Home at Last in Nelson County


The most recent addition to the Nelson County brewery circuit is the mother and son collaboration of Mary and Danny Wolf.  Set up in an old Nelson County schoolhouse and in between Blue Mountain Brewery and Devil’s Backbone, Wild Wolf is a venture built on hospitality.  As transplants from Northern Virginia to Nelson County by way of Wintergreen Resort, the Wolf’s have created a Nellysford institution that serves locals and tourists, the twenty-something single crowd and families with young kids, all in one stop.

“We are clearly trying to be a destination.  Bring the dogs, bring the kids, come sample beer, eat, go shopping, or just sit and listen to music five days a week,” says Mary.  “There’s something for everyone.”  The kids can come and play on the wooden playground out front built by Mary’s husband Doug, and their parents can enjoy some of Wild Wolf’s smoked meats and sample their many beers.  Most evenings, the bar is filled with people watching sports on TV, while the more musically inclined guests are treated to one of the many talented Nelson County musicians out on the patio.  

The beer itself is a product of Danny Wolf’s adventurous spirit; each one is an invitation into his explorations.  Although formally trained through courses at Chicago’s Siebel Institute and apprenticeships in Germany, Danny has not focused his experience and skill on keeping up with trends or adhering to established stylistic categories.  According to Mary,

“Danny is very focused on brewing beer people will love and enjoy, and that doesn’t always mean that we’re perfectly within the guidelines of a style.  It’s a different approach.”  Recently, Danny has been pushing the boundaries of what can be done with hops, and also infusing his beers with fruit and honey.  

“I’m always experimenting and trying new things,” says Danny.  Mary and Danny know that great brewing requires technical skill and daily practice, but they also understand the need to leave space for innovation and creativity.

While the Wolfs are enthusiastic about Danny’s concoctions, they accommodate those who are hesitant to try them.  The younger generation of locals and tourists know and love craft beer, but according to Mary, the older locals need some convincing:

“We still get plenty of people who order a Coors Light.  For people who say they don’t drink craft beer, we offer the Pils or the Blonde Honey, and they usually like it.  Some people you win over, other people are not ready.”  Passionate to introduce people to the beers they love, they still respect and welcome those who aren’t as adventurous.  Still, Mary is hopeful: “I think we’re slowly converting local people over.”

The Wolf family came to this rural brewery life from a dot-com, corporate, metropolitan  world in northern Virginia, where Mary worked as the Vice-president of product marketing for AOL, and her husband also worked in the software business.  They first discovered Nelson County through visits to the Wintergreen Resort, and fell in love with the natural beauty of the area.  As Mary and Doug looked toward retiring from their careers, their hearts were set on central Virginia, and when they finally moved into their Nelson County home they installed a plaque at the door inscribed with the words “Home at Last.”  

It was during this transition that Danny’s passion for brewing sparked a larger vision for a family brewery.  It presented a great way to deepen their roots in their new home, and to work collaboratively together. Danny’s brewing experience, Doug’s woodworking skills, and Mary’s experience in product marketing lent themselves directly to the brewing, building, and business demands of the new venture, so when Mary pitched the idea to Danny, the brewery was born.  

As that dream grew into something more substantial, Mary began to see that it was Nelson County, not just resort life, that she loved.  As she began making plans to start a second career with a product much more tied to the natural world, her lifestyle was also migrating from the corporate world, through resort living, and into the earthier local life of Nelson County.  “I love owning a business here.  Once we started….I realized my address was not Wintergreen, it’s Nellysford.”

In following with this love of Nelson County and conscious identification with Nellysford, the Wolfs chose not to build a fancy new facility for their project, but rather to inhabit and repurpose the County’s 105 year old schoolhouse and adjacent tobacco barns.  Visitors today can see pictures of the old building and it’s high school students on the walls, dating from it’s start in 1908 until its closing in 1939.  Outside, in the center of the historic tobacco-barns-turned-specialty-shops, is the old green pump for the well that was used by the schoolhouse all those years ago.  It was still pumping up pure Nelson County water when Wild Wolf opened it’s doors for business.  

This impulse to cooperate with their local environment is also seen in their traditional biergarten out front.  “We wouldn’t necessarily have had a biegarten,” says Mary, “but when I looked at this property and its waterfall pond, I was like ‘that’s a beer garden made in heaven!’”  By simply adding a gazebo, picnic tables, and introducing koi into the pond, their white gravel lot under the shade of their 60 year old Siberian elms became the only true biergarten in Virginia.  

History enthusiasts, sports fans, music fans, craft beer drinkers, (craft beer haters!), shoppers, men, women, children, dogs, vegans and smoked-meat-salivators all have a place at the Wild Wolf table.  In the years to come, a vision has been cast for festivals that would welcome homebrew competitors, cooking competitors, and of course, local and regional musicians into the life of the brewery.  One can expect that Wild Wolf will be constantly innovating new ways of engaging with their local community in the years to come, guided by their commitment to making it a hospitable for all.

American Pilsner, 4.5% ABV 37 IBU

Our take on a German style pilsner. we take your traditional German pills and add a good old American hop punch. this beer is clean, crisp and refreshing. this golden lager is the perfect beer for hot Virginia summer days

Blonde Hunny Ale, 6.8% ABV 21 IBU

An unfiltered Belgian style blonde ale with wheat and a lot of local honey in every pour. we have also added a special spice blend to give it an added kick. Smooth and refreshing, but be careful - this one's abv will sneak up on you. this beer is straw yellow in color with a slight sweetness in the middle and an Estery finish characteristic of the best Belgian beers

Dry Stout, 4% ABV 40 IBU

This stout is deep brown in color and has a beautiful tan head. It is medium bodied and has a creamy character. The coffee like aroma with slight chocolate notes is followed by a medium hop bitterness. This beer is remarkably smooth