Their names are as homespun as the dream they share: Chris and Charlie Miller, Ralph and Ryan Mollet. The dream? To turn some 30 pristine acres into Olney’s only farm brewery and save a property once owned by Samuel Riggs IV of Riggs Bank fame from becoming another victim of suburban sprawl.
Brothers Chris and Charlie grew up on a small farm with horses, goats, chickens and dogs right off Bowie Mill Road in Olney. Interested in returning to their farming roots, they decided to buy the Riggs property.
At the same time, Chris, a certified arborist from Rock Creek Tree, Turf & Landscaping, met Ralph Mollet while doing tree work for Ralph’s Bethesda construction company, M&M Builders and Contractors. Coincidentally, Ralph’s son, Ryan, was looking for land in Montgomery County where he could open his own brewery.
When Ralph heard about the Miller brothers’ venture, “One thing led to another, and we formed a partnership,” Ralph says.
Together, the four men are brewing up a business that promises to quench the thirst of area residents for years to come: Lone Oak Farm Brewing Company. A key ingredient in their endeavor is not hops or barley but the varied experiences that each of the partners brings to the table.
“Chris is an arborist by trade … I have some serious restaurant experience in my background in addition to my construction [experience]. Charlie is a mortgage banker. My son Ryan is a builder and a true expert from a design standpoint,” Ralph says. “So as you can see, it’s a pretty good blend.”
Lone Oak Farm is named after a massive white oak tree on the property that Chris estimates to have taken root sometime after the Civil War. Once fully operational, the brewery will emphasize local resources; the partners are excited to grow some of their own ingredients, including blueberries, blackberries and possibly pumpkins. They also plan to keep their own bees for honey and are incorporating milled wood from local trees into their buildings, including the 6,000-square-foot main structure fashioned after an old red barn.
Though zoned residential, Chris says the farm will stay true to its “agricultural heritage.”
“Our main goal is to make Lone Oak Farm a great local community place where you can go against the anti-social norms of staying at home and sitting on your couch,” he says. “We bought the property to avoid development, and our operation is designed to get people outside, spreading out, enjoying the views and fresh air of the farm. We truly want to provide a location people will enjoy and get that farm feeling,” Chris says.
Of course, a few swigs of beer from the brewery’s tanks and barrels should help liven up customer spirits. Though Lone Oak Farm’s brewery will serve as the business component to pay the bills, the owners view it only as a beginning. They are planning on a tasting room spacious enough for outdoor sampling year round.
Beyond the beer, an even greater part of the farm’s charm is the view of the surrounding property, a pond and that lone white oak—Maryland’s state tree.
“Ultimately, we are going to grow our own crops. It’s going to be very green,” Ralph concludes. “We think it will be the premiere Montgomery County farm brewery.”