In recent years Virginia’s craft beer industry has seen a major resurgence. August Virginia Craft Beer Month was born in 2012 with nearly 40 breweries. It’s now a year later and that number has jumped to over 60. Plus, we know of at least two more opening this fall. So when did this craft beer movement start in Virginia?
All the way back at the beginning of exploration …
According to BeerAdvocate.com, the History of American Beer begins in 1587 as “Virginia colonists brew ale using corn,” and then in 1607 the “first shipment of beer arrives in the Virginia colony from England.” Apparently the English beer didn’t last long, as the history goes on to reflect “American ‘Help Wanted’ advertisements appear in London seeking brewers for the Virginia Colony” in 1609.
Beer & Founding Fathers
George Washington’s Gristmill
Beer can be traced through Virginia’s history with asterisk moments like George Washington’s beer recipe and evidence that beer and ingredients to produce it were forms of payment to his Mount Vernon employees.
Or how about Thomas Jefferson? In 1812, a retired Jefferson successfully crafted his first home brew from local hops and malt. He had a fine teacher in his wife, Martha, a small-batch brewmaster during their early years of marriage. By 1814 Jefferson was malting his own grain in his own brewhouse at Monticello. Others, including James Madison, began to take notice and sent their staff to Monticello to learn the trade.
Today we’re all about buying and shopping locally. That’s not a new concept, as George Washington wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette on January 29, 1789, “I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality.”
Legends Brewing Co. Brewery
Handcrafted beer has been in Virginia since the beginning, though breweries have come and gone along the way. Virginia’s first modern day microbrewery was Chesbay – Chesapeake Bay Brewing Company – in Virginia Beach (no longer operational). Chesbay Double Bock won gold at the very first Great American Beer Festival in 1987. That’s quite an acclaim and a legacy for Virginia craft beer.
Though not old by my standards, Virginia’s oldest craft brewery is Legend Brewing Company in Richmond, which was established in 1994. If you’re quick on your math, you’ll note that 2014 will be Legend’s 20th anniversary. Mark that down and plan to pay a celebratory visit.
Suds on the Rise
Virginia is making frothy waves across the beer industry with acknowledgements from the likes of Travel Channel as one of the “Top 7 Beer Destinations.” Explore for yourself with our handy Beer Map, or check out our recent articles for inspiration:
What better time than August Virginia Craft Beer Month to create your own beer tour? Step back and evaluate the names of Virginia’s craft breweries and you see a trend or two start to emerge. The first is animals that howl, and the second … well, the second will be a second blog post. Watch for it!
Wild Wolf Brewing Company
Tap travel across Virginia to hit the howlers of Virginia brews. From north to south, here’s your unofficial Virginia Howlers and Growlers Craft Beer Tour:
Manassas:BadWolf Brewing Company. Sarah Meyers, co-founder of BadWolf, first officially announced her and husband Jeremy’s plan for a nanobrewery in Manassas in September 2012. She has kept faithful craft beer lovers in the loop with licensing and legislation, the tap room build-out and much more, but there’s one thing she’s not telling. Don’t ask Sarah how she and Jeremy came up with the name BadWolf. “I’m sorry to disappoint you but we want to keep it a secret how we decided on BadWolf. That’s for you to figure out!” Guess you’d better head that way and sample one of the six brews on tap to find clues.
Ruckersville:Beer Hound Brewery. Sniffing out good beer? You might fall in love with Beer Hound, a nanobrewery that opened in 2012. All of their beers are named after famous hounds of history and Hollywood. Try Archie, Duke, Kujo or Old Yella, for starters.
Nellysford:Wild Wolf Brewing Company. This brewery, restaurant, sports bar and shopping village gets its name from brewmaster Danny Wolf, who was trained at America’s oldest brewing school. Sample or take home a growler of Alpha Ale, White Wolf or Howling Pumpkin, the fall beer that blends molasses and pumpkin pie spice into a well-balanced brew.
Lexington:Blue Lab Brewing Company. A microbrewery in historic downtown Lexington? Yes indeed. Sample the beers on tap and take home a growler or keg.
Abingdon:Wolf Hills Brewing Company. Daniel Boone trekked the mountains and valleys along the Great Road and into the Wilderness — today’s Abingdon. It was on this southern end of the Great Road that Boone’s dogs encountered a wolf pack from a nearby cave. That one sleepless night lives on in legend, and now, in name as Wolf Hills Brewing Company. Visit the Wolf Den Tasting Room from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays or Thursdays, affectionately dubbed “Growler Hours,” to enjoy small-batch brews.
Check out our Craft Beer Map to find more delicious Virginia beverages and to plan your own craft beer tour.
Saturday, August 10 is Microfestivus at Roanoke’s Elmwood Park. More than 100 beers from 40 Mid-Atlantic micro and craft breweries will be on tap for 4 oz. and 8 oz. tastings. The event is rain or shine and a valid ID must prove you’re 21. Admission is $5 plus the cost of tastings. Purchase tickets in advance for discounts. Virginia has 19 participating craft brewers for Microfestivus. Festival Map and Beer List
Virginia Craft Beer Week at Boar’s Head Inn
Monday through Friday, August 12-16 is Craft Beer Week at Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville. Burgers are the main menu item and a different craft beer or cider will be suggested as an optimal flavor enhancement for each.
Need an example? Ask for the Boar’s Head Sirloin Burger covered in aged cheddar, Applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, and served with handcut fries. The suggested beverage is Starr Hill’s Jomo Lager, described by Starr Hill as “a crossover beer that appeals to the broadest spectrum of brew aficionados.” Burgers are $16 to $22 and beers are $5.75 per bottle. Available for lunch and dinner. Beer and Burger Week Menu
Saturday, August 24 is the Second Annual Virginia Craft Brewers Festival hosted by Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland. The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday night camping is offered for a fee of $15 per person, $10 per car and $50 per RV.
The Virginia Craft Beer Cup presented by Virginia is for Lovers will be awarded to the best overall beer as selected by certified judges. Festival-goers will enjoy live music from five different bands, craft beer from 29 Virginia craft breweries and great local food. Admission is $10 for designated drivers and non-drinking attendees ages 13 and older (soft drinks and water included in admission). Purchase a $35 tasting package in advance to save $10, or a VIP tasting package for $45 that is available in advance only. Children 12 and under are free.
Looking for the lastest brew to be tapped? It just might be Exquisitely Evil Ale, a Double IPA that will be released Thursday, August 29 at Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford. Come out at 5 p.m. for a brewery tour prior to sampling Exquisitely Evil, and stay for paired food specials until 9 p.m.
In honor of the second annual August Virginia Craft Beer Month, we sought local input on the best places to get Virginia craft beer on tap. The response was passionate and inspiring. Get behind this homegrown initiative and take the “shop local” idea further with “drink local.” Where to do so? Read on, friend.
- “Great variety of brews on tap. Eight Point IPA is my personal favorite.”
- “Their Vienna Lager is a 2009 Great American Beer Festival silver medalist and a 2012 World Beer Cup Gold winner, and to my taste, the best representation of Vienna Lager I have ever had.”
- “Best beer in Virginia, bar none! Beyond the beer, the food is fantastic and the atmosphere is 100% Virginia!”
- “If you have not experienced the outdoor dining, then you must come as the sun is setting behind the ridge line.”
- “Great variety and everything is good. I especially like their Classic Lager.”
- “Great array of beers in their sampler, often times including nine beers plus a Virginia cider from down the road.”
- “Huge patio, porches and pergolas with the best mountain views east of the Mississippi.”
- “10+ taps … local food trucks present … huge event planned with three bands, foods, games and more on the 17th.”
- “Great and varied tastes across their lineup, best is either Hoptimization or Great Outdoors.”
- “The brewery works hard to give back to the community, hosting weekly “Cask for a Cause” events and giving excess grains and yeast to local farmers.”
- “Awesome location, awesome brews — love the Blonde Hunny.”
- “Be sure to try the signature fried chicken and fried Oreo cookies!”
- “Offering gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian menu options … dog and kid-friendly … live music three to four nights per week on the patio.”
Champion Brewing Company in Charlottesville is also a newbie, but beer connoisseurs know a good brew when they taste one.
- “Small batch, amazing beers. Best IPA I’ve ever had. Amazing Kolsch.”
- “Over 30 styles brewed, six rotating taps, neighborhood bar feel with a booming truck scene.”
- “The Missile IPA and Pacecar Porter are excellent.”
Wild Wolf Brewing
Three Brothers Brewing
These breweries also received nominations as great places to enjoy Virginia craft beer:
Of course it makes sense to enjoy Virginia craft beer where it’s made, but several restaurants are stepping up this month, allowing “tap takeovers” to serve you some of the finest Virginia craft beer with your meals. Get started with these:
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint
Harrisonburg LOVES Virginia craft beer. Not only did we receive many nominations for their Three Brothers Brewing Company, but their restaurants are hip on the scene, too.
Beyond Restaurant and Bar offers an “Asian fusion” menu for sophisticated palates. Of note to you, craft beer lover, is this tidbit: ”… James River Brewery tap takeover [the] second week of August.”
Billy Jack’s Wing and Draft Shack promises “fresh, never frozen chicken wings and ‘leghorns.’ It’s a hometown bar environment, so just be yourself. One local appreciates the neighborly vibe, writing, “Billy Jack’s participates in most Harrisonburg community events, usually providing music and fantastic choices of craft Virginia beer.”
Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint is just what it claims to be – a beer and burger joint. If you see the longhorn steer on the sign, you’re in the right place. Notable quotables …
- “… has a craft beer appreciation club and takes its members on field trips to craft breweries.”
- “Four rotating drafts, and over 100 bottles in stock!”
- “… if you reach 100 craft beers over your visits at JBs, you become what the restaurant calls a “notcher,” continuing to get rewards as you hit larger goals … prizes for drinking craft beers? Now that’s a draw.“
Roanoke’s Blue 5 is a Blues and Jazz themed restaurant and nightclub, where the mission was to create a five-star restaurant with world-class craft beer and exceptional Southern cuisine. Mission complete. Craft beer rules the 46 taps – the largest selection in Southwest Virginia – and live music reigns four to five nights per week. Blue 5 “has featured most Virginia breweries, rotating frequently … currently three from the state.”
Capital Ale House has a presence in Richmond, Glen Allen, Midlothian, Fredericksburg and Harrisonburg, and has always been a go-to for “the avid beer connoisseur.” It is “one of the original places in Virginia to have a large selection of craft beer,” and of course that includes Virginia craft beer. Interested in how craft beer tastes as it ages? Each location highlights a keg-of-the-month. One keg from August 2012′s keg-of-the-month was reserved, so that NOW, one year later, you can sample aged Hardywood Mocha Belgique in Richmond and Starr Hill Cryptical in Harrisonburg. Get a glass while they last!
The Blue Toad in Afton is situated very nicely among the cluster of craft breweries in Nelson County. What’s more, they are proud to serve the wares of their neighbors. Nightly dinner specials include crab and shrimp, prime rib, and even bison burgers on the weekend. Don’t miss Pint Night. Pint Night includes the hand crafts from everyone along the Nelson 151 Trail and the Brew Ridge Trail.
Boar’s Head Bistro in Charlottesville loves their local beverage scene. These special pairings speak for themselves …
- Starr Hill Jomo Lager paired with Boar’s Head Sirloin Burger
- Bold Rock Hard Cider paired with the Bistro 1834 Burger
- Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager paired with Boar’s Head “SINN”
Additional restaurants receiving nods from the craft beer-loving public:
Black Bear Bistro, Warrenton – Featuring “Devil’s Backbone, Three Brothers, Lost Rhino, Starr Hill”
Chowning’s Tavern, Colonial Williamsburg – “A true eighteenth-century alehouse, Chowning’s Tavern serves Old Stitch, a delicious English Brown Ale developed by Colonial Williamsburg and Williamsburg AleWerks.”
If you have a few days to get away and are looking to save a few bucks, too, this list is for you. Happy travels!
SpringHill Suites, Virginia Beach
Lynchburg – Care to make a deal? EmailThe Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast, pitch them an offer they can’t refuse and within 48 hours they’ll reply to say ‘deal’ or ‘no deal.’ They’re looking for a per night rate for a stay of two nights or longer. Good luck! Valid through December 29.
Newport News – Stay at the Marriott Newport News at City Center and your kids (up to four of them, ages 12 and under) eat free – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Valid through September 8.
Pearisburg – Book two nights at the Inn at Riverbend and take 50% off your third night. The Inn overlooks the New River and Appalachian Mountains. Don’t miss this offer! Valid through July 31.Book Now with offer code IARBSSM13.
Stephens City – Book a stay for any Sunday through Thursday (non-holiday) between now and December 19 at The Inn at Vaucluse Spring and receive 20% off the regular rate.
Virginia Beach – SpringHill Suites (oceanfront) invites you to stay three nights or longer and they’ll knock $25 off the daily rate. Breakfast is included. Book Now
Warm Springs – Celebrate your birthday by going away! Stay at the Meadow Villas at Warm Springs ON your birthday and get a second night for 30% off. Call 717-951-3955 to make a reservation. Valid through December 20.
Waynesboro – Receive 20% off your second and/or third night when you stay midweek (Tuesday-Thursday) at Tree Streets Inn. Valid through August 29.
North Mountain Outfitters, Swoope, VA
Charlottesville – Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello should be on everyone’s history #bucketlist. If it’s on yours, you’re going to love this. Teenagers (ages 12 to 18) receive a 33% discount on their ticket between now and September 2. Adult rate: $24; children 6 to 11: $8; children 6 and under: free.
Manassas – Civil War enthusiasts (or those just getting started with Civil War history) will appreciate a $15 Civil War Experience Pass that gives you entrance to six historic sites. It’s a 50% savings over single admissions for each site. Valid through December 31.
Swoope – North Mountain Outfitters is offering half-day guided trail rides for two for 50% off between now and September 30. Whether it’s your first time or you’re an accomplished rider, you’ll love what you find. Reservations required. Call 540-886-7768.
Williamsburg – Boo! Creep along on a Spooks and Legends Original Haunted Tour of Williamsburg a bit cheaper. Tell them you saw their deal on Virginia.org and they’ll discount each ticket by $2. Note, this tour is is geared toward adults. Call 757-784-6213 to make your reservation. Valid through December 31.
Packages: Stay and Enjoy!
Lynchburg – August is Virginia Craft Beer Month and the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival will be held August 24. Want to go? Need a place to stay? The Craddock Terry Hotel is offering a two-night stay for two with festival admission, tasting glasses, tasting tickets, and transportation to and from the festival. Must be 21 or older. Package starts at $249. Valid August 23-25.Book Now
Pembroke – Stay three nights at Mountain Lake Lodge and get the fourth night free, but better than that is you’ll also receive a $100 activities credit to enjoy all of the family fun Mountain Lake has to offer. BRAND NEW: Treetop Adventures Aerial Adventure Course * Harvest Restaurant * Stony Creek Tavern * Mountain Lake Outfitters Valid through September 7.Book Now
Richmond – Love jazz? Stay at The Jefferson HotelAugust 9-11 and enjoy the Richmond Jazz Festival as part of your stay. Two tickets for each day of the festival, a traditional Southern breakfast for two each morning and three nights in luxury for $305/night. Book Now
Virginia Beach – Stay at The Oceanfront Inn and receive the pin that gets you into all of the American Music Festival concerts during Labor Day weekend. A three-night stay is required. Valid August 30 through September 2.
And these aren’t all! Find dozens more deals at Virginia.org.