I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Woodstock Brewhouse, a local craft brewery located in historic, downtown Woodstock, Virginia.They were kind enough to share some insight into their brewing process, brewing history, and passion for great beer.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: How’d you get started with brewing? Did you homebrew?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Everyone either knows someone, or was someone that attempted to make beer in college and had it go terribly wrong, I was that someone. Years later my Brother in Law gave me a 5 Gallon home brew kit as a gift and this time I followed the instructions. The brew came out very tasty and my interest in brewing was rekindled. Over time I made the transition from extract brewing to all grain brewing and then from bottling to Kegging my own brews. When you transition to all grain brewing the world opens up to you as far as flavor and tastes that you can control.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What were your inspirations to brew and the driving force to take it to the level of opening up your own brewery? Were there any obstacles and if so, can you provide a little insight on what they were?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: My original inspiration to try brewing was just to see if I could successfully make a drinkable clone brew of a beer that I liked. Once I knew that I could do that, my inspiration shifted to creating different recipes and trying different things to explore a more creative side (creative being different styles of beer) of brewing. A brewer has a tremendous amount of control in the beer making process from hop and barley usage to alcohol content and exploring those options is part of the fun of home brewing. I always thought owning a brewhouse would be fun, but I wanted the location to be special. I also thought working with larger more automated equipment would make it easier to brew (not necessarily true). So what the driving force was to open the brewhouse really came down to I thought it would be fun. As far as obstacles, the only challenge was finding the right location.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of brewing?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Brewing is a simple process with about a million things that can go wrong. In the simplest breakdown, brewing is creating a sweet water (wort) with high sugar content, then introducing hops to offset the sweet taste. Then you introduce Yeast that converts the sugars into alcohol and you have beer.
But every step in the process has challenges to keep your product consistent. The most critical factor in making beer is to keep everything sanitary. When you brew you are creating an excellent environment for the propagation of yeast, but that same nutrient rich environment is perfect for other bacteria to reproduce in and those other bacteria would ruin your beer or give it a taste that you were not trying to create.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What made you choose Woodstock, VA as your grounds of operation?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: I live in Woodstock Virginia, the ability to stumble home was a significant criteria.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Name your favorite beer that Woodstock Brewhouse makes right now?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Oh, that’s an unfair question as I am responsible for making all of the beers. I will say quite honestly that the beer I drink depends on my mood and I don’t always drink the same beer. Somedays I want a malty smooth tasting beer and will have the Tipsy Squirrel nut brown ale, but other days I want the hoppy goodness from the Beckford Parish Extra Pale Ale, or the Crow’s Provender IPA. Warm summer days sitting out front of the Brewhouse might call for the Brite Blonde or Seven Bender Pale Ale. As winter sets in I enjoy having a darker Tower Stout. So I don’t know that I have an actual favorite, but I will say the beer that I am the most proud of is the Crow’s Provender IPA. I think our IPA has a great balance of hops, alcohol content, and malty smoothness that make it very drinkable and enjoyable.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Favorite competitor beer?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Again they are all good at different times for different reasons, but Flying Mouse has an IPA that I really enjoy, Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager is wonderful, Sunken City has a Dam Lager that is very crisp and pleasant, Brothers Brewery makes wonderful beer, as does Three Notch’d and Heavy Seas, basically I can just run down the list of brewhouses and say great things about everything they are doing and I will apologize right now for not listing all of them.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What is your best seller? Why do you think people gravitate to that beer more than another?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Our best seller is probably the Brite Blonde, as it is the least bitter and most basic ale we have and that seems to appeal to the largest audience. But our IPA is very popular with the Brewhouse crowd.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What goes into naming a beer?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: For me, naming a beer is a challenge as I would really like to have the names represent our area and community. I like to have some interesting history or back story to go with the name if I can and I always appreciate some humor in the naming process.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: When will you be adding the Ginger Beard Ale to the menu? Ok, ok, we just made that one up, but hey, it could work ;)
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: I like the name, it fits into my naming concepts, we would just need to make it more local and then I would have to work on a ginger beer recipe …
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What is the worst name for a beer that you've come up with and never used?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Ha, no comment.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Have you ever dealt with a bad batch? If so, what is the process when something like that occurs?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Thus far we have only had a couple batches that we had to dump, one wasn’t necessarily bad tasting, but the temperature ran away during our mash and the alcohol content was too low (4.0%) so I just let it down the drain. The most important part of the process is the post analysis and figuring out what happened to make it go south so you don’t have it happen again.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: What were your goals within the community, i.e., what mission did you have when you started this journey? Have you accomplished that yet?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: From the start we wanted to provide our community with a warm and inviting atmosphere that could be used for medium sized gatherings as well. We didn’t want to open a bar, but wanted it to feel more of a tasting room and we wanted to provide some food options that didn’t compete with the other venues in our area. Basically we wanted to integrate into the community, not fight with them. The other thing we wanted to accomplish was to do the building proud in our renovations. Our building was constructed in 1926 and is a grand structure with a great openness and feel to it. It is a place that people enjoy coming to.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Are you looking to expand?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: You never say no to the concept of expansion, but as we have only been open since July this year it would be nice to not think too hard about the effort to expand just yet. We have been considering offering a comfortable barber chair where people could come in, relax, have a beer and get their beard oiled and groomed while they had an ale.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Tell us a little bit about the atmosphere of the Woodstock Brewhouse? About your patrons?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: Oh man, we love our space. We renovated an old factory, trying to bring it back to as close to its original days as possible. And you can definitely feel the warmth of a decades old building. Its industrial but still inviting. Its noisy, but we like that. As for our patrons, we get a real mixed bag which we like. We have our regulars, but are always seeing new faces, lots of folks just passing through out little town.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Can you offer a bit of advice to aspiring business owners or entrepreneurs?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: The best advice I can offer aspiring business owners is don’t be afraid to do it. Everyone has had the “you know what this town needs …”, or the “I wish someone would make a …” conversation in their life, it takes very little to go from that conversation to opening or starting a business. The most important factor is the belief in yourself to accomplish it and the realistic aspirations of what you are trying to do. For example, I thought it would be fun to open a brewhouse, our community didn’t have one, yes there was investment capital that had to be found and yes we had to find the right building to make it happen, but I never let the challenges beat down the desire. It would have been easy to become intimidated, I mean none of us had ever opened a brewhouse, but we never saw a down side to the project. I mean honestly our worst case scenario is that we have another place to drink beer …
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: We're a beard care company so we have to ask....for the beard or against the beard?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: I love beards, definitely for them in all shapes and sizes, sadly, I am one of those guys who can’t grow a beard so every November I am forced to sit on the sidelines and cheer.
BACKWOODS BEARD CO: Finally, any news, upcoming events, or anything extra you'd like to add?
WOODSTOCK BREW HOUSE: We are ordering holiday glasses for December and will be hosting a couple “Steal the Glass” nights for customers. Follow us on the usual social media to find out the details, we are also looking for that Barber chair …
Thanks again to Woodstock Brewhouse for the the insightful interview, being beard friendly, and for bringing great craft beer to our local area.
Check them out at:
and grab a beer at:
123 E. Court Street
Woodstock, VA 22664