(Bill Madden behind the bar at Mad Fox Brewing Company in 2016.)
By Jeff Maisey
In early July, craft beer enthusiasts in Northern Virginia were shocked to learn Mad Fox Brewing Company was closing its doors. The news came via a social media post from the brewpub’s founding CEO and Executive Brewer, Bill Madden.
“The decision to close has been an extremely difficult one to make,” Madden shared with patrons. “We have witnessed restaurant competition in the 2.2-square-mile Falls Church City become fierce since our opening in 2010 with multiple businesses opening in the last year alone. As much as we tried to compete, there are an overwhelming number of choices for the local population. Sales have been on a slow decline over the last several years and, unfortunately, staying open is no longer sustainable.
“On the brewing side of our business we continue to see more breweries opening in Virginia with two new Taprooms setting up shop within a mile of Mad Fox in the last year,” Madden continued. “When we opened in 2010, there were 40 breweries in Virginia. Now there are close to 250. The Brewpub business model is a tough one to maintain compared to a Brewery Taproom with little overhead, lower rents and outsourced food trucks. Our draw from the surrounding areas has dwindled in what has become an extremely competitive craft beer market, which has resulted in this final decision.
“We attempted to work with our bank and our landlord for more favorable terms, and while both were willing, we ultimately could not come to an agreement that would allow Mad Fox to be breakeven or better.”
As his official biography notes, Bill Madden moved to Northern Virginia after graduating from the Master Brewers Program at the University of California-Davis in 1995. Since then, the Gettysburg College graduate developed his skills by opening and operating seven brewpub locations in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland while at Capitol City Brewing Company, Founders Restaurant and Brewing Company, and Vintage 50 Restaurant and Brew Lounge. He also worked at AC Beverage where he built and serviced beer systems at the highest volume brewpubs and restaurants in the Washington, DC region.
Mad Fox – derived from the first three letters of Bill’s last name combined with his wife’s maiden name, Fox – operated a large brewpub situated in the heart of Falls Church. The space was warm and inviting, with dark wood, large windows, visible oak barrels and a view of the brewery. Among the many awards earned by the brewery winning a Gold Medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival for its Kellerbier Kolsch instantly established Mad Fox as what Zagat labeled one of the “Best gastropubs in the DC area.”
“I’ve always been a brewpub brewer,” Madden told Virginia Craft Beer Magazine in 2016. “Being a brewpub brewer is different than a packaged brewery in that you’ve got a connection with the guests.”
Sadly, that connection has been lost.
Mad Fox Brewing Company’s 9th anniversary celebration is still happening on Saturday, July 13 from 11 AM to close.
Final day: July 21.