By: Tiffany Coe
All aboard beer lovers! In Vienna, Virginia, adjacent to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park, you’ll be happy to find the Caboose Brewing Company. This family-run, family-friendly establishment prides itself on good beer and thoughtful food, with something for everyone. Let’s check it out!
Friends and former tech executives Matt Greer and Tim McLaughlin opened Caboose Brewing in May 2015. As craft-beer lovers, they sought a neighborhood spot where they and the rest of the Vienna community could enjoy hanging out over a pint.
The town of Vienna, located 12 miles west of Washington, D.C., has experienced significant growth over the past few decades. Money magazine has even named it as one of the “Best Places to Live.” In light of its many charms, Vienna’s craft-beer scene was a bit bleak—so Greer and McLaughlin teamed up with brewer Chris Mallon, previously of Heavy Seas in Baltimore, and set out to remedy the situation.
The team quickly determined that the location of the new brewery would be close to Vienna’s main drag but tucked away on an industrial side street. The key asset of their chosen property was that it fronted the W&OD trail, which is a popular path for biking, running and walking. The lot also afforded space for an outdoor patio. McLaughlin notes, “The location off the W&OD was a no-brainer since beer and bikes go hand in hand. At Caboose, we strive to promote a health-conscious community and a fun, family-friendly environment.”
So began Caboose Brewing. Its name is an homage to the railway that ran along the route of the W&OD trail from 1912-1968 and, specifically, a nod to the iconic red caboose a stone’s throw from the brewery—part of Vienna’s Centennial Park. The very first rail line came to Vienna in 1859, and the first use of a railroad in war took place there during the Civil War.
Happily, Greer and McLaughlin’s brewery has been a success from the moment its doors opened. Caboose’s beers run the gamut from ales and IPAs, to lagers, saisons and pilsners. There are always unique, seasonal brews on tap alongside year-round customer favorites, including Crossroads Vienna Lager, Vanilla Hobo Stout, Local Motion and Wasser Pilsner. Other recent selections include: Stop Drop & Doppelbock, Chocolate Milk Stout, Crazy Train Tripel, Ghost Train Pepper Ale and Caboose Boxcar Brown Ale (a Gold Medal Winner at the 2016 Virginia Craft Brewer’s Cup).
Behind Caboose’s fourteen-seat bar, you can see the shiny tanks of the beer-making operation, which can brew 15 barrels at a time. Most of the output is destined for the brewery’s own draught lines, or kegs (Caboose distributes to approximately 40 local restaurants and bars in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.).
Also, hard at work behind the scenes is the Caboose kitchen staff. They adhere strongly to the locavore movement and focus on thoughtfully sourced, ingredient-driven menu items. The team works closely with providers in the region, including Yohanan Farms (Purcellville, VA), FireFly Farms (Accident, MD) and Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op (Lancaster County, PA) for pasture-raised proteins and seasonal produce.
Caboose’s menu includes elevated classics like chicken liver pâté with beer-candied bacon jam, and crispy pork belly with grits and an apple cider glaze. You’ll also find butcher boards with cheeses, meats and accompaniments and—on the weekend brunch menu—house-baked buttermilk biscuits with gravy, lavender bread and local sausages. Currently topping the list of customer favorites are: potato gnocchi and roasted chicken; oven-baked macaroni and cheese; crispy Brussels sprouts; and frites with house-made IPA mustard and catsup. Getting hungry yet? Dinner is served seven days a week, and multi-course, paired beer dinners are in the works for once per season.
Another important aspect of Greer and McLaughlin’s business is that they believe strongly in giving back to the community. Hence, Caboose periodically donates five percent of an evening’s food profits to a local charitable organization (primarily in the areas of environmental, humanitarian, and educational causes). Spent grain, left over from the brewing process, goes to local farms for use as animal feed. In its two years, Caboose has garnered great reviews, including a “Best Local Brewery” nod from Washingtonian magazine, and a strong customer base, particularly drawing from the biking community (it provides bike parking as well as tools that customers can use for repairs). A local “Trails and Ales” group regularly meets there (as does a yoga class!), and the brewery recently introduced its very own bike jersey that has been popular
In fact, the business is doing so well that a second location is planned for Merrifield’s Mosaic District (a community featuring “intelligent urban design” and a curated selection of retailers, restaurants and housing), opening in late 2017. Greer and McLaughlin will repurpose an existing 6,000 square-foot storage facility into a brewery with a capacity of 15,000 barrels/year. This new venue will feature significantly more space and seats in the tasting room and a larger beer garden/patio space—plus more room for creativity. “We’ll have more room to make cider, distill, roast and brew coffee,” notes Marketing Manager Courtney Beazell; “The Mosaic area is very up and coming and a brewery will be a great thing to add to the mix.”
In the meantime, if you find yourself riding down the W&OD, or otherwise passing through Vienna, stop in at the flagship Caboose location and raise a glass to this small, but mighty, brewery that’s creating a buzz. Greer and McLaughlin’s “little engine” has proven that it definitely can!
Caboose Brewing Company
520 Mill St NE