- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

NELLYSFORD, Va. (AP) - Mary and Danny Wolf are more than just mother and son. The duo put their relationship in a new context several years ago when they decided to enter the brewing industry together.

Now, Mary Wolf, 58, is acting manager and Danny Wolf, 29, is brew master of Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford, a company that has evolved and expanded since opening in 2011. In turn, the dynamic of the Wolfs’ relationship has evolved as well.

“Over time, (running Wild Wolf has) really developed an incredibly strong relationship between us,” Mary said. “We have definitely gone through some tough moments and getting to know each other. . But I would say, with the exception of maybe one or two days here and there, it’s probably the most delightful thing you can ever do. I mean, at the end of the day, I trust him immensely. I trust his judgment.”

Danny agreed, adding, “people are the hardest thing to find in any industry, especially these days. . To be able to work with somebody who you trust and who you can put in that hard work for and know that you’ll get paid back for it, that’s a real benefit.”

The Wolfs’ work as business partners began in 2010 when they opened a small nanobrewery and homebrew shop up the street from the current Wild Wolf property.

“It let us try a lot of things and kind of build a base of customers and such,” Mary said.

During that year, they renovated the 10-acre property and roughly 110-year-old building where Wild Wolf Brewing Company currently resides.

While brewing for Danny has been a more long-term passion, Mary’s affinity was sparked a little later.

After Danny graduated from the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago in December 2008, Mary got involved, partly because she was looking for excitement after retirement.

“If you had told me then that I’d be doing what I’m doing now, I would’ve told you that you were crazy,” she said. But after the pair attend a three-day course in Chicago called “Start Your Own Brewery,” the idea went from implausible to necessary.

“What happened was I just fell head-over-heels in love with craft beer and the industry and the opportunity. You could just tell it what something that was going to explode.”

At that point, it was only the two of them doing the groundwork for the brewery, which now employs about 50 people. The first thing they determined was location, critical in shaping the environment and atmosphere of the brewery. According to Danny, being in the mountains in Nelson County was a must.

“We love this area,” Mary agreed. “We love the beauty. We love the tourism. So that kind of limited us to things in this area. From there, we found this property. . In some ways, once we honed in on the property, then the property kind of helped mandate what we were trying create here. If we had chosen something in Charlottesville, we might have gone a completely different direction.”

The vision always has been to create a unique experience for customers with the brewery, a hop yard, a restaurant serving food from scratch, an outdoor dining area and more.

“We cater to allergies, and gluten-free and dogs - people bring their dogs here,” Mary explained. “So, I think the whole experience is sort of an earthy, rustic, fun experience and I think you could say that about our beer, our food or about just being here.”

However, while the desire to create an experience for customers and other fundamental philosophies, such as being environmentally and family friendly, have remained the same, the Wolfs have given the company room to evolve.

In fact, one of the principles Danny said they abide by is “never stop moving,” as there always is more work to be done or additions to be made.

Mary said they’ve already set a goal for 2014 of doubling the brewery’s production. From 2012 to 2013 Wild Wolf’s production jumped from 1,300 barrels to 2,400 barrels, and now the company intends on producing more than 4,000 barrels in 2014.

“That’s a big growth, especially for a company that has a take-it-slow philosophy, but the market opportunity is there and we have increased our equipment so we can certainly handle it,” Mary said.

In January, the brewery added new equipment, including a 60-barrel tank, which Mary dubbed “the Blonde Hunny machine” after the brewery’s flagship beer created in somewhat of a fluke in 2010 and has been a success ever since.

Almost all the creative vision for the house beers is derived from Danny. While he chalked up the success of the brewery’s flavors to luck, his mother said he has a lot of raw talent that nearly has eliminated the trial-and-error process of many creative endeavors.

“He’s put way too many recipes together and they’ve worked the first time for it be luck,” Mary said.

In April 2013, when Wild Wolf decided to get into packaging, the mother-son duo made the calculated decision to use cans for all house beers. At the same time, Michael Horn started a mobile canning company named Old Dominion Mobile Canning and Wild Wolf became its first customer. Since then, Old Dominion has grown to serve eight breweries with hopes to double those numbers in 2014. On Feb. 19, the mobile canning company canned its millionth beer, a landmark it decided to reach with Wild Wolf.

“I think that was the significance of Mike’s milestone: that that many beers had been put into cans in the state in eight months,” Mary said. “It really shows that Virginia has embraced cans.”

Although canning has to be scheduled carefully, Danny and Mary have no doubt it was the right choice.

“We love cans, because we think they’re the future,” she said. “Cans are better for the beer. They don’t let oxygen in; they don’t let light in, which are both huge natural enemies of beer. So those were things that were really important to us.”

Also, the fact their brews sit in cans on shelves of supermarkets and grocery stores has not diminished the rewarding sensation for brew master or manager.

“When I go out and see our beer on the shelf, I’m still like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Mary said. “. It’s so cool to see our cans out there.”

___

Information from: The News & Advance, https://www.newsadvance.com/

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