Dan and Terri Tatarka emerge from their Afton Mountain driveway with a homebrew in hand, anxious to greet overnight guests to their beer-centric oasis. Since 2015, the couple has operated a mountainside bed and breakfast that pairs Virginia's Blue Ridge beauty with the adventurous spirit of its up-for-anything owners. The aptly named WildManDan is now a gathering place for beer lovers, explorers and down-to-earth Virginia folk to imbibe and unwind.
Thirty years ago, Terri launched her career in hospitality at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. As she worked through roles as chef, caterer and director, she met fiber optic engineer Dan Tatarka. Their love story unfolded and the so-called Wildman moved her to Roanoke. The valley not only proved an exceptional place to raise a family, but to launch Dan’s retirement dream too. “Dan said, ‘I want to retire and brew beer one day. How do we make that happen?’” recalls Terri.
Their key to success, oddly enough, was not found in the foothills of Afton Mountain, but rather in the distant town of Düsseldorf. “We were in Germany on a brew tour and we met a couple with a small brew system in a bar that only had four seats. The couple lived upstairs,” remembers Terri. During the Tatarkas’ visit, the line was out the door, but the German couple quickly rotated guests through their humble taproom, limiting them to two beers a piece.
The shuffle of beers and tourists sparked an epiphany for Dan and Terri. They wanted to recreate the same intimate experience in the States, and their humble inn and small batch brewery have allowed for just that.
Dan adopted homebrewing as a hobby in 2010. As his interest grew stronger over the years, he registered for a chemistry of beer course at the Siebel Institute of Technology and joined a local brew club in Roanoke. “Homebrewing drew on my science and engineering background so much that I really enjoyed it,” says Dan. “[The local brew club] was really a great experience. Everybody there talked beer and shared stories and knowledge.”
He later became an official Beer Judge Certification Program judge to better understand the different styles of beers. “Matter of fact, some of the beers on [our] menu are from my homebrewing times,” he says.
Despite existing as a small batch brewery, WildManDan is big on outside-of-the-box flavors. Rather than brewing a host of flagship beers, Dan brews based on client demand and his personal desire for experimentation. “I like to try different things all the time so when you come back you can expect different beers,” says Dan.
WildManDan brews include a peach-hued rosé Belgian beer infused with hibiscus, a jalapeño porter, lime and cayenne pepper saison, traditional German black lager and Chai-Laxin’, a pale ale infused with chai spice and flavor. Currently fermenting are a summer IPA and a salted caramel gose to be released later this season.
Prior to becoming a production brewery in April, Dan’s experimental brews were simply offered as a treat for guests staying on the property. The Afton site is comprised of five buildings—the main house, two cottages, a garage and the historic Coca-Cola barn used for brewing. Terri, who doubles as innkeeper and head chef, also raises chickens at WildManDan and serves their farm fresh eggs for breakfast. “We’re big Monty Python fans so we have chickens named Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Axl Rose,” chuckles Terri. “We don’t take ourselves that seriously, but we take what we do very seriously.”
Guests of the spacious king- and queen-sized suites are invited to breakfast in their pajamas. “We really want to promote a vacation where people are living in the present, interacting and are unplugged,” explains Terry. “We’re not innkeepers that check you in and disappear either. We fully engage through the entire weekend.”
WildManDan Beercentric Bed and Breakfast is located at 279 Avon Road, Afton. Visit WMDB3.com to learn more.