A blazing sunset sky above Lost Rhino's beer fermentation tank.

The Lost Rhino Brewing Co. (Ashburn) is a great place for a tasting. Photo courtesy of Lost Rhino.

Map of Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia

Even self-proclaimed beer snobs will find something to rave about in Northern Virginia’s local beer scene. In recent years, a handful of new brewers have come onto the radar to compete with the more established breweries. The result is a good selection of locally made beer spread out across much of Northern Virginia.

The English-style gastro brewpub, Mad Fox Brewing Company (444 W. Broad St., Falls Church, 703/942-6840, Mon.-Wed. 11am-11pm, Thurs.-Sat. 11am-midnight, Sun. 10am-11pm) was a welcome addition to the Falls Church restaurant scene when it opened. The 63-foot bar is a great place to meet with friends and sample the beers on tap. They normally offer a selection of 7-10 different kinds of house beers and a varying array of seasonal brews, cask-conditioned proper red ales, and English-, Belgian-, and German-style beers.

What do you get when you cross former employees of the Dominion Brewery with great beer know-how and an entrepreneurial spirit? Answer: A Lost Rhino. The Lost Rhino Brewing Company (21730 Red Rum Dr., #142, Ashburn, 571/291-2083, Tues. 4pm-9pm, Wed.-Sat. noon-9pm, Sun. noon-5pm) is a relative newcomer to the local brew scene, but it is going full-force. They offer a fantastic selection of artfully crafted beers that just plain taste great. The brewery itself is tucked away in a warehouse in Ashburn, but it’s a fun place for a tasting and draws quite a crowd on the weekends. Try their Rhinoel, Belgian-style Dubbel, or Face Plant IPA.

The Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge (50 Catoctin Circle, Leesburg, 703/777-2169, Mon.-Sat. 11:30am-1am, Sun. 11am-1am, $9-20) is a 10-barrel brew house in Leesburg. They brew their beer on-site (you can smell the hops when you walk in the door) and have approximately six to eight craft beers on tap (or cask) at a time, including their standard Catoctin Kolsch and 50 Cat IPA. Other selections include an English-style robust Porter, the Point of Rocks Pale Ale, and the Head Knocker (an English-style golden strong ale).

Sweetwater Tavern (3066 Gatehouse Plaza, Merrifield, 703/645-8100, Sun.-Thurs. 11am- 11pm, Fri.-Sat. 11am-midnight) is part of the Great American Restaurants chain, a wildly successful local chain of trendy restaurants in Northern Virginia. Sweetwater Tavern is their brewery restaurant where they brew their own beer and offer many wonderful selections on tap. A fun atmosphere, lively crowd, and tasty selections are standard at Sweetwater. They rotate their beers regularly, but some favorites are the Flying Armadillo Porter, the Jackalope Canyon Ale, and for something lighter, the Naked River Light. They also have locations in Sterling and Centreville.

The almost local brewery, Dogfish Head has two locations in Northern Virginia for their Dogfish Head Alehouse (6220 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, 703/534-3342, Mon.-Thurs. 11:30am-11pm, Fri.-Sat. 11:30am-midnight, Sun. 11:30am-10pm; 13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy., Fairfax, 703/961-1140, Mon.-Wed. 11:30am-11pm, Thurs.-Sat. 11:30am-midnight, Sun. 10:30am-10pm). The brewery began in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and was the state’s first brewpub. Its popularity quickly spread, and they now have two local restaurants and 20 styles of beer. The draft choices change frequently, but a few standard favorites include the 60 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, and the Raison D’Etre.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Virginia & Maryland.