Man, I love Richmond. I’ve yet to spend time in RVA without having a good time. The shopping, the food, the history are all awesome – and will be mentioned in another post.
This post? I’m here to talk about the beer. Specifically, the thriving beer culture in Richmond, and the many awesome breweries and taprooms in the area that are worthy of a weekend getaway if you are a fan of microbreweries and craft brew.
World class beer – not to be missed
If you are tight on time, or are only in for a day (but aren’t driving, ok?!), go here:
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery: 2408-2410 Ownby Lane, Richmond, VA 23220. Taproom on site, and food trucks out front. Family friendly, not seedy at all – there are usually games for kids, and families come earlier in the evening. A very solid year-round list of standard beers (pilsner, IPA, Belgian blonde, cream ale), but the seasonals are where Hardywood really shines. I prefer the winter to the summer offerings – in winter you can try their Hardywood Sidamo Coffee Stout (a Russian Imperial stout brewed with local coffee), the Hardywood Raspberry Stout (a chocolate raspberry stout), Christmas Morning (imperial milk stout with spices and coffee), and their famous Gingerbread Stout (imperial milk stout with local ginger and honey). Several of these, including the Gingerbread, are offered in bottles as well, but sales are limited because the demand gets nuts. Usually you can pick up a case (12 bottles) – and you want to, trust me. Gingerbread release is usually in early-ish November, and by Christmas is usually sold out in bottles. One year in late fall there was an issue that lead to some of the Gingerbread Stout being lost in the bottling process, and I could hear the anguished cries from DC. It’s that good. Fans of lighter, fruity seasonals will also be thrilled by blackberry and peach offerings in spring and early summer. Check the schedule for events, they have live music or other events almost every week. Hours: Wed 4-9 p.m., Thur-Fri 4-10 p.m., Sat 2-10 p.m., Sun 12-6 p.m. Closed Mon-Tues. Hardywood website
Strangeways. 2277A Dabney Rd, Richmond VA 23230. Strangeways’ motto is “think strange, drink strange,” so prepare yourself. Beers include Albino Monkey (spiced white ale), Woodbooger (unfortunately named but delicious Belgian brown), Gwar Blood (red ale), a slew of IPAs including a 10.1 ABV triple, barrel-aged beers (generally bottle only), half a dozen sours or so (tart cherry cucumber melon sour! pumpkin sour!), and curiosities like a Smuckers jelly berliner weisse and a Lucky Charms berliner weisse. The “Annihilation” series has seven beers ranging from 10-11% ABV. The taproom is funky and fun, and very kid friendly – free juiceboxes, coloring pages, and fruit snacks! Take turns sticking your head into the carnival-style cutout sign that puts your face on a monkey that is sitting on a barrel and hoisting a foamy glass. Food trucks out front and cornhole games mean Strangeways is a great place for lunch or dinner with your tasting, or if you aren’t meal-hungry there are snack foods and noshes available. Dog friendly (outside). There are 25+ beers on tap at any given time, and doing flights of each will mean two or three trays of little glasses to work through. Best to go with friends and try a little of everything if you can. If you find something you love and it isn’t available in bottles, you can get a growler fill or even fill up a mason jar to go. Open daily: M-Th 12-10 p.m., Fri-Sat 11 a.m. – 1 a.m., Sun 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Website
Black Heath Meadery. 1313 Altamont Ave, Richmond, VA 23230 Technically speaking, this isn’t ‘beer tourism,’ since we are talking mead, but go anyhow. The folks who run Black Heath use all local ingredients whenever possible, including local honey, and the flavor shines. It takes . The basic straight mead is “The Muse,” which explodes with honey flavor – there is a half pound of honey in every bottle. Go in for a FREE tasting and try a tiny bit of everything on offer and do what we always do – walk away with half a dozen or so bottles of meads you can’t live without. Most recently we picked up a great fig mead, and three bottles of a sour cherry mead my husband is obsessed with. No food trucks or snacks, and not a place to really linger (small, no seating) but worth stopping in to try their amazing selection. They also sell online via their website. Open Tues-Fri 3-6 p.m., Sat-Sun 1-5 p.m.
Strong second-tier contenders
If you have the time after you’ve been to Hardywood, Strangeways, and Black Heath? Here are your next destinations.
Isley Brewing Company. 1715 Summit Ave, Richmond, VA 23230. There isn’t any outside seating, but the inside tasting room has plenty of seating and floor space. Food trucks out front vary but they list the weekly coming selections on their website. Every other Friday they offer a limited “infusion” version of one of their currently tapped beers. When I was there this seemed to be more young professionals than families, but not family-unfriendly from what I could tell. Beers were either beyond fantastic (Plain Jane Belgian white, Choosy Mother peanut butter oatmeal porter, Drunken Uncle hard root beer, Keyser Gose oyster gose), or ‘meh’ (Voodoo Lady red imperial IPA that I *really* was hoping would be amazing, Root of All Evil ginger golden ale, Mos Eisley brown ale, Ales Gone Mild VA table beer that was nearly water to me). IPA fans will love the Wolfman’s Other Brother. I wish I had been there on a Friday for the fruit infused beer, I would have mixed Choosy Mother with the fruit for a PB&J. Open Mon-Thurs 4-9 p.m., Fri 4-10 p.m., Sat 12-10 p.m., Sun 12-7 p.m.
Ardent. 3200 W. Leigh Street, Richmond VA 23230. Gorgeous outside patio beer garden that is dog friendly, and plenty of additional seating inside. Patrons can get food from the food trucks, or are welcome to bring in food of their own which is a nice touch. They offer a VA common, a saison, and an IPA year-round, and rotate in other offerings seasonally. Lawnmower Golden American ale is a nice summer beer. I do wish I had picked up a bottle of the bottle-only Sweet Potato & Sage ale in hindsight. Hopefully next time I’m in Richmond they’ll have one of their other seasonals I’m lemming after on tap – I’m dying to try the Earl Grey brown ale, and the Maple Chestnut Altbier. Open Mon-Tues 4-9 p.m., Wed-Thurs 4-10 p.m., Fri 3-10 p.m., Sat 12-10 p.m., Sun 1-8 p.m. Website.
Resevoir Distillery. 1800A Summit Ave, Richmond VA 23230. Another contender that is not a brewery but go anyhow. At the distillery store you can sample each of their three offerings – they have a wheat whisky, a rye whisky, and a bourbon – for a very reasonable charge. I’m more of a single malt scotch girl if I’m going to drink hard spirits, but the bourbon was so good I bought a bottle. It was the first bourbon I’d purchased since an unfortunate incident with Jim Beam at a sorority woodser in 1988 put me off the stuff seemingly forever, so that’s a major testimonial. Open Wed 4-7 p.m., Thurs 4-7 p.m., Sat 3-6 p.m. in the tasting room, though generally there is someone on hand at the distillery on weekdays. If you are coming from out of town they encourage you to call ahead to see if someone will be in during your visit. Website
If you still have time, or are in Pokemon mode (“gotta try ’em all”)
If there is a description following, I’ve been there and tried their wares. If there isn’t, I haven’t been yet but am providing the listing to have a more complete resource for people.
Blue Bee Cider. 212 W. 6th Street Richmond, VA 23224. If you are a fan of hard ciders that aren’t sickly-sweet or Kool-Aid-like, go here. Even the ‘sweet’ ciders are on the dry side, and the ones billed as dry can turn your face inside out if you aren’t ready. Charred Ordinary is not at all sweet, but still apple-y and goes well with heavier meats and richer meals. Somehow the edge of the cider cuts the heaviness and is refreshing. Aragon 1904 is lighter and sweeter, but still not sweet. Hopsap Shandy has citrus notes, and is a good light summer cider. I’ve also had – and really, really liked – the sweet, spicy Firecracker limited edition dessert cider. Next on my list will be the Harvest Ration dessert cider when it comes available, and the Mill Race Bramble cider with blackberries and raspberries. Worth stopping by to have a tasting flight of each of the non-limited types and learn about cider in Virginia. Open Mon-Wed 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Thurs-Sun 12-7 p.m. Website
Legend Brewing. 321 W. Seventh Street Richmond, VA 23224. Unlike most of the listings in this post, Legends is a pub and not a taproom/brewery. They serve food from the full service kitchen (no food trucks). Capacity is huge – they have been around since 1994 and have grown quite a following. Inside can seat 180, and the outer deck can hold 200, so Legend is a good pick if you are in a larger group and want to have craft brew and non-sandwich/truck food brought to you by a waitress. All of the beers are solid, but none of them wowed me. I would go here to eat, or to have a few beers with friends who aren’t really ‘into’ more unusual beers. I didn’t get to try the Gorilla Train Coffee Stout, though, so maybe if I had that would have changed my assessment. The name is pretty compelling. Open Mon-Thurs 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m., Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m. – 12 a.m., Sun 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Website
Triple Crossing Brewing Company. 113 S Foushee St., Richmond VA 23220. A basic no-frills tasting room with plenty of seating. Food selection is fairly limited, and when I was there no food trucks. Beers that I have tried are good, but nothing I would make a trip to Richmond for (as opposed to Hardywood Gingerbread Stout, which I would not only travel for but camp out for if I had a free weekend and a guarantee of a case). I recommend Waxing Poetic, a Berliner weisse with blood orange puree. Open Mon-Fri 4-10 p.m., Sat 12-10 p.m., Sun 1-8 p.m. Website
Center of the Universe. 11293 Air Park Road Ashland, VA 23005. Website
Garden Grove Brewing Company. 3445 W. Cary Street, Richmond VA 23221. Website
Image credit: Hardywood Park Craft Brewing