Written by Renee Sklarew, Mathina Calliope and Nevin Martell
Across the Northern Virginia region, local cyclists are always looking for the next best pit stop. We caught up with Chris Burns, owner of Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn (with a second location in Middleburg), about the importance of the location when it comes to regional cycling and nearby watering holes. Highlights from our conversation below.
When you were planning to open Old Ox, did you choose to be near the W&OD Trail?
We knew we wanted to be in Ashburn and on the W&OD Trail, because we live here, and we wanted to work here. We recognized the trail could be an important part of the business model, and the location has been a really important part of our tasting room and culture since we opened our doors.
Are there other breweries on the Trail besides Old Ox?
What types of activities or programming do you offer people riding bikes that stop at Old Ox?
We are working toward hosting a cycling club that would meet weekly, and we host a lot of cycling events. We occasionally have a mobile bike tuneup operation at the brewery to make it easy to have work done on your bike when you stop here. We work with cycling clubs like Green Lizard bike shop in Herndon, and with FEXY, a triathlon club. For FEXY members, we do an indoor cycling event at the brewery, where we have upward of 60 riders on their personal training devices. When you get that many triathletes with high-performance bikes, there’s more investment in cycling equipment than in our brewing tanks.
We noticed you have food trucks parked outside the bar.
We have food trucks every day we’re open. Food is an important part of the experience, and we lean on these fantastic food trucks. Look out for Killer Tomato, a wood-fired pizza truck; Saffron Gourmet, which is Mediterranean fare; and Smiling Tummy Thai, which is amazing. We always have something new; all types of cuisines, from barbecue to Mediterranean, to pizza, to Greek, just about everything. We list the schedule on our website.
What percentage of your customers come from users of the W&OD Trail?
It’s seasonal, but April through October is ‘high spandex season’ at the brewery. On a busy nice-weather Saturday, about 40% of our traffic is coming from the trail. But for some Order of the Ox members, they’ll be in no matter the weather.
What’s your favorite thing about being adjacent to the trail?
We have some really nice frontage, so we’re always getting exposure to new customers using the trail for the first time whether they’re running or walking. It’s an amazing way to reach new customers. We’ve talked about bikers, but we also have a very active run club called Trottin’ Oxen with over 700 runners.
Do you have any new plans on the horizon?
We’re always releasing new beers, because innovation is central to the craft beer industry. We are ramping up some favorite releases, like our I Am Brut IPA and FestivALE, our cherry saison. It’s the official beer of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. We sell it at the Tidal Basin food and beer tent, and we’re featured at the Smithsonian museums. You haven’t lived until you drink your own beer at the National Air and Space Museum.