Unless you have been away for the last three months, then you know the Valley has enjoyed some exceptional weather — especially if you like to be outdoors. In fact it has been so good that I have not missed a weekend of fishing since early spring.
I am fortunate that many times when I go fishing my wife joins me. She knows how much I love spending time in the mountains of the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park fishing for brook trout.
That is why she was taken aback when I suggested we go check out that “brew trail” rather than spend the afternoon on the Dry River (no pun intended). Sometimes I get things confused but she understood that I wanted to check out some local microbreweries as part of what is known as the Brew Ridge Trail.
The Brew Ridge Trail is the name given to some local “award-winning beer, cider and spirits” producers located in Nelson and Albemarle counties. Currently those producers are Albemarle Cider Works in North Garden, Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland, Eades Whisky in Lovingston, South Street Brewery in Charlottesville and Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet.
Now my wife and I didn’t try to sample all the products along the trail. We decided that a beer or two would be about right.
Our first stop was the Blue Mountain Brewery and Hop Farm located in Afton. Blue Mountain is a bright, airy, cheerful tavern with bar and restaurant in a single room and a deck overlooking the mountains. The benches and tables give it an inviting community feel.
Unlike fly-fishing where you have to pick a fly and hope you got it right, we had a chance to try a six-beer sampler to start. Our sampler included Blue Mountain Lager, Kolsch 151, Rockfish Wheat, Full Nelson, ÜberPils Imperial Pilsener and Dark Hollow.
I am not a expert so I won’t go in to details about each beer, all were good in our opinion. My wife enjoyed the Dark Hollow, an Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels. My favorite was the Full Nelson, a pale ale featuring Blue Mountain’s own farm-raised hops.
For those who want to know the fine points of each brew, you can find it on their Web site, http://www.bluemountainbrewery.com.
While the menu looked quite good, other than a couple of excellent pretzels — baked from local flour — we didn’t eat a meal. We are looking forward to a return trip for that!
Further down route 151 just south of Wintergreen is the Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Roseland. This is a much larger facility than Blue Mountain and has much more of a restaurant feel to it.
Devils Backbone proudly promotes Virginia beer and offers local Virginia beers on tap. I not only had a chance to try their brew but also a Starr Hill brew as well.
Devils Backbone brews on tap were Vienna Lager, Wintergreen Weiss, Eight point IPA, and Ale of Fergus. The fine points of each can be found on their Web site, http://www.dbbrewingcompany.com
I am a big fan of dark beer. The Dark Hollow at Blue Mountain was too sweet for my taste so I gave Starr Hill’s Dark Starr, a try. It is a Dry Irish Stout and much more in line with what I like.
Sticking with the dark beer theme I also tried Devils Backbone’s Ale of Fergus. It is a Scottish-style Brown Ale. This is a brew that would go great with a burger.
We had a couple of snacks at the bar, onion rings and fried pickles. The rings were good and the pickles – one of my favorite bar foods – were excellent. We plan to return for a meal next time.
Here in the Valley we have much to be thankful for and fine local brewpubs are one of them.
You can read more of my columns at News Virginian.com.