Craft Beer Comes to Manassas
By Paul Keily, Contributing Writer – Photo Courtesy of BadWolf Brewing
After a somewhat rocky start, BadWolf Brewing Company opened June 19 at 9776 Center Street, becoming the ﬁrst craft brewery in the City of Manassas. It’s also the ﬁrst nanobrewery in Virginia and the smallest operating in the state, according to Jeremy Meyers, who owns the business with his wife Sarah Meyers.
Smaller than microbreweries, nanobreweries, which are fully licensed and regulated, have brewing systems that produce only 4 U.S. barrels or less at a time. BadWolf will produce about 200 barrels a year, Jeremy Meyers said.
Like most nanobreweries, BadWolf brews and sells beer on location. Staﬀ sell and serve the brewhouse’s craft beer (brews produced by small, independent traditional breweries) in its tap room, which has a bar area, several tables and a couch, along with plenty of standing room.
Jeremy Meyers brewed beer at home for 16 years before opening the brewery, he said. “When I was 17, I took a trip to Germany and realized that beer could taste good. When I came back home, I couldn’t buy beer. So I brewed it myself,” said Meyers. “It’s legal to buy hops and grains when you’re 17, but it’s obviously illegal to buy beer. My ﬁrst beers were with a MrBeer® kit, which comes with everything you need to make a batch of beer. I moved up to a 5-gallon system after that and have been experimenting with diﬀerent techniques since then.”
The inspiration for the brewery’s name came from another interest of Meyers: “I was watching an episode of ‘Doctor Who’ called ‘BadWolf ’ and thought it would be a good name for the brewery,” Meyers explained. “One of our doors is painted like a ‘TARDIS,’ the time machine from the series.”
Meyers, who has lived in the area since he was 3, said he wanted to bring craft brewing to Manassas, oﬀering quality beer made locally. “A lot of people think beer tastes horrible because they’ve never had craft beer, and we give them a place to try it out,” he said.
Craft beer is a rapidly expanding business. According to the Brewers Association, which represents the majority of U.S. breweries, craft beer sales in the U.S. rose this year by 13 percent by volume through June over the ﬁrst six months of last year, and craft brewers operate 98 percent of the country’s breweries, which numbered 2,538 as of June 30. That’s an increase of 446 U.S. breweries since June 2012.
BadWolf ’s owners have been working with the owners of Heritage Brewing Company, another microbrewery slated to open in Manassas this fall, to advocate for changing state laws restricting small breweries, Meyers said.
“There are three things we really want to get changed. The ﬁrst, that is most important to me, has to do with labeling requirements,” said Meyers. “We don’t bottle beer or distribute it outside of the store. We only ﬁll glasses or growlers (half-gallon jugs patrons can take home) in-store, but we’re still required to pay a $30 labeling fee every time we want to sell a new beer.”
Since other breweries in Virginia are larger than BadWolf, this is the ﬁrst time that law negatively aﬀected a company, he said. “It’s just the fact that we’re the ﬁrst brewery of this type and nobody thought to change the law before,” said Meyers. “We brew several diﬀerent beers a week, so the labels have been problematic for us. I think [the law]will change pretty quickly as more nanobreweries open up.”
The brewery’s blog, badwolfbrewingcompany.blogspot.com, chronicles the owners’ label-related issues and challenges, including waiting for state approvals and labels.
BadWolf and Heritage are also pushing state legislators to restructure licensing fees, Meyers said. “Small wineries in Virginia only have to pay $189 per year to operate. For breweries, if you make less than 20,000 barrels a year, the fee is $2,700 per year,” he explained.
Meyers said that a ﬁnal barrier they would like to see lifted is a vestige of post-Prohibition reforms: requiring breweries to sell their products through distribution companies. “We’d like to see limited self-distribution for small breweries. I’d like to be able to put a keg in my van and sell it to a restaurant in Old Town,” he said.
On opening day, the line at BadWolf snaked out the door and through the strip mall where the brewhouse is located. The brewery nearly ran out of beer, Meyers said. While patrons can now ﬁt comfortably inside on any given day, the crowds continue to come.
“There are a lot of people just ﬁnding out about the brewery,” stated Meyers. “They drive by, see the sign and decide to check it out. We get a ton of homebrewers. They’ve even been having impromptu meetings here.”
“On Wednesdays and Thursdays we have maybe 50 to 100 people come in a night. Fridays and Saturdays … we probably have a few hundred,” said Jesse Johnson, one of BadWolf ’s brewmasters. “We already have some regulars and new faces every day we’re open.”
These include Austin Haynes of Manassas. “Jeremy and Sarah are old friends of mine, and they’ve made an incredible, welcoming environment,” he said. “Everyone is friendly, and they have acoustic guitars sitting out for anyone to pick up and play. They have diﬀerent beers every day, and all of them are great. My favorite is the Englishish IPA.”
Reviews on Yelp.com, where the brewery has a 5-star rating, have been positive. On opening day, a patron from Manassas posted, “There is something for everyone here. You can get a pint glass, a 4-ounce sampler or a growler to go. … I’ve got a feeling the BadWolf Pack will be growing.”
While beers from craft breweries can be found in grocery aisles across the nation these days, Meyers thinks on a smaller scale. “I plan on staying a local brand. In the next couple of years I plan on expanding to a 15- to 20-barrel system brewhouse and stay at that,” he said. “I think people get caught up in this idea that if you’re not growing you’re dying, but I want to ensure I can have full control of my product … and make sure my workers get a living wage and that I’m comfortable where I am for as long as I want.”
Paul Keily recently graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing. He lives in Fredericksburg where he substitute teaches and is searching for professional opportunities. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.