With summer on the way, you probably have spent at least a few minutes daydreaming about lying out on the sandy beach with the sound of the waves crashing in the background. What makes this thought even more appealing? A refreshing cold beer in your hand. If you’re heading to the beach this summer for a surfside Virginia vacation, plan a pit stop at a few of these coastal breweries for some incredibly tasty brews.
The Bold Mariner Brewing Company—Norfolk
The Bold Mariner Brewing Company in Norfolk has deep ties to both the ocean and the military. Owner and founder Michael Stacks comes from a family that has served in the U.S. Naval service for generations, and he continues that tradition, splitting his time between the brewery and the military. Sample their lagers and ales when you visit the taproom, a large warehouse that looks fairly inconspicuous from the outside, but transforms into a welcoming brewpub as soon as you walk through the doors. If the weather permits, sit outside in the large beer garden and pair your beer with a bite to eat from one of the local food trucks that are often found adjacent to the brewery.
The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery—Fort Monroe
The first thing that comes to mind when discussing The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery is the unusual name. The story behind the Oozlefinch begins in 1905, when a local Captain (who probably had a few too many) swore that he saw a strange bird with large eyes outside the Fort Monroe Officers’ Club. After the tall tale spread, the creature became a myth of the Fort Monroe region, with regular sightings reported over the years. The brewery draws inspiration from that legend and simultaneously nods to their deep roots in the Fort Monroe community. The taproom has a rustic, industrial feel, utilizing hanging lamp pendants and recycled wood tables. When you order your glass of beer, make sure you take a peek at the unique and beautiful inlaid woodwork surrounding the tap area.
Tradition Brewing Company—Newport News
The tasting room at Tradition Brewing Company is expansive, with a second floor mezzanine overlooking the bar and seating area below. The taps feature a selection of constantly evolving seasonal brews along with a few constant customer favorites. The bar is a blend of modern and rustic, with a stunning bottle chandelier and wood-paneled American flag wall artwork vying for the title of the coolest décor.
The Virginia Beer Company—Williamsburg
The taproom at The Virginia Beer Company features at least eight draft beer selections at a time, with four of the beers rotating out for new creations on a regular basis. The goal at this Williamsburg Brewery revolves around creativity, and they strive to come out with a new beer each week. The reclaimed wood bar and tables add an industrial air to the brewery, and roll-up garage doors open during warm weather, letting in the fresh air while providing access to the beer garden.
Young Veterans Brewing Company—Virginia Beach
Founded and named for two former U.S. service members, Young Veterans Brewing Company crafts beers that each carry names saluting the U.S. military. Additionally, they frequently host events in conjunction with local military forces to honor the soldiers in the Hampton Roads area.
Smartmouth Brewing Co.—Norfolk
The second oldest brewery in Norfolk, Smartmouth Brewing Co. has been a well-known member of the Virginia craft beer scene since its opening in 2012. The tap room features five year-round selections, as well as three rotating seasonal brews and at least one limited release each month. By donating their spent grains to local farmers, using recycled and biodegradable materials, and serving their beer in glass rather than plastic, the brewery applies environmentally friendly practices wherever possible. A new location will be opening in Virginia Beach this fall under the name of the Smartmouth Pilot House with the goal of supporting collaborations with other breweries and community groups to create unique small batch craft beers.
Pleasure House Brewing—Virginia Beach
Pleasure House Brewing strives to be more than just a place to grab a craft beer. The brewery focuses on building a strong relationship with the local community and creating a fun place for locals and visitors alike to hang out, with a foosball table, dart board, and a handful of board games open to all. They keep a rotation of eight to eleven beers on tap, trying out new recipes and seasonal ingredients throughout the year.
O’Connor Brewing Company—Norfolk
In Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood industrial section, O’Connor Brewing Company’s tasting room has sliding garage doors that open on sunny days to a wide outdoor patio. The outdoor beer garden is sheltered from the hot summer sun with large fabric shades overhead held up by wood and steel beams, and as the sun goes down, outdoor lights strung from the ceiling of the beer garden brighten the space. Try the seven tried and true brews that fill out the taproom menu year-round as well as a bevy of seasonal beers.
Wharf Hill Brewing Co.—Smithfield
Due to the owner’s love of historic artifacts, every piece of Wharf Hill Brewing Co. dates back at least a century, speaking to the region’s interesting past. There are always at least four beers on tap, with guest taps from other great breweries both local and from around the world. The brewery serves a full lunch and dinner menu, and they participate in local sustainability practices, donating all leftover scraps of food and spent grains used in brewing to local farms.
Home Republic Brewery—Virginia Beach
Another brewpub owned and supported by local veterans, Home Republic Brewery serves up their own craft beers in addition to a selection of hand-picked brews from other establishments. You’ll find about ten Home Republic beers on tap at all times, ranging from light and refreshing Kolsches to deep Imperial Stouts. The brewery has a prime location, right off the Boardwalk where hundreds of visitors stop at the towering Neptune Statue each day to take a memorable picture, drawing people into the brewpub for a relaxing break away from the hot summer sun.
Commonwealth Brewing Co.—Virginia Beach
Commonwealth Brewing Co. is a craft beer haven just a few blocks from the Chesapeake Bay beaches and Virginia’s Eastern Shore access point, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Built inside the converted Chesapeake Beach Fire & Rescue Station #4, the brewery recently underwent extensive renovations, opening back up with a 28-tap tasting room and a spacious outdoor beer garden. The original firehouse doors were replaced with large glass garage bay doors which are rolled up when weather permits to allow the coastal breeze indoors.
Near the downtown area and the lively NEON Arts District, Coelacanth Brewing is within a short distance of the most popular attractions in Norfolk. The brewing team focuses on putting their own twists on classic beer styles, resulting in balanced and authentic ales and lagers. Eco-friendly is more than just lip service at Coelacanth; they are the lone Certified Green brewery in the Hampton Roads area, and one of only twelve in the entire state. In recognition for their efforts, they were awarded the Virginia Green Travel Leader Award.
Big Ugly Brewing—Chesapeake
The unusual name of Big Ugly Brewing has nothing to do with the beers; the namesake is a massive 1955 Chevy panel truck that belongs to one of the brewery owners. The décor echoes that of a classic car garage, with vintage vehicles intermittently placed around the taproom, but also gives visitors a peek at the beer-making process through the exposed craft brewery equipment. A Volkswagen bus sits in the middle of the tasting room, now converted into a private seating area, and several British motorcycles have been mounted to the floor as seating. Chesapeake’s first brewery provides a selection of around ten big and bold beers on tap at any given time.
Rip Rap Brewing Co.—Norfolk
Rip Rap Brewing Co. is a Norfolk microbrewery, constantly rotating their selection of eight or more craft beers in the taproom to try out new styles and recipes. The brewery isn’t just for adults, but provides non-alcoholic drinks and small snacks for kids accompanying their parents. There is also a variety of fun board games to pass the time during your visit to the brewery.
St. George Brewing Company—Hampton
Continuously in operation since 1998, St. George Brewing Company bears the honor of being one of the first microbreweries in the Hampton Roads area. They pride themselves on their takes on traditional English and German style ales, although they are always open to testing out recipes for other beer varieties.
Brass Cannon Brewing—Williamsburg
Brass Cannon Brewing was founded by a trio of enthusiastic homebrewers who decided to turn their passion for beer into more than just a hobby. Originally opened in Toano in 2012, the craft brewery founders decided to expand their operation to a new Williamsburg location in 2016. The brews that come out of Brass Cannon tend to lean towards the British and American style beers, but they have a rotating small-batch series that allows them to experiment and get creative in the craft brewing process, resulting in some very tasty seasonal releases.
Back Bay Brewing Company—Virginia Beach
Just a few blocks from the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Back Bay Brewing Company provides a convenient space for coastal travelers to get a craft beer. Long wood tables with bench seating run through the interior, which looks more like the side of a quaint cottage home with its wood shingled slanted roof overlooked by framed windows. The perfection of the scene is offset by the rusted metal sheeting that comprises the walls, dotted with wooden ducks that hint at the owner’s passion for hunting.
Alewerks Brewing Company—Williamsburg
When walking into Alewerks Brewing Company, one of the first things to catch your eye is the beautiful mixed wood bar. Order one of their delicious craft beers here, then grab a seat under the patio’s umbrellas on sunnier days to pair your beer with the perfect summer atmosphere. The brewery hosts all kinds of events, from trivia nights to live music performances, in the taproom, adding endless entertainment to your Virginia brewery experience.
Wasserhund Brewing Company—Virginia Beach
Translating to “water dog” in German, Wasserhund of course focuses on German style brewing, creating an impressive selection beers, averaging around twelve on tap at any given time. In addition to fine craft beers, the brewery is known for their artisan pizzas, made to order and served piping hot out of their brick oven. Want a more traditional German experience? Order the beer sausages with sauerkraut with your beer.
Reaver Beach Brewing Company—Virginia Beach
Strings of lights hang loosely from the ceilings, illuminating the taproom at Reaver Beach Brewing Company with a warm and welcoming glow. Large wooden picnic tables and barrel bistro-style high tops provide seating in the taproom, outfitted with rustic wood paneled walls that complete the rustic décor. The brewery is located several miles inland between the bustling streets of Oceanfront Virginia Beach and the quiet community of Sandbridge, providing a convenient brew destination for many beachgoers in the region.
The first brewery in Virginia’s Northern Neck, Montross Brewery is small and intimate, possessing a quaint charm that seems more like a Southern-style home than a craft brewery. White columns frame the covered patio area and picnic tables on the front lawn offer extra seating during good weather. It is only after you walk inside that you discover the brewery atmosphere, where the exposed wood paneled walls and the recycled barrel converted to house beer taps bring the craft brewery experience to the forefront. Just a few miles from Westmoreland State Park, George Washington Birthplace National Monument, and Stratford Hall, the brewery is a welcomed detour from the historic sites of the Northern Neck.
Coming Soon: Cape Charles Brewing Company—Cape Charles
Although not yet open, Cape Charles Brewing Company is scheduled to welcome visitors starting in the summer of 2017 and will have the distinct honor of being the first craft brewery on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for further updates!
Whether you’re heading to the beach for a family vacation, to see your favorite band at one of the popular music venues in the region, or simply to discover the beauty of Virginia’s shores, these coastal breweries should definitely be on your to-do list this summer. Which one is your favorite place for a craft beer near the beach?