Wine & Spirits: Mad Fox Hits Its Stride

The Falls Church gastro brewpub celebrates two years of house-brewed suds and ambitious cuisine.

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Kellerbier Kölsch is a great match for char-grilled Virginia oysters at Mad Fox Brewing Company. (Photo by Kelly Magyarics)

If you love the availability of local brews in the D.C. area like I do, and haven’t had the chance yet to head out to Mad Fox Brewing Company in Falls Church, now is the perfect time. You can raise a glass to celebrate its second anniversary, sample dishes from new chef (he came to Mad Fox a few months ago from the recently shuttered Michel in Tysons Corner) and ask yourself (like I did) why it’s taken you so long to discover such a gem of a spot.

Mad Fox is run by , who graduated from the Master Brewers Program at UC Davis. Madden worked for years at Capitol City Brewing Company, where he helped open and operate seven brewpub locations in the D.C. Metro area. He also had stints at Founders Restaurant and Brewing Company, Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge and AC Beverage before deciding several years ago to open up Mad Fox.( The moniker, by the way, is a play on the names of he and his wife — her maiden name is “Fox.”) Madden says that while the process of opening and running a successful brewpub has been a long trip, “I’m still living in a dream.”

All of Mad Fox’s beers are brewing in-house on their 15-barrel Premier Stainless brewing system. Ten standard brews are joined by a rotating selection of seasonal brews in German, English, Belgian and American styles. Guests can grab a pint, or a sampler of four beers served in 4-oz. glasses. And German swing-top growlers available empty for purchase for $17 can be filled with two liters of your favorite beer to go.

I recently attended an event at Mad Fox to sample the suds and menu. Executive Chef Dixon works closely with Madden to assure his dishes enhance and highlight the beers served alongside. We were there on a Tuesday, and the place was jumping (a fellow diner who works up the road and often stops in said that’s pretty typical.)

House-made cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach and topped with Bechamel sauce. (Photo by Kelly Magyarics)

Kellerbier Kölsch is an unfiltered beer — a style that Madden says German brewers often drink directly from the lager tank. The inclusion of the yeast mellows out its hoppy notes, rendering an easily sippable, delicate brew. (Madden told us that this style of beer is unforgiving when it comes to any flaws made by a brewer…I definitely didn’t see any in his.) We sipped it alongside plump Chesapeake oysters char-grilled with garlic butter and Parmesan picatta. His Saison uses yeast from northern France, close to the Belgian border. This farmhouse-style ale is earthy and just a little bit spicy, with citrus and honey notes — a perfect match for mushroom strudel topped with Saison syrup. Belgian-style ale Abbaye des Chutes is a fun play on words: it loosely translates to “Falls Church.” Clever. Madden gets yeast from the famed Chimay brewery in Belgian for the dark, potent brew (its ABV is 8.7 percent, and Mad Fox serves it in a 12-oz. snifter). We enjoyed it with Bitterballen, beef croquettes, a traditional Dutch bar snack. The curry mayo served next to it was a nice surprise for dipping.

My favorite beer of the evening was the English Summer Ale, an emerging style of beer in the UK that Madden said is being used to attract younger beer drinkers. For it, he uses a light touch of American Citra hops; I found it slightly floral, crisp and easy to return to sip after sip.

The menu currently has bar snacks like soft pretzel bites and frickles (deep fried pickles…yum), as well as pizzas (we tried the Sweet & Spicy Grilled Vegetable, topped with grilled pineapple, zucchini, red onion, jalapeno, tomato, basil and a BBQ sauce). But I hope at least a few of the things we sampled on our tasting menu (including the aforementioned oysters and mushroom strudel, as well as thinly sliced Ahi carpaccio and a house made cannelloni to die-for filled with ricotta, spinach and pecorino) make it onto the regular menu. In the coming months, Chef Dixon, a native Oregonian, said he plans to add dishes inspired by the Pacific Northwest.

The brewery also offers beer-pairing dinners. The next one on July 25 at 7 p.m. (receptions starts at 6:30) is a five-course dinner “celebrating the noble sausage,” including those made from duck, rabbit, salmon, wild boar and lamb. The price is $75 per person plus tax and gratuity, and you can call 703-942-6840 to reserve your place with a credit card, or email them at beer-dinners@madfoxbrewing.com.

Mad Fox Brewing Company is located at 444 W. Broad Street in Falls Church, VA 22046. A free lot and garage parking are available onsite.

Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on www.twitter.com/kmagyarics.

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