The Wild Man Dan Brewery Mission: “Provide the quiet little things that turn a visit into a memory. Value each guest as an opportunity for growth, connection, and lasting relationships. All are welcome, discrimination and intolerance do not reside here.
I have been driving past the red barn in Northern Nelson County for almost fifteen years, and it has always caught my attention. The barn was built sometime in the 1930s and a slice of Americana, including the ads from bygone years. Now, a new logo is present in the upper left corner, and the barn is the home of Wild Man Dan’s Brewery. History preserved and the barn has a new life. It’s Virginia’s smallest production brewery—by design.
Unplug, Relax and Enjoy a Beer
Have you ever arrived at a new location and immediately felt at home and relaxed? That is how Dave Renfro, DW&S Publisher, and I felt when we first visited Wild Man Dan Beer, Bed and Breakfast one late Spring day. The Tatarka family greeted us as we arrived, and we both felt as if we could sit on the porch and talk to them for hours. As a matter of fact, Dave later returned to stay at the bed and breakfast.
The story doesn’t start on the wide country porch or in the gazebo with comfy furniture or even around the fire pit. This story began on a hiking trail in Peru. While hiking in Peru, Dan decided to take his passion for homebrewing to a new level. He decided to craft a second “retirement” career around his love. And we are glad that a moment on a far-away hiking trail brought the Tatarka family to Nelson County, VA. (and a trip to Germany…keep reading for all the details)
Dan returned to his then home in Roanoke, Virginia. In Roanoke, Dan was an avid member of the local homebrewers club, Star City Brewers. The Star City Brewers Guild is an active club with many members and ideas. Annual competitions and comradery within this club have produced a few top-winning Virginia crafter brewers.
I can say from personal experience that not all homebrewed beer should leave the basement or garage. Some of you are laughing and nodding as you remember your stint as a homebrewer. But Wild Man Dan is different. He has the sixth sense for beer crafting. He also has a background in science and chemistry. Dan paired his club experience with courses at the Siebel Institute of Technology. He also completed the course and became an official Beer Judge. Stars were lining up in Virginia’s “Star City,” but it was a trip to Germany that created the spark that changed life for the Tatarka family.
What happened in Germany?
What happened on one day in Dusseldorf, Germany that changed life for the Tatarka family? Dan and Terri traveled to Germany on their beer tour. In Dusseldorf, they found a four-seater bar that brewed its own beer. If all four seats are taken, locals and visitors wait their turn outside. As you wait, you anticipated the custom experience, the interaction with the bar owner— who also brewed the day’s selection of beer. Small by design.
Often, it is an experience that shapes business, a plan, or even a future. Dan and Terri Tatarka returned from Germany with a desire to bring an intimate beer experience to Virginia craft beer lovers.
In 2015, Dan and Terri opened Wild Man Dan Beer & Breakfast in Afton, Virginia. Terri is the Inn Manager and Chef and has created a relaxing Blue Ridge Mountain escape. Guests can sit on the porch, under the gazebo or in hammock chairs around the Inn’s fire pit. The B&B sits just a quick drive from both the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Shenandoah National Park and Nelson County’s Route 151.
I want to ask Terri about the atmosphere that she has created at the Inn. Terri has a hospitality background, but I have visited numerous B&Bs, and the vibe at WildManDan is unique. It’s like arriving at a friend’s home.
Kim: Tell us how you created a welcoming vibe. Is there a mantra that you follow to pull together the furnishings, the cozy nooks, the country breakfast, and just the warm welcome?
Terri: All decisions are based on our mission statement, our own travel and on how we can support and source from our local community. Breakfast is developed seasonally based on local farms and our garden and in conjunction with guests’ individual dietary concerns and needs. We keep an eye on food trends and add our own interpretation. Above all, the feel is love and comfort.
My favorite song: Shelter from the Storm applies here. That’s what we strive to be. The decor is a nod to history and modern convenience but most importantly – a feel. We can not relax in a museum, so we purposely have distressed surfaces that another glass ring or beer spill will only enhance. Old trunks to drop your luggage on…We encourage attending breakfast in your pajamas! We want your shoulders to drop and know you are accepted as you are. no judgment, no pretense.
Life has a way of isolating us all sometimes, and our goal is to be an antidote. We have gathering areas, host a firepit, engage in conversation on the gazebo, play darts in the Wild Man Dan BrewBarn, host beer classes and feature no TVs. We do have high-speed fiber optic cable (we are not heathens!) And most importantly, we don’t take ourselves too seriously…we laugh. out loud and often at our own imperfection.
We cross the line from innkeeper to friends rather quickly…within about 15 minutes of guest arrival according to Mark and Sandy Grasser (regulars!)
Although the B&B is close to many popular attractions, you may not want to leave the property. You may want to unplug, relax, and attend Wild Man Dan’s beer class. You can wander down to the red barn for Happy Hour or join Dan’s Saturday morning beer class. You can sit at the bar and enjoy a cold pint while listening to vintage vinyl or take your beer flight outside and sit on the patio, under some large shade trees.
We sat on the patio, enjoyed a flight, and met Dan and Terri’s daughter, Cory. Craft beer runs through Cory’s veins too. She is the third member of the family to join the team. As we sat on the patio talking, I could see a picture of that small bar-brewery over in Germany emerge. I could see the experience that shaped today’s visit. A flight of four beers distinct beers continued to tell Wild Dan’s story.
Of course, I had a few questions about the beer flight and Wild Man Dan’s Beer Class…
Kim: On a flight, of four beers, you have a unique combination of European influence and local flavors. Your past has undoubtedly influenced your craft. It feels eclectic, intimate, and with notes of a homebrew background. Tell us how your experience in travel and as a homebrewer has influenced today’s selection.
WMD: While traveling to Germany I enjoyed drinking the different styles I encountered in those regions. As you know beers taste better at the location they are brewed do to the freshness where they are made. Upon returning I wanted to duplicate those styles I enjoyed the most. Many of my beers are influenced by other beers. Depending on the beer style I sometimes tweak the recipe based on my preferences of what I think will make a great tasting beer.
As we go to print, Wild Man Dan Brewery announced on social media a collaboration project with Silverback Distillery, also in Nelson County. Late Summer, WMD will release a new beer, and it is currently aging in a Silverback barrel.
Kim: I think that this new, Summer beer sounds like a “hat-tip” to the region. We love your beer and the spirits distilled at Silverback. Can you give the DW&S readers a hint about the new beer release? When can we enjoy a pint in the red barn?
WMD: That beer was just released and is available now. Being a small batch, I will not be able to duplicate it since it came from a single barrel rye batch. This combination turned out so great that in the future I will brew a “cousin” version. (For the Tasting Notes, see The Virtual Beer Festival in this edition of DW&S Magazine)
The beverage industry in Virginia is booming with craft beer at the forefront. Not only are Virginians following beer trails and enjoying tastings, but are also consuming record amounts of craft local beer. The Nelson 151 Trail runs beside the WildManDan Brewery and is visited by thousands each year. I often write about the overall experience at a taproom. What could improve the experience for Virginia beer lovers? In my opinion, beer education. Understanding the science behind the brew and even understanding how to taste the beer. The knowledge that adds another layer to the hobby of tasting Virginia craft beer. Dan has used his grassroots love of beer to create WildManDan’s Beer Class. It’s a class for every beer lover. Join Dan in the red barn in Afton, Virginia. It is a Saturday morning well spent.
In Spring 2019, Wild Man Dan became Virginia’s smallest production brewery. The public can now visit the red barn, enjoy a beer, and purchase a growler of beer to go. The public can also attend Dan’s beer class and learn about tasting the beer in an intimate setting.
After all, it is all about the experience and the craft.