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Q&A: Mad Fox Brewing CEO Talks Favorite Memories, Closure

Come this Sunday, Mad Fox Brewing Company will close its doors in Falls Church.

CEO and Executive Brewer Bill Madden announced the closure earlier in July on Facebook right before the brewpub’s ninth anniversary.

Madden, who got his start at Capitol City Brewing Company before working at Founders and Vintage 50, opened Mad Fox Brewing Company in 2010, taking inspiration from Euro gastro brewpubs.

Just days away from closing, Madden shared with Tysons Reporter more details about the closure and some of his favorite memories at Mad Fox Brewing Company.

Tysons Reporter: What comes next?

Bill Madden: For me? I’m thinking about whether I do something else — another type of brewing project — because that’s what I’m trained to do or whether I go into what they call ally trade.

I really haven’t had a chance to think about it that much because we were working hard to try to make this happen, and I couldn’t go public with anything until last Tuesday so I couldn’t really reach out and talk to people for fear that it might tip the scale or reveal my hand.

It’s tough when you have a business that you know is about to close. You have to do it the right way and we wanted to talk to the bank, talk to the landlord let them know so it wouldn’t be a big surprise and let our management team and let our employees know. And then we went to the public rather than surprising everybody and locking the door.

TR: It sounded like from the Facebook post that the reason why you’re closing is because of the abundance of breweries that have popped up in the area. Is that why?

BM: Well the result is our sales have reached a historic low and as much as the landlord and bank were trying to work with us, we couldn’t come to anything that was even break even. When you’re at that point, you have to say, “It’s time to close.”

So what has happened since the rules were changed in 2012 and it’s specific to Senate Bill 604 — that a food component was not required to sell a pint of beer. Once that happened, we had a whole number of breweries that opened up.

When that changed, we went from 40 breweries in the state of Virginia to 250 plus and we’ve slowly seen our beer sales go down each year from then.

TR: It looked like from the Facebook comments that several breweries around the area were thanking you for your support and your help.

BM: We were at the forefront. We were at the beginning of this new explosion of breweries or whatever you want to call it. So a lot of those brewers came through here asking questions, asking how you do it. And I was always willing to help and talk to people and be very honest about what we were doing here. And a lot of folks learned from us and then a lot of folks learned from those people.

I wasn’t the first brewery in Virginia. And there were other breweries that paved the way before me — Jerry Bailey of Old Dominion and Tom Martin of Legend Brewing in Richmond.

TR: But you were the first brewery in Falls Church.

BM: Yes — ever, that I can find record of. I always like to do a little historical research on any location I’ve worked in. Unless some of the taverns in the colonial period brewed their own, we were the first in Falls Church.

TR: There are 450 plus comments on the Facebook post.

BM: I never realized so many people had their first dates here or maybe proposed here or had their rehearsal dinner here. Or decided to have kids. There was one person who said they decided to have kids here. And I was like, “Oh my god! That’s an interesting conversation to have in our brewpub.”

It’s bittersweet. We have a lot of memories and we have a lot to be proud of. We hold our heads high for everything that we did. We collaborated with local businesses. We had rehearsal dinners and birthdays and parties.

TR: What are your fondest memories looking back over the last nine years?

BM: The early days when everything was still very new and fresh and a lot of breweries were starting to open up. We would hold events here with those [new] brewers — DC Brau, Port City, Three Stars. All of them that had started after us that were so excited and so eager to promote themselves and we were the space that did it for them in the early days. And a lot of those guys and gals came through here and gave us a lot of great experiences and now a lot of them are very, very successful.

TR: How was the anniversary party last Saturday?

BM: It was unbelievable busy — business like we haven’t seen since we opened. Probably was many [people] as the fire marshall would allow. There’s been a great outpouring of love. I think what’s happened — it’s affirmation for what we did in the beginning.

We would have folks who would come from great distances away — Vienna, Centreville, Reston — to come and experience what we had to offer here because there wasn’t anything like that in their area. Since the growth of all the breweries, now they have a brewery in their town that maybe they go to, but they remember what a great time they had here. And they realized they had a limited time to experience that again, and they’ve been showing a lot of love.

TR: Many commenters said they are going to miss the Orange Whip IPA. Do you have a favorite beer?

BM: They’re all my children.

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