Archive for October, 2019

Manassas shop essential for homebrewers

In 1980 there were 80 craft breweries in the United States. Today, over 7,500 dot our sudsy landscape. Even small towns and villages often sport a wee brewhouse where locals gather to quaff artisan beer.

There’s never been a better time to hoist flavorful brews that are the polar opposite of the watery libations that have dominated our domestic beer world for decades.

What triggered the shift from quantity to quality?


In 1979, a Federal law was enacted permitting brewing at home. States vary on exactly how much is allowed; in Virginia, it’s 200 gallons annually for a two-adult household. That’s over 2,000 bottles.

But please, don’t go there unless you’re sharing.

With such dramatic growth many nascent brewers began to realize, “Hey, my stuff tastes pretty good. Maybe I should go commercial”, which they did in droves resulting in today’s commercial craft beer explosion.

It’s a classic example of free enterprise coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit being unleashed by market opportunity.

There are now 1.2 million homebrewers scattered across all 50 states with new adherents joining the hop army daily.

For almost two decades Jay’s Brewing, located in the Triangle Shopping Center at 9790 Center St. has been producing the fuel that has helped homebrewing become so popular: barley, hops, yeast and more.

Jay’s is one of over 800 such supply shops nationwide. It’s an industry craft beer lover’s
should be thankful for. The role these stores have played since the early 1980s has helped catapult the U.S. to the forefront of artisanal beer worldwide.

In the beginning
Jay’s brewing is co-owned by Thomas and Jill Boman. The Manassas couple is the third proprietors of the business that opened in 2002. As with many small businesses passion led to ownership.

“As a homebrewer, I frequented the shop and got to know the previous owner well. He was ready to move on as entrepreneurs often are and we worked a deal to take over the shop.

“I work full-time in the cybersecurity field so the decision to purchase the business was made equally between Jill and I. Since I work full-time it’s Jill who is largely the face of the business. It’s a lot of work and she does a great job,” says Boman.

The “lot of work” began even before they started filling customer orders. The previous owner’s inventory ran on the basic side with numerous items collateral to the hobby not well represented.

Today the shop has hundreds of homebrewing and home winemaking products. The soul of the shop is its extensive selection of barley and yeasts which are the foundation of most beers.

The “suds” couple live in Manassas and are the parents of three young children providing a challenge to running the small business. Jill Bowman, like her husband, is knowledgeable and ever ready with suggestions and advice.

As a homebrewer delves deeper into the hobby, he or she is drawn to tinkering with recipes. At Jay’s, there are over 350 recipes to choose from and with additional input from the owners, thousands of variations are possible.

One group the store takes pride in supporting is Downright Obsessed Homebrewers. Created in 2006 the club has over 50 members and is one of the most popular brewing clubs in the area.

It also has members who are professional brewers. To join the club is find to yourself surrounded by beer talent ready to offer camaraderie and advice on improving one’s brewskis. Visit to learn more about this free “graduate school” of brewing.

The draw of homebrewing is the creativity and satisfaction in making a delicious beer that can rival store-bought products. “Wow! You made this beer?”, is an often-heard expression when a homebrewer hands a buddy one of his latest creations.

Newbies often start with simple kits that require minimal brewing knowledge. If you can bake brownies out of a box, you can create a flavorful beer. Especially under the guidance of the Boman’s.

In addition to the ingredients needed for brewing at home, the shop has an extensive equipment inventory that includes kettles, burners, fermenters, kegs, tubing, bottles, and more. If it’s related to homebrewing, it’s in the shop.

The latest addition to the business is its newly minted ABC license that permits the sale of commercial craft beer. Can’t wait to drink that clone of your favorite IPA you’re about to make? Simply grab a six-pack of it along with the necessary ingredients and sip your role model while creating the real deal at home.

Jay’s Brewing is open six days a week and closed on Sundays. Visit their digital store at to learn more about the enjoyable world of homebrewing and home winemaking.

Published in the September 12, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

The Three Blacksmiths expand service

Posted on Oct 06 2019 | By

Popular Sperryville restaurant offers Wednesday dining

It’s a problem every restaurant seeks: guests requesting more dining hours. What drives such demand? For The Three Blacksmiths it was due in part to the Washington Post’s 2019 Spring Dining Guide that rated the restaurant number four out of its top 30 newcomers in the DC Metro area. One of many acclaimed reviews.

An impressive achievement for an establishment opened just over a year ago.

Tom Sietsema, the Post’s nationally known food critic and author of the guide, made this observation: “The lone complaint I’ve ever heard about this Sperryville sensation concerns the challenge of securing a table.”

Always nice to be called a sensation. And it’s now nice to learn owners John and Diane MacPherson have addressed what appears to be the only problem with their business. On October 2 they began accepting reservations for Wednesday service to be offered starting on October 23.

Sietsema, who is not known for an easy compliment goes on to say, “… wannabe diners can book out as far as 203 days (29 weeks). Worth the trip? Definitely—worth any hassle, too.”

The downside of that reservation policy is Diane’s observation, “As of September 18, we are booked through April 4, 2019.” Hopefully the additional dining day will ease some of the angst among their current and future fans.

To better understand how such a problem could exist consider the restaurant is currently opened only on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for a single seating of 20 guests. The experience is more akin to attending a private three-hour dinner party than public dining.

So how did a relatively unknown couple catapult to the top of the Nation’s Capital dining scene? It started in New England where both originally hailed; John, 54, came from the Boston area and Diane, 51, south of Hartford.

Their careers took them independently to California and a serendipitous first meeting at a wine event led to couplehood. “We literally met in a vineyard,” remembers Diane fondly. The couple has a son Finn, 13.

After more than two decades their West Coast careers grew stale leaving them “cogs in a wheel”. John believed they should make a living doing something they loved and suggested running a B&B. Diane quickly agreed. It was something she had always wanted to pursue.

Their search for the perfect inn led them to Virginia and specifically Rappahannock County. In 2004 they purchased the Foster Harris House in Little Washington, gaining experience in hospitality while garnering a legion of fans. After 13 years of honing their culinary and hosting skills the decision was made to shift full-time to the restaurant business. The eatery opened in June 2018.

Almost anyone who owns a successful restaurant will opine it’s not all accolades and smiles. But The Three Blacksmiths might be the exception. Given the intimate setting and multi-course dinners served with casual ambiance and style, the experience is like spending an evening with family and friends.

“Almost every night someone out of the blue will say, ‘We’re having such a good time!’ That’s not something you hear all the time. But when someone is so in the moment that they recognize it and express it, it’s very gratifying,” says Diane.

John is the chef and Diane manages the dining room. A team of four rounds out the staff that John refers to, “As this little family of employees that’s hard to call employees. They are such an important part of the whole thing. It makes the work a really wonderful experience.”

While John did not start cooking professionally until the B&B opened, his training dates to his youth. “I grew up in a family that was ridiculously passionate about food and wine.” The family traveled widely in pursuit of their passion. All of his family are excellent cooks.

During his West Coast career John was a competitive cyclist. “The great thing about racing a bike is you get to eat a lot.” His culinary and racing skills led to the creation of the popular Tour d’Epicure, a cycling and fine dining adventure formerly offered by their B&B.

Always at the ready
So is everything perfect every night? Mostly yes, but situations do arise that call for immediate action. The MacPhersons recall one incident in particular. A group of six diners were standing around their table enjoying a convivial conservation before dinner. With the rest of the diners seated the owner’s asked if they’d like to take their seats.

As they moved toward their chairs, water began pouring from an overhead chandelier onto their table. It was a pleasant evening so it wasn’t a leaking roof. Quickly the table was moved, cleared and reset while John raced upstairs to investigate.

To his surprise an air conditioning unit had overflowed its holding tank and was streaming water into the room below. The unit was quickly drained and the unexpected “rain shower” ended
“Today those guests are regulars but their evening could have been ruined it the leak if happened during dinner, Diane remembers.

Pricing & Reservations
Payment for dinners is unique. The multi-course tasting menu costs $128 per person plus a $70 alcohol charge; gratuity and tax not included. Both reservations and payment are made online.

A $50 deposit per person is levied when reservations are made. On the morning of the dinner the remaining bill is charged to the guest’s credit card. “When guests arrive, they sit down, enjoy their meal and leave when they’re finished. There’s no business transactions after the dinner,” said John.

To make reservations visit If you can’t secure your first-choice date, be patient and try again. Your efforts will be rewarded with a unique an intimate dining experience.

Published in the September 25, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Action Drives Fauquier Climate Change Group

Posted on Oct 04 2019 | By

Belief or disbelief in climate change engages the electorate today as perhaps no other issue. The science, or as some believe, the lack of it, can create “heated” discussions among the gentlest of souls. So how do you defang passion and discuss fact?

“When I talk climate change, right up front I let people know I don’t care whether people are responsible for it or not,” says Kevin O’Neill, director of the Fauquier Climate Change Group, noting that it takes away much of the intensity and makes it easier to discuss the reality.

“I’m a pragmatist,” he adds. “I look around and see 99.9% of over 20,000 scientific studies conclude the climate is changing.” He quickly underscores global warming can occur as either hotter or colder temperatures.

It could be a long-term climatic cycle unfolding or human activity driving the change. The causes can be left for future science to determine, but action to address the changes lies in the hands of an informed public. “We all need to sit down and come up with a viable game plan,” Kevin notes. “If we don’t, we’re sticking our heads in the sand and hoping everything works out. There is no Planet B.”

Noting the preponderance of the world’s population resides on or near oceans and that ocean levels are rising is a sobering reality. Kevin explains that we have tens of trillions of dollars of infrastructure on the world’s coastlines, and this infrastructure and human lives are at risk since there are already climate change refugees in certain regions of the world.

So, who is Kevin O’Neill and why does he care so much? After enjoying several successful careers, including 20 years as special agent for the State Department, he joined the Fauquier Climate Change Group four years ago and serves as its director. “This country has been very good to me and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities I have had. I want to give back,” he says.

The organization was founded in 2013 by county resident Judy Lamana. It is comprised of local citizens—spanning the political spectrum from conservative to liberal—who are passionate about finding ways to ameliorate damage caused to the planet by worldwide temperature changes. Group activities include working with members of Congress and raising the profile of climate change in the community, including churches and schools.

“We’ve talked with the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Warrenton, urging them to switch to LED lights,” Kevin explains. “That one change alone would reduce the carbon impact dramatically, including a decrease in people’s electricity bills.”

He also describes how teaching youth the value of LED lights sets the stage for generational acceptance for such cost-effective lighting. The group takes their “energy cycle” to schools and for kids to ride. When they cycle as hard as they can, it lights up the incandescent bulb panel. When they maintain an easy, steady pace, the fluorescent lights flicker on. Yet by contrast, with almost no pedal pressure at all, the LED panel shines brightly.

As dire as today’s climate prognostications are, Kevin speaks positively about the rate of change. Underscoring that it takes an average of 50 years to introduce a new technology, he thinks we are 30 to 35 years into a transformational conversion to solar and wind energy, noting that the price of a solar cell today is about a dollar.

Fauquier Climate Change Group’s message is clear; being part of the problem offers the opportunity to be part of the solution. The group meets on the third Wednesday of each month (the next meeting is on October 16) from 7:00–8:00 p.m. at the Bistro on Hospital Hill, and there is no cost to join nor any membership fees.

Published in the September 2019 edition of Discover Fauquier.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES