Adrien Widman owns and operates his own craft beer brewery, Ocelot Brewing Co., located in Dulles, VA. I have known the Widmans for about 7 years. We live on the same street and our 12 year olds have been together in school since kindergarten. I had a bird’s eye view of the inception and birth of this business. It has been completely exciting to see Ocelot become a solid part of our local culture and a real player in the brewing community. Although the doors to Ocelot opened in 2015, the business actually started 3 ½ years ago. Building out the commercial rental space took 14 months of construction, with the planning stage running 2-3 years prior. When asked how he would describe his business he said, “Well, there are two answers to this question. The standard answer is, I like beer. The other answer, I am trying to create a sanctuary for people.”
After years of working in the IT industry, Adrien knew that a traditional work life was not for him. He explains, “We live in a cookie cutter neighborhood (I agree, we do) where 90% of the people commute and sit in a cube all day. Time passes you by, and all of sudden your kids are 10 and you’re fatter and life has passed you by. I hated that whole idea. I didn’t want my children thinking they had to live that way. I wanted them to know that they could do whatever they wanted to do. They do not have to fall into that life if it’s not for them.”
At the beginning, Adrien used to get inspired by following other brewers. He would try to taste as many different beers as he could find. He says, ”Now I know these brewers and take inspiration from their procedures and flavors. Not a copy, but maybe a profile, or color, or aroma that I like.” He finds that inspiration comes from everywhere. He’s attended beer pairing events and finds incredible inspiration when thinking of beer in combination with food. (He’s also a really good cook, so his judgment on pairings would be really compelling.) He reads a lot about the science of beer and loves to discover a new reaction or new procedure to try.
Interestingly, Adrien also mentioned how inspired he’s been by watching the immigrants in our area launch their businesses. He admires their courage to just go for it and is inspired by their perspective of “what’s the worse that could happen?” They exemplify that mindset of even if they fail, they will be better off than where they started.
The reality versus the dream includes more stress and juggling than he predicted. He says, “ I thought there would be more times of just coasting. Reality is; not really, but beer helps with that.” (Right? Cheers!) He explains that the business is nonstop. From staffing, to scheduling, operation issues, customer service, planning, ordering, buying, paying for licensing, expansion…. He jokes, “Tell me when you’d like me to stop.”
In the short-term, his goal is just staying happy “doing what we do”. That’s really what this is all about; staying happy. From the business side, he wants to keep moving forward to support the new lifestyle he has created. He says, “I don’t care about the money part. I’m totally happy about my ceiling, as long as it doesn’t stress me out.” Long-term plans for Ocelot include a hopeful relocation. He says, “I’d really like to search for our own spot. No more renting. Some place with acreage where Ocelot would be a destination; a place where people would come to just hang out.”
Professionally, Adrien is most proud of the happiness and joy that he brings to his customers every day. He says, “It lights me up.” He goes on, “You know me; I’m a hippie. Our job is to make people happy.” He even went so far as to say that if a staff member is having a bad day, he sends them home. He is careful for any negativity to be contained so that it doesn’t spread and infect his clientele. But personally, he is most proud of the fact that he had the “balls” to do it; to launch his dream. (And for my mother, I meant to write guts.) He shares, “I didn’t think I could do it, but people believed in me. When I was preparing my business plan to present to the bank I sent a draft off to my family and they sent it back with checks.”
Adrien is not an imposing person, so when I asked him what he wanted people to take away from this interview he wasn’t sure how to answer. Ultimately he said, “I think people should be inspired. Just be happy and make yourself happy no matter what it takes.”
To see more pictures from Ocelot Brewing Co, follow Jenniferthebeholder on Instagram and Twitter. And to learn WAY more about Ocelot Brewing Co, visit their website at www.ocelotbrewingco.com, or better yet, come by for a taste.