Story and photos by Chelsea Rose Moore
Curious about the exact number of sausages in the world? Lothar Erbe, a master artisan butcher in Purcellville, Virginia, will tell you there are 3,500 types, and he knows 900 of them.
Erbe is the owner of Lothar’s Gourmet Sausages, an authentic German artisan butcher shop in Western Loudoun. From Frankfurt, Germany, Erbe’s specialization as a butcher enables him to provide beautiful cuts and delicious flavors for Northern Virginia residents. His passion for his craft is evident through his extensive background and love for offering quality meats.
“God put me here in Purcellville to provide good sausages,” he said.
He offers a variety of fun flavors in his brats: sriracha, mojito, mango-habanero, Mumbai-style and Alamo fire. He always enjoys playing with flavor profiles and spices to discover new varieties of sausages for his shop. He doesn’t use any fillers, artificial colors or flavors in his meats.
“When you are looking for quality of life, it is important to have people focused on small businesses,” -Bush
He is an advocate of local food, in part, because it is less processed than meat on grocery store shelves. Local food, according to Erbe and his wife June Bush, is tastier, more flavorful and more nutritious. Although he specializes in pork cuts, he sells a selection of other meats from local farms.
“The meat…this is an art,” said Bush, “It is a field that needs to be respected. When there is an awareness [of this field], I think we will make tremendous progress. When the understanding and appreciation comes, people will say ‘I don’t want to have fast food.’”
Erbe and Bush treat their shop as more than a “business transaction;” they want to get to know their customers and their community. Bush enjoys conversations with customers, while Erbe recommends cuts and instructs on the best way to cook his meats
“The smoked pork chops, they are awesome, especially in this weather, a little chilly, a little rain,” he told a customer while I was there. Become a regular at their shop and they will start greeting you by name.
They are big believers in the importance of “specialized” businesses, as opposed to franchises. As a specialized business, Erbe prepares special orders for his customers, including a customer who cannot have salt due to a medical issue.
Erbe believes everyone should enjoy good food, so he makes special meats low in salt for this customer. Place an order and he can provide it.
“Human touch is disappearing, and there is not a huge incentive to connect with people [anymore],” said Bush, “People are not specialized [in specific vocations anymore]. When we start to lose that, we lose community and tradition. Small businesses are the backbone of a strong economy.”
Erbe’s background as an artisan butcher began when he was young. At 14 years old, he was deciding what to do with his life and spent two weeks interning at a local butcher shop, where the owners talked to him about a possible future as a meat engineer or technician.
A year later, he took a three-year-long apprenticeship where he trained in the theory and hands-on skills of butchery. Afterward, he began an apprenticeship journey called the “Journeymanship,” a portion of the program that enabled him to travel through France, Spain, Italy and Germany by working in local shops and learning how each country prepared their meats.
“God put me here in Purcellville to provide good sausages,” -Erbe
He spent two years in the military before enrolling at Meister Schule Heyne for Artisan Master Butcher to become a master butcher. There he learned biochemics of meats and how to run his own business. “When you are fortunate enough to have a great master, he teaches you the skills and lessons about life,” said Erbe.
After finishing his program, he became Assistant Regional Manager for the meat department of a German supermarket group, where he oversaw 10 branches. He left to work for a liquor corporation, which he credits to teaching him about food and wine pairings, benefiting his work today.
He moved to the U.S. in 2006, and quickly realized there was a high demand for quality meat products here, prompting him to go back to his roots as a butcher. He began serving his meats at farmer’s markets and local events, and cultivated a large group of customers.
From there, he and Bush decided to open a brick and mortar shop that could also serve as a production facility. At the time, Bush was working as a flight attendant for United Airlines, but left her job to help grow their business. They haven’t looked back.
“When you are looking for quality of life, it is important to have people focused on small businesses,” said Bush, “There is a commitment to quality
and service.” ML
Lothar’s Gourmet Sausages: Open Wednesday-Friday:10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. | Available at the Winchester Farmers Market Saturday mornings and The Inn at Little Washington’s market on Sundays | 860 E Main St., Ste. A, Purcellville, VA 20132 | 540-338-1500