Upcoming Beers


Hey everyone, here’s a look at some of the beers we are going to release over the next month.  We have a few new ones that I am pretty excited about.

Wednesday 3/8: Peach Habanero Storm IPA.  Probably my favorite batch so far of this beer, the heat and fruit flavor are really nice on this one.

Thursday 3/9: Verdant Force returns!

Friday 3/10: Nightcap.  Collaboration with Brothers Craft Brewing, a sweet porter with cherries and vanilla.

Wednesday 3/15: Saving Light, a classic saison made with Dupont yeast and dry hopped with Hallertauer Blanc hops.

Friday 3/24: Bourbon Barrel Seek Truth, Carrera Torcida Vienna lager

Friday, 3/31: Raspberry Empress!  My favorite of all the Empress beers.  Also, Teddy’s Ale bitter and Orange Empress.

***Saturday, 4/15:***  First bottle release: Supernatural Imperial Hibiscus saison, 2016 World Beer Cup gold award-winner.  Tart, dry, delicious.  Live music and some special guest beers!

***Saturday 4/22:*** Noriega, triple IPA w/Galaxy hops and pineapple, can release.

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Thoughts on Expansion

I am very happy about the successful first weekend–I don’t think things could have turned out much better.  We have a lot of work ahead to get ready for our grand opening, but I definitely think everyone who came out had a nice experience.  I thought I’d talk a bit about what went into making all this.


Before I talk a bit about the process of opening the new brewery, I’d just like to stress a couple of things for anyone looking to open a similar sized brewery who is reading this.  Lee’s and my areas of expertise have been critical to the success of this new start-up.  With Lee’s construction experience, our build-out has been one of the fastest I have ever heard of, at three months.  You could be able to make very good beer, but if you burn through all your free rent during construction, you can go under or have to give up ownership for more money before you even open.  I cannot stress this enough–this is not easy.  If you have no construction experience, spend as much time as you can researching.

My challenge was hopefully accumulating enough knowledge from brewing on a smaller system to be able to flawlessly brew our first round of beers.  I am happy to say that despite being nervous about sizing up, we killed it on this first round of beers, and we’ll only get better.

I stress these things because so many people are opening breweries these days.  It is not easy.  I am sometimes fairly stunned at how little knowledge some people have going into this.  Do your research, please.  So without further ado…

Our 10 BBL system, a direct fire brewhouse from ABE, arrived in early November.  Before it arrived, we had to have our concrete pad completed and painted.  Previously, we had used an expensive floor coating (Flowcrete) at the nano, but this was out of our price range for a much larger concrete pad.  We opted to use a floor paint and medium traffic seal.  So far, it already has chipped a lot.  Ultimately, we can just fix it as we go.  The other options were to use a heavy traffic seal that has a 30 day cure time, and waste a month of rent, or use the aforementioned polyurethane/concrete blend, which would cost $10,000.  If you are using paint, just make sure that the concrete is fully cured and roughed up enough.

The system arrived undamaged and with everything we had ordered.  We hired a team of two riggers who assisted in moving it in.  A pallet jack and a chain hoist were enough to get everything in pretty easily.  The glycol chiller was an exception, but we borrowed a forklift from our neighbor to move it in to place outside earlier.  We probably could have done it all ourselves, but hiring some experienced guys probably cut the time in half.

We opted for a 700 sq ft cold room, which is a bit oversized, but since it is marginally more expensive to get a larger sized coldroom, it is a good idea to go bigger.


Putting together the cold room was by far the hardest task.  We had to lift and lock together 36 panels, each weighing about 200 lbs each!  It took three people 24 hours to complete.  The camlocks can be very difficult to lock together.  We were able to keep the very nice set of ratchet straps from the brewhouse shipment, and these were incredibly helpful in pulling the panels together to lock them.  At one point we pulled the entire coldroom with them to center it!  Also, it was critical that we were able to use two scissorlifts from construction to help lift the ceiling panels into place.

Once this was complete it was time to start painting the place.  I really want to thank our awesome friends who volunteered to come help paint.  We managed to knock out painting the entire 7000 sq ft place!  I definitely have had my fill of painting for a bit.

The next task was building the bar.  We’d like to thank Sean Adams, our friend/former bartender, for coming by to help.  Lee and Sean are very skilled carpenters, and our 40 ft bar is looking pretty nice.  The most exciting part was pouring and setting the BBs!  The entire bar top is covered in a layer of copper Crossman BBs and epoxy.  The result is pretty neat!


After that, we started setting up our tanks.   We opted for separate glycol shutoff valves for each tank, so when an inevitable problem happens, we don’t have to drain much glycol to access one tank.  We were very pleased with the condition of the tanks, and after caustic and passivation, they were good to go!

Overall, I am very happy that we opened on schedule and have produced such good results.  We have done a ton of things ourselves.  Sometimes when you hear of extensive DIY, you may think of amateurish workmanship, but with Lee’s extensive background in construction, we were able to knock out a lot of work and are getting close to having a pretty beautiful brewery on our hands!

Once we had our brewery license and occupancy, we immediately brewed five batches over five days to fill all the tanks.  One thing I really regret was not purchasing an oversized mash tun, since so many of our beers are pretty big.  In any case, we picked six difficult beers to brew first: kolsch (we’ve never used kolsch yeast, which has very poor flocculation), lemon serrano IPA, NE double IPA, imperial stout infused with vanilla and cinnamon, black tripel, and kettle-soured IPA with oranges.  The only recipe adjustments I made scaling up were increased efficiency (due to grist rehydrator and mash tun rakes for better mixing) and increased hop utilization (lower your IBUs by 2-5).  We hit target OG on all beers except for one.

Lemon Serrano Storm, our west coast IPA with fruit and peppers, presented a bit of a challenge.  I couldn’t afford to mess up any of these beers.  Knowing that I would get increased utilization from these tanks and by rousing them with CO2 through the bottom, I opted to use half the amount of lemons and serranos as I normally do.  It worked perfectly.

The same held true for Empress, our sour IPA.  I made 8 BBLs of Orange Empress with 25 navel oranges, juiced and zested.  I also made a run-off batch in a 3 BBL tank of Mango Empress.  We’ll do things like that often to get a greater variety of beer on tap.

I am very excited for what it means to have this new system.  Besides having ten times the production capacity of the nano, our new system is really going to improve our beers in so many ways.  I think we’ve made some fine beer on our 3 BBL system, but we did not have glycol, brite tanks, and so many other important things.  I look forward to making beer without any of the significant limitations I’ve had to work around for these past three years.


The next tasks we have are ramping up production and renovating the nano location.  You’ll start to see us on tap more and more over the next few months as we begin distribution.  We’re also working on on-premise cans and our first bottle release at the new place.

Renovating the nano has started in earnest.  We’ll go up to 8 beers on tap there, including some special ones just for that place.  The existing 3 BBL system will get some hard piping and other improvements, and we’ll begin doing barrel-fermented mixed culture sours.  The layout will change a bit, with the bar getting moved, the addition of booth seating, and a new paint job and finish for the interior.  We’ll be adding a new deck outside, and will be offering live music and special beer releases on First Friday in Leesburg over the summer.

Overall, we can’t wait to learn and grow as a part of this great beer scene in NOVA.  Cheers!

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Spontaneous Beer


As we work to open our second location, we wanted to try a test of making spontaneously fermented beer at our nano.  This method involves using only ambient yeast and bacteria in the surrounding air to inoculate and ferment the beer. For this first trial run, we are brewing three one barrel batches of the same beer.  They will be blended together to fill one white wine barrel once that barrel is emptied in a few months, and aged for an extended period until a sufficiently good beer results, if it even does.

For this procedure, we wanted to test a couple of ideas that I had.  First, the grain bill and mash is somewhat unique.  Forgoing a turbid mash, the labor-intensive traditional technique used by Belgian lambic brewers, we ran a simple two step mash of a saccharification rest at 162 degrees, followed by a big decoction to hit a 172 mash-out, and a 190 degree sparge.  This should accomplish somewhat similar results of a turbid mash.

The idea behind a turbid mash and/or this mash schedule is to create a wort that is high in long-chain sugars.  The reason for this is that aggressive wild Saccharomyces strains may ferment your beer too quickly and leave very little for brett and pedio to work with, so you want to create a less fermentable wort.  Our grain bill also involves creating even more complex starches in the wort.  Usually, a high amount of unmalted wheat is used.  However, I am a fan of using rye over wheat to achieve this.  Rye contributes considerably more dextrins than wheat.

The last part of the grain bill is just purely something unique and fun.  We used Red X malt for most of the base.  Red X is a 13 L kilned malt that is kind of like a “super Vienna” malt in terms of flavor.  It is very, very malty.  I’ve used it before and always wanted to try to use it in a sour to balance sharp acidity and provide a deeper flavor.  I think it could work quite well for this, but regardless, it provides a beautiful ruby color.

The recipe:

80% Best Malz Red X

20% rye malt

We skipped a boil and sent our 180 degree wort straight to the kettle where it was left overnight to cool and capture microbes outside the brewery garden.  We added a small amount of Saaz hops (0.5 ounces for 26 gallons) to the wort.  Aged hops left at room temperature for an extended period are traditionally used.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have any on hand.  However, using a small amount of low alpha hops at 180 degrees may achieve similar results.

Another unorthodox method we tried was spiking the surrounding flora with brett from previous beers.  Our elderberry and cherry trees were periodically splashed with yeast, where it could grow and hopefully mutate over time.

Obviously, our 30 gallon kettle we use for pilots is not a coolship.  However, the cooling rate should be somewhat similar to a large commercial coolship, and this is just a test for when we begin brewing 3 BBL batches of these beers at the nano with our future coolship.

The resulting beers will be allowed to ferment in steel for 3 months, before being tasted and blended in a barrel to age.  If any or all of them taste completely horrendous due to enteric bacteria or clostridium, they will be tossed.  Furthermore, we’ll plate and examine the beer in the lab to see which microbes are present.  If all goes well, after extended aging (8 months to two years) the beer will be refermented with raspberries in the barrel, and bottled.

If this works, we’ll begin more production next spring.  Fingers crossed!

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Nov/Dec Beers


Here’s an upcoming list of what we have coming out in November and December.  Our year-round beers are Red Kolsch, Storm, and Verdant Force.

Peach Brandy Barrel-Aged Seek Truth Barrel-aged tripel
Coconut Vanilla Shadow of Truth Infused black tripel
Let Go Sour saison w/pineapple, anise, turbinado sugar
Machismo Smoked chipotle stout in bourbon barrels
Stovepipe Smoked porter
Mango Starfire Sour double IPA
La Ventana Grisette with brett
Charm Milk stout
Disenchanted Double IPA w/trois yeast
Lies Brett C IPA
Sin Nombre Mexican imperial stout
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Sour Saison


Along with sour IPA, the next style we have started focusing on is sour saison.  This is a cool project that I am working on with Julien-Pierre Bourgon, bar manager at Masseria in D.C.  Julien is a both a very talented mixologist and a beer guy, a rare combination.  His drinks have some very interesting but functional preparation of ingredients, similar to what we strive for with adjuncts.  The saisons we want to create are all modern cocktail-inspired–I believe the style is a great canvas to work with.

What is a sour saison?  That is pretty open to interpretation, but for us, it is a kettle-soured beer fermented with saison yeast.  What makes it different than Berliner weisse, or other kettle-soured styles?  Saison yeast creates a drier beer, which increases the sourness, and adds typical esters, most of which are overshadowed by lactic acid, but some of which carry through in the flavor.

The first sour saison we made was Endless Summer, a sour rye saison made with basil and lemongrass from the brewery garden.  Six ounces of each per barrel, boiled for two minutes, will add a nice flavor to the beer.  The resulting beer was like summer in a glass.

Here’s a list of past and upcoming sour saisons:

Endless Summer: Rye, basil, lemongrass

Drifting Away: Blueberries and thyme

Tears in Rain: Passionfruit and molasses

Siamese Dream: Pumpkin spice

Let Go: Pineapple, Anise, and turbinado sugar

Something for the Pain: Guava, Thai chili

Thank You: Cranberries and sage

Wide Awake: Coffee

Waiting for the End: Douglas fir, coconut, and lime

More Than Anything: Oranges, mangos, passionfruit


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Brewing With Adjuncts


At Crooked Run, we brew a lot of adjunct beers.  Adjuncts are any ingredient other than water, malted grain, or hops.  Adjuncts can be anything from corn to fruit to artificial flavoring.  Adjunct beers are ubiquitous, from light lagers made with rice to flavored IPAs.  At Crooked Run, we steer clear of artificial flavoring or extracts, though.  A lot of fruit beers have turned people off to adjunct beers due to heavy use of flavor extracts, which can create a beer that tastes like cough syrup or candy.  A common compliment that I get is: “I was expecting not to like this, but everything is really well-balanced.”  Fresh ingredients and balance are key.

Start with fresh ingredients.  No extract will taste as good as real fruit.  Dried peppers or herbs will not be the same as fresh.  Our adjunct beers are incredibly labor-intensive and expensive to make.  Our Cherry Cayenne IPA costs $6 for a 12 ounce tulip.  Some people may think that is expensive, but it should cost even more–the adjuncts alone cost nearly $40/barrel, a dollar value that cannot just be passed on to a consumer or retailer.  Plus, it’s all Galaxy hops.

The reason that fresh is better than processed is that when ingredients are processed, you lose aromatics.  Aromatics are really important to getting good flavor.  A juice concentrate created using evaporation loses most aromatic compounds.  Extracts are even more heavily processed.  Sometimes ease of use and cost are an issue, but if you can use raw ingredients, the results are almost always better.

Whichever adjunct you are using, a good rule of thumb when determining the rate of usage is, “can I take a bite out of this?”  You can bite a peach, a cherry, or a pineapple.  It’s going to be very hard to overdo anything that you can take a bite of.  Using too little is more likely.  Even less obvious ingredients like basil, you can still pop right in your mouth.

So conversely, since you don’t want a mouthful of cloves, you’d have to be really careful putting cloves in your beer.  With this rule of thumb, you can use common sense as a guideline when deciding how much to use.

At Crooked Run, we really can’t afford to have a batch turn out poorly, but we are also trying to experiment as much as possible before we open the new location.  I’ll usually relegate experiments to our 1 BBL pilot system rather than the 3 BBL, just in case something goes wrong.  In all honesty, however, nothing ever has.  I have not had a single beer not hit the marks other than maybe not having enough of a certain flavor, and too little is way better than too much.

So without further ado, here are a bunch of rates and preparation methods for adjuncts:

Hot peppers: 1 lb per barrel, de-stemmed, rinsed in acid sanitizer, roughly chopped and added in an autoclaved mesh bag on day five of fermentation.  Depending on the pepper, you may need to remove some seeds to reduce the heat.  I use a Chili Twister for this.  Wear gloves and eye protection…a habanero seed hitting you in the eye is incredibly painful, trust me.

Stone fruit: 0.5-1 lb per gallon is a good starting point.  You may think this rate is too low, but the key is to puree the fruit.  We’ve been using a Vitamix, which works on a small scale.  We even used one for a 15 BBL collaboration we did.  In the future, we’re planning on purchasing one of these.  Like peppers, we sanitize the outside of the fruit first, remove any unwanted skin or seeds, roughly chop, and puree.  The puree is added directly to the fermenter on day three of fermentation, to allow yeast to get a foothold since the puree is not aseptic.

Berries: 1-2 lbs per gallon is a good starting point.  Some berries have seeds that don’t sink easily, so it’s best to freeze berries and add them in a mesh bag.

Citrus: We make a puree by first sanitizing the fruit, then zesting it, then juicing it, and then mixing the zest and juice.  The acid in the juice helps sanitize the zest, and both add flavor.  Oranges: 20 oranges per barrel.  Limes or lemons: 3 ounces of zest per barrel, with just enough juice to cover it in a jar.  I usually add citrus after fermentation has subsided, since it can be very acidic.

Basil or mint: 8 ounces per barrel, placed in a mesh bag and boiled for 5 minutes.

Hibiscus: 2 lbs per barrel, made into a tea by boiling in water for 5 minutes.  The flowers should be “sparged” afterwards, and all the runnings collected and allowed to cool.  Add on day three of fermentation.  Our hibiscus saison won gold at World Beer Cup this year using this method.

Pumpkin spice: 3 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp allspice 1/2 tsp nutmeg 2 cloves per barrel, boiled for 5 minutes.  This is a relatively low rate, but produces really good results.

Coffee beans: 0.5 lbs per barrel, steeped in a mesh bag.  Coffee beans go a long way.

Vanilla beans: 20-30 beans per barrel, pulverized in a blender with a little bit of vodka, added directly to the fermenter.  Make sure to get Madagascar beans.

Cacao nibs: 2-4 lbs per barrel, steeped in a mesh bag after fermentation.  There is some evidence that nibs are anti-microbial.  I’ll do some tests on our golden stout next time to see if nibs can be added to the cold side with no problems.

Salt: 180 grams per barrel in our gose.  Noticeable, but not too much.


So, there’s a good list for a lot of usage rates.  I could go on about fruit, and may do a separate post in the future.  Something to keep in mind when preparing your ingredients is that you will never fully sanitize your adjuncts, but by sanitizing them as much as possible and adding them after fermentation has been going on for a few days, you reduce the risk for contamination.  A beer with adjuncts added to the cold side probably isn’t the best beer to bottle or barrel-age, but if consumed quickly, there should be few problems.

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Everyone, I am really excited to finally officially announce our second location!  Our new big brewery will be located at 22455 Davis Drive in Sterling and feature a 10 BBL brewhouse and 1,400 sq. ft. tasting room!  Our system is currently being manufactured, and we are just about to begin construction.  From day one, the plan was to always go bigger.  I want to thank everyone that believed in us, and all of our customers who have made our little nanobrewery a success!

So, what does this mean?  First, we are keeping our existing location.  The nano will get 10 new taps, a cool remodeling, and some additional seating.  The 3 BBL system will be put to work brewing sours, helmed by Brad Erickson.  We’ve been pretty heavy on sours for a while now, with a lot of interesting kettle-soured and brett beers.  We’ll also be doing some cool spontaneously-fermented stuff.

Our new location will be at 22455 Davis Drive in Sterling, right off Sterling Boulevard and Route 28.  With 7000 square feet, we will have plenty of room to both brew and seat customers, a welcome change from cramming our entire operation into 600 sq. ft!  Our new spot is right down the street from Beltway Brewing.

At the new location, we’ll begin brewing our core beers and seasonals.  Our three year-round beers will be Red Kolsch, Cherry Cayenne Storm IPA, and Verdant Force double IPA.  This is based on feedback from customers, our distributor, and our personal goals as a brewery.  Being on a 10 BBL system, we will have some beer for distribution, but this system is considerably smaller than a lot of other breweries.  This system size means two things.  First, you will see our beer in distribution around northern Virginia and DC.  Second, without having huge batch sizes, we are free to continue brewing the interesting beers we are really proud of, without having to worry about selling huge quantities.  Having 60 BBLs of smoked imperial porter or hibiscus saison to distribute would make the prospect of brewing these beers less appealing, but on our smaller system, we can brew whatever we want.

Our seasonal selections will include one new session beer per month, and one more high ABV offering.  We’ll bottle our bigger beers in 750 ml bombers, so expect to see beers like Shadow of Truth, Supernatural, and Machismo in bottles.

Also, expect to see special attention to sours at both locations.  Sour IPA and sour saison should make regular occurrences.

In the meantime, look for limited distribution from our nano as we put our new 3 BBL to work.  We’ll begin laying the groundwork for our expansion with draught distribution of kolsch and Cherry Cayenne Storm, and some more runs of bottles.  I’ll be updating you with pictures of the build-out as we move along.

On a personal note, I just want to say how happy I am.  We worked so hard to make this happen.  There have been some really tough times, but things are finally moving forward.  A key difference for us is that we have had to build our business from the ground up, and did not start out with any money.  We have greatly outgrown our small space, too, which has been a real challenge.  However, I think that has forced us to be a lot more creative, and we are better off for it.  When I started the brewery, I had very different ideas for what I wanted to do.  With nearly three years under our belts, we have a much better focus and idea of the mark we want to make on the beer scene.  Oh, and about twenty absolutely killer recipes thanks to three years of nanobrewing.

Special thanks to the folks at Lost Rhino, Ocelot, Fair Winds, and Pale Fire for all of the help and guidance along the way, and to our great customers, who have made Crooked Run a place where everybody knows your name.



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