We spent a few days off to celebrate my birthday in D.C. and for some much needed time catching up on our blog, not to mention avoiding the 6-8 inches of snow that fell overnight and shut down the government for a day. After the weather had cleared up and returned to its typical cold and gloomy self, we took to our sole brewery visit in the District of Columbia at Bluejacket on 3/19/14. High rent and limited warehouse space nearly drove them to the suburbs before they found an exciting space in 2008 and they have rented 7,000 sq. ft. of a nearly century old 73,000 sq. ft. boilermaker facility in the D.C. Navy Yard’s Annex. After several years of detailed planning, the brewery opened in late 2013. We met with Greg Engert, beer director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, an organization that is responsible for over 18 different businesses in the area including the popular craft beer destination ChurchKey/Birch & Barley.
After our visit to Blue Mountain on Thursday, 3/13/14, we took a scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains over to the brewpub that serves as a basecamp for Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, VA. Devils Backbone has incredible views in the valley where they are located close to the Appalachian Trail and was awarded Small Brewpub & Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year in 2012 as well as Small Brewing Company & Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year in 2013. We lucked into our visit there after running into COO Hayes Humphreys over at Three Notch’d Brewing the night before, who set us up to meet with head brewer Jason Oliver and assistant brewer Aaron Reilly.
Our visit to Blue Mountain on Thursday, 3/13/14 was a unique one, in that we visited both the brewery/ restaurant Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA as well as the production facility Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, VA. Both facilities have taprooms, fields of cascade hops, incredible views, and awesome beers, but are also distinctive in their own ways.
In preparation for a few days off for my upcoming birthday, 3/12/14 was perhaps our busiest day of brewery visits to date. We started off early morning at Midnight Brewery then promptly made our way through the country to Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery before noon. We then managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello prior to finishing the day off with a stop to see the fine folks at Three Notch’d Brewing Company in nearby Charlottesville. The city is home to the University of Virginia as well as a burgeoning craft beer scene. Three Notch’d is the latest to open its doors in the area, launching for business about 6 months prior to our visit. The company was founded by Derek Naughton, Scott Roth, and George Kastendike with Dave Warwick taking over the helm of all things beer. The founders all share a passion for great beer and thought to taking up homebrewing to create the perfect beer for their tastes. Thoughts traveled further as they dreamt up ideas of how to finance their habit by selling beer to local pubs and eventually made their way to the only logical conclusion – opening up a brewery. At that time there were no distribution breweries in the city so they set to work with the business plan. We were privileged to get the occasion to speak with both Derek and Dave on this chilly Virginia evening.
Following an early 9 am stop at Midnight Brewery, we traveled west through the VA countryside to visit our second brewery of the day before lunch. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery sits on 221 acres of land, 83 acres of which are wooded and will remain untouched for the enjoyment of guests to the brewery. Their name pays homage to the small creek running through the property that was named in pre-colonial times for the wildlife that stopped for a refreshing drink. The farm style building was built on site to house the brewery and is intended to appropriately blend in with the landscape. The concept is to be as water conscious and sustainable as possible by growing many of the brewing ingredients on site – many crop terraces can be seen in the fields surrounding the building. Currently various hops, barley, pumpkins, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are planted with further plans to do herbs, additional berries, grapes, figs, oranges, and more in the future.
Our earliest appointment so far was at 9 am on Wednesday, 3/12/14 with Midnight Brewery, who we met after slamming down some coffee and making our way from downtown Richmond over to Rockville. Upon our arrival, we spoke with brewer Becky Rudolf and owner Trae Cairns who told us that “We have a passion for craft beer and really take the beer personally. If somebody doesn’t like it, I want to know why. If people love it, that’s great, but if they don’t like it, I want to know why. To me, that’s really an extension of our craft, and when you find a beer that people like, you stick with it.”
Following a Monday evening enjoying beers and conversation (and $2 burgers!) at the original Capital Ale House location, we enjoyed a solid night’s sleep, a hearty breakfast then strayed just a few miles North West from downtown Richmond for an early afternoon tour of Strangeways Brewing on 3/11/14. The company stays true to its name, a quick look around the taproom leaves one feeling pleasantly engrossed with the quirky eccentricities in decoration and ambiance. Their logo, a barrel seated monkey pondering over a frothy glass of brew, is derived from work done by esteemed comic book cover artist, Glenn Fabry. His work is plastered all over the bar and wall decorations are a variety of other works purchased from a local Richmond artist. The brewery was originally the brain child of Neil Burton and the origination story is quite a long one. I won’t delve into the details but suffice it to say that he had undergone an arduous legal battle in VA with regards to the practice of alternating proprietorship, though eventually successful. Along the way, he met Mike Hiller – a professional brewer with 17 years of experience – at a bill signing at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery. The two found that they shared a vision and paired up to make that unique dream a reality, finally opening for business May 29, 2013. We were able to meet with Mike and Operations and Events Coordinator, Cheyenne Burnham, that afternoon to discuss their story.
When we first got into Richmond, VA, we made a night of hanging out at Capital Ale House trying a few of the beers local to the area, and then got to spend some time at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery on Monday, 3/10/14. We were lucky enough to meet a significant portion of the staff during our visit, but spent most of the time talking to head brewer Brian Nelson and co-founders Patrick Murtaugh & Eric McKay. They walked us around the original 12,000 sq ft facility as well as the other 19,000 sq ft building next door, while telling us all about what the brewery has to offer now and in the upcoming future.
On our way from Norfolk to Richmond on 3/10/14 we felt it was important to make a short detour for some sightseeing. We decided to take an educational tour of Jamestown with an archaeologist and, rather than visit Historic Williamsburg, felt a proper representation of the city could be experienced at the local brewery. AleWerks Brewing Company opened in 2005 but operated under the name of Williamsburg AleWerks until just over a year ago. The brewery was started by Chuck Haines, who secured the facilities of the defunct Williamsburg Brewing Co. He hired on longtime homebrewer, Geoff Logan, to handle the brewing and Geoff has been responsible for creating all of AleWerks’ recipes over the years. In keeping with the rich history of the area, they utilize a traditional 30bbl brick wrapped brewhouse with open flame, as opposed to the steam systems in operation at many other breweries. This day Corbin graciously served as our beer tasting and brewery guide. As an artist himself, Corbin shared his view of how brewing is the best form of art because you can enjoy a beer with all of your senses then, of course, you feel good afterwards.
The night of Saturday, 3/8/14 was the first time we utilized Couchsurfing in Norfolk, VA and, after having a great experience with our hosts, we spent most of Sunday afternoon hanging out with Greg Papp, the head brewer of Smartmouth Brewing Company. Smartmouth is actually open Wednesday through Saturday, but Greg was kind enough to spend time with us and give us a detailed look into the brewery. Greg and Porter Hardy IV, the President of Smartmouth, originally opened the doors to the facility in October of 2012 and have a goal to be super professional, clean, organized, and make good, easy drinking beer for everyone while supporting the community and waterways at the same time. They really want to get people in the area acclimated to good craft beer and, since they had expected 500 people recently at their one year anniversary where around 5,000 people showed up, it looks like they are doing just that.