Thursday was a special night for a number of reasons. It was the first full day of Spring, and it was also the kickoff to the Spring 2019 leg of the tour, which was taking place at the Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg, Virginia. I lived in Williamsburg many, many moons ago (high school years), and though I have passed through many times on my way to somewhere else, this was only my second time back where I had time to wander around and check out some of the places I used to hang. And the other, most important reason it was a special night is because the evening benefitted a young man named Jared Antle and his family.
At the end of last Summer, Jared's mom dropped him off for his sophomore year at James Madison University. Two nights later she got a horrific call informing her that Jared had been very seriously injured as a pedestrian in a hit-and-run accident, and she needed to come right away. Luckily Jared survived, but he suffered traumatic brain injuries. After intensive care at UVA, he was transferred to Atlanta for intensive rehabilitation care, where he still is (although his brother announced the great news that Jared will be returning to Williamsburg in late April). He's made steady, miraculous progress, but as you would imagine has a long, expensive road ahead of him. So on this night at Virginia Beer Company, the Williamsburg community as well as friends, family, classmates, and doctors and nurses who have worked with Jared were on hand to lend their support and raise funds for the substantial medical bills. (Please contribute here)
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 south eastern Virginia (Richmond/VA Beach region) via retailers in cans and kegs, as well as on tap in drinking establishments.
The Virginia Beer Company resides in a huge converted warehouse not far from the famous Colonial Williamsburg historic area. The taproom is quite large, with the bar at the far end as you arrive, and plenty of room for tables, additional drink stations, merchandise, games, and communal space. Outside is a rather massive patio and lawn area with tables and outdoor lounge chairs and several fire pits, as well as a space for food trucks. On this night the patio was covered by a giant festival tent, which was a good thing, because despite the arrival of Spring, the night was a mixture of cold winds and downpours. Despite all that, hundreds of people turned out in support of Jared, packing both the taproom and tent.
The brewery is also celebrating its third anniversary, and has been enjoying a steady growth and success since opening. In addition to a brisk business at the brewery and taproom, they are also distributing their flagship beers throughout the region (I had seen a 6-pack of cans in a Walgreens earlier in the day).
After a long day of revisiting various parts of Williamsburg, I arrived quite thirsty, and slid comfortably into the perfect brew for such a condition, the Free Verse (6.8%) IPA. Made with Azacca and Chinook hops, this IPA had a beautiful tropical fruity/floral aroma that turned into a fruity-forward drink, balanced perfectly with the slightest bitterness on the backend. Extremely refreshing, I enjoyed sipping and savoring the first half, then pounded the second half and got another! A very, very, good IPA for those of us who enjoy a well done IPA but got a little disenchanted by how silly some of the over-hopped IPA craze got for a while. IF you've been avoiding IPAs because you think the genre spun out of control, this one will restore your faith in what we all fell in love with initially. Great beer... and if you can't make it to the brewery, you can find it in 6 packs and cases of cans, as well as kegs, from Richmond down to Virginia Beach!
During my sets I sipped on the Elbow Patches (6.2%) Oatmeal Stout. Nice and dark, with a light brown head, this had a robust oatmeal stout flavor, but with a surprisingly lighter body (it was probably what I'd call medium bodied, which just seemed a little lighter than expected in an oatmeal stout, relatively speaking). Nice and smooth, with light hints of chocolate and coffee, once I had quenched my thirst with the refreshing IPA this was the perfect sipper for the chilly weather on stage under the tent. This beer, I should mention, has won the brewery some awards, including the Virginia Craft Beer Cup 2018 GOLD Award, and the European Beer Star Silver Award.
Someone bought me a second Elbow Patches, so I'm now up to 4 pints and I've only tried two of the brewery's selections... that's not my standard practice! Luckily they were delicious, so what are ya gonna do. I would note that you should check out the Virginia Beer Company's website (linked above), as their variety of year-round drinks and deep selection of experimentals and special editions is DEEP... way more than I could dare cover in one night. I'll have to return...
My final beer of the night was off their limited run anniversary menu... the Waycross (10.4%) Imperial Stout. This is a manly man's stout... you can taste that 10.4% on the back end... after savoring a very rich, chocolatey, roasted malty stout on the front end. I was glad I had this one last, as it helped put me right to sleep immediately upon reaching my hotel... this is a delicious Imperial Stout, but one that could end your evening earlier than expected if you started with this one right out of the gate! A fantastic way to finish off a great night, though.
I had so many interesting conversations on this night, with Robert (one of the brewery owners), one of Jared's brothers, several of the ladies who organized the event for Jared's family, one of the nurses who worked with him at UVA, the helpful bartenders who helped guide me through their deep selection, a local musician who's name I now can't recall (sorry!), an fella who was in from Colorado, has been to over 300 breweries, and had some good suggestions of places I should hit, and Scott, the owner of the Hungry Pug food truck that was serving up amazing food all night (and also donating a % of his proceeds to the cause), including a delicious pretzels and beer cheese, the latter of which had touch of habanero in there to give it a little kick. Excellent!
After the event I needed to eat, and I had to visit just one more place from my ancient history in Williamsburg... Paul's Deli, across from the William & Mary campus. While most of Williamsburg had changed over the years, Paul's was exactly as I loved and remembered it. I had the prime rib sandwich (as great as ever), the place looked the same, kids were still drinking their beers out of pitchers, and as an extra weird touch the soundtrack was exactly the same as when I used to hang there (INXS, Talking Heads, J. Giels' “Centerfold” was played... unreal! The only difference were those songs were all new back in my day...).
What a spectacular way to kick off the Spring Tour! The weather could've been better, but everything else was so perfect that I can't really complain. The next stop is Mispillion Brewing Company in Milford, Delaware. I'm really looking forward to my return to Virginia in June, though, as a lot of people raved about the breweries on my schedule then... so I think we're in for another real good time!
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