By Kathy Johnson
Wild Wolf Brewery and Home Brew Shop in Nellysford sold their first bottles of beer in early November. “We have been blown away by the response to our beer!” said brewery owner Mary Wolf. “Three weeks after we started filling growlers, we had to order a new brewing system in order to triple our capacity.”
Their new shop, open since late summer, stocks ingredients and equipment to make beer, wine and soda. “You can come in and buy a starter kit to start making beer or wine. You can buy a box that already has high quality premium wine juice in it along with the other things that you need to add to make your own wine and bottle it. You can get that same kit and buy grains and extract and go home and make your own beer,” explained Wolf.
Start up costs to make a little beer for friends—a basic kit—come to about $75. “If someone buys that and already has a large kettle to cook on the kitchen stove or they have an outdoor cooker of some sort, they’re good to go,” said Wolf. “Then all they have to do is buy the ingredients. I would say that for between $100 and $125 you would have all you need to make beer.”
The output from this set-up would be about five gallons of beer each time. Ingredients for another batch cost about $20. Allowing for the brewing time, the fermenting, the bottling and the waiting, the beer is ready in four to six weeks.
Wild Wolf Brewery came about because her son Danny went to brewing school, Wolf said. “Danny has been brewing about six years. We sent him to brewing school—it was two months in Chicago and then a month in Munich. He came back with the intention of getting a job as a brewer, but when he came back is when everything in the economy went kaput.”
Danny worked at some different things. A year later Wolf joined him to take another class in Chicago called ‘Own Your Own Brewery.’ “I sat there all day listening to all these very successful people talk about their own breweries and I just fell in love with the beer industry and the camaraderie that’s there,” Wolf said. “And by the end I said to Danny, ‘Would you like to have a job?’ And he said, ‘Well, you know I do,’ and I said, ‘No, working for me?’” Wolf laughed effervescently as she recounted the moment.
Wolf came home to Nellysford and her husband asked how the class went. She replied, “It was great; I’m going back to work!” She had been retired for 10 years from her job as a vice president at America Online (AOL) in product marketing. Wolf said she is ‘having a ball’ with the Wild Wolf Brewery. “It’s just right back to where I started. I’m learning every day. I’ve spent the last year just immersing myself in the brewing industry and learning everything I can. It’s awesome.”
After they decided to start brewing, they added the home brew shop to distinguish themselves from other local breweries. “Most people who love beer are fascinated by home brew—they are already home brewers, or they’re thinking about it. It’s a great tie-in,” said Wolf.
The plans for a full brewery with a place to sit and enjoy the beer and some food are still a year or two off. Wolf is looking for a location on Route 151. “The shop will move with us,” said Wolf. “We’ll have a restaurant and a much larger brewery.” In Virginia, if you want to sell beer by the pint, you must have food and it can’t just be snacks or appetizers. For now, Wild Wolf can offer samples of their brews and sell growlers (54 ounces), but no pints.
For more information about Wild Wolf, visit them in Nellysford at 2773A Rockfish Valley Highway or www.wildwolfbeer.com.