We Went There: Old 690 Brewing Co. (Hillsboro, VA)

Posted by  Alex Hannagan   in  Breweries     3 years ago     1812 Views     Comments Off on We Went There: Old 690 Brewing Co. (Hillsboro, VA)  

What does a dreary Saturday + VBR crew reunion + a set of New Beer Resolutions equal?  An excuse to visit some new breweries!  After spending some quality time with the Ashburn scene the last few months, we decided to trek out to the Leesburg/Purcellville area for a couple of stops.  Given the presence of a libertarian/anarchist in our midst, our first stop was, of course, to a farm brewery which had to challenge local zoning regulations just to stay in business.  That’s right, when Old 690 opened in August 2014, they were slapped with a citation which put them in limbo up until Loudoun passed new regulations allowing farm breweries to operate much like a farm winery.  As a result, January 21, 2015, the day the new regulations were passed, is celebrated with much fanfare at Old 690.  That isn’t the only thing worth celebrating there!

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We Went There:  Old 690 Brewing Company, Hillsboro, VA – @Old690
Owners:  Darren Gryniuk and Mark Powell
Brewmaster:  Bob Lundberg
First Opened:  Founded in 2013 and first opened Summer 2014, but officially reopened January 21, 2015

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Old 690 really digs the new Loudoun farm brewing regulations

Atmosphere:  Set in a field amidst the winding gravel roads of Hillsboro, Old 690 looks like it should be a hitching station on the road to Charles Town.  Being an actual farm (which by regulation is at least 10 acres), it’s rustic and sprawling on the outside but nonetheless warm and inviting on the interior.  The setup does lend itself to all manner of events, and on the drizzly day we visited a dog show/competition was going on in the field.  It’s somewhat groovy to be sipping on a Coconut Brown Ale while a bunch of Fidos are engaged in a frisbee catching competition.  There were also quite a few families popping in and out, and whether or not they were related to the dog show it was refreshing to have that mix (or at the very least, make it a little less depressing that we’re pounding a massive flight of beer at 12pm).

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Brewer’s Direction:  There’s a lot of experimentation and variation on the tasting menu.  It’s not quite as focused, to be sure, but with fresh hops on hand their stated mission is to try to bring more seasonal brews to their taps.  Perhaps owing to location, the ABVs are (thankfully) more in the 5-6% range for most of the beers which lets you have at the extensive draught list.

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Beer #1:  Old 690 Blonde Ale
Tasting Notes:  Tart and acidic.  Leading off with a Belgian is quite bold (even if the ABV for this one isn’t), but this is about as generous I’ll get with this style.
Early Score:  5.0

Beer #2:  Angry Neighbor Pale Ale
Tasting Notes:  Very piney with a late hop bite.  I’m not sure this beer would really make me angry if you left a sixer on my door step.
Early Score:  6.3

Beer #3:  21 Session IPA
Tasting Notes:  Very mild but flavorful thanks to some mellow malts.
Early Score:  7.0

Beer #4:  Bitter Neighbor IPA
Tasting Notes:  Don’t let the listed IBUs or the name fool you.  Some excellent floral notes keep it balanced – even if you’ll lose yours if you put one or two of these back too quickly.  A solid foundation beer for Old 690.
Early Score:  8.2

Beer #5:  Pothole Porter
Tasting Notes:  Very bold espresso notes can be overwhelming.  They mentioned in their beer descriptions having added extra chocolate malts here and in their Browns, but this one wasn’t quite as successful as those.
Early Score:  5.0
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 Clockwise from top left for beers 1-8, beers 9-11 on the right

Beer #6:  Stoner Point Smoked Beer
Tasting Notes:  Like a salt-cured kielbasa.  Hamilton covered this one pretty thoroughly in his review.  I think it has a great foundation, because hey, when a beer reminds you of meat, and there are some dudes grilling meat just outside, you’ll be thinking love, marriage, and a baby carriage before too long.
Early Score:  6.5

Beer #7:  Old 690 Peach Wheat
Tasting Notes:  Really fruity.  It doesn’t quite get into She-wolf territory, but this kind of beer just really isn’t my thing.
Early Score:  4.0

Beer #8:  Barn Find Brown Ale
Tasting Notes:  A lot of roasted elements.
Early Score:  6.4

Beer #9:  Loco Coco Coconut Brown Ale
Tasting Notes:  Did you know that Jimmy Buffett is a song stealing hack?  Well if you didn’t, this beer will surely hoist you up onto the tails of its magic carpet and float you on down to Pina Coladaburg (NSFW).  Toasted coconut, oh my!
Early Score:  6.0

Beer #10:  Vanilla Porter
Tasting Notes:  Almost a mating of hot chocolate and Bacardi Vanilla.  And just like that would on a day of swirling Polar Vortex winds, this beer goes down real nice and smooth.
Early Score:  8.0 

Beer #11:  Happy Neighbor Tripel
Tasting Notes:  Making this the last beer in the flight is almost cruel.  It’s hard to follow the heavy flavors of the Browns and Porters with a Belgian, but the profile is still solid enough to make it stand out from their earlier Blonde Ale.  If you do the full flight, pair those two together to really see the difference in the Belgian styles.
Early Score:  6.2 

Overall Impression:  I’d have loved to be able to hang out at Old 690 for more than the hour(ish) we spent there. A few light snacks and the occasional food truck are good incentive, and the feelings of hearth and home remind one almost of a man cave – TVs, dim lights, warm wood, and of course, beer.  These guys have been at it for a little over two years now (and at full throttle just in the last few months), so what’s great is that 9 of their 11 beers on the day we visited were worth a second look.  Since then they’ve rolled out a Gose, DIPA, Oatmeal Stout, and Raspberry Wheat, so you can tell they’re not done experimenting quite yet.
Typically, if you find yourself up past Purcellville on the Charles Town Pike (Route 9, that is), you’re there for the wine.  As the name proudly suggests, the folks at Old 690 (Route 690/Hillsboro Rd., that is) put a finger in the air and caugh a change in the breeze.  They’re not the only ones planting roots – or rather, hops and barley – in the rolling countryside.  Locally sourced beer is going to become a big deal, and Old 690 has a good head start.  Sure it’s out of the way, but heck so are 75% of VA breweries at this point.  If you’re a fan of West Coast ales and flavor infusions, definitely take the time to stop off in Hillsboro rather than at Hillsborough, and save the wineries for another trip.

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