Digital Properties Manager
Launching a business is a family affair. Just ask the Hartogses, the entrepreneurial family behind Rocket Frog Brewing Company, which will officially open its doors in Sterling on May 19.
David and Richard are twins, and they partnered with David’s wife Jennifer Showell-Hartogs to launch the business. Peter Hartogs is their older brother, and he’s an investor in the project, as well as an owner of his own video production company, and an architect in the brewery’s story.
“This is our first foray into the beer business, although David and I worked on The Better Beer Authority beer review show that ran on YouTube,” Richard said. “I worked for Duvel briefly and run a craft beer drinking meetup on Meetup.com called Beer Head with over 1,500 members.”
Peter’s background included many years at CNN as a producer, and his business partner, Michael Watts, produced for Larry King Live. When LKL went off the air, Peter and Michael formed Landmark Media Productions.
They had a critically-acclaimed series, Boomtowners, on the Smithsonian Channel, and have many other shows in development, including a series featuring Krista Woods, the Loudoun entrepreneur behind GloveStix. The series covers her story, family, and quest to help other mom inventors in the U.S.
With the Hartogs’ combined skill set, it was a no-brainer to document that process of starting a brewery.
“The idea to chronicle the journey came through an idea over beers with a colleague in France,” Peter explained. “They said: ‘Since you’re sharing your beer with the community, why not share the journey?’
“It’s something that hasn’t been done before, and if we can help others who want to delve into this business (or any other for that matter), we figured why not help illustrate it? We feel like we are showing beer fans a rare look at behind the scenes of opening a brewery.”
Watch the first five episodes below:
Richard gave us an additional look behind the scenes with a takeover of the @LoudounBiz Instagram account in the weeks leading up to the grand opening.
The brewery includes a tasting room that meets the expectations of modern convenience.
“We’ve designed our tasting room with the customer in mind, including 15 charging stations with AC plugs and USB ports,” Richard said. “We have 40 coat hooks throughout the room and we’re hiring a staff that will engage the customers.
“We aren’t aiming to be a ‘lifestyle brewery,’ rather we want to be a fun brewery with outstanding beer.”
The Hartogs hope that the brand — and beer — will resonate with the area’s tech culture.
“We have to make it a fun brand; we can’t just stop at our name and logos,” Richard said. “Part of the Rocket Frog story is the Minotaur V rocket that was designed by Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK), which is a mile down the road from us.
“We want to honor the poor frog as much as we want to honor the science and technology behind the rocket, so interacting with the local science community is important for us. We want them to take ownership of the brand.”
Once the ceremonial ribbon is cut and the doors are opened, the focus will be almost entirely on beer.
“It sounds so cliché, but it starts and ends with great beer. Our main focus will be on quality control from start to finish,” Richard said. “That starts with giving our brewer, Russell Carpenter (who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry) freedom to use his analytics, science background, and brewing knowledge to make the beers we collectively want to represent the brand.
“He is incredibly talented, and we don’t want to get in his way.”