One Barrel at a Time | Adroit Theory Brewing Company

By: Becky Muth
Photos by: Josh Triggs

When you look at the broad range of taps available at taverns, pubs, and restaurants, it’s easy to see the golden age has returned – crowned with a frothy head of foam. Craft breweries, including Adroit Theory Brewing Company, are making big strides across the nation’s beer industry.


Like the fine selection of local wines which makes Northern Virginia one of the most popular viticultural areas in the country, Adroit Theory Brewing Company offers another reason to drink local – a constantly evolving repository of iconic beer flavors.

Cleverly Crafted for the Serious Connoisseur

The adjective adroit means clever or skillful in using the hands or mind; example – they were adroit at crafting beer. Adroit Theory Brewing Company proves great-tasting beer doesn’t have to come from a giant factory that spits out millions of bottles a year.

Mark Osborne, who founded the brewery with his wife, Nina, developed a taste for the majestic flavors of English cask-conditioned beer during a studies abroad program in college. From there, Ireland introduced him to Guinness.

Germany offered beer brewed according to German Beer Purity Law, which limits ingredients to water, hops, and malt.

“Once you’ve done that, it’s hard to go back to the fizzy yellow stuff,” he confides. Mark and Nina visited breweries along the east coast which inspired them to open their own establishment, founded on November 25, 2011.

Mark and Nina started with a core group of fans who served as taste testers and used their feedback to refine the recipes. Next they invested in a 2300 square foot warehouse in Purcellville, where they crafted conceptually-based test batches using a 1/2 barrel system. Shortly after ringing in 2014, they celebrated the completion of the tasting room with a soft open.

Although you’ll find a sea of men enjoying the various, iconic flavors on any typical Saturday in the warehouse tasting room, about forty percent of Adroit Theorists are women. Quite a few females belong to the membership club, both for the intense flavors of the beer and also the vibe.

Adroit Theory Brewing Company caters to people who, like Mark and Nina, have a passion for craft beer. Their flavors are definitely not for the faint of heart.

Art-Inspired Beer Flavors

Inside the warehouse, the industrial decor is reminiscent of clubs found in cities like New York or Washington, D.C. Music with a heavy, thrumming undercurrent of bass plays in the background, loud enough for patrons to recognize lyrics without overpowering their conversations. “I’m not a musician, but like everybody I like music,” Mark shares. “The 90s are the decade that resonated with me the most. Part of our artistic inspiration is things we enjoyed in our youth.”

Mark’s first three flavors were inspired by lyrics written by Trent Reznor, founder and frontman of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Without trying to be too obvious with the references, the flavors were:

  1. B/A/Y/S (Black As Your Soul), from “Head Like A Hole”, one of the band’s first commercially successful songs
  2. G/I/A/A (God Is An American), from “I’m Afraid of Americans”, a David Bowie song remixed by Trent Reznor
  3. T/P/D (The Perfect Drug), from the song by the same name in which quick, ascending guitar riffs feature prominently against frantic, complex drums

“It’s always taking the art first,” Mark adds. “Let’s take that great line and build a beer around it.”

“Most beer is like milk. You make it; it’s perishable; it will expire. You should drink most beer fresh, but you can put it in a barrel to age it. Just putting it in the barrel will change the flavor,” Mark explains.


While dark beer is the best candidate for barrel-aged beer, it is possible to to age pale beer. Adroit Theory Brewing Company is currently aging beer in gin barrels, which theyfll review in about three months.

They’ve used barrels from both spirits and wine, which imparts the flavors into the beer. Each barrel gets used only once, however, for maximum results. Wood barrels absorb the liquid, so they must stay topped off.

If beer is the superhero of alcoholic beverages, then its villains are oxygen and light, which risk tainting the quality and taste.

Because fermented substances are highly susceptible to wild-occurring yeast, another priority is preventing the beer from infection. Some brewers purposely infect their beer, but Adroit Theory Brewing Company doesn’t create that style.

Due to Commonwealth of Virginia laws, the brewery does not distill beverages. Instead they co-branded a spirit with neighboring Catoctin Creek Distillery, which provides some barrels used in their barrel-aging process. The distillery distilled one of Adroit Theory’s beers into a whiskey two years ago. It’s been aging since and, on November 9, 2016, will launch at the distillery.

Adroit Theory Brewing Company is brewing a beer to celebrate the release of the whiskey and will offer it in their tasting room.

Hot Sauce Made from Crafted Beer Mark relates drinking beer to eating hot sauce. With hot sauce you start with Tabasco, the legendary pepper mash sauce; with beer you start with American-style pale lager; and with both you keep improving your palate.

“We’ve made three hot sauces out of our beer so far and they’re hot,” Mark warns. “They’re for the professional connoisseur.” They are: -Bloody Roots Hot Sauce – Made from Bloody Roots beer, this sauce hearkens to a classic Bloody Mary. Here’s a challenge – replace the Tabasco in your next mixed drink with Bloody Roots Hot Sauce instead.

-B/A/Y/S Hot Sauce – Made from B/A/Y/S beer. “This is a black hot sauce and it’s hot,” Mark describes. He repeats, “It’s HOT!” -Beware the SASKO Hot Sauce – Mark warns, “It is no joke. Read my lips – it is no joke… but it’s delicious.” This sauce combines the essence of head brewer Greg Skotzko with a liberal dose of The Devil Made Me (smoked porter with smoked Serrano peppers).

The brewery based their newest hot sauce, not yet available, on their milk stout beer. Mark divulges, “It’ll come in a vial for little drips. We’re into that kind of stuff.” An Iconic Brand for an Evolutionary Beer That kind of stuff refers to their iconic brand. Adroit Theory Brewing Company employs different artists for different projects, which prevents them from being one-dimensional and typecast.

“As with everything in life, it’s finding the right person for the right job. We have four different people doing bottles,” Mark goes on to explain. “We have a dark brand, but it’s always very thoughtful and purposeful versus shocking for the sake of being shocking.”

Adroit Theory Brewing Company is an evolutionary brewery. They generally make a flavor only once. The beer you tried on your last visit may not be available when you return, but they’ll always have new flavors to challenge your palate. The tasting room, located at 404 Browning Ct. Unit C in Purcellville, Virginia, is not temperature controlled so dress for the weather.

It offers 3 ounce tasters, 10 ounce tulips of all their beers, as well as growlers-to-go – buy one there or have them fill yours. They also offers many flavors in 375ml bottles for on or off site consumption. For more information about Adroit Theory Brewing Company you can visit their website or Facebook page, or email them at

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