Beer is old and beloved. Beer making dates back to the fifth millennium BC. It evolved all over the world through the fermentation of barley and other grains. Virginia colonists brewed ale from corn in the late 16th century. While beer making became more industrialized during the Industrial Revolution, domestic, artisan, and small-batch craft beer making endured, and is on the rise as of late. Virginia’s breweries are blooming, and here you can learn about four new and four established breweries in the Old Dominion.
New Breweries in 2016:
Green Flash Brewery
The Green Flash Brewery is opening in Virginia Beach on nine acres of land, and is still in development. It will be about a 15 minute drive from the beach and will feature a brewing facility, tasting room, store, onsite lab for beer analysis, beer garden, and event space. I am a fan of their West Coast IPA. Their original location is in San Diego and was started by Mike and Lisa Hinkley in 2002, and their Brewmaster is Erik Jensen.
Mustang Sally Brewing Company
The Mustang Sally Brewing Company is opening in Chantilly, VA (in Farifax County, near the intersection of Routes 28 and 50). Founder Sean Hunt was first inspired to start a brewery over two decades ago while living in Stuttgart, Germany for two years during high school. His desire was to honor his love for Europe’s rich brewing traditions while starting his own unique but classic American brewery. The brewery has a spacious tasting room (which is available for private events), beer garden, and courtyard. Their brews include a grapefruit radler, amber lager, porter, IPA, and Kölsch, with a Hefeweizen on the way.
taStable Craft Brewing
taStable Craft Brewing is new in Waynesboro, VA. It stands out because it has been built on a working farm and has a very scenic setting. You can sit on the patio outside and gaze at the mountains or sit inside and enjoy the view out of the expansive windows. Guests can also enjoy tours of the horse stables, the pastures, and the hop fields where the beer is born, and meet Morocco the Clydesdale. Their Head Brewer, Christopher Fann, is happy to school you on beer production. They offer 16 craft beers and they haven’t forgotten to feed their guests—their site explains that they provide “farm-style menu with a southern twist” including wraps, sliders, burgers, chees plates, and more. I look forward to trying their Smoked Red Ale.
The Virginia Beer Company
The Virginia Beer Company is now open in Williamsburg. The co-founders (a high school teacher turned professional brewer, financial analyst, and consultant) are alums of the College of William and Mary, like myself. Their Brewmaster, Jonathan Newman, hails from SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta, GA, so he knows his beer. They believe in keeping reliable quantities of their fan favorites available while brewing new, smaller, creative batches regularly. They also prioritize environmental sustainability and local philanthropy. Their year round beers include a dry-hopped amber stout named Wrenish Rye (named after the Wren Building), an oatmeal stout named Elbow Patches (I’m assuming named for those Humanities professors with the elbow-patched corduroy jackets), and an India pale ale named Free Verse (a beer and a type of writing I love, oh my), among others.
Established Virginia Breweries:
Far Gohn Brewing
Far Gohn Brewing is in lovely downtown Culpeper, VA. This brewery honors the great German brewing traditions and also offers international beer styles and flavors. The beer is served where it is brewed in a comfy, intimate space with old brick walls, a beautiful wooden bar, and friendly staff. They abstain from using filters, pasteurization, animal products, or secret, unlisted ingredients. Far Gohn Brewing Company was founded by Steve Gohn and they carry Altbier, Hefeweizen, and Kolsch regularly with other brews rotating through, including British, Belgian, and American varieties.
Champion Brewing Company
Champion Brewing Company is located in Charlottesville, VA, just a few blocks from the downtown pedestrian mall and the popular, artsy Belmont neighborhood. Champion uses a three-barrel Premier Stainless brewhouse to create their flagship beers as well as new varieties, including an IPA, Kolsch, and Czech-Style pils. They offer spacious indoor and outdoor seating and often host food trucks and art events. Their site explains that they are “driven by punk rock values and a fierce commitment to independence and innovation.”
Legend Brewery in Richmond has the distinction of being Virginia’s oldest microbrewery (open since 1994). They are proud to create premium unpasteurized lagers and ales from their select ingredients: two-row and specialty hops, barley malt, water and yeast. Their year round beers include: lager, pilsner, brown ale, porter, golden IPA, and pale ale. Their pub offers indoor and outdoor seating and events and groups such as Ladies Night, Manchester Mug Club, and Sunday Bluegrass. Their summer ale in 2016 is named Z Dam Ale, in honor of the well-known Z Dam connecting Pony Pasture to William’s Island, and in appreciation of the James River Outdoor Coalition.
James River Brewery
James River Brewery is located in a beautiful 19th century brick building on Scottsville, VA’s main street. Guests can drink in the taproom or in the idyllic, peaceful beer garden alongside Mink Creek. They offer live music most weekends or if you’re there on a quiet afternoon it is quite mellow and nice. Their core beers include: the Fluvanna Fluss (Weissbeer), Hatton Ferry Pale Ale (named for the historic nearby James River Ferry), JRB 3.0 IPA, and the Sherman Stout, and they also brew seasonal varieties. Their beer was honored with Gold and Bronze at the 2015 Virginia Beer Cup.
If you are a beer lover or aficionado, you’re bound to find something tasty and of interest at any of these VA breweries. If you’re not, but you do drink other types of alcohol, maybe one of these expert craft breweries holds a fresh, unexpected beer flavor and finish that you’ll like. Regardless, if you’re up for a unique beer experience while in VA, stop into one of these breweries, or one of the many others you’re bound to come across.