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Area 2 Farms, an indoor vertical farm, is opening in Green Valley (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Urban farms and breweries could be coming to a vacant office near you.

Over the weekend, the Arlington County Board approved a series of zoning changes aimed at tackling the stubborn office vacancy rate. They would allow the following tenants to move into offices by right:

  • animal boarding facilities, provided animals are under 24-hour supervision
  • urban farms
  • urban colleges and universities
  • breweries, distilleries and facilities making other craft beverages, such as kombucha and seltzer
  • artisan workshops for small-scale makers working in media such as wood or metal, laser cutters, 3D printers, electronics and sewing machines

Colleges and universities or urban farms previously needed to seek out a site plan amendment, which requires Arlington County Board approval, to operate in spaces previously approved for office or retail use.

The code requires all animal boarding, farming and artisan product-making activities to occur inside the building.

A county report describes this existing process as “overly cumbersome” for entrepreneurs trying to prove their business concept as well as for landlords, “who may be averse to take a risk on a new type of use that may require significant building improvements.”

The changes require farms, craft beverage facilities and artisan workshops to maintain a storefront where they can sell goods made on-site to walk-in customers, which the report says could reinvigorate dead commercial zones.

“Artisan beverage uses can bring new life to vacant buildings, boost leasing demand and, when located in a walkable neighborhood, can attract both existing and potential residents, while creating active third places for the community to gather,” the report said. “By fostering space for small-scale makers, artisans, and the like, a creative economy can grow, and people who may not have the space for such activities in their urban apartments may see this as an attractive neighborhood amenity.”

Some of these uses were allowed along Columbia Pike in the fall of 2021 to encourage greater economic revitalization. At the same time, D.C.-based animal boarding company District Dogs was appealing zoning ordinances curtailing the number of dogs it could board overnight in Clarendon, prompting discussions about expanding the uses approved for the Pike throughout the county.

The next spring, County Manager Mark Schwartz developed a “commercial market resilience strategy” aimed at bringing down the county’s high office vacancy rate, fueled by persistent remote work trends catalyzed by the pandemic. The tool, which includes an expedited public review process, was first used last fall to allow micro-fulfillment centers to operate by-right in vacant office spaces.

In a letter to the County Board, Arlington Chamber of Commerce CEO Kate Bates said the rapid approval of these commercial activities is critical for attracting new and emerging businesses.

“The Chamber believes that the Zoning Ordinance needs reform, and that unnecessary restrictions on commercial use should be removed to help the economy of the County grow,” Bates wrote. “In the wake of record high commercial vacancy, timely change is needed. It is imperative that the County focuses on long-term solutions for new business models, both through increased adaptability for new uses and expedited timeframes for approval of these new uses.” Read More

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Fresh Impact Farms growing area in a strip mall on Langston Blvd (courtesy photo)

In another bid to tackle the soaring office vacancy rate, Arlington County is mulling whether to fill vacant offices with unconventional tenants such as breweries and hydroponic farms.

The county is looking at allowing urban farms, artisan workshops, and craft beverage-making and dog boarding facilities to operate by-right in commercial, mixed-use districts throughout Arlington County. Some of these uses are already allowed along Columbia Pike.

Now above 21%, the office vacancy rate in Arlington spells lower tax revenue and belt-tightening for the under-development county budget. It ticked up during the pandemic and remained high even as buildings reopened, mask mandates were lifted and people returned to the office.

As the trend persisted, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz and his staff launched a “commercial market resilience strategy” to get new types of tenants moved in quickly. The strategy focuses on zoning changes with a limited impact on neighbors that can be approved with through a new, less involved public engagement process. The strategy was first used last fall to approve micro-fulfillment centers.

Last night (Wednesday), a majority of the Arlington County Planning Commission approved a request to authorize public hearings on this proposal.

“We do need to be thinking creatively,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair Sara Steinberger. “I’m appreciative that the county came forward with a streamlined approach so we can start fast-tracking some things. The community feedback and involvement is essential and is a cornerstone of the Arlington Way and how we comport ourselves within this community. That said, it’s never fun to be bogged down in bureaucracy either, so when there is an opportunity to move more quickly on certain things in a limited field, I think it’s appropriate to do so.”

The proposal also would let colleges and universities, which can currently operate in offices only after obtaining a more burdensome site plan amendment, move in by right.

“They tend to be our strongest source of demand in office buildings at a time when we aren’t seeing much demand,” Marc McCauley, the director of real estate for Arlington Economic Development, told the Planning Commission.

Commissioners Stephen Hughes and James Schroll abstained from the final vote, reprising concerns they raised last year about the impact of these new uses on neighbors. While voting for the proposal, Commissioner Tenley Peterson questioned county staff about potential noise, smell and parking nuisances.

“I can see the good reasons for doing this,” Schroll said. “My reticicene is not necessarily what you’re doing on the zoning side, it’s more the outreach. There are some things that I feel like aren’t fully thought through… We’re pursuing these without fully understanding what use standards we need to put in place.”

Citing “incessant barking” from nearby dog-boarding facilities that can be heard from Jennie Dean Park, Hughes said he wants the community to understand that these changes would leave nuisance mitigation up to the condition of the building and county noise ordinances.

“There is no place in the entire county where your actions do not impact another person,” Hughes said, pushing staff to instead draft a document listing “externalities we can all agree to as a community that we will not do.”

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New District Brewing in Green Valley (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington’s only production brewery is set to close in late spring, but its owners remain hopeful about moving to a new location.

New District Brewing Co. in Green Valley is closing at the end of May, co-owner Mike Katrivanos confirmed to ARLnow. Memorial Day weekend is currently scheduled to be the brewery’s last days of operation at 2709 S. Oakland Street.

“Arlington’s first production brewery in one hundred years” was unable to renew its lease due to a rent increase and the landlord wanting them to lease the whole building, a large industrial space near Four Mile Run and the Shirlington Dog Park.

“It would have been more than two and a half times the current rent that we pay,” said Katrivanos. “Plus, an all-new build-out for the unrenovated portion of the building that we didn’t have when we initially moved in.”

Despite the brewery being profitable, those extra expenses are not tenable for New District, Katrivanos said.

“We are being priced out,” he said.

Even during rough times, New District — which opened in early 2016 — has had a consistent community presence in Arlington. That includes a beer garden at the county fair, a stand at the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, and organizing the Valley Fest, an arts and music festival in Green Valley.

The community stepped up for the brewery last year, helping it to purchase its own canning line. But then last month, an indoor dog park and bar announced it was coming to 2709 S. Oakland Street with an opening planned for August 2023. This led to some confusion since that was the same address as the well-known, local brewery, which had not yet announced its own closure.

Katrivanos clarified that this was simply a gap in communication and timing, noting that new tenant locked down its own lease before New District was informed about what was happening.

Now, with a few weeks to digest the news, the brewery is looking to the future and remains hopeful that this simply will result in a move as opposed to full-on closure.

Katrivanos said he no longer wants to rent and is looking to buy a commercial property in Arlington, where he spent much of his childhood. It’s something he’s “made no secret” about wanting to do since the brewery first opened seven years ago.

A number of years ago, New District put in an offer to buy the old WETA building on 27th Street S., not far from the brewery’s current location. But that building and land ended up being sold to the county and demolished for the expansion of Jennie Dean Park.

More recently, there was an offer to buy a building on Columbia Pike, Katrivanos said, taking advantage of code changes approved last year allowing breweries to move in. But that also didn’t pan out.

Nonetheless, Katrivanos is still optimistic they’ll find a new home for New District in Arlington and is seeking a 4,000 to 6,000-square-foot commercial property priced around $1.5 million.

If a new home isn’t secured by end of the May, a tough decision may be on tap for New District.

“Either, we’re going to have to relocate out of Arlington or, something even worse, like probably shut down,” Katrivanos said.

For the moment, though, the brewery is focused on celebrating its seventh anniversary on Thursday, January 12. There are going to be limited bottle releases, half-price growler fills, and music throughout the weekend.

With the end of May in the not-too-distant future, Katrivanos is focused on finding a way to keep New District in Arlington.

“We’ll see how the fortunes of fate treat us,” he said.

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Rendering of new indoor dog park and bar, Snouts & Stouts (image via @snouts_stouts/Instagram)

A new “indoor dog park & bar” says it’s coming to the Green Valley neighborhood, apparently moving into the current home of New District Brewing.

Snouts & Stouts announced late last week via social media and an email blast that it was set to open in August 2023 while advertising that it will be the “only indoor dog park & bar in Northern Virginia.”

It appears to be moving into an 11,000-square-foot building at 2709 S. Oakland Street, within barking distance of the outdoor Shirlington Dog Park.

However, that is also the same address as New District Brewing.

It remains unclear what exactly is happening to the well-known, local brewery. The building has been publicly posted for lease. Snouts and Stouts and New District Brewing are not owned by the same people, we’re told.

New District ownership informed ARLnow that they are “not ready to comment yet” but hope to be able to provide more information in a few days.

ARLnow has reached out to both the contact information listed on the lease advertisement and Snouts & Stouts but has yet to hear back as of publication.

In an Instagram post on Friday, the new canine-centric business posted a video rendering of what the space could look like when it opens.

There was also a message along with the video that alludes to “obstacles” that had to be overcome that “impacted our location and opening date announcement.” Additionally, the message noted that the business will be occupying the whole building in “late spring” with construction set to begin then.

Admittance for dogs Snouts & Stouts will be membership-based, per the website. While dogs require a membership, “humans always enter for free.” There will be also doggy daycare, boarding, bar, and private events.

Perhaps answering the question as to why opening an indoor dog park essentially next to the county’s biggest outdoor dog park, the website notes the reliability of staying indoors:

As dog owners who frequent the dog park, the biggest concern is always the weather. Rain? No dog park. Intense heat? No dog park. Intense cold? No dog park. Even if the weather is fine, our dogs always come home dirty and need a bath.

Well at Snouts & Stouts weather and dirt is never a concern! Our massive indoor dog park, with specialized K9 turf, means that no matter the weather, your dog will be able to play and not need a bath afterward.

As for the claim to be the region’s first indoor dog park and bar, that might be a bit dubious with Backhaus in Alexandria opening two years ago. The business recently has had some issues with neighbors complaining about the “inescapable barking” coming from the facility.

As for New District, earlier this year the brewery purchased a new canning line and again set up a beer garden at the Arlington County Fair in August. When it opened in 2016, New District was “Arlington’s first production brewery in one hundred years.”

The brewery is set to celebrate its sixth anniversary early next month.

Rendering of the interior of Snouts & Stouts (image via @snouts_stouts/Instagram)
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(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) The former Champps space at Pentagon Row is back in business as a beer-and-pizza spot.

Nighthawk Pizza will open to the public on Thursday (March 24) at 3 p.m., in the large space at 1201 S. Joyce Street, after a series of private “friends and family” nights this week.

The concept marries a 90s vibe with a pizza-centric menu and an on-site brewery operated by Aslin Beer Company. It’s helmed by Chef Johnny Spero, of Netflix’s Final Table fame plus other culinary cred, and backed by a group that includes local serial entrepreneur Scott Parker. (The group also recently opened Poppyseed Rye in Ballston.)

In addition to thin-crust pizza and beer, the menu includes a range of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and cocktails — both handmade and on tap. The red-and-blue neon lights, bench seating and retro arcade games help to give the restaurant its 90s feel, partially offset by the abundant flat screen TVs that surround the large bar and the cavernous dining area.

“The design inspiration for the space was The Max from ‘Saved By The Bell,'” Parker noted.

In all, the brew pub has 10,000 square feet of space, plenty for the crowds Parker and company are hoping to attract from the growing neighborhood, which includes Amazon’s HQ2, set for a 2023 opening a few blocks away.

Parker said his group of partners “is already looking for our next locations for Nighthawk, as well as developing other projects.” Additional locations in the D.C. area and other cities are expected to be announced “in the coming months,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nighthawk is not the only spring opening at Pentagon Row, which was renamed “Westpost” in 2020.

“Taco temple” Banditos Bar & Kitchen is set to open in April, one restaurant over and also overlooking Westpost’s central square and soon-to-be-dismantled-for-the-season ice skating rink. Also expected to open next month are a new, 34,000 square foot Target store, on April 3, as well as sushi restaurant Kusshi.

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A community fundraising campaign is helping Green Valley’s New District Brewing Company purchase its own canning equipment.

Earlier this month, Arlington’s first production brewery in a century launched a campaign to raise $8,000 in order to partially pay for a canning line (equipment used to can). The equipment can cost about $23,000, so the initial plan was to cover the rest with a loan.

“When COVID-19 hit and all the brewery tap rooms were shut down, everyone moved to canning. But we didn’t have a canning line,” says New District Brewing co-owner Mike Katrivanos. “So, what we had to do was hire a third-party company to bring a mobile canning machine in… we did it out of necessity, really.”

New District was able to can a limited selection of its beers and sell them to the public. However, the process is expensive and can be hard to schedule, since the third-party company was also working with other breweries.

So, Katrivanos and his co-owner (and brother) Stephen Katrivanos decided they needed to purchase their own canning line and to ask its customers for help.

In just 10 days, the brewery hit that original goal of $8,000 and is now moving forward with a new stretch goal of $23,000 that would allow the brewery to own the equipment outright.

As of yesterday (Jan. 26), New District has raised more than $10,700 with eight more days still in the campaign.

“We are completely blown away by community support,” says Katrivanos. “We are obviously very blessed.”

There are perks, like T-shirts, hats and mugs. For those donating more, there’s an opportunity to be an assistant brewer for the day as well as a chance to design and name your very own beer. For $2,000, one can become the official “New District Monopoly Man (or Woman),” which includes getting two cases of beer from every canning run for the next year plus a top hat and monocle.

Beyond those perks, it’s also a chance to help a local, small business continue to overcome pandemic-related challenges.

New District Brewing Company opened in 2016 in a 5,200-square-foot warehouse space at ​​2709 S. Oakland Street, near the Shirlington Dog Park and the W&OD Trail. It was Arlington’s first production brewery — as in, not an accessory to a restaurant — in a century.

Like most breweries across the country, though, the last two years have been a struggle for New District.

Sales were cut in half in 2020 and the brewery has yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, Katrivanos says. With omicron emerging and few guarantees about what 2022 will have in store, the ability to can and sell beer themselves to customers is a lifeline.

“[Canning] is in many ways the only way we can earn a living,” says Katrivanos.

With the new equipment coming, New District is looking at the potential of working with local, independent beer stores — like Westover Market and Crystal City Wine Shop — to sell its beer.

After the fundraising campaign is over, it could take up to two months for the brewery to get the equipment. Which means that it may be April or May before canned New District beer is available to thirsty customers.

But Katrivanos is optimistic that, by the summer, Arlingtonians will be able to taste the suds of its labor.

“We are just thrilled to be engaged in a community like this,” he says. “It’s been an awesome ride.”

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(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Across from the Shirlington Dog Park, locals can be found sitting at high top tables, drinking crafted beer and enjoying each other’s company again for, in some cases, the first time in over a year.

New District Brewing Co. General Manager David Warren tells ARLnow that his customers have said this brewery, which opened in 2016, is one of the only places where they felt safe coming to throughout the pandemic.

“Every day I hear someone say ‘I haven’t been to a bar in a year a half,'” Warren said. “People would say, ‘I don’t go to bars or restaurants but I come here.’ They felt safe coming to us as we adhere strictly to safety guidelines. They see us running around with isopropyl alcohol, sanitizing everything.”

Warren says traffic to the 2709 S. Oakland Street warehouse taproom has somewhat been able to return to pre-coronavirus levels without the brewery suffering too much of a financial loss. And now, the brewery is back to hosting weekly trivia and live music, and has two big events on the horizon.

He credits the establishment’s intense cleaning regimen, which predates the pandemic, as beer has to be made in highly sanitized conditions.

“If there’s one thing brewers know how to do, it’s sanitize,” said Warren. “Even one little bacteria cell can ruin a batch of beer, so sanitation has to be completely airtight because other things float around in the air.”

Since the bar reopened its taproom room in mid-June last year, Warren said “business has been gradually improving.”

After capacity restrictions lifted at the end of May, the brewery on Four Mile Run has been able to return to its original 136 person capacity, after only being able to host about 30 people at a time to maintain six feet of distance between patrons.

While the pandemic forced Warren to close the taproom and turn people away over the past year, he says the pandemic has helped strengthen loyalty to the bar among employees and the community.

“It’s been all hands on deck,” he said. “Everybody does everything. Every one of my employees here has some kind of brewing experience. Everyone will chip in around everything.”

Fans came to the rescue at the height of the pandemic to ensure their favorite spot stayed afloat.

“We have a lot of support from the community. It’s been great. A lot of people would come here out of their way and buy a four pack just to help us,” he said.

One thing that generated some extra cash is private rentals.

According to a local Facebook group, New District has become an occasional private event space for those looking to host a gathering on a budget. A poster said the brewery has an affordable minimum beer purchase for rentals and — because there’s no kitchen — they allow food trucks. Another said she brought her own food, and called this arrangement the “best option we found.”

Now, New District is back at hosting weekly public events, including local art displays on Wednesdays, trivia nights on Thursdays at 7 p.m. and live music on Fridays at 6 p.m. Warren says these events have been helping draw crowds back to the bar.

New District also has two big local appearances this month and in September.

Next Wednesday through Sunday (Aug. 18-22), New District is hosting a beer garden at the Arlington County Fair, held at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds at 3501 2nd Street S.

“We’re going to have live music, food trucks, trivia, [and] a rock carving class,” said Warren.

New District will also host its annual Valley Fest street festival — cancelled last year because of the pandemic — on Sunday, Sept. 26 from noon-5 p.m. The brewery has hosted the free community event — which highlights the hyperlocal arts scene along Four Mile Run — since 2017, excluding last year.

“We shut down the block and have a big event here,” said Warren, adding that the event will include, “art vendors, food trucks, [and] live music.”

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An Arlington pet rescue and a Dulles brewery have joined forces for a unique fundraiser that will help find new homes for dogs and cats in need.

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation has partnered with Solace Brewing Company for the second year in a row to produce a special Rescue Ale that will be sold to raise money for the nonprofit, which is dedicated to rescuing homeless, abused, and neglected pets and facilitating their adoption.

This year’s Solace-produced Rescue Ale is an India Pale Ale brewed with mosaic and Amarillo hops at 7% alcohol by volume. It will be available for sale at the Solace Brewery on Oct. 8 and at all Lost Dog Café locations — including on Columbia Pike and in Westover — starting at 5 p.m. on Oct. 9.

The collaboration enables the rescue foundation to continue an annual tradition of working with local breweries despite challenges caused by the need for social distancing during the pandemic.

“Our annual fundraiser has always been an extremely important driver for engaging with the broader community, garnering resources, and ultimately gaining supporters that strengthen our important rescue mission,” Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation public relations manager Kim Williams said. “With the generosity of Solace Brewing Co., the Rescue Ale tradition is still alive, and people can enjoy a charitable beer in the comfort of their home while supporting a worthy cause.”

A portion of all Rescue Ale sales will be donated to the foundation.

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation first started working with local breweries to develop special Rescue Ales in 2017 when the nonprofit partnered with Alexandria’s Port City Brewing Company.

Owned by Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation founders Pam McAlwee and Ross Underwood, the Lost Dog Café originated in Arlington and now also has locations in McLean, Dunn Loring, and Alexandria.

In the past, the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation hosted large fundraising events like a “Paws Vegas” carnival held at Solace Brewing Company last October, but because crowds currently pose public health risks, the nonprofit has pivoted instead to an auction with tickets for a private tour of Solace Brewing Company.

On top of a guided tour, ticket winners will get to see the canning process for this year’s Rescue Ale and receive a catered lunch, a four-pack of the Rescue Ale, Lost Dog Café and Solace Brewing Co.-branded pint glasses, and a Rescue Ale 2020 T-shirt.

Bidding on the “Behind the Brew: Rescue Ale Canning Day Fundraiser” tour started on Sept. 23 and closes at 12:00 p.m. on Oct. 26.

The Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation is also holding an outdoor adoption event at Solace Brewing Company on Oct. 10. Masks and adherence to social distancing rules will be required.

The foundation, which has a rescue care center facility in Falls Church, says it has rescued 2,183 pets and facilitated the adoptions of 2,015 dogs and cats in 2020 so far.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers. Order from Arrowine’s expanding online store for curbside pickup.

For an upstart brewery, even the best of times can be a rollercoaster, and weathering the effects of the pandemic on the service industry is another matter altogether.

For Lorton’s Fair Winds Brewing, this has been especially true. Just a few months after opening in 2015, they won a Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival for their excellent Siren’s Lure Saison. The following years saw core lineup beers like Howling Gale IPA and Quayside Kölsch become mainstays of local draft lines and shelves.

Then, in January of last year, co-founder and CEO Casey Jones passed suddenly, not only breaking the hearts of all of us who knew and loved him, but leaving the young brewery without one of its guiding voices at a crucial time.

Over the rest of 2019, Fair Winds found its footing and then, well, you know — all of this. Fair Winds has managed to keep beer moving, however, thanks to a loyal fanbase, a great brewing team, and a lot of work from Sales and Operations Manager Chris Banich, who I got to catch up with during the past week.

Photo via Fair Winds

Banich started in the beer business as a part-timer at the old Rick’s Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria (where I spent my 2007-2009) and became the beer buyer and eventually the store’s GM in its final months. After stints with a couple local wholesalers/distributors, Chris spent over three years as the Mid-Atlantic Manager for Colorado’s Avery Brewing. Following his time with Avery, Chris did some consultation work for Crooked Run and has been in his position at Fair Winds for close to a year and a half now.

I wanted to ask Chris about how the brewery is doing, how its sales have been affected, and how they’ve had to adapt. The biggest difference is, of course, the dramatic shift from kegs to packaged beer. “We really had no clue what this was all going to look like,” he said.

Initially, the Fair Winds team expected to have to dump a large amount of their kegged beer as many others have had to, but they were able to convert it all to package and sell it. Their flagship Howling Gale IPA has been “averaging double digit cases sold every day out of the tap room and almost 7 times that amount per day in the market.”

“We are still brewing a ton,” Banich tells me. “Our wholesaler is begging us for more beer. We have unfortunately had to short them beer a few times” as they try to keep up with Howling Gale sales. Banich credits that wholesaler network with keeping Fair Winds beers on grocery shelves and in independent accounts.

Looking forward, Chris is trying to see the opportunities in the world that emerges on the other side of this. While many key accounts may be lost, he says, “if a thousand or so breweries close, that means a lot more open draft lines. Do we immediately make up that volume in other places?”

Also, the breweries that do manage to survive will have the pick of a wealth of talent that is suddenly on the market. Here’s to the Fair Winds team continuing to persevere.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Part of my job is to constantly find new beers to stock.

I like those beers, of course, but occasionally a beer comes along that really gets me. This happened recently with the new Black Rice Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. At only 3.8% ABV, it ticks the “session” box; as a year-round, it ticks the “if you make something good, make it available all the time” box; it’s tasty as hell, so it ticks the “tasty as hell” box.

There’s only so much information online about Black Rice Ale, so I asked our local AVBC rep if he had anything else to pass along. What he did was put me in touch with Fal Allen, AVBC’s brewmaster since 2000 and an industry veteran who started his pro career at Redhook in 1988. Yes, I was excited to chat.

Allen told me he had tried Chinese black rice, aka Forbidden or Emperor’s rice, in a dish. “I had no idea what it was but the rich nutty flavor was compelling. I immediately thought that it would work well in a beer.” AVBC’s site describes Black Rice as a Nut Brown, in fact.

I asked Allen if the intent actually was to make a Nut Brown or if they were searching for a style to suit the black rice. “It was really a matter of finding a style that the beer fit into,” he responded, adding “it is not really a nut brown ale but people want to know what it is like… we thought that it was closest to a nut brown ale.”

Allen noted they could also have compared it to Schwarzbier, but being neither German in style, nor a Lager ruled that out “although the beer certainly tastes like a schwartz bier.”

This hit on what, to me, is probably the most intriguing aspect of Black Rice Ale — how it melds roasty flavors of Black Ales and Lagers with the nuttier tones of American and English Browns. I wondered what the black rice actually brought to the beer besides being a cool ingredient to throw in the mash. Allen said the rice gives the beer its “delicious dark color,” and “a nice nutty flavor,” and doesn’t think it contributed anything to the beer’s aroma.

Remembering how the 2014 release of AVBC’s Gose sparked a new era for the brewery (and for Sour Ales in America in general), and noticing that Black Rice arrives at the same time as the brewery’s Barrel-Aged Stouts and Porters moving from bombers to cans and the introduction of its new Hibiscus Rozelle, I asked Allen if we were seeing another instance of Anderson Valley not quite reinventing itself, but refocusing.

“I agree it does feel a little like that, but I think it was more to do with a change in attitude,” he explained. “We are not trying to reinvent ourselves so much as we are trying to get our products out to market a little better.” The unpainted cans AVBC uses allows them to more quickly take what may be initially a draft-only offering and get it out to a wider audience if the response is good.

With bottle sales way down and cans on the rise on the East Coast, that promises more cool AVBC beers on the horizon. For now, check out Black Rice Ale if you see it around.

Upcoming Beer Events at Arrowine:

TODAY — Friday, September 13, 5-7 p.m. — Tom Blanch of Sierra Nevada
Saturday, September 21, 1-4 p.m. — Devon Callan of Reason Beer Company
Saturday, October 5, 12-3 p.m. — Patrick Cashin of Charm City Meadworks
Friday, November 8, 5-7 p.m. — Jesse Ploeg of Potter’s Craft Cider

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New District Brewing Company has announced that Valley Fest will return on Sept. 29, but in the meantime, there’s honeysuckles to pick and a North-South Arlington grudge match to settle.

The event is planned to be held on the street outside the brewery at 2709 S. Oakland Street. Entrance is free with community arts and music planned for the festival, along with food and dessert trucks. A “beer package” is also available for $22, good for three tickets to sample New District beers.

Valley Fest started in 2017 as a smaller festival but expanded in 2018 as a plan to replace Capitol City Brewing’s Oktoberfest after the brewpub closed.

New District founder Mike Katrivanos told ARLnow that much of the festival will be similar to last year, but with a heavier focus on artists.

“We are getting a lot more artists this year,” Katrivanos said. “Last year, we did this cool thing where we had an artist do a piece featuring tires from the auto shops nearby. She actually made the tires into art pieces like wavy walls set up throughout the festival.”

This year, Katrivanos said he’s hoping to have a metalworking artist display their work at the festival. An artist hasn’t been selected yet — that’s expected to happen happen in July — so if anyone knows any metalworking artists they’re encouraged to reach out to the brewery for some potential work.

In the meantime, Katrivanos said there are some Arlington-focused events and features at the brewery.

“We did a North-South Arlington collaboration beer with The Board Room up in North Arlington,” said Katrivanos. “We called it Crossing Route 50. The North Arlington crowd doesn’t want to cross Route 50, so we tried to build a bridge.”

The beer is a grapefruit IPA, which Katrivanos described as having the aroma of dank citrus and tropical notes from the hops.

The other event coming up is the honeysuckle harvest, where the brewery takes 30-50 volunteers on a road trip to pick honeysuckle from various parts of Virginia. Mostly the group visits farms and parks, where honeysuckle — an invasive species — is seen as a weed.

“We bring it back to the brewery here and brew a honeysuckle hefeweizen with the fresh flowers,” said Katrivanos. “It captures all the aromatics — captures the sweet flavor of the honeysuckle and reminds you of Virginia summer. That beer is one of our beers people know us by. We’re actively campaigning for that now and we’ll be picking honeysuckle.”

For anyone interested in a weekend honeysuckle road trip, Katrivanos said to contact Michael Sutherland at [email protected].

Photo via New District Brewing Company/Facebook

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