Craft beer is everywhere these days – you can find it in grocery stores, cafes and restaurants, even the Wal-mart has a craft beer aisle! If you are a fan of craft, you are in luck. Charlottesville is one of the premier destinations to experience the best the craft beer world has to offer. If you live in the Charlottesville area, you can find extraordinary suds right around the corner, or take a day trip and widen your horizons to see why Virginia is THE beer destination of the moment. The Brew Ridge Trail (http://brewridgetrail.com/) is a great way to explore amazing beer, or you can plan dinner at one of Charlottesville’s downtown breweries, most of which offer stellar food. Below are a few of the best brewery options to get you started:
Blue Mountain Brewery & Blue Mountain Barrel House
Blue Mountain is well known across the country for amazing beer. They make the legendary Dark Hollow (also a beautiful waterfall on the Skyline Drive) in addition to several other notable brews at their brewery in Nelson County. Two hop fields in Afton and a new hop yard in Arrington provide Cascade hops used in their Full Nelson strong pale ale and other seasonal beers. They are currently medal winners at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival for their brewery grown freshhop ale, Blue Reserve, and held the notable honor of being the only brewery in Virginia to win consecutive Gold Medals at the Great American Beer Festival. All beers are brewed, bottled, canned and kegged at the Afton site or in the Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington.
South Street Brewery
South Street is Charlottesville’s longest running brewery and pub reborn. Owned by Blue Mountain brewery, this brewery and pub work to maintain and revitalize the spirit of the important Charlottesville landmark they now own. South Street original brews are creative and diverse and, more importantly, delicious. Outstanding brews like Anastasia’s Chocolate Fantasy and Satan’s Pony pair with great locally sourced farm to table dishes for a simply perfect local pub experience right at the heart of Charlottesville.
Random Row Brewery
Kevin McElroy started with a homebrew hobby but dreamed of opening a local craft brewery. In 2016, his years of planning paid off when he opened Random Row. The goal of Random Row is to demystify beer and make the enjoyment of suds accessible to everyone, from casual beer drinker to brewmaster. The local neighborhood pub is known not only for it’s incredible variety of delicious beers and wonderful food pairings, but also for giving back to the community and helping craft brewers learn more about making great beer. This is the perfect relaxed, laid back neighborhood pub to learn about craft beer for the first time, or as an experienced connoisseur.
Wild Wolf Brewing Company
Wild Wolf began in 2011 when Mary Wolf and her son renovated a historic Nelson County schoolhouse into a restaurant and brewery. Their ever-expanding collection of award-winning lagers and ales is distributed throughout the state of Virginia and Washington, DC. In addition to their six main offerings, Wild Wolf also produces more than a dozen seasonal brews and the occasional single batch beer. Their dog-friendly outdoor biergarten allows you to enjoy some of the Blue Ridge’s finest beer while enjoying the gorgeous Virginia scenery.
Three Notch’d Brewery
Three Notch’d Brewing Company was founded by three friends who enjoy good times with close family and friends celebrated with great beer. Their appreciation for individualism, respect for hard work is apparent all over the Central Virginia area, where they actively give back to the surrounding community. Their unique and celebrated collection of beers are a direct result of their desire to “Leave Their Mark”, like the many historical figures of the region have done for centuries, and they encourage others to do the same.
Devils Backbone Brewing Company
After trying authentic German beer while on a ski trip, the Crandalls of Devils Backbone Brewing company began a hobby that would eventually spawn some of the best beer in the region. Travels in the US led them to look for a location that would allow active beer drinkers to enjoy hiking, biking and running in a gorgeous location, followed by a beer, of course. Once they found their location, they realized that it was their dream to create their own authentic local pub, one that would really speak to the outdoor beauty of the region and the active nature of the local people. Devil’s Backbone beers are perfect right after that mountain 5K, and their location is the perfect place to enjoy them.
Starr Hill Brewery
Starr Hill is the second oldest craft brewery in Virginia, and as such they have been the pioneers who set the stage for Virginia’s currently thriving craft beer community. Starr Hill beers have been spotted at live music festivals like Bonnaroo and FloydFest. The brewery responded to demand by moving their small downtown brew operation to a larger facility in Crozet. Starr Hill blends art and science to create craft beers that have been inspired by some of the most innovative and beloved brewers in the country. The historic storefront of the brewery still resides on Main Street and was once home Virginia’s first craft brewery, Blue Ridge Brewing Company. Starr Hill’s offerings are rich in tradition, finely honed artisanal beers.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
Lickinghole Creek began with the mission to create innovative beers that were produced and grown right on the farm. The brewery grows their own hops and barley as well as the fruits, herbs and spices that flavor their beers. Their Fearnought Bourbon Barrel Imperial Brown Ale is a noteworthy brew created completely from products on the farm. Their craft beers are unique and memorable, including selections like a Rosemary Saison made from homegrown rosemary.
Legend Brewing Company
Legend is Virginia’s oldest fully operating microbrewery and includes a full-service brewpub serving food and beer and winning awards. Legend produces lagers and ales that accompany some of the best burgers in Virginia! Their six year-round offerings include a British-style brown ale that is a unique and worth option for dark beer drinkers, and a Bohemian-style pilsner that has won two awards at the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup. They also have a collection of seasonal beers.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery’s
A mutual love of hand-crafted beers led lifelong friends Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh led to a brewery in Richmond. The rest, they say, is history. Hardywood is known for brewing innovative, soulful beers that are well renowned and thoroughly local. The 12,000 square foot facility at the heart of Richmond’s historic German brewing district offers beers that are both new experiences and proven stand-bys. Their taproom offers tastes and glasses as well as growler fills. For an authentic local flavor, try the Hardywood Virginia Blackberry, an award-winning Belgian-style white ale available in late summer.
Even if your “beer tour” is at the local shops and stores, look for these local Virginia breweries to taste some really extraordinary beers. Many of these brands are nationally known and renowned, and it’s as easy to find as walking to the grocery store. Enjoy!