August is Virginia Craft Beer Month, and the Shenandoah Valley is a significant part of the state’s fluid growth in this industry. A recent survey found that Virginia now numbers 190 craft breweries—13th among all states. But Virginia is 5th in the country in growth rate —up 36 percent from 2015.
The Valley is now home to beer trails, events, tastings, festivals, tours, live music, brewing classes, and even combinations of beer and running. Some breweries are pet-friendly and some have reading rooms. Many offer food, food delivery, or at least a full-menu food truck.
With a designated driver and a commitment to drink responsibly, now is the time to explore the Valley’s craft beer establishments. Here’s a thumbnail guide to some of the Valley’s most enjoyable places to sample a flight.
The Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail is a network of 15 breweries from Harrisonburg to Natural Bridge—all within a scenic hour’s drive of each other. (Click on the Beerwerks Trail link for more complete information on all of them.) Stops along the Trail include:
Brothers Craft Brewing—Housed in a renovated soda bottling plant, and indeed founded by three brothers. Monthly charity events benefit local non-profits. Fundraisers, live music, food trucks, games and brewery tours are all part of the experience. Brothers Craft Brewing has won Gold at the Great American Beer Festival and Virginia Craft Brewers Cup.
The Friendly Fermenter—Patrons can make their own beer with help from instructors. Brew-on-site or pick up brewing supplies from their fully stocked shop for your own DIY beer making. Tap offerings change frequently but recent favorites include: “Gatekeeper” – British ESB; “Umlaut” – German Kolsch; “Lawn Dart” – Lemongrass Cream Ale; “Hazy Minds” – NE Style IPA ; “Summer of ’69” – Strawberry Wheat and “Lil Jack Horner” – Plum & Currant Sour.
Pale Fire Brewing Company — Located in the renovated Ice House in Downtown Harrisonburg, Pale Fire’s Tasting Room is open daily to try any of 10 beers made on-site. They offer live music, live storytelling, trivia nights, and more. Enjoy a wall of books, cozy fireplace, large U-shaped bar, and an outdoor patio. Ask about the 2019 Live Music Pass. Dogs welcome, with some common-sense restrictions.
Restless Moons Brewing Company —Headquartered in a former auto service station where the garage doors are opened on warm days, Restless Moons has about a dozen beers on tap with creative names like “Grizzly Bear Kisses” and “Yankee Ingenuity.” Enjoy live music, cornhole and the food truck park that draws local university students. Restless Moons has a large brewing system but also does one-keg experiments to keep things interesting on its 6-tap rotating lineup.
Three Notch’d Valley Collab House — Using locally sourced ingredients to make small batches of beers, brewers have nine varieties on tap at this “outpost” of the larger Three Notch’d Brewing Company in Charlottesville. The “Collab” in the name refers to a commitment to working with the local community and using the freshest possible local ingredients. Every Friday they release a new experimental brew. Weekly Bend and Brews yoga classes, plus local art and music make for a creative, energetic atmosphere. Dogs ok on the patio.
Skipping Rock Beer Company – It’s hard to argue with a mindset of “Worry less. Live more.” Located one mile west of Staunton, on Parkersburg Turnpike/RT 254. They offer a multitude of beers, along with pastoral views and a splendid food truck.
Bedlam Brewing — Located a few miles north of Downtown Staunton, Bedlam focuses on traditional ales with a Belgian and French influence, as well as other varieties reflecting fresh, local agriculture. Bedlam offers six to seven of its own craft beers on tap at any given time. The pizza is made in a wood fired oven, and local produce and meats are put to good use on the menu.
Redbeard Brewing Company — Offering 10 beers on tap and working with the motto, “Small Batches of Big Beers,” the microbrewery Redbeard has a 40-seat Taproom and an outdoor Beer Garden. Located in Staunton’s Wharf District, Redbeard just held their sixth anniversary July 20! Food trucks, delivery from nearby Depot Grille and frequent live music add to the enjoyment.
Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company — Located in the heart of Staunton, they are the first brewery to distribute craft beer outside the area. Up to 12 beers are brewed on-site and are available on tap. Listen to live music often on weekends. No food service on-site but feel free to bring something from one of many nearby restaurants. Dogs are fine on the patio.
Queen City Brewing — Choose from nearly two dozen beers on tap, or just brew your own–80 different recipes are available. QCB offers lots of entertainment—live music on Wednesday and Fridays, and an Open Mic Night. A local food truck stops by on Fridays or you can have food delivered from local restaurants. Witness the brew production process on Saturdays, and ask about the Brewers Apprentice Program.
Basic City Beer Company —Housed in an old industrial complex that was once Virginia Metalcrafters. Quite close to well-known flyfishing stream the South River, the brewery currently serves 11 beers on tap with enticing names like “Oopsproch,” “Golden Bough” “The 6th Lord.” The Hops Kitchen offers a wide menu of sandwiches, brats, burgers, Thai chicken, jambalaya, and more. Dogs ok on the patio and in the taproom.
Seven Arrows Brewing — Inspired by a Native American blessing, the brewery’s compass rose logo signifies the four directions and the four ingredients in beer. They’ve got 12 beers on tap and a full kitchen with onsite dining is available via Nobos Restaurant. Every Friday they release a new beer and Saturday mornings you can take part in “Om Brew” yoga classes. Local live musicians entertain you on Saturday evenings.
Stable Craft Brewing Company — This enterprise combines a farm, horse boarding/training facility, agri-tourism, wedding/event venue, restaurant and of course brewery—all in a classic Shenandoah Valley setting. Stable Craft grows its own hops; the taproom was remodeled from 10 horse stalls and now allows an expansive view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Try one of 16 beers and bite into burgers made from local black angus as well as vegetables from nearby farms.
Devils Backbone Outpost Brewery and Tap Room — Located in Lexington, this “outpost” builds on the success of the original Devil’s Backbone in Roseland. Choose from about 20 beers and take part in festivities that features trivia, bingo, and live music. Located on a tranquil hillside in Lexington, the site encompasses the custom-built brewery, bottling and canning lines, taproom with fast-casual dining, and outdoor beer garden. Coming September 27-29 at the Devil’s Backbone in Roseland: Hoopla 2019, a celebration of beer, food, live music and more.
Great Valley Farm Brewery — Another brewery that takes advantage of the Valley’s breathtaking views, Great Valley Farm is located in Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County. They focus on producing Belgian style ales with ingredients grown right on their own 27-acre farm. But they also offer a wide variety of styles from IPA’s, English Ales and German Lagers. The tap list changes often but normally you can expect eight options. Bring a picnic or check the events schedule to see when the food trucks come. Check the calendar for live music and other festivities. Dogs are welcome on the patio.
Moving on, there are many more breweries, and more trails, to explore:
The Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop showcases many of the Valley’s exceptional wineries, but they include these breweries as well: the Hawksbill Brewing Company in Luray, where they just hosted “Pints for a Cause” to benefit the Page Valley Arts Council; Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works–a combination craft brewery and Bed and Breakfast in Sperryville; and the Front Royal Brewing Company, a combination brewery, full-service restaurant and live music venue.
In picturesque Shenandoah County, tour breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail (888-367-3965)
Photo courtesy Pale Fire Brewing Company