Douglas “Travis” Travers had been home brewing for quite some time when he and his wife, Chitra Sivanandam, launched The Craft of Brewing in March 2018.
“When friends came over to help me brew, it was always thrilling to see them get excited as well,” said Travers, CEO of The Craft of Brewing, a to-go and on-premise small brewery in Ashburn, Virginia. “I enjoyed getting others enthusiastic about brewing. To witness them catch the bug, so to speak, was almost as fun as the hobby itself.”
Sivanandam, who received a WashingtonExec Pinnacle Award as AI Industry Exec of the Year for her work as vice president of analytics and simulation at Science Applications International Corp., handles behind-the-scenes work for TCOB while Travers oversees day-to-day operations.
TCOB began its phased reopening May 29 in alignment with Virginia’s state reopening plan and is working to rebuild business while offering curbside pickup, delivery and on-site options with social distancing in mind.
It’s unique among local beer operations. In addition to its to-go beers, TCOB also offers all-grain brew-on-premise, a full brewery, a taproom and a billiards/game room. They also sell brewing supplies for those who want to brew their beer at home.
“We have 138 different beers that are product-approved by the [Alcoholic Beverage Control board],” Travers said. “So our specialty is the amazing variety of styles of beer from all over the world. We thrive on bringing different styles of beer to many people.”
The beer selection changes often.
TCOB currently has its back patio area opened up for tasting and is operating under Virginia’s social distancing requirements, but on-premise brewing is currently limited to no more than 10 people at a time in the area. Customers can schedule a brewing session online, over the phone or on location. They select from between 20-liter and 50-liter brewing options and then either a recipe from TCOB’s own recipe book, send in their own recipe or modify one of TCOB’s recipes to create their own unique beer.
“We can even create the recipe with the customer when they come in,” Travers added.
Once the recipe is selected, an employee will weigh the grains for the customer, who will mill it themselves. Next comes programming the brew kettle and mashing, boiling and adding hops and adjuncts as needed.
“The process takes around 4 hours,” Travers said. “After the wort — beer that is without alcohol — has fermented (turned into beer), the customer then plans on coming in to bottle their beer to take home and enjoy.”
For those who always wanted to make their own beer without investing in equipment or navigating the process on their own, TCOB offers a unique experience.
“We are always trying our best to give our guests an experience that they cannot get anywhere else,” Travers said. “From coming in to brew their own beer, to trying beer styles you will never see at any other craft breweries, we cater to the craft of brewing.”
Employees joke that Travers actually lives at the brewery as he spends 70 to 80 hours a week there. But the work is a passion, and one that for Travers is completely worth it when he sees the reactions others have to both tasting a TCOB beer they enjoy, as well as when they have the satisfaction of completing their own brews. Travers said the excitement he sees in the eyes of new brewers when they see their final product is the most rewarding aspect of the business.
“But I will have to admit it is gratifying when people compliment us on our beer as well,” he added. “It makes all the hard work worth it.”
Just getting the brewery business started has had its own hurdles. From a learning curve on how to make all-grain beer, to navigating federal, state and local regulations, TCOB’s owners are familiar with the need for perseverance.
“The most important thing learned is to keep trying even when the odds and others are doing their best to work against you,” Travers said.
The most challenging aspect of the business has been getting the word out. On-premise signage is restricted, and many people who later become customers drove by the brewery countless times before they even realized it was there, Travers said.
TCOB has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help offset the financial impact of the pandemic and related restrictions. In an appeal, Sivanandam said any funds received will go toward operating the business, taking care of staff and generating new lines of business, such as canning and e-commerce.
“While we hope to get back to normal operations over the upcoming months, the impact to the business since March and going forward has been tremendous,” reads an appeal on the brewery’s website. “We appreciate any contributions as we manage through this critical time.”
For the most up-to-date information on business hours and regulations, visit www.thecraftob.com or call 703-687-3932.