As is most often the case, the paths that brought co-founders Drew Wiles, Jon Humerick and Mike Arms together were varied. John managed company-wide operations at a home healthcare company. Mike went from public accounting to executive at an IT Company. Drew was a genetic medicine researcher whose family founded Paradise Springs Winery in Clifton, VA – the first farm winery in Fairfax County. Aside from the three owners, another noteworthy team member, lead brewer Bridgette Turner had also crossed paths with the founders.
Fate seems to have played a role in bringing three of them under the same roof when Bridgette, John, and Drew all ended up working at Sten Sellier’s Beltway Brewing, a mainly contract brewer in Sterling, VA. Bridgette worked in the tasting room and volunteered back in the brewery. Jon became director of operations, and Drew became the quality assurance/quality control manager and set up Beltway’s brewery lab. John and Drew became very good friends while working under Sten, with Drew overseeing production and John overseeing financials.
After years of brewing beers for others, the idea of doing it themselves began to ferment. After several years of planning their new business, they planned the new construction to allow for future expansion. In December of 2016 they broke ground on their own brewery in Sterling VA.
Bridgette Turner, after starting as a bartender, took the next step, as mentioned, by working at Beltway Brewing. After 6 months, with Sten’s support, Bridgette left for the Brewlab Training and Analysis Services in Sunderland, England, where for 12 weeks she trained to be a brewer. She was the only woman student and finished first in her class. After returning, Bridgette worked full-time in the Beltway brewery for a couple of years before taking a job in Florida as a brewer at Tampa Bay Brewing Company before Wiles and Humerick reached out to her for their lead brewer in the new venture.
The new vast sprawling facility that opened on June 17, 2017, encompassed 15,766 square feet that included a 10K production area and a 5K tasting room, that made it the largest in Loudon County. The production area initially sported a 20-barrel three-vessel brew house and outfitted with four 40-barrel fermentation tanks and one 40-barrel brite tank bought from Craftwerk Brewing Systems out of Detroit, Michigan. After the first year a 60 barrel unitank and two 80 barrel unitanks were also installed.
Solace opened Solace Outpost in the former Mad Fox Brewing Co. space on June 17, 2020 in collaboration with partners that included prolific D.C. restaurateurs Ian and Eric Hilton, as well as Steve Ryan, co-founder of Blackfinn Ameripub, which has multiple locations in D.C. and Virginia.
Gone from the Mad Fox era, was the original bar and backbar, each constructed from dark wood and evocative of an upscale, if staid, pub, like much of the previous decor. In their place is something sleek, modern, and industrial: clean lines, a mix of reclaimed wood and stainless steel, exposed iron, lightbulbs dangling from faux wood beams. The dining room has been converted into a game room with pop-a-shots and arcade consoles. Green walls are still green, but neon green rather than forest green. The two cask systems, laboriously installed by former owner BIill Madden and Mad Fox alumnus Charlie Buettner, were removed. Most of the beer produced at the Outpost is brewed on the old Mad Fox system, which includes a 15-barrel brewhouse, six 30-barrel fermenters, and a 30-barrel brite tank, a significant infrastructure.
Hired to brew the Outpost’s beer was Sam Puffenbarger. A former program director for a non-profit environmental association, who had five years of professional brewing experience spread across four very different breweries. First came Atlas Brew Works, where Puffenbarger broke into the industry. From there, Puffenbarger headed to DC Brau, where he learned how to run a cellar effectively and to brew on a scale five times larger, at least in terms of total output. Of course, that scale would be dwarfed by his next destination, Pennsylvania’s Victory Brewing, which churns out a monstrous 190,000 barrels annually. The brewer’s lager education came over the previous two years, after he had joined Port City where he soaked up Head Brewer Jonathan Reeves’ wealth of knowledge on lagering techniques and lager history.
Solace Brewing again in collaboration with the Hilton Brothers, opened its new Navy Yard location, bringing to D.C. a scenic spot to sample its beloved IPAs, and half-smokes from a respected Georgetown butcher. The soaring, industrial-style addition to the Dock 79 waterfront development sports front-row views of the newly completed Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge (71 Potomac Ave SE). The sun-drenched taproom, also dubbed Solace Outpost, started pouring its star product on January 21, 2022. There’s no brewing going on at D.C.’s Solace Outpost. To give its Virginia beer fans a reason to drive to D.C., Solace is making one-off beers that are exclusive to the Navy Yard location.
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