Phase 2 Brewing Celebrates Grand Opening; Brew LoCo Celebrates 4-Year Anniversary
During the August Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference (conference name now changed to Beer Now), representatives from all of Loundon County, Virginia’s breweries gathered at Vanish Farmwoods Brewery. There they provided samples of their beer and shared information about their business with the attendees who not only enjoy beer but talk and write about it across multiple communication platforms. Standing out in crowd like that might take more than just serving good beer.
Smack! Even in the din of the wide-open venue the occasional smack of hands was heard coming from the direction of the vendors. Following the sound to its source one found brewer and co-owner of Phase 2 Brewing, Cathy Frye. Cathy placed fresh basil on her palm, slapped it with her other hand and then added the basil to Phase 2’s Thank You Babe Cream Ale
It was more than an attention-getting gimmick; it was a flavor-enhancing add-in to the beer. The result was a smooth drink with a fresh, effervescent pop from the basil. The quality of the beer was excellent and I added Phase 2 to my list of must visit LoCo breweries.
The opportunity presented itself on the occasion of Phase 2’s grand opening. It was also the 4-year anniversary of Brew LoCo. What’s the connection? Brew LoCo is a coffee shop and also happens to be the foundation from which Phase 2 was launched. A cozy spot in the Leesburg, Virginia, Lansdowne Town Center, the shop serves coffee, tea, Italian sodas, smoothies and an array of small bites, salads and sandwiches prepared in-house. Cathy co-owns the shop with her sister, Mary Battaglia. Cathy’s love of beer and skill as a brewer, led to their stocking homebrew supplies and teaching brewing classes. Along with her husband, Rob Frye, Cathy dreamed of opening a brewery, frequently pushing the idea into the future as “phase 2” for their business. Once the brewery plan moved forward, it was clear it needed to be called Phase 2.
The grand opening found the brewery adorned with balloons, with a tent placed outside offering shade for patrons wishing to enjoy their refreshments in fresh air. Live music and a cake decorated with Brew LoCo’s logo added to the celebratory atmosphere.
Musician Willie White, positioned near the back of the shop, with beer fridge and brewing equipment visible behind him, introduced an original song called “Big Mountain.” Just like songs have common components such as an Intro, Verse, Chorus and perhaps a Bridge, so too does beer with grain, hops, yeast and water found in most. And just as a song can be formulaic and bland, so too can beer. It’s not the notes; it’s not the ingredients; it’s what you do with them that separates craft-y from craft. As Willie started into his original tune, it struck me that he was entertaining the crowd by playing a craft song in a craft brewery.
Phase 2 is truly a microbrewery, brewing small batches at-a-time. It is not a separate, distinguishable area of the coffee shop. The taps are positioned at the end of the small bar that is also where customers order from Brew LoCo. There is room for a few customers to sit at the tap-end of the bar and a there are chairs along a nearby window as well as tables offering additional seating options. They do a lot with a small space!
When we arrived, Cathy was working the taps. We ordered a flight of the 3 beers they had available:
1) Half Wit Radler – a light mix of wheat beer and lemonade, this radler was slightly tart and was complimented by the addition of hibiscus and orange. At 3.5% this is a great beer to go with brunch, or after a day out on the trails.
2) Silence of the Yams – As the name suggests, this brew is made with sweet potatoes. Pouring with a deep orange-brown hue, it looks like Autumn in a glass.color. It was smooth and hinted at sweetness belying its 9% ABV. It is a beer you want to sip and savor. Cathy confirmed that this is Phase 2’s fall seasonal and avoidance of yet-another-pumpkin-beer.
3) English Preseid Stout – this was a surprisingly bitter stout in which the coffee flavor came through to add a complexity and intriguing character. Each sip inspired thinking: “What am I tasting here? Oh, wow, I didn’t notice that on the previous sip!” At Rob’s suggestion, later I tried a mix of Preseid Stout and Silence of the Yams, a great combination adding a slight sweetness to the stout.
Chatting with Rob and Cathy, you quickly realize you are dealing with the best kind of brewers: true beer fans. They are as excited to talk about what other brewers are producing as they are to discuss what’s on at Phase 2. When we spoke, they had recently returned from their daughter’s wedding in Colorado. It was a trip on which they also managed to squeeze in a visit to Jagged Mountain Brewery and to attend Epic Brewing’s 50 Firkin’ Fiasco. We talk to a lot of brewery people in our travels and you can easily tell who is just in the beer business vs. who is actually passionate about beer. Cathy and Rob are the latter and it shows in the diversity of their beer menu, their experimentation with ingredients, their attention to detail and their excitement in considering what they will try next. It makes Phase 2 the kind of brewery you want to visit repeatedly just to see what’s new. And if there isn’t something new, you won’t be disappointed by enjoying something you’ve had on a previous visit.
With hopes to expand and give the brewery its own space, Phase 2 is one to watch in the growing Loudon County brewery scene. It will be interesting to see where they hold Phase 2’s 1-year Anniversary party.