dancing starts at 8:30 p.m. Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 24

5th Annual Crab Feast
From 5-8 p.m., enjoy all-you-can-eat crabs, pit beef, corn on the cob, hush puppies, pasta salad and coleslaw. Wash down all the good food with all-you-can-drink craft brews featuring Special Lady Friend, Feed the Monkey, Czech the Technique and many more. There will be live music from Jordan Sokel, frontman for Pressing Strings, from 5:30-8 p.m. $50-$75. Jailbreak Brewing: 9445 Washington Blvd. North Laurel, MD; www.jailbreakbrewing.com

MONDAY, AUGUST 26

National Dog Yappy Hour
Come out and celebrate National Dog Day with a yappy hour. There will be doggie beer, treats and drink specials for humans, too. Guests can also celebrate by dressing up their pup in a dapper attire. You won’t want to miss this chance for you and your pup to enjoy a night out on the town together. 5:30-7:30 p.m. Free admission. Bluejacket: 300 Tingey St. SE, DC; www.bluejacketdc.com

Take a Day Trip to O’Connor Brewing Co.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Poochella Continues: Pints, Pups, and Snips
PETA’s multishelter dog adoption event is back, but this time there will be endless amounts of cuteness at O’Connor Brewing. There will be music, crafts vendors, delicious food and best of all adorable pups looking for a loving home. You can also get your dog or cat fixed since PETA’s mobile spay/neuter clinics will be working that day. $25 for dogs and FREE for companion cats. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 757-622-7382, option 3. 12-6 p.m. O’Connor Brewing Co.: 211 W 24th St. Norfolk, VA; www.oconnorbrewing.com

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

Supreme Effect TIPA Brewery Pre-Release Bundle
New beer alert! O’Connor presents the Supreme Effect TIPA (10.3 percent ABV). Grab it as part of the very limited stock pre release, which features a bundle including an exclusive O’Connor Brewing Co. t-shirt and a four pack of 16 oz. cans. First come, first serve, while supplies last. A Saturday brewery official release will also be held on August 17 from 12-9 p.m. with 30 cases available. O’Connor Brewing Co.: 211 W 24th St. Norfolk, VA; www.oconnorbrewing.com

Photos: Courtesy of Wolf Trap

Caboose Brewing Company’s Wolf Trap Summer Ale Makes Its Return

There is something about seeing a concert in the outdoors that makes a show so much more enjoyable. Maybe it’s because there’s more room to breathe and dance around, or perhaps it’s because an open-air show is a sure sign that summer has arrived. Whatever it is that draws you to an outdoor gig, the promise of new drinking options makes Wolf Trap the place to go this summer.

The music venue is prepping the rollout of the newly updated Wolf Trap Summer Ale, a fairly light pale ale made for easy summertime drinking in collaboration with nearby Caboose Brewing Company. The partnership has been going strong since early 2016, not long after Caboose first opened its doors in Vienna.

In search of a middle-of-the-road beer that wasn’t like anything else they offered, Wolf Trap Director of Food & Beverage TJ Pluck worked with Caboose’s co-owner Matt Greer to create a brew that used the venue’s outdoor elements to inspire the Summer Ale’s flavor profile. In early discussions, Pluck, Greer and Wolf Trap Executive Chef Chris Faessen would talk “about the Wolf Trap experience and what’s unique here.”

“You’re sitting in this oasis of trees in nature in the middle of the city,” Pluck says of the venue.

With the abundance of cedar trees, pines and Faessen’s bee apiaries in mind, the brew was born. As for changes to the batch available for the 2019 season, Pluck and Greer agreed to tone down the bitterness of last year’s recipe.

“We typically bitter with Warrior [hops], but we’ve reduced that quite a bit and introduced some Falconer’s Flight into the mix, which is another kind of aromatic hop,” Greer says. “But other than that, the base malt build has pretty much stayed the same.”

He adds that these changes will make the 2019 batch an ale that is more with the times but anticipates that the team will continue to tweak the ale as they go. While Pluck had long envisioned serving a proprietary beer at Wolf Trap, it was not until Caboose opened its flagship location that he felt he had found the right brewery to work with.

The timing was perfect as Wolf Trap was looking to focus their beer program on local brews, now including Starr Hill and Devils Backbone. Greer adds that a collaboration with Wolf Trap made perfect sense on Caboose’s end – as soon as he and Pluck’s team sat down to talk, the two groups just clicked. Since then, the national park and brewery have only grown closer.

“They are literally a mile-and-a-half down the street from us,” Greer says. “We talk all the time and I’m constantly going to shows. TJ [Pluck] could call me tomorrow and say ‘Matt, I love this beer I had a dream about and I need to make it,’ and of course I would make it for him. It’s become more of a friendship than a business situation.”

Not to mention that as a brewer, Greer is always looking for new projects to work on with local groups.

“Honestly, we live for collaborations. It’s a lot of fun.”

With the summer ale collaboration going so well, Greer and Pluck both mention there’s a good chance the collaboration could grow in the future. While nothing is set in stone, Pluck says the two groups have started talking about potential projects down the line – including adding more Caboose beer at Wolf Trap as the brewery has recently started canning their beer and using the honey produced by Wolf Trap’s bees.

“We’re all hyperlocal, we like participating in each other’s events and we’re just really blessed with having so many like-minded people in the area,” Greer says.

The revamped summer ale isn’t the only drinking option to look forward to at the park this year. Wolf Trap will also be offering Richmond-based Väsen Brewing Company’s Guava Otter Gose.

“[Väsen’s] beers are all named after animals because they’re all about the outdoors, which fits in with us being a national park,” Pluck says. “We’ll actually be one of the very few places in Northern Virginia to have it in cans.”

Devils Backbone’s new Hibiscus Hard Lemonade will be offered, as well as two new cocktails created by Wolf Trap – vodka-and-orange puree concoction the Blood Orange Breeze, and cucumber and Spindrift cucumber sparkling water combo the Cucumber Refresh. On the nonalcoholic side, the national park struck up a collaboration with Caffe Amouri in Vienna to create the Wolf Trap coffee blend – a mix of artisan coffee beans from Papua New Guinea and Guatemala – served hot or iced and sold in to-go bags in the gift shop.

Whatever you’re looking for in an outdoor concert venue, Wolf Trap has something for everyone with their numerous local drink options, natural beauty, and stellar lineup of bands and performances.

“There’s nothing better than great music [and] beer together in one place,” Greer says. “I’m just excited that we’ve got this national resource right next to us.”

Wolf Trap’s summer season kicks off on Thursday, May 23 with a three-night lineup of The Avett Brothers, coinciding with the release date of the revamped Wolf Trap Summer Ale. For more information about the venue’s summer season, visit www.wolftrap.org. For more on Caboose, go to www.caboosebrewing.com.

Caboose Commons: 2918 Eskridge Rd. Fairfax, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Caboose Tavern: 520 Mill St. NE, Vienna, VA; www.caboosebrewing.com
Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts: 1645 Trap Rd. Vienna, VA; www.wolftrap.org


Artist Picks

Concertgoers aren’t the only ones who like to enjoy a beer during – or before or after – a show. Check out what a few artists coming to Wolf Trap this summer like to sip on during a performance and how they celebrate post-show.

Lake Street Dive
Drummer Mike Calabrese

Favorite pre-show drink:

Honestly, water. Pee clear, sing clear, drink after.

Go-to beer on tour:

Some [members of the band] are IPA people, or NEIPA people. Others prefer something yellow, like a classic German lager or pilsner.

Post-show spot:

The bus! The venue usually hooks up the local stuff for us backstage and then we go into the lounge and ask the bigger questions about life, love and Game of Thrones.

Lake Street Dive plays Wolf Trap Saturday, June 8. Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $35. Learn more about the band at www.lakestreetdive.com.

Toad the Wet Sprocket
Bassist Dean Dinning

Go-to beer on tour:

I enjoy a Toad the Wet Hop Ale from Green Man Brewery. Either that or a nice, light Mexican beer like Modelo with a squeeze of lime.

Favorite pre-show drink:

I enjoy a shot of decent tequila like Maestro Dobel or Casamigos with a squeeze of lime – never heavy, always refreshing.

Post-show spot:

I always go to [U Street soul food spot] Oohh’s & Aahh’s when I’m in DC. Never miss the opportunity!

Catch the band at Wolf Trap on Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets start at $25. Learn more at www.toadthewetsprocket.com.