Fresh fruits and vegetables are the staples of summer in Virginia, as are signature, summer-only, craft beer. Why not pair the best of summer’s bounties?
With the idea of great summer flavors colliding, we reached out to Virginia’s craft brewers to see what’s on tap this season and with which local foods they’d most likely pair their best brews. Here are a few ideas to get you rolling along for a tasty summer weekend. Visit and enjoy!
A Match Made in Virginia
The best of what’s around!
- Rick of Rusty Beaver in Ruther has his summer dishes coming straight from his Beaverdam garden. While that’s cool enough, it’s what he does with those veggies that takes it all over the top. He’s deep frying them in a Rusty Beaver “Top Down Summer Ale” batter. Expect to find “zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, okra and fried pickles, based on availability … Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer.”
Something New Every Week
Menus – both for food and for beer – change weekly at a majority of Virginia’s craft breweries. There’s your encouragement for a return visit! *wink*
- Blue Mountain in Afton has a new weekly offering called Friday Night Bites. According to Jessica, the evening offers “$5 small plates that are seasonal and created to pair well with our 8-10 beers on tap. We don’t actually pre-select pairings so customers can order whatever they would like to try with each dish. We typically have 5-6 items available from 5-10 pm every Friday night.” One example she offered is the Seared Beef Carpaccio, which is spiced seared beef, roasted garlic aioli, frisée, aged Parmesan and olive oil.
Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
Understandably, not all breweries seek to venture into the restaurant business. However, they will round up some food trucks to keep their patrons fed and steady on their feet.
- Adventure Brewing in Fredericksburg has a regular group of food trucks that serve high quality food. According to Tim, “our ‘Stiletto Stout’ pairs very well with barbecued meats. With a roasted flavor that releases quickly after it leaves the tongue, it allows easy transitions between bites and drinks. Our ‘Super Power Pale Ale’ works well with Steve-O’s burgers and dogs, Martina’s Cantina’s tacos and Beach Fries’ crab cake sandwich. In another great pairing, the unique mix of ingredients that Smooth (Smooth’s Smoke House) uses on his pulled pork and chicken combine well with the light fruity hop flavorings in our ‘Expedition IPA.’”
- Steve, a representative of Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers in Roanoke said you can find two exceptional summer beers on tap: “‘Tinker Creek’ is light in body with medium hop notes and a dry finish. This beer pairs well with Primo Pizza’s wood fired veggie mama pizza and their meatball sub. ‘White Top’ is a Belgian White Ale. This light bodied wheat beer spiced with coriander, chamomile and orange peel is very refreshing. ‘White Top’ pairs well with Blues Bar BQ’s BBQ and Smoked Sausage.”
- Old Bust Head is a brand new brewery in Vint Hill, and their taproom and beer garden is scheduled to open later this summer. Jaimis gave me a few suggestions for enjoying their brews with some of the food trucks that come out. “Crowd favorites include Becky Jordan of Chef Beckles Foods, who recently created a special Santa Maria BBQ menu featuring OBH’s ‘Chinquapin Chestnut Porter’ in a wild mushroom BBQ sauce.”
- Josh of Starr Hill in Charlottesville touted their new summer beer, ‘Soul Shine,’ described as “a Belgian-style Pale Ale with an American twist,” stating, “We love to drink ‘Soul Shine’ with oysters and grilled fish, but our favorite dish to pair is the Baja Fish Taco plate from Morsel Compass Mobile Kitchen, a local food truck. The thick white meat of the beer-battered cod and spicy chipotle slaw combine deliciously with the Belgian yeast and citrus flavor and aroma that ‘Soul Shine’ delivers.”
- Center of the Universe in Ashland also offers a brand new summer Belgian Ale called “RVAle.” Chris told me “RVAle” “pairs perfectly with the fare being served by Intergalactic Tacos on Friday nights at the brewery. The beauty with a taco truck is that you can create anything to match well with new beer releases and styles.”
- Jeremy of Sunken City in Hardy raves of Bruno’s Gastrotruck, “My favorite combination lately is the Naan Fish Taco paired with our summer seasonal, ‘Surfside Wheat,’ a traditional German hefeweizen.”
Nothin’ Pale About Pale Ale
Light beers are most common during the summer, with many breweries offering a signature pale ale. These brews pair nicely with flavor-filled smoky or spicy dishes.
- “Head First” - A strong malt backbone supports the piney, citrusy notes brought on by multiple additions of Cascade and Citra hops. A great beer to pair with weekend burgers or taco night! 6.5% ABV. Midnight, Rockville
- “There Can Be Only One” – an American pale ale made with black patent malt. 6.3+ ABV. Bad Wolf, Manassas
- “Gray Ghost American Pale Ale” – crisp, refreshing, summertime beer goes down smooth with a soft, rounded out blend of Crystal, Simcoe, Citra and Cascade hops backed with a slight caramel sweetness. 5.1% ABV. Three Notch’d, Charlottesville
- “Bust Head English Pale Ale” – Additions of Goldings, Fuggle, and Cascade hops provide the aroma of floral hop tones, as well as imparting a refreshing, clean bitterness. 5.6% ABV. Old Bust Head, Vint Hill
- “Striped Bass Pale Ale” – This refreshing pale ale was created to be consumed while enjoying the bounty of the Bay and protecting local waters. Gold in color wih a light body & pleasant hop bouquet of traditional noble German hops blended with the intense citrus of American hop varieties. 4.8% ABV. Devils Backbone, Roseland
Brewing: Keep it Local
Locally sourced ingredients are common with Virginia’s craft brewers, with some even offering spent hops to local farmers to use as livestock feed. It’s a reverse “eat local” mentality, if you will.
- Dan of Back Bay Brewing in Virginia Beach wrote, I have a beer coming out in a few weeks called “Honey Blue Blue.” It’s a blueberry honey golden ale. The clover honey was sourced from northern Virginia and the blueberries will be locally sourced. At 4.8% its definitely a light refreshing fruit beer.”
- Hardywood‘s Hardywood Virginia Blackberry is available only in summer, with its next release scheduled for July 12 at 2 p.m. It’s made with local Virginia blackberries, of course!
- Adam, brewmaster and owner of The Damascus Brewery in Damascus will soon have something brand new for you to try, and even recommends what foods it would would pair well with. “We are getting ready to brew a ‘Fresh Hopped’ beer next week with hops grown by us and by a local hop farmer from Meadowview, VA called Kelley Ridge Farms. This type of beer uses fresh hops less that 24 hours off the vine. Because these hops have not had a chance to dry out, they contain several delicate essential oils and aromatics that would normally be lost. This fresh hopped beer will only be available for a limited time and will fall into the IPA category. The best pairing with this beer should be things like red meat, red sauce pastas, and Thai food or foods that have lots of curry or cumin.”
- “Native Son Virginia Ale” can be found at Lost Rhino in Ashburn. It was created using only Virginia ingredients, from the water to the Copperfox Distillery malt and local Ashburn yeast.
Pairings to Try at Home
Several of our brewers offered which of their beers might translate well with your dishes at home. Stop by the brewery and take home a growler!
- Adam at The Damascus Brewery had two suggestions for you to try. “‘Funberry Raspberry Lager is a lighter style of beer that is good for pairing with meals that have vinaigrette dressings or balsamic reductions. ‘Sweet Beaver Apricot Hefeweizen’ — while not actually sweet, the apricot finish to this beer really says summertime and is a great way to refresh yourself after a long hot day. This beer goes really well with seafood and we personally love this with a Low Country Boil!”
- Sean of Lickinghole Creek in Goochland offered, “We have Pony Pasture Pilsner available for the summer. It is a classic Bohemian Pilsner that is fantastic for hot Virginia summer days. Goes great with Crab Cakes from Haywood Grill, which is a local Goochland restaurant.” The moral of the story? Fill your growler, order crab cakes to go, and find a place to picnic!
- Mark at Adroit Theory in Purcellville primarily pairs their brews with cheese, but does offer meal pairing suggestions. “Scorpion 3.0,” an 8.10% ABV Black IPA, pairs will with Bourbon marinated Angus beef tenderloin sliders, for example.
Which Virginia craft brewery is your favorite for fantastic, palate-pleasing summertime flavor? Leave a comment to tell us the best pairings you’ve experienced.
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