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January 23, 2017

Wort Hog Brewing draws big grand opening crowd

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
The owners invested about $2.5 million to open Wort Hog Brewing Co. in downtown Warrenton.
Brewmaster Jeremy Hunt speaks just before the ribbon cutting Saturday morning.
As a millennial, I’m glad there’s a local place where I can hang out with my friends.
— Stanley Heaney Jr., Remington resident
Wort Hog Brewing Co.
• What: Microbrewery and pub.

• Where: 41 Beckham St., 56 E. Lee St. and 50 S. Third St., Warrenton.

• Owners: Matt Lutz of Gainesville, Cris Bezdek of Great Falls and Louis Oliva of Ijamsville, Md.

• Brewmaster: Jeremy Hunt

• Opening: Saturday, Jan. 21

• Investment: About $2.5 million.

• Phone: 540-300-2739

• Website: worthogbreweryLLC.com
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Nursing a cold beer, the Fauquier native still found it hard to believe that Old Town Warrenton had landed a brewery.

“I never thought this could happen,” said Jon Grove, perched on a barstool beside his wife, Caren, during Saturday’s grand opening of Wort Hog Brewing Co. in a former garage between East Lee and Beckham streets. “You had to go to Old Bust Head” at Vint Hill “to have a brewery experience.”

An IT contractor and Warrenton resident, Mr. Grove, 34, likes the brewery’s convenience, the way the owners transformed the old building and especially the “Game Day Session IPA” at $5.46 a pint.

“I’m very, very pleased,” he said.

Wort Hog held a grand opening ceremony Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The owners and local officials, including Warrenton Mayor Powell Duggan and Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District), made brief remarks.

Owner Cris Bezdek estimated that 1,600 people visited Wort Hog from 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The brewery that day sold 1,800 pints of beer, Brewmaster Jeremy Hunt estimated.

Providing food for patrons, Main Street’s Black Bear Bistro served about 374 items by night’s end, restaurant General Manager Tim Smith said.

Wort Hog will expand into the rest of its property later this year when Bridges, a center for adults with developmental disabilities, moves to its new building in Culpeper.

Exhausted by night’s end, Mr. Bezdek said Saturday went well.

“You never know what to expect with an opening,” said Mr. Bezdek, whose partners include Matt Lutz and Louis Oliva. “But, nothing threw us for a zinger.”

The three men have worked together in Arlington-based Defense Engineering Inc.

“Better than expected,” Mr. Hunt said of Saturday’s turnout. “This is madness. Absolute chaos. I love it.”

The owners have invested about $2.5 million to renovate and equip the building. They spent $1 million of that total to buy the small block near the county courthouse and St. James’ Episcopal Church.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Warrenton to announce a low-interest state loan of $600,000 for the project. The town also provided about $79,500 of incentives.

From the moment the brewery opened Saturday, just after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a steady stream of customers filled the place, which can accommodate 288 people, with 267 seats.

“Tremendous place,” said Dave Smith, 63, a retired Fairfax County government employee who lives in Amissville. “I think it’s a great addition to the town. It’s going to be popular. Parking could be an issue. We’ll see how that works out.”

Mr. Smith ordered the IPA.

“Very good beer,” he said. “Very smooth.”

“This place is awesome,” said Charles Smith, a 39-year-old Frederick County resident and mental health manager who accompanied his Uncle Dave to the brewery. “The staff is friendly. It’s a beautiful building.”

Warrenton architect Jim Hricko designed the renovations, which transformed the low-slung concrete block structure into a modern, two-story building with lots of glass.

“I think it’s a good start,” said Ryan Stiglic, 35, a federal government worker who lives near New Baltimore and had just finished a 16-ounce “Whoopin’ Sticke Altbier.”

The menu describes that beer as a “deep amber ale that has a smooth, malt flavor and a bracing, hoppy backbone.”

“I’d like to see more exotic beers, more bitter IPAs,” Mr. Stiglic said.

The brewery Saturday offered four beers. But, the menu will expand to eight or 10 choices in about two weeks, Brewmaster Hunt said.

While Matt Christianson of Warrenton liked all of the beers he sampled, the “Rye Not? Helles” ranks as his favorite.

“I think it’s pretty neat, too, they chose this place and revitalized this area,” said the 40-year-old federal government worker.

His 12-year-old son Ethan agrees.

“Way more modern than anything in Warrenton,” Ethan said approvingly of the building, as he devoured a sub.

Tom Botlik of Springfield learned about Wort Hog’s grand opening on Facebook.

“I thought, ‘It’s Saturday; it’s kind of a gray day; there’s a nice quilt shop in Warrenton,’ ” said Mr. Botlik, 58, who works for an IT contractor. “My wife likes that.”

He tried the four-beer sampler.

“They have a good assortment,” Mr. Botlik said. “It covers the spectrum. Some people like hoppy beer. I want something you can drink easily. I don’t want something that stabs you in the heart.”

A Fauquier native, Alex Ritchie, 26, called the brewery a “home run.”

With the growth Fauquier and the town have experienced in recent years, “I’m not shocked” that Old Town got a brewery, said Mr. Ritchie, a Warrenton resident and network administrator for the Republican National Committee in Washington. “It's not a matter of if it happens. It was when.”

Wort Hog gives young people the kind of place to socialize that otherwise would require them to drive to Northern Virginia or Washington to find, Stanley Heaney Jr. of Remington said.

“As a millennial, I’m glad there’s a local place where I can hang out with my friends,” said Mr. Heaney, 25, a Century 21 Realtor.
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Stacie Griffin · January 24, 2017 at 3:11 pm
So happy that the community is supporting our local businesses! Wonderful!
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