Updated: Jul 29, 2020
Saturday brought me back to Williamsburg, VA for an early evening at the Virginia Beer Company. I had played here once before, in the Spring of 2019, at a benefit for a young local man who had been critically injured in an hit-and-run accident. The place was packed and from what I understand a fair amount was raised for the fella's medical expenses.
Fast forward to July 2020 and it's a bit of a different world. When I stepped into Virginia Beer's taproom it was reconfigured for COVID... the room was reduced to about half it's original size, tables were more sparse, and of course the tape and arrows on the floor and the mandatory mask signs. Out in the beer garden (where I played) the tables were much further apart, but there were additional tents for shade, and despite the heat the crowd was enthusiastic about the beer and music. The there wasn't an empty seat in the brewery (inside or out), so I think we did about as good as they're allowed to do (with the restrictive limitations).
The Virginia Beer Company - Williamsburg, VA
A wide selection of flagships, seasonals, experimentals, and special editions are available at the taproom. Flagships are distributed throughout Virginia via retailers in cans and kegs, as well as on tap in drinking establishments.
I try to eat relatively healthy while on the road, I never eat from fast food chains, and try to stick to local favorties and mom and pops. When I'm in this part of the country, seafood is obviously my main objective, and every few days the body will start screaming for a great salad. After Friday's show in Chesapeake I weathered a heavy storm driving to Williamsburg, and I was on a mission to hit Paul's Deli near the William & Mary campus (my old haunt) which serves food into the wee hours. Unfortunately when I got there just before midnight they had closed their kitchen early due to the storm, and I was stuck starving and wandering Williamsburg searching for something to eat, which I hadn't done since that morning's bagel. I was so hungry I almost felt sick.
Everything was closed. Not even a damn Taco Bell, which I wouldn't have eaten anyway, but you get the point. Suddenly I saw a faint trail of tail lights up ahead, and sure enough there was a regional burger chain called Cook Out still serving. I had never had Cook Out before, but I was aware that they are known for ridiculously large selection of milkshakes. Regardless, I ordered a burger and onion rings, neither of which I had eaten in months, and so it sounded decadently delicious in the moment. And it wasn't bad, initially.
Saturday morning I woke up feeling poisoned. My whole system was out of whack, I was queezy, and light headed. I dealt with it throughout the morning, and it started feeling like it was one of those things that was just going to linger throughout the day. So I went back Paul's and had my unsweetened iced tea and a salad while I wrote my blog, hoping it might help if my system had something good to work on... and for a little while it seemed to work.
A couple of hours later I am unloading the gear at the brewery. It's in the low 90s, sun blazing, and of course I'm breathing through a mask while hauling speakers and such. I start feeling light headed, and I broke into a massive heavy sweat, and I thought I was going to puke. After setting up for the show I had about 30 minutes to kill, so I went back to the tour van, took off my wet clothes, and just sat in heavy air conditioning (and a beach towel) for about 20 minutes, sipping ice water. I cooled off rather nicely, and the additional water hit the spot, and suddenly I felt much better and was ready to go. Tragedy narrowly averted, as they say!
It was hot on stage, but my little fan does an insanely good job in such conditions, and I was fine for the rest of the day. One of my greatest fears is the concept of having to struggle through a show with stomach issues... much less food poisoning or whatever (imagine playing a song or two, running off the stage for 15 minutes... then another song or two, then rushing back off the stage.. it would be horrible!)... but the gig gods were smiling down on me, and after a little bout of pre-show torture I was fine for the rest of the day. I even managed to drink a few beers...
I started out with the Friends of Dorothy Pride IPA (7.3%), which is a dry hopped IPA, leaning towards some floral and pineapple tones (via Azacca hops, not fruited). Yellow and hazy in appearance, it was a wise recommendation for a starter on such a hot day, and it did a good job of helping me to get back on track (the staff had no idea I wasn't feeling well, by the way... unless they wondered why I earlier looked like I had just gotten out of the pool... but if so they didn't mention it).
My other early/set 1 beer was the brand new Plot Twist Imperial Fruited Sour (8%), with a blend of blackberries and lemons. This one is heaven on such a hot day, and I don't have words for how regreshing it was. It was a little hazy, about the color of a pink grapefruit juice, perfectly balanced between the fruit and the hops, and at 8% it packed a secret little punch.... which, let's face it, I pretty much needed. In fact I'll just go ahead and credit the Plot Twist with saving my day (and it's aptly named!).
For the second set I sipped on the Topsy Turvy Imperial Fruited Sour w/Strawberries and Plums (8%). Another really fine sipper for these weather conditions, and again wonderfully balanced between the hops and the fruit juices.
You may have noticed that on these hot days I've been gravitiating towards the sours, and I know some people say they just don't like sours. There was a time (particularly on a trip to San Diego a few years back) when I had a few awful sours and swore off them as well... but I'd ask you, when was the last time you tried one? Over the last two summers I've found that many brewers have really nailed the strain, and when well done a good fruited sour is a wonderful thing. So don't think of it as the same family as a stout or brown ale... have an open mind and try one again. By and large they are a lot better than they used to be, way better balanced, and without the obnoxiously “sour patch” thing that some brewers were going for a few years ago. Now it's about balance and refreshiveness, not a contest to see who can make the most sour sip.
The crowd at Virginia Beer Company was a ton of fun. An unusual amount of witty banter back and forth throughout the show kept things quite funny, and (especially despite my earlier condition!) I had a great time. Maybe it was because my show was early (4-7pm) but at the end I felt like there was still another set to play (and a lot of people seemed a bit surprised that I was finished at 7).... but there's always next time!
A special thanks to the staff for their informed and helpful guidance through their new selections... they were well picked and perfect for the setting!
Sunday I play Gloucester Brewing in Goucester, VA (another early 4-7pm show), and then I head back to the Midwest for a string of shows in Indiana... including a show in Indianapolis on August 9th, which believe it or not is the 25th anniversary of Jerry Garcia's passing. I hit quite a few Dead shows in Indy back in the day, and that was the last place I saw Garcia, so we'll be celebrating Jerry in a big way on the 9th in Indy.