The day before my 30th birthday was a rainy (yet awesome) Saturday that started at Yards Brewing Company during their public hours on 3/29/14. As soon as we walked in the door, we were given a free sample of their IPA as well as a wooden chip which was to be redeemed later for a tour of the brewery; the color of the chip determined what time our tour was. Rather than join that tour, we purchased a $5 flight of their beer and met up with brewer Andrew Rutherford who first sat with us to go over a few facts about Yards before taking us through the brewery on a private tour.
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 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.”
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.
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.
We ended up sleeping in our van in Kinston, after we had left Mother Earth then grabbed some food across the street at Boiler Room. The next morning we made a trip to Farmville, NC on Friday, 3/7/14, to meet with the guys of Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery where Tony, who is the bartender for the taproom, jumped out of the front door and posed for a picture right when we pulled up. At that moment we already knew we would have a good time at this brewery who specializes in making only dark beers, even though we had not even gone inside yet.