It’s been two-and-a-half years since Aslin Beer Company had a tasting room.
Before the craft beer boom, beer buying wasn’t personal. Corona and Miller Lite and Bud Ice were brands with a major presence, but also remained a faceless entity. And it didn’t matter.
In today’s world, where there are 200 breweries in Virginia alone, buying beer is not just about grabbing a six-pack at 7-Eleven. It’s driving down a dirt road in Purcellville to hang out in a rustic tap room, sipping a flight of experimental sours or juicy IPAs and bringing a crowler home. It’s about the experience as much as the actual beer.
Aslin somehow managed to gain followers—online followers, too, with 53,000 Instagrammers swooning over pictures of Aslin’s edgy, arty, custom labels by local designer Mike Van Hall—by only hawking a constantly updated selection of to-go cans out of the Herndon production facility.
“We’re lucky,” says co-owner Andrew Kelley. “We have such a unique following that we were able to sell direct to consumers and not lose too much margin.”
Aslin doesn’t supply to retail shops and just about 5% of their production gets kegged for area restaurants. The Washington Post’s beer reporter Fritz Hahn wrote, “We named Aslin ‘The Best Local Brewery You Probably Haven’t Heard Of,’ due to how hard it was to actually try the beer.”
Now, Aslin will open two tasting rooms.
First is the brand new outpost in Alexandria’s West End. Kelley calls the aesthetic Scandinavian industrial: clean lines and white wood with black, white and gray accents. Think long, community-style white oak tables, a custom white oak bar and white subway tile behind the 24 taps. Though the floors are concrete, it’s a departure from the warehouse vibe most often associated with breweries in Northern Virginia.
Aslin refuses to put a franchise tag on any of its beers. Instead, select brews appear on a rotating basis, and many are new. The six-member, beer-making crew cranks out about 50 different recipes each year.
Kelley says Aslin is known for “identifying what the new trends are going be or creating the trend itself.” And if that’s true, the tap lineup means what we’re drinking this summer is New England-style IPAs—Kelley says Aslin was the first brewery south of Pennsylvania to brew this hazy version back in 2015—fruit dessert-inspired sours, pastry-style stouts and alcoholic seltzers.
From a truck out back, the debut menu includes deviled eggs with bacon jam and fried oysters; Korean-style fried chicken sandwiches; Italian pulled porks (an homage to Philadelphia’s iconic Dinic’s); and fried burrata with sourdough.
Aslin also plans to reopen the tasting room in Herndon. Occupancy was always small there (trouble with neighbors caused its initial closing), but this time they’re adding a roof deck.
Kelley says Aslin could have seen double or triple the growth in the last two-plus years if the brewery kept open its tasting room. And while the cans are pretty, and Instagram hearts are nice, Kelley credits time-tasted word of mouth with Aslin’s success. It’s beer lovers “trusting that their friends like what we sell” and they’ll like it, too. // 847 S. Pickett St., Alexandria; 257 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon; aslinbeer.com
This post originally appeared in our August 2019 issue. For more food news, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.