Burgers and beer. It’s a classic combination that most Americans enjoy – and it happens to be an evolving and growing trend in Loudoun County.In the last two years, Loudoun has landed at least eight new “healthy” burger restaurants, with Elevation Burger set to open soon at One Loudoun as the latest addition.“Everybody loves a good burger. It is a classic taste when you balance that with unique and specialized diets, people crave it more. It is a natural, classic menu item that people seek out and rely on,” said Marantha Edwards, economic development director for Leesburg.With consumers becoming more health conscious and concerned about where their food comes from, there’s a rise in the “healthy, fast, casual” restaurants popping up around the area.The growth of craft breweries in Loudoun is closely linked to that as well.“People like learning and experiencing things and it has taken off in Loudoun. People want more control over what they are consuming, farm to table, it is all connected. They want to know what it looks like, smells like and tastes like,” Edwards said.But, according to one expert, it’s not all about taste buds.“Food tastes and restaurant markets are closely linked to household incomes and age. Loudoun County residents are richer and older than 10 years ago. The county is maturing,” said Stephen Fuller, professor of public policy and development at George Mason University.Dave Landry, owner of BurgerFi in Leesburg, which opened in early 2013, said BurgerFi uses all-natural beef and fresh toppings.“People in Loudoun are progressive and upscale, and are conscious about what they are putting in their bodies. Our burgers are as healthy as you can get,” Landry said.“People are always going to eat burgers, we try to make it as healthy as possible,” Landry added.So far, Landry reports that business is going well, and as a franchise they are ranked one of the top in the country.Debbie Hancotte, owner of MELT in Leesburg, agrees that business is “exploding.”“We were one of the first out here. Everybody loves a good burger and business is great,” Hancotte said.Keeping it localSara Brown, owner of Oakland Green Farm in Lincoln, explains how area businesses are able to work together and “keep it local,” which brings an interesting twist to the Loudoun and burger connection.“Our farm uses the leftover fermented rye mash from Catoctin Creek Distillery as a high protein feed supplement for their cattle. Market Burger makes their burgers with our beef. In this one little area of Purcellville, we are all connected,” Brown said.Microbreweries are also popping up around Loudoun right now.“We are becoming an attraction for more microbreweries, and Leesburg will continue to be a place to come for those craft organizations. The growth in that industry has gone up over the last few years, even the big beer houses are feeling the pressure. It has a lot to do with the sophisticated tastes that folks in this area have. Interest in buying local and knowing what you consume,” Edwards said.“Loudoun is becoming a hot spot for the craft brewing world,” said Chris Burns at Old Ox Brewing Co. in Ashburn“The local community is receptive and excited about alcohol-related business and has an appreciation for the craft. Local government and consumers are very open to helping make it happen,” Burns said.“Because of Loudoun’s wine trail, beer is a natural complement and it will only get stronger as we develop our own beer trail,” Burns added.The right mixSo what’s the brewers bottom-line about our community?Loudoun County has the right mix of consumers and available space.“There are not many areas in Northern Virginia that are suited for the individual needs of breweries and the population is the right demographic for craft beer brewers,” Burns said.Mark Osborne of Adroit Theory Brewing Co. in Purcellville agrees. “The cost of land is clearly less expensive than Arlington and Alexandria. Also, there is the proximity to the vineyards. Most people that drink wine, also drink beer. So it is a natural fit. As more breweries open, the more likely that people will make a trip to visit several Loudoun breweries in one trip,” Osborne said.“Breweries are sourcing their products locally, which is also easier to do with the local farms in Loudoun,” Osborne said.
Androit Theory Brewing Co./ Courtesy Photo
Jake Endres, of Crooked Run Brewery in Leesburg is one of the youngest brewers in Loudoun.He started a kickstarter campaign to raise money for his business right after college. It took a couple of years, but business is booming. He plans to distribute in Whole Foods and Wegman’s in a couple of months.Ocelot Brewing Co. is also planning to open their Sterling facility sometime this summer.“We picked Loudoun because this area does not have many craft beers compared to other areas of the country,” Adrien Widman, owner of Ocelet said.“Everyone is excited to make Loudoun a craft beer mecca,” he added.Sten Sellier of Beltway Brewing has built a business plan around out-source production for other growing breweries.“We partner with them to help increase production,” Sellier said. “Business has been very good. We have only been open since January and next week will be at capacity. We are already looking at expanding.”Loudoun Brewers:Lost RhinoCorcoranOld Ox BrewingBeltway BrewingCrooked RunOld 690 BrewingAdroit TheoryOcelotMad Horse Brew PubMacDowell Brew KitchenVintage 50SweetwaterBelly Love BrewingBald Guy Brewery“Fast casual” Burgers in LoudounMELTFive GuysBurgerFiKrazeElevationBurger 21Market BurgerJake’s Wayback BurgersBGR the burger jointFor more food trend stories, see Local Flavor inside the April 16 edition of the Loudoun Times-Mirror.