Although they just opened a taproom at Union Market, the brewery’s Sterling location is worth the ride.
If you are looking for a new day trip destination, travel 40 minutes west of D.C. proper to Sterling, Virginia and imbibe, indulge and unwind with an ever-rotating list of entertainment at Crooked Run Fermentation.
Sticky rice. Ube. Beet. What do they have in common? For Crooked Run Fermentation Brewmaster and Co-owner Jake Endres, they are the main flavor profiles for some of his most popular brewing creations. Endres’ ingenuity has put Crooked Run Fermentation on the map for quality beers with funky flavors.
“We’ve been brewing for a decade, on a fairly small scale in the greater terms of the beer world, which gives us the freedom and flexibility to experiment a lot,” Endres says. “If you name an ingredient, there’s a good chance we’ve brewed with it.”
Endres’ superpower is the ability to hone in on a flavor profile and have the beer taste like the ingredient without being gimmicky. Co-owner Leland Rogan — who partnered with Endres shortly after meeting and bonding over homebrewing — estimates they’ve made over 500 different types of beers.
“He’s gone after some weird stuff, and yet they all turn out great,” Rogan says. “Jake’s the guy who knows his flavors. I explain it as he’s more of the chef. He comes up with the recipes, and I am the baker that follows the recipe, pays attention to details and nails it.”
If something less adventurous is more your speed, their onsite taproom rotates 12 to 16 weekly options including traditional-style beers, from lagers to IPAs. In-house seltzers and natural wine are also available.
Endres and Rogan’s first brewery in Leesburg, Virginia opened in 2013 and became a neighborhood hotspot. While the 600 square-foot space served a cozy atmosphere, they needed to find a new location to continue growing the brewery component.
“We quickly realized we had something good going,” Rogan says. “After two years of funding, we opened the Sterling location in 2017.”
The Sterling spot now serves as the company’s headquarters and is a massive warehouse retrofit with a 10-barrel brewhouse for their production needs. Before moving, they could only brew three kegs in eight hours. Now they can produce 80 kegs of beer in 14 hours. They also have a barrel room for fermenting their natural wine.
But the brewery and winery is only a fraction of the space’s use. In a choose-your-own-adventure style, people can enter the warehouse either through the right-side doors, where they’ll find Crooked Run’s taproom and Señor Ramon Taqueria, or through the left-side doors, where they’ll see cocktail bar Nectar and brunch spot Daybreaker, plus a stage ready for local bands. The two rooms are connected by a hallway allowing guests to meander and order from multiple spots in a food hall set-up. There is also an outdoor biergarten tricked out with fire pits and a back room for private events.
“The idea is to come in for brunch and mimosas, then you stay for beer and tacos,” Rogan says. “And then you stay for music and cocktails. We don’t want people to leave.”
Despite the sheer size of the space, Rogan — who has a construction background — made it a point to build the interior so it stills feels intimate and community-centered.
“Several people I know met at the Leesburg location and now have gotten married and have kids,” Rogan says. “It is a very poignant place for people, and we wanted to bring that same spirit here. We have an insulated ceiling to help with sound and to control temperature. We are always thinking of our customer experience.”
Rogan’s efforts and meticulous touches pay off. The overall vibe of the space evokes a neighborhood bar: locals and newcomers alike walking into a warm environment, greeted by welcoming staff, dark wood finishes and nostalgic indie rock music. Artwork created by one of the bartenders accompanies the names of beers on tap listed above the bar.
Endres and Rogan are aware that Sterling is not normally a scenic stop, but they view it as a strength and what sets them apart from the saturated field of DMV-area breweries and wineries.
“You have to drive to be here,” Rogan says. “Our competition is with farm breweries that have views. They have the views, and the beer is second. You go there to be at the destination and then whatever they have on tap, they have. People come here for what we offer and then they are happy they are here.”
While their beer can stand alone as the reason for a trip, Endres and Rogan work with their event manager Nikole Busillo and brewery manager Abby Devlin to create a robust events calendar, including open mic nights, karaoke, live music, comedy shows, rap battles, yoga, EDM nights, anime meetups, trivia, bingo and cocktail making classes. Almost every day there is at least one event happening and they are always open to new ideas.
“Whatever gains traction, we just plan to do it again,” says Rogan, who notes that their drag brunches are so popular they get sold out weeks in advance.
Crooked Run Fermentation’s Sterling location makes it their mission to have an event for just about everyone. And to drink beer. Lots and lots of beer. Photos by Nicole Schaller.
To learn more about Crooked Run Fermentation, including their new location at Union Market with Pizza Serata, and to view their events calendar, visit crookedrunfermentation.com. Follow them on Instagram @crookedrunfermentation.
Crooked Run Fermentation: 22455 Davis Dr. Sterling, VA
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