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    #Goodmorning from the #VirginiaBeach Fishing #Pier. It looks like another beautiful day is in store for #Virginia. #LoveVA #sunrise #photooftheday #todaysunrise #vatravel #bigsky @visitvabeach #vaoutdoors
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  • Enjoy Local Shopping in Virginia’s Historical Districts

    by Stefanie | Posted on July 16th, 2014

    It’s hard to believe that summer is more than halfway over. But don’t fret! Now is the perfect time to score some great deals on everything from clothing to furniture. And with that also comes the unveiling of fall’s newest lineups. We’re not in primetime season yet, so there are deals out there to get a leg up on the latest trends. As we wallow through this transitional phase, take advantage of all the unique shopping districts around the Commonwealth.

    And don’t forget, TAX-FREE shopping weekend is Aug. 1-3!

    Carytown Shopping

    Carytown Shopping

    Carytown, Richmond
    Known as the Mile of Style, Carytown offers everything you need to eat, shop, and play. Its sidewalks are lined with unique boutiques, restaurants, specialty shops, spas and more. Enjoy the eclectic collection of award-winning, locally-owned businesses. Spend the day in the area voted “Best Shopping Neighborhood in Virginia” by the readers of Southern Living magazine. While you’re here, visit Carytown landmarks, including Cary Court, the oldest outdoor shopping center on the East Coast and catch a film at the Byrd Theatre, Richmond’s movie palace since 1928. Carytown hosts many festivals throughout the year, including the Watermelon Festival, Chalk up the Town, Craft Beer Festival, Food & Wine Festival, Carytown Fashion Show and more, of course!

    Old Town Alexandria
    The go-to D.C. destination for boutique shopping is Old Town Alexandria, with The Wall Street Journal praising, “The King Street area has some of the best stores and galleries in the region.” Nearly 80 percent of the restaurants and retailers in the King Street corridor are independently owned, including the chic shops of the Old Town Boutique District, while nearby, Del Ray’s Mount Vernon Avenue is another haven for eclectic, locally owned storefronts. Fashionistas flock to Alexandria for high end shoes and unique clothing finds, while home décor shops and antique galleries burst with statement pieces. Delight in tasty treats from olive oils to award-winning hot chocolates, pick up pet friendly goodies, or peruse handmade jewelry at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. While you’re there, take in the sites and attractions of George Washington’s hometown and more.

    The Pink Scottie in Historic Petersburg

    The Pink Scottie in Historic Petersburg

    Old Towne Petersburg
    A devastating fire in 1815 wiped out the old towne of Petersburg, a collection of wooden warehouses and homes along the Appomattox River. Today, Old Towne is a district of antique galleries, boutiques, craft shops, restaurants, cafes and a mix of renovated residences. With cobblestone streets and national landmarks throughout, take in a truly unique shopping experience.

    Historic Roanoke City Market
    The Historic Roanoke City Market is the oldest such market in continuous use in Virginia, dating back to the 1800s. While you’re picking up from fresh, local produce, the Historic Market building also offers fantastic shopping opportunities. The entire Market District includes unique shopping, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, antique shops, museum shops and plenty more to discover.

    Shopping in Smithfield
    Smithfield’s Historic District, lined with Colonial, Federal and Victorian homes, offers antique collectors and shoppers a plethora of options. The Antiques Emporium, Heritage Antiques, Laura and Lucy’s, Olde House Antiques, Mansion House Art & Antique Gallery, and Wharf Hill Antiques offer everything from toys to treasures, furniture to fixtures, and memorabilia to music.

    Hugh Mercery Apothecary Shop in Historic Fredericksburg

    Hugh Mercery Apothecary Shop in Historic Fredericksburg

    Historic Downtown Fredericksburg
    Set foot into some of the most interesting periods in America’s past with a stroll among more than 350 original 18th and 19th century buildings in Fredericksburg’s 40-block National Historic District. While here, visitors can also step into over 100 shops, chef-owned restaurants and boutiques, concentrated in the downtown area and along a four-block “antique row” near the river.

    Leesburg Historic District
    Leesburg’s Historic District provides a charming backdrop for shopping, dining, walking tours, visiting art galleries and buying those one of a kind items or the stylish ‘must have’ accessories… handbags, jewelry, clothing and more. Antiques and home furnishing stores are plentiful. The streets are lined with brick sidewalks, authentic, historic architecture and wonderful flowering trees and flower baskets. Discover the charm and the great buys.

    Shockoe Slip, Richmond
    Shockoe Slip’s neighborhood has become a prime example of urban restoration and historic preservation. What was once the only trading area in Richmond is now the city’s most fashionable shopping and dining district. The Slip’s restored warehouses and taverns house a unique assortment of exclusive apparel stores, galleries, restaurants and hotels.

    Capo's Music Store in Downtown Abingdon

    Capo’s Music Store in Downtown Abingdon

    Abingdon Historic District
    Specialty shops, boutiques, art galleries and more line the streets of historic downtown Abingdon. Spend a day wandering the cobblestone sidewalks and discover historic landmarks like the State Theatre of Virginia, all the while browsing unique antique shops, music stores, the Abingdon Olive Oil Co. and more.



    Deals & Discounts, Events, Family, History, Locals | 1 Comment

    30 Freshwater Swimming Holes

    by Casey | Posted on July 14th, 2014

    Summer calls for a dip in the water, and we have fresh mountain streams and rivers that you’ll find most refreshing on a hot day. Our list has been compiled through various avenues of research, including tips from local residents. If they love these swimming holes, you’re sure to as well!

    Dismal Falls

    Dismal Falls

    If you are unfamiliar with mountain streams, let me tell you that they’re cold. Pack a picnic and refresh yourself in the Maury River at one of these public access points in Rockbridge County:

    Swim or wade at the base of a waterfall!

    Choosing your James River access point can be tricky, as this gem can roar mightily in certain areas, especially after a heavy rain upstream. Try these locations, but never swim alone.

    Splash around in the oldest river in North America, the New River.

    Blue Hole – many river towns have a special swimming hole they dub “Blue Hole.” Aforementioned Goshen Pass is sometimes known as Blue Hole by locals and here are two more:

    • A site James Madison University students and Harrisonburg locals call “Blue Hole” is located on Dry River off Rawley Pike (Route 33) in Rockingham County. A large boulder makes a fantastic jumping platform into this deep swimming hole.
    • University of Virginia students love their own “Blue Hole” on Moormans River near the Sugar Hollow Reservoir in Crozet. This swimming hole is within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath the renowned Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County. When the water’s high enough, it’s a great place for a dip. Otherwise, dipping your toes works, too, at this beautiful, historic site.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath Humpback Bridge.

    Dunlap Creek flows beneath Humpback Bridge.

    Craig Creek Recreation Area is 130 acres in Botetourt County that’s available for camping, picnics, and of course, swimming! The water is gentle and perfect for families.

    Blackwater Creek at Hollins Mill in Lynchburg is shallow for wading in to cool off on a hot summer day and is also an access point for the Blackwater Creek Natural Area and Trail.

    While there’s no designated swimming area (like a beach) at Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park on the Shenandoah River in Warren County, you can wade out and splash around or tube to your heart’s content.

    Off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Rockbridge County at Petite’s Gap (milepost 71) is an unmarked gravel road (Petite’s Gap Road). Descend, winding, for several miles until you cross East Fork Elk Creek in Sulphur Spring Hollow. At the second crossing, pull off – your swimming hole is in that vicinity.

    St. Mary’s River is home to St. Mary’s Falls, which can be found in Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Augusta County. This swimming hole includes a rock slide, which can be great fun if the water level is just right.  It’s just south of the falls.

    Please enjoy Virginia’s swimming holes with a friend; never swim alone. Also, follow “leave no trace” practices when experiencing any part of Virginia’s outdoors.

    Which of these have you been to? Which do you love that aren’t listed here? Leave a comment to tell us all about it.

    Virginia is for Lovers.
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    Family, Locals, Outdoors, Video clips | 3 Comments

    Stand Up Paddleboarding Spots

    by Stefanie | Posted on July 10th, 2014

    You’ve heard the buzz and read the magazine articles.  Maybe you’ve even seen some stand up paddlers down at the beach or know someone who has hopped on a board.  Whatever your exposure to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), the odds are pretty good that it has piqued your interest.  So what are you waiting for?

    Stand Up Paddleboarding, also known as SUP, is the incredible combination of canoeing, kayaking and surfing. Using a canoe-like paddle and standing atop a stable and balanced long board, paddlers propel themselves through the water with smooth alternating strokes. SUP offers an alternative core workout similar to swimming and cycling. In a short time you will become one with water, finding yourself living in the moment. Stand up paddleboarding offers a new perspective of Virginia’s natural surroundings and an escape from your daily stress.

    Coastal SUP Tours, Virginia Beach
    Coastal SUP Tours offers a personalized SUP experience for every group.  Take a relaxing tour of First Landing State Park for the beginners, or tour the Bay/Ocean and watch dolphins as they migrate on their daily feeding routines around Cape Henry Point. The Coastal SUP Tours staff strives to provide their customers with a safe, comfortable and relaxing experience. They also offer one-on-one lessons for a more private and focused training.

    Black Dog Paddle SUPer Sisters

    Black Dog Paddle SUPer Sisters

    Black Dog Paddle, Midlothian
    Black Dog Paddle brings the fun and excitement of stand up paddleboarding to the James River and many other surrounding waterways in Richmond. Black Dog Paddle offers SUP lessons, fitness classes, ECO-tours, ECO-trips, SUP fishing, SUP yoga and stand up paddle rentals. Black Dog tours the inland waterways, the James River, Dutch Gap, the Chickahominy River, Lake Anna, Lake Chesdin, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Mathews County, and Deltaville on their new, well-balanced (and very fun!) stand up paddleboards.

    Tula Adventure Sports, Virginia Beach
    Home of the Drifter SUP Tour, Tula Adventure Sports is the only downstream paddle in the Virginia Beach area. Paddle along the shoreline of First Landing State Park on Broad Bay and Long Creek—a side of Virginia Beach that not everyone gets to explore. You will be surrounded by beauty while paddling along friendly waters, and getting a little push from the tide. While you’re on the Drifter Tour, you’ll never see the same shoreline twice and never paddle against the current. This paddle is great for first timers and wildlife enthusiasts. Tula also offers lessons (private or group) and rentals.

    Riverside Outfitters, Richmond
    Ready to see the James River from a whole new perspective? Join Riverside Outfitters’ expert guides on a thrilling instructional trip from Pony Pasture to Reedy Creek (Class I-II whitewater). In this relatively easy whitewater section of the river you will experience a fun, challenging workout among some of the prettiest urban wilderness in the U.S. Come see why Outside Magazine awarded Richmond the “2012 Best River Town in the U.S.A.” The guides provide plenty of instruction (dry land and on-the-water) so that paddleboarders not only have a great trip, but learn skills that can be applied to future paddleboard outings.

    Outdoor Adventure Experiences, Dayton
    Outdoor Adventure Experiences offers introductory expeditions, usually spanning two hours, on flat water. Half-day lessons on small, gentle rapids are also available.

    SouthEast Expeditions at Onancock Wharf

    SouthEast Expeditions at Onancock Wharf

    SouthEast Expeditions, Cape Charles
    SouthEast Expeditions offers small, introductory lessons to ensure individual attention. Each introductory lesson lasts one hour. A second class is included in the fee, where paddleboarders are able to explore the open waters on their own—perfect for families and group gatherings.

    Paddleboarding at Pohick Bay, Lorton
    Pohick Bay Regional Park has recently added SUP to their long line of rentals. As part of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, the Park is now able to give SUP discounts to residents in the surrounding areas—Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun Counties, City of Alexandria, and Falls Church.

    Great White Water Sports, Norfolk
    Rent a paddleboard and relax and unwind. Great White Water Sports offers tranquil paddle yoga, also known as aqua yoga.

    Fredericksburg SUP

    Fredericksburg SUP

    Fredericksburg SUP, Fredericksburg
    While you’re discovering Northern Virginia, spend at day at Fredericksburg SUP, where their paddleboarding lessons cater to people of all ages and skill levels. Various lessons are available, as well as tours and sales.



    Beaches, Destinations, Family, Outdoors, Outdoors, Travel Ideas, Uncategorized, Virginia Destinations | 2 Comments

    Virginia is for Oyster Lovers

    by Stefanie | Posted on July 9th, 2014

    We already know Virginia is for Lovers, right? Well how about for Oyster Lovers? Virginia is now known as the “Oyster Capital of the East Coast.” Virginia is the largest producer of fresh, farm-raised oysters in the country, providing seven regions of diverse flavor. From the saltiest waters of the Eastern Shore, to the sweet tastes of the Rappahannock River, the oysters here give visitors another thing to love about travel in Virginia.

    The Chesapeake Bay is justifiably famous for its oysters. As a matter of a fact, one translation of the word Chesapeake from the Algonquian language is “Great Shellfish Bay.” Today, local oysters are raised and harvested throughout the coastline. If harvesting is not as appealing as devouring, finding a restaurant to serve them up any way is no task at all.

    HISTORY
    The oyster originally colonized the Chesapeake approximately 5,000 years ago, becoming known as “filter feeders.” The millions of oysters that cleaned waters as it passed through kept the waters of the Bay clear and pristine down to depths of 20 feet. A pirating and dredging attack in the late 1800s to early 1900s led to a mass shortage of oysters along the Bay; however, Virginia is flourishing once again, making it the ultimate experience for oyster enthusiast.

    Shooting Point Oyster Company

    Shooting Point Oyster Company

    HARVESTING
    Gathering oysters is not as hard as you may think it is. If you’re looking to do some homemade preparation yourself, all you’ll need are some nets or baskets and a flotation device. Wait for the tide to recede, gather the oysters in the nets/baskets, attach the flotation device and allow the tide to roll in. The flotation device is used to identify the nets when the tide rises.  During this process, the oysters will be provided with a fresh supply of seawater, ensuring freshness. Gather your oysters and you’re good to go!

    OYSTERING REGULATIONS
    Each year, oyster industry participants must pay an annual fee. The revenue collected from these fees is used for the Oyster Replenishment Program, which involves the spawning and formations of new adult oysters, which will reach market size in roughly three years. The program also provides training and support for the growing oyster aquaculture industry, and monitors oyster populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the coastal bays of the Eastern Shore. Annual fees are required for harvesting, shucking and more.

    RESTAURANTS TO TRY
    There’s many places around Virginia to get your oyster fix. Head to the shore and you’ll find Harpoon Larry’s Oyster Bar in Hampton Roads. The restaurant has been a local hang out for years, featuring fresh, local oysters. The restaurant has also been named as one of the Best 23 Seafood Dives in the U.S. by Coastal Living magazine. At the mouth of the Rappahannock lies Merroir, a riverfront gourmet oyster tasting house, featuring the celebrated farms of the Rappahannock Oyster Co.

    The Shanty

    The Shanty

    Try out Catch 31 in Virginia Beach, offering an exciting, multi-venue seafood dining experience. The restaurant offers an extensive menu of fresh seafood and a variety of seating options. The Shanty and Aqua in Cape Charles are going to give visitors a taste of the saltiness of the Eastern Shore, while the Rappahannock Oyster Co. offers a series of farm-to-table restaurants throughout the state. Rappahannock Oyster Bar in D.C. has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the 5 top oyster bars in America. There’s always plenty more oyster hotspots to experience in Virginia.

    And don’t forget about the oyster festivals coming up this year!

     

     



    Food, Virginia Destinations | 1 Comment

    Virginia’s Craft Beer Pairs Nicely with Summer’s Bounty

    by Casey | Posted on July 7th, 2014

    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?

    Blue Mountain Brewery

    Blue Mountain Brewery

    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.”
    Rusty Beaver "Top Down Summer Ale"

    Rusty Beaver “Top Down Summer Ale”

    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.”
    Devil's Backbone Brewing Company

    Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company

    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
    Click here for a map of Virginia craft breweries.

    Click here for a map of Virginia craft breweries.

    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.

    MORE VIRGINIA CRAFT BREWERIES

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    Beer, Food | 1 Comment