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October 15, 2015

Wort Hog Brewing plans launch in Warrenton

Photo/Google Earth
Wort Hog’s owners plan to buy the half-acre block bounded by East Lee, South Third, Beckham and South Second streets.
We all believe that Old Town Warrenton attracts an upscale clientele. We want to be in that location . . . . We want our business to reflect Old Town Warrenton.
— Matt Lutz, partner in Wort Hog Brewing
Wort Hog Brewing Co.
• What: New company that plans microbrewery and pub.

• Where: Proposed at 56 E. Lee St. and 50 S. Third St., Warrenton.

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

• Opening: Early summer 2016.

• Investment: Estimate up to $2.4 million.

• Website: (not live yet).
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Beer could flow from a craft brewery in downtown Warrenton by early next summer.

The owners of Wort Hog Brewing Co. plan to buy a small block of Old Town, with three buildings, between East Lee and Beckham streets, for a microbrewery and pub.

“We all believe that Old Town Warrenton attracts an upscale clientele,” explained Matt Lutz, one of three partners in Wort Hog. “We want to be in that location . . . . We want our business to reflect Old Town Warrenton.”

Mr. Lutz, 50, lives in western Prince William County and has children who have attended Highland School in Warrenton for five years.

The president of Arlington-based Defense Engineering Inc., he formed the brewing company in March with DEI Treasurer Louis Oliva, 47, and Cris Bezdek, 45.

A Great Falls resident, Mr. Bezdek has a master’s degree in environmental engineering and experience in the construction industry, along with information technology. He’ll oversee renovation of the buildings and construction of the Warrenton brewery. The other partners will focus on finance, management and marketing. They plan to hire a brewmaster and other staff members.

He and Mr. Oliva, who lives in Maryland, have ownership stakes in the IT company “on a glide path to do $100 million in (annual) revenue,” Mr. Lutz said.

“What we want to do is apply the business acumen we have to the service industry, in this case a brewery and pub,” he added. “It should be from the heart; it should be something you’re proud of.”

They plan to invest as much as $2.4 million in Warrenton.

The town council Tuesday night adopted a resolution of support for the start-up business and pledged to rebate as much as $50,000 in water and sewer tap fees and related costs. > Resolution at bottom of story.

“It probably will be less,” Town Manager Brannon Godfrey explained Wednesday. “But, we won’t know the actual costs until we determine the size of the water meter and the flow.”

The town’s investment would represent its “match” for a $600,000 loan that Wort Hog will seek from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Industrial Revitalization Fund.

The brewery’s tax revenue to the town quickly would surpass the utility rebate, Mr. Godfrey told the town council Tuesday night.

“It has important implications for Old Town,” Warrenton Economic Development Manager Heather Stinson said of the brewery. “First, it’s a destination in and of itself. It also expands the shopping district down to Lee Street.”

The brewing company owners credit Ms. Stinson for showing them the half-acre property, which the Harway family owns.

They first considered a three-acre site in New Baltimore, but highway access presented problems.

“She worked hard for us,” Mr. Lutz said of Ms. Stinson. “During our second meeting (in August) . . . she picked up on the difficulty with New Baltimore. She immediately connected with our desire to do something interesting and seized the opportunity.”

Ms. Stinson led them from Fauquier’s economic development office on Culpeper Street, where she works in a county/town partnership, around the corner to the Lee Street property. The buildings house the Fauquier Bridges program and a foreign car repair shop.

Providing health services and training for intellectually disabled adults, Fauquier Bridges plans to build a new center. The brewing company owners said they will honor the lease and start their business in other parts of the property.

They have a contract to buy the property after completing an evaluation. If all goes well, they could start construction of the brewery in the first quarter of 2016, according to Mr. Bezek. The garage, with bays that open on Beckham Street, would house that equipment.

Initially, Wort Hog beer would be available only in its pub. The owners plan food — perhaps from a separate business — to complement their beer. Eventually, they plan to wholesale their brew to other restaurants and to sell it in bottles and cans through a distributor.

But, everything depends on demand, they stressed. The brewery will have the capacity to produce as much as 7,000 gallons of beer per week.

Eventually, Wort Hog could occupy all 8,500 square feet of the three buildings and might have outdoor seating, the owners said.

They could begin brewing by June.

The trio has hired Warrenton architect James Hricko, who worked with Old Bust Head Brewing Co. at Vint Hill, to help evaluate the Warrenton buildings and to design modifications. Some of the proposals could go before the Warrenton Architectural Board as early as November.

“A lot of what we want to do is site-dependent,” Mr. Bezdek said. “The buildings have historical character that we want to revitalize.

“We also don’t want to be in an area where we’re competing” with another brewpub, a concept proposed several times but never executed in Warrenton.

Mr. Bezdek said the buildings’ availability, along with downtown “foot traffic” and Route 29 traffic, make it a good location.

The partners had discussed the concept for several years, but they got serious last December and chartered their limited liability corporation in March.

Unwilling to divulge much more in a conference call late Wednesday afternoon, the partners promised a unique business with some “proprietary” components.

They also pledged to work with businesses in the area, including neighboring Claire’s at The Depot, and to do special things that “support” military veterans and first responders.

Why name it Wort Hog?

“Cris and I were noodling around with some names,” Mr. Lutz explaind. “We started with ‘wort,’ which means unfermented beer.”

Some home brewing clubs also call themselves Wort Hogs.

“I just thought it was clever,” Mr. Lutz said.

They also conducted a contest for designers to create their logo.

So, Warrenton could prove popular among Wort Hogs for craft beer of the same name.

Wort Hog Brewery PDF by Fauquier Now

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