Mountain Brew: Virginia’s Trail of Craft Beer
By Cyerra Crumrine
Five breweries. One cidery. And many scenic views. That’s the idea behind the Brew Ridge Trail, the most intoxicating tourism trail in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Before hitting the six stops in Nelson and Albemarle counties and Charlottesville you will want a Growler Passport, which you can get at any of the breweries. This promotion offers you a passport stamp for every two growlers (a half-gallon glass jug that holds fresh-from-the-tap draft beer) you buy at each brewery, then you can redeem your passport for a Brew Ridge Trail t-shirt.
We stumbled across the Brew Ridge Trail after touring our favorite brewery, Starr Hill, in Crozet, Va. Starr Hill is perhaps the best known brand on the trail and offers my all-time personal favorite—Hello! We bought two growlers full— the Dark Star Stout, a mix of chocolate and coffee flavors
The trail wanders through four more breweries, all within an hour’s drive of each other: South Street Brewery and restaurant, Blue Mountain Brewery and restaurant, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company and restaurant, Wild Wolf Brewing Company and brewpub and sports bar, as well as Albemarle CiderWorks. We stopped by South Street for dinner in Charlottesville and took advantage of their $2 pint specials.
Devil’s Backbone and Wild Wolf are close to each other, about a two and a half mile drive apart. Devil’s Backbone has a great live music scene, with shows booked three to four nights a week. Wild Wolf makes a delicious root beer, and we got a growler just for it. Blue Mountain Brewery also has a hop farm, raising this essential beer ingredient, and it is best viewed in the height of the season in July and August.
And while you don’t need their stamp for the special gift, Albemarle CiderWorks is well worth the stop. The employee who handled our cider-tasting takes her craft seriously. She asked if I had ever had cider before. “Yes,” I said, naming my former brand of choice. “Well,” in a strictest school teacher voice, “you have not ever had cider before.” Best lecture I’ve ever had, and I was happy to drink the good stuff.
Visit the Brew Ridge Trail Web site for a map and brewery information: http://brewridgetrail.com/.