Good news beer enthusiasts: Craft beer is gaining speed in the DC area! As new restaurants continue to sprinkle the DMV, it’s no surprise the beverage industry follows suit. Breweries and nanobreweries are popping up with an increasing popularity, elbowing their way into the industry with hand-crafted beer and a loyal following.
One of these nano-breweries is Lake Anne Brew House, located in Reston’s Lake Anne Village Center. This brew house and community tap room is owned by husband and wife team Jason and Melissa Romano. It’s one of the few female-owned brew houses in Virginia.
You own Lake Anne Brew House with your husband Jason. What made you both decide to start this business together?
MR: Jason and I are long time Reston residents and love the Live-Work-Play philosophy upon which Reston was founded. We have lived and played here for many years and always knew that we needed to add “work” to complete our trifecta. Owning a business in Lake Anne Plaza has always been a dream.
Jason is a long-time home brewer (20+ years) and more recently became a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, which allowed him to really hone his brewing skills. I’m an Architect but have spent the last decade focusing on my family as a stay-at-home mother. Knowing that we wanted to own a community-focused business at Lake Anne made the decision to open a small brewery easy. I would design and build the space and run the tap room, Jason would brew the beer.
Some would call it crazy and others, like myself, envy the fact that you can work with your husband. What’s it like working with your spouse?
MR: Jason and I make a great team. Our skill sets are vastly different, but both necessary for the running of a brewery. I love to interact with our customers and handle the tap room and administrative side of the business, while Jason brews the beer and focuses on production in the back of house. Our tap room schedule of Thursday-Sunday also allows Jason to do his brewing on Monday-Wednesday, which means that we still each have time at home with our three boys (ages 7, 10, and 12).
Brew houses are a male-dominated industry, as you know. How does it feel to be one of the few female-owned brew houses in our area?
MR: We find that many women frequent our little brewery, and we are looking forward to starting our She’s Crafty women in beer club later this fall. Beer has historically been a stereo typically male beverage, but there are many women who enjoy craft beer, who are trained as Cicerone, and who brew and/or operate breweries across the country. I am very proud to own Lake Anne Brew House and believe that as owners, we have an obligation to serve our community and to provide the best service and product that we can.
Lake Anne Brew House is a nano-brewery. From my understanding, nano-breweries usually don’t produce more than one batch at a time and only distribute their beer to a limited area. What made you and Jason decide to go this route?
MR: Jason and I knew that we wanted to be able to handle this business entirely on our own. We brew using a two barrel system (BBL), which means that we brew approximately 65 gallons of craft beer (small batch, hand-crafted) at a time. We have six fermenting tanks, allowing us to produce six different recipes at a time; one BBL “batch” for each tank. Our service lines allow us to tap up to 12 varieties at a time but we are currently serving, on average, six to eight beers, plus custom sodas and kombucha in our 12 taps. We do NOT distribute, nor do we have a desire to increase our production to the level of distribution. Our beer is only available in our tap room, which is part of what makes our brewery unique.
Tell us about your hand-crafted beers and what sets them apart.
MR: As a certified beer judge, Jason is skilled at identifying the characteristics of each beer that define the style. Our beers are brewed traditionally with an approachable style that appeals to many. With great variety and a great line-up of flagship styles, we believe we will always have something for everyone’s taste. We have also trained all of our servers through the Cicerone certified server program, so they are incredibly knowledgeable about beer styles, flavor profiles, and brewing specifics. With this knowledge, they can easily assist our customers to find a beer that matches their tastes and can help to educate our customers on the different style standards.
What should customers expect when they visit Lake Anne Brew House?
MR: Our tap room is located in historic Lake Anne Village Center with beautiful lake views and a comfortable atmosphere. We have outdoor deck seating directly on the lake and three indoor spaces for comfortable table or lounge seating, decorated in a retro, mid-century modern style. We are vastly different from the traditional industrial park brewery. Customers can enjoy freshly poured pints or five ounce samples served in a tasting flight.
Since our interview, Lake Anne Brew House has garnered several awards. They won two medals at the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild Awards—a silver for their Fairfax English Pale Ale and a bronze for their Reston Red.
INTERVIEW BY DANIELLE LARKINS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEX MANGIONE AND CHARLOTTE GEARY