I enjoyed a nice weekend with the in-laws over Memorial Day as we went to DC’s Summerfest Beer Festival, visited Lost Rhino, and checked out a new brewery tucked all the way out in Purcellville, VA. The brewery is called Adroit Theory Brewing Company. Anyone that is familiar with the location of Corcoran Brewery will know exactly where this place is, since it’s basically right down the street. We pulled into a fairly industrial-looking parking lot and followed the tiny signs until we saw this:
This instantly brought me back to my trip to San Diego last May when I visited a brewery called Mike Hess Brewing Co., which was run basically out of a storage garage. This place was slightly bigger, but not by much. Adroit Theory started out by contract-brewing through a company called Beltway Brewing Company in the Sterling area. Basically, you pay them, and they help you brew your beer with their equipment. They assist in every aspect of the brewing process and put your beer on tap after it’s finished. I’ll admit that I had not heard of them until they were ready to open up their own place, and this was the first time that I visited them. Everything that I had read about Adroit Theory Brewing Company before visiting was intense. Unsurprisingly, their manifesto hangs boldly and proudly on their wall and is visible to all as soon as you walk through the doors. It’s long and filled with stuff about breaking through conformity and all that. You’ll have to go if you really want to read it all. The bar area includes an outdoor sitting area where you can bring your own food (they don’t serve any) and had a very industrial vibe. There was heavy metal playing constantly in the background (although not too loudly for my taste) and lots of metal and wood furnishings (along with some seemingly random stuff that they had lying around). It’s very clear that this is a nanobrewery and not a larger microbrew operation, like Lost Rhino. I would guess that most of the money is going into brewing quality beers and not making the tasting room look pretty.
Speaking of beer, I tried some of that as well. They had 10 beers on tap, but only 8 were tastable for the general public (more on that in a little). By reading the descriptions of the beers, it was very clear early on that they try to live by their manifesto. These are bold beers that you will not find anywhere else: an imperial saison brewed with mosaic hops and French yeast, a hibiscus saison brewed with mosaic hops and hibiscus from remote parts of the world, a Belgian tripel brewed with yuzu fruit, a seriously hoppy black IPA, an imperial IPA brewed exclusively with citra hops and aged on ash wood, a Belgian stout brewed with green bullet hops and something called Horopito leaves, and an imperial stout aged in tawny port barrels.
I started off with the black IPA (Scorpion), the imperial IPA (G/I/A/A), and the imperial stout (B/A/Y/S). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that their beer names rock. GIAA stands for “God Is An American” – a line from a David Bowie song called, “I’m Afraid of Americans.” BAYS stands for “Black As Your Soul.” The black IPA (Scorpion) was first up. The aroma was fantastic: a pleasing blend of hops that any hop head would enjoy and mixed with slight smokiness. The taste was a little disappointing. If you tell me I’m going to be tasting an 8.1% ABV black IPA brewed with Galena, Columbus, Citra, and Summit hops, I expect that to be super hoppy. The reality with this beer is that it was a much more mild and a bit underwhelming, but still seriously tasty and well-balanced offering that was very drinkable for being so high in ABV. The imperial IPA (G/I/A/A) was next up – a 9.6% ABV hop bomb brewed exclusively with one of my favorite hop varieties, Citra. This particular batch was aged on ash wood, so it had a bit of a smoky character to it. It was very hoppy, but much of the citrus from the Citra hops was dulled by the malt backbone. It was a very solid and technically well-made imperial IPA, and I ended up taking some home with me. The imperial stout (B/A/Y/S) was third and my favorite of these three. It’s a 9.1% ABV stout, and this one was aged in tawny port barrels. It was a very solid stout, but was not too heavy in the body. Surprisingly drinkable, I could detect some nuttiness imparted by the port barrel aging.
I also got a taste of the two saisons from my wife, who ordered both as part of her flight. I was a big fan of the imperial saison (“Fear Is Your Only God”), but the hibiscus saison was a little too bitter for me. I also split tasters of an experimental Belgian tripel and their Belgian stout (Legion). The tripel was brewed with yuzu fruit and juice and was very good. The extreme sweetness of the yuzu was a nice balance for the bitterness that is naturally imparted by the saison yeast strains. The stout was also very good with a nice balance of the New Zealand hops with the Belgian style bitterness.
Now, my gripes. First off, the ambience was cool at first, but I can definitely see how it’s not for everyone. This place definitely is a niche place, and I worry about that with such a small, new brewery. There was no food, and, with high-ABV beers, it would have been nice to have something to balance them with. The bring-your-own-food option is good, though. The prices also weren’t great, but considering some of the very experimental and probably expensive beers, I can see why. Their offering of half-growler (or “growlette”) fills was a nice touch. My biggest gripe, though, is that there were two exclusive beers on their tap list. This included a version of B/A/Y/S aged in bourbon barrels and a version of G/I/A/A aged in tequila barrels. These are exclusive, unless you are a part of their club, the Black Heart Society. In order to be a member, you pay either $100, $200, or $300 for Level 1, 2, or 3, and that money gives you some goodies like access to special beers (which you take home at special release parties), t-shirts, glasswear, etc. This is a cool idea and smells much like a kickstarter-type idea. It rewards the hardcore fans that got in early with special extras.
For those people that want to try the beers before devoting $100 or more, it’s a big turnoff. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable shelling out that much money upfront for a brewery that may or may not be around in a year from now. Normally, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic, but with a brewery that seems so niche upon my first visit, it’s a legitimate concern. My recommendation for fixing this would be to only offer 3 oz. tasters of these specialty beers if you aren’t a member and only allow sales of bottles for members. I want to be able to try the beer before I devote that much money to it. Despite these issues, I was a fan of Adroit Theory. It’s nice to see a new brewery push the boundaries a bit and venture outside the comfort zone that most breweries stay in. All the beers were very technically solid, although nothing was spectacular. They are very clearly a very young brewery that is still finding their groove, but I have confidence that they will eventually.
(Reviewed by: Eric Schiavo)
Adroit Theory Brewing Company
404 Browning Court, Unit C
Purcellville, VA 20132