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Virginia on Tap

Virginia on Tap
Photo by Allston McCrady

If I had known in college that one day I would have a job requiring me to hop from brewery to brewery sampling delicious craft beers, maybe I wouldn’t have felt as guilty about all that time spent at keg parties. I recently had the pleasure of an extended brew tour through the gorgeous state of Virginia where the craft beer movement is foaming over—a natural extension of the state’s surplus of all the barley, hops, and natural additives a craft brewer could possibly dream up.

Since August is officially touted as Virginia Craft Beer Month, you too should consider a road trip. For a map of Virginia breweries, special beer events, recommended brew trails, special brewery tours, and festivals. Here were some highlights from my trip.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
It might surprise you that a blighted warehouse district in urban Richmond is a hub of fresh, new eco-friendly entrepreneurism. Two buddies fell in love with beer while backpacking through Australia, then returned to brew their own, using wind power for energy and “tree-cycled wood” (wood from trees that fell naturally) for their furniture, fixtures, and coasters. I loved their coffee stout and their “chocolate heat” using chiles for a subtle burn.

3 Brothers Brewing CompanyWhat to do after a successful tour in the military? Apply all that focused discipline to the art of craft beer, of course! These young guys are not only serious about their beer, they are partnering with the Harrisonburg community to “waste not, want not.” Locals donate their leftover coffee grinds to help flavor brews. In turn, the brothers donate their excess grains to local cattle farmers, and their surplus yeast to local trout farmers. Try their “Hoptimization” IPA, or their “Great Outdoors” pale ale.

Blue Mountain Brewery
There really is no greater setting for enjoying craft brews and great food than the patios of Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, just off scenic highway Nelson 151, with a commanding view of the mountains beyond. These guys used to run multiple internet companies and even a coffee roasting plant, but when they saw the success of Virginia vineyards with thriving weekend wine tastings in bucolic settings, they thought, “Let’s do this with beer!” It’s now an incredibly popular family/dog-friendly weekend destination. Sample their IPAs, porters, pale ales, or a double-barrel-aged bourbon stout while you indulge in mouthwatering fare (try the pizza with local bratwurst and apples).

My advice to you: grab a growler and get thee to Virginia.

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