The Craft Beer Boom

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Between 2012 and 2017, the number of Virginia craft breweries and cideries grew 468 percent and the Shenandoah Valley is contributing to that growth.

Shenandoah Valley craft breweries are not just places to hoist a glass with friends. They are multi-dimensional businesses featuring everything from home-brew classes and yoga to 5Ks and Native American blessings—along with great beer, live music and the occasional reading room. Virtually all of them offer tours, special events, and of an enticing array of beers brewed with passion and creativity. Reading and writing about beer isn’t good enough. You have to heft the comforting weight of that sweating glass and raise it to your lips to appreciate it. Here’s where to do so in the Valley.

A great way to tap into the Valley’s craft beer scene is following the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail, a system of 14 breweries from Harrisonburg to Natural Bridge—all within a scenic hour’s drive of each other. Stops along the Trail include:

In Harrisonburg:

Brothers Craft Brewing— Indeed founded by three brothers native to Harrisonburg and housed in a renovated soda bottling plant. Public tours offered every Saturday from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. One of their Flagship beers is called “The Great Outdoors.” How can you pass that up?

The Friendly Fermenter— Offering free seminars on homebrewing, and live music on most weekends. Six beers on tap and seven more on the way. Their Home Brew Shop sells equipment and ingredients to launch your personal brewing efforts. Their “nanobrewery” offers beers only available in the tasting room.

Pale Fire Brewing Company — Nearly 30 beers available, including 11 on tap, one of which—“American Saison”—earned an award at the Great American Beer Festival. Customers are free to order food from dozens of downtown restaurants. An active schedule of events makes for a lively atmosphere, or you can steal away and find some quiet time around the fireplace or in the Little Free Library.

Restless Moons Brewing Company — Just opening in February this year, Restless Moons staff brew just five barrels at a time, allowing a constantly rotating variety of beers. All the beers are made just a few feet away from the bar in their taproom.

Three Notch’d Valley Collab House — The “Collab” in the name refers to a commitment to working with the local community and using the freshest possible local ingredients. They produce smaller batches than their larger brewery in Charlottesville, and every Friday they release a new experimental brew. They hold weekly Bend and Brews yoga classes, exhibit local art and book live musicians often.

In Staunton:

Bedlam Brewing — Specializing in traditional ales with a Belgian and French influence, as well as other traditional and seasonal varieties reflecting Shenandoah Valley 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 — With the motto, “Small Batches of Big Beers,” Redbeard has a 40-seat Taproom and an outdoor Beer Garden, located in the Wharf District. Eight or more American, English, and Belgian Ales are available mere feet from where they were brewed, fermented, and packaged.

Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company — Located in the heart of Staunton. Up to 12 beers are brewed on-site and offered on tap. Live music is frequently performed on weekends. Bring food from one of many nearby restaurants and sit down with a Shenval Lager or the more potent Stone of Destiny Heavy Scottish.

Queen City Brewing — Boasting nearly two dozen beers on tap, or you can brew your own, choosing from 80 different recipes. If for some reason you don’t like beer, try the homemade soda, alcoholic Ginger Beer or Hard-pressed Apple Ale. 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.

In Waynesboro:

Basic City Beer Company — Another brewery founded by three brothers, Basic City Beer Company is housed in an old industrial complex that was once Virginia Metalcrafters. Quite close to well-known flyfishing stream the South River, the brewery offers 13 beers 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.

Seven Arrows Brewing — The Seven Arrows logo is based on a Native American blessing of the creator, the earth, the four directions, and back to the creator. The 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 through Nobos Restaurant. Every Friday they release a new beer featuring a different infusion to drink in the taproom. Saturday mornings you can take part in “Om Brew” yoga classes and on Saturday evenings listen to local live music.

Stable Craft Brewing Company —  Based at a working horse farm and popular wedding location, 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 in a casual, scenic setting, 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” follows the success of the original Devil’s Backbone in Roseland. Staff originally planned to make 10,000 barrels of beer in their first 10 years, but they produced almost 45,000 barrels in its first three, distributing their award-winning beers up and down the mid-Atlantic. Choose from 16 beers on tap and take part in tap room entertainment that features trivia, bingo, and live music. Take the tour on weekends. This outfit took Silver and Bronze awards at the 2018 World Beer Cup.

Great Valley Farm Brewery — Another brewery that takes advantage of the Valley’s incomparable views, Great Valley Farm is located in Natural Bridge, in Rockbridge County. They specialize in small batches of high-quality beers using select hops, fruits, and herbs that are grown on-site. The tap list changes often but normally you can expect eight Belgian style ales, IPA’s, English Ales and German Lagers, just to name a few. Wine production is on the horizon, too. Bring a picnic or buy off the food truck. Check the calendar for live music and other festivities.

On the topic of trails, the Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop showcases some of the Valley’s most popular tourism experiences.  A couple of breweries (see list below) are included, but the loop is better known for exceptional wineries, a whisky distillery,  delightful dining, unique lodging, and more in the area surrounding Shenandoah National Park. One local favorite stop — Wisteria Farm and Vineyards near Luray — produces a variety of wines from grapes grown only on the property. “Music Under the Arbor” performances, held most of the summer,  feature exceptional local talent.

Moving on, there are even more breweries to visit:

–The Winchester Brew Works, typically offering seven beers on tap. (540) 692-9242
–The Backroom Brewery in Middletown, with 24 choices on tap, (including “Helltown Red”). (540) 869-8482
–Alesatian Brewing Co., Winchester–Featuring Beer Brunches, Trivia Nights, and Vinyl Nights. (540) 667-2743
–The Hawksbill Brewing Company in Luray, which just celebrated their one-year anniversary. (540) 860-5608. (Also members of the Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop.)
–The Woodstock Brew House, Woodstock, with 12 taproom options plus a selection of wines. (540) 459-BREW (2739).
–Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works–a combination craft brewery and Bed and Breakfast. (540) 987-3383. Also on the Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop.
–Backroom Brewery in Middletown has a full service food menu Wednesday through Sunday. (540) 869-8482
–Escutheon Brewing in Winchester. Who else has a John Riggins 4th and 1 Pilsner? (540) 773-3042
–Ridge Runner, in Maurertown—Drawing upon the Valley’s rich farming heritage, “A lot of what we grow will find its way into your glass.” (571) 201-2963
–Swover Creek Farm Brewery in Edinburg has their taproom and brewery in a converted barn. Certified as a Virginia Century Farm, it has been in continuous production by the same family for over 100 years. (540)-984-8973
–Virginia Beer Museum, Front Royal–The first official Beer Museum in Virginia. There are 18 Virginia Craft beers on tap in the Museum’s Hell Town Saloon. (540) 313-1441

Photo courtesy Virginia Travel Corp/Queen City Brewing


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