Asking a Northern Virginian (NoVAn? NoVite?) where the boundaries of the region lie is basically a test of one’s place and tenure of residence. A brown-sandled bro in Arlington might snobbishly delineate it as the Beltway, but then each successive neighborhood out probably looks one or two major North- or West-running roads further down I-66 as a similar barrier. Just outside the Beltway in Vienna or Fairfax? Route 50. Chantilly or Manassas? Route 234. Leesburg? The Greenway. And so on it goes with the pretense that as long as you make the nigh insufferable commute down that Hades-forsaken corridor to get to the Pentagon or DC proper for work you probably consider yourself a NoVA resident. Too often, though, our gaze lies Westward for this test rather than South when the truth is that folks in Occoquan, Woodbridge, Stafford, and even Fredericksburg are closer than some of the more far-flung auspices of Loudoun County or those crazy folks down in Fauquier. In reality, living just South of the Beltway means it’s actually closer for me to get to our brewery of interest than some of our regular haunts down I-66 or the Dulles Toll Road even if it doesn’t fit the classic definition of “NoVA.” Go figure.
Friday Night Flights: Ornery Beer Co. and Public House (Woodbridge, VA)
Beers Sampled: 11 over two visits
Food Sampled: Yes
What excited me about finally getting down to Ornery was what could be called an upset in naming them Best in Show at a festival hosted by another brew/gastropub in the area nearly two years ago. I have co-workers from Woodbrige who upon reading through VBR had nagged me to drop the I-66 approach to “NoVA” and come down their way. If the festival showings were the enticement, the first visit itself more than lived up to its own hype. There was simply too much to talk about though, and I wanted to have a repeat visit under my belt to accurately reflect how the young brewpub has evolved. The menus may be a bit updated, but the soul is certainly still there thankfully. As always, remember that these scores are based upon initial impressions only – it’s impossible to issue a full score based upon a taster so these are more advisory if you see them on the menu. Oh, and the food is included because it’s yummy.
First Flight, June 2016
Sommerweizen: Great color, almost like a Wit. Banana and almost a bit of lemon on nose. Mildly crisp, herbal finish. 8.2
Down Wit It: Speaking of Witbiers, my favorite style and Ornery lived up to it. Lots or coriander on the nose alongside a full body with smooth, almost orange peel notes. 8.5
Austrian Dreams: Quaint lagering aromas on the nose that will have you thinking “light” beer, but there’s a good sweetness to the malts as well. 7.9
Occoquan Oats: Caramel nose. Light rust color. Slightly hoppy, mild bitters. Very subtle, almost orange citrus. 6.8
Mandatory Mayhem: What’s this, a Dubbel on the menu? Sweet currants that eventually mellow out and pick up some tartness. 6.9
Nut’N’Honey Rye: Brown sugar and subtle toffee nose. Malty as all get out but the rye and honey undercut it just enough so as not to be cloying. Your typical nut brown ale…except not. 8.3
Second Flight, February 2018
The Bull: Based on the brewer’s name and that recent movie, Ferdinand. So yes, the heavy citrus nose is backed with florals (so you can smell the flowers, ha ha ha…) Mosaic earthniess really shines in the body. 7.4
Pacific Waves IPA: Heavy citrus throughout. Mild color and head suggests filtration, which might explain why the flavors are brief on the palate. Would not have guessed 81 IBUs at all. Could be a home run with some tweaking. 7.6
Dark Adweiss: Mild all around. Almost as if cloves were dominant flavor. 6.0
Dark Seduction: Hybrid Porter/Schwarzbier that resembles a smokier stout. Deep toasted malts like a Porter with a sweet aroma. Pair it with a cigar for good effect. 7.4
Lord Vader’s Imperial Stout: Almost a bit of brine up front, but also a dash of toffee. Mostly mocha in the body and a cacao finish that really packs a punch to the taste buds. Moody, complex, probably hates sand. 8.2
Way back on my first visit, it being a lazy Friday afternoon with the car in an hours-long state inspection line, I had enough time to gnosh down a particularly gnarly appetizer. The Chicken Fried Waffles lived up to the name, with great flavor in the crisp breading, a doughy interior, and a perfect complement in the beer-infused maple syrup. More than enough to share, though why would you? Sadly, this one appears to have left the menu but have no fear, its spirit lives on as an entree. Maybe go for the Pork Belly Burnt Ends these days instead, which have a nice sweet & sour glaze along with a crisp “bark.” The fat is well rendered and caramelized, with a high meat:fat ratio for pork belly.
For the main course, I stuck to brewpub staples and so should you. Take the Cubano. Thank El Presidente himself if you must, but the pulled pork is perfectly tender and soaks up all the flavors around it. Or more recently, the Ribeye French Dip had some spongy ciabatta to help sop up all the meat and au jus. The horseradish aioli was thankfully none too overpowering. The fries were Belgian style – a good combination of meaty potatoes and crispness, and the staff gets extra points for declaring (without my even tasting them) that the first batch I’d been delivered didn’t meet their own expectations. They promptly dropped off a second fresh plate of them unasked for. Both were good!
Ornery is set up to make you stay a while. The high-top tables encourage congregating and, depending on your status, mingling while the dart boards and deep couches allow cliques to carve out their own space. This is a topic we’ve dived into before, as sometimes you’re not just looking for a quick flight and then onwards. If you’re a Woodbridge resident or just passing through, Ornery has a convenient enough location to make it a proper destination. On both visits at least one beer was tapped out, but that just gives more reasons to head back and try them all!
Get Out and Try: Down Wit It, Nut’N’Honey Rye, Sommerweizen, Pacific Waves IPA, Lord Vader’s Imperial Stout