Updated: Aug 6, 2020
To cap off the July run through North Carolina and Virginia, I played for the first time at Gloucester Brewing in (you guessed it!) Gloucester, Virginia.
Gloucester is a laid back town in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Chesapeake region of Virginia. Even though it is very close as the crow flies to those towns as well as the colonial triangle of Williamsburg/Yorktown/Jamestown it is still a bit isolated, as it is on a peninsula bordered by the York River on one side, and the Chesapeake Bay on the other... and the only way to access it is via a southern bridge near Yorktown, or a northern rather rural route past Williamsburg. As such, it has a rather peaceful vibe somewhat free of the bustle of the beach and Hampton Roads areas.
Gloucester Brewing Company - Gloucester, VA
Beers are currently available at the brewery/taproom, and to go via growlers and cans. Some selections are available on tap at area restaurant and drinking estabishments.
I was originally supposed to play the brewery back in the Spring, but (surprise surprise) COVID threw in some complications and we rescheduled for this July afternoon during my second Summer pass through the region.
The brewery has been around for about a year, and would qualify as a nano-brewery. The building houses the brewing facilities and a cozy taproom, and outside on one side of the building is a deck, and on this day tents were set up in the parking lot with additional “safe distanced” tables, and this is where I was set up. As you might expect for late July in coastal Virginia, it was a hot and sticky day, but we did the best we could with tents providing shade, some industrial fans... and cold beer! When the sun hit it was a bit brutal (2nd day in a row, as I also played outdoors in the sun in Williamsburg), but once the shade hit, aided by not only the beer but also an ample supply of cold water, it was pretty comfortable. Should you visit Gloucester Brewing during the summer, I'll let you in on a little secret... there is a spot just outside the restrooms where the AC pumps right down on you, and you can go from overheated to chilled to the bone in just a few minutes there. You can thank me later...
The crowd was a well rounded cross section of the craft brewery scene, some young folks, some older ones, a handful of pooches on hand, and plenty of conversationalists eager to learn more about my tour and discuss their favorite breweries in the region.
As it was a hot day, I again decided to stick to the lighter beers, at least to start off with. My first pint was the Tis the Saison (5.7%), a light and refreshing Saison, with slight elements of spice , light and crisp enough to be very crushable, without the burden of a bitter aftertaste or bloated heaviness. Brewed with German Pilsner, Vienna, and Caramunich malts with a touch of wheat malt, combined with Hallertau hops, it was a great choice for a hot day, and one that I could have stuck with for the rest of the afternoon if I weren't on a mission....
I followed the saison with the Kolman Kolsch (5.2%), which was a nicely done rather traditional kolsch, again leaning on German pilsner malt and this time Hallertau and Crystal hops, for a slightly bready brew, flavorful and still lighter bodied, and again very drinkable on a day when you want a tasty beer with without being swamped by hoppiness or too heavy a body.
For my set break I sipped on the Johnny Apple Beer Cream Ale (5.2%). This was a funny pick because just the night before I had a conversation with someone about how when we were in high school local cream ales were a thing, and how it seemed peculiar that with all the variety commonly displayed by today's craft brewers, you rarely find a “traditional” cream ale anymore... yet here one is! The Johnny Apple Beer (Cream Ale, 5.2%). Keeping with the theme, this was another lighter bodied beer perfect for summer sippin', with a nice crisp taste and light body. While they make the comparison to apple cider, I could see it in the body and balance, but I don't recall detecting any actual apple hints in the aroma or flavor.... then again, I was more excited about trying a cream ale after so long, so probably wasn't particularly looking for apple at the time anyway.
For my second set the sun was going down and I was more in the shade, so the heat not as brutal, so I departed from the lighter brews and treated myself to the Low Ground Brown Ale (6.1%). If you follow the blog or know me at all, I love a good brown ale, and while I normally associate them more with cooler temps and perhaps the Autumn, after drinking so many sours and light beers on this trip a good brown sounded heavenly.... and Low Ground did not disappoint. Traditional in its approach, this was a nicely balance easy drinker of a brown ale, medium bodied, a light roasted malts flavor, a little nutty, full of flavor yet crisp and clean on the finish, no traces of a sappy aftertaste. This was a great brew to finish the evening with, as a stout would have been a bit much, but it was substantial enough to be satisfying as the final pint.
Gloucester Brewing was a fine way to cap off this trip, the staff and customers both extremely friendly, and the vibe festive yet laid back. Their beer menu runs deeper with more variety than I sampled on this stop, and I look forward coming back perhaps on a somewhat cooler day when I could spend some time sampling the stouts and various others without worrying about how they would mix with the heat (I just have to be more careful when I'm playing, so as not to get overwelmed and ruin my performance).
I wrapped up early enough that I could put a few hours of driving in before getting too tired, and I made it just west of Charlottesville on the way home. I slept somewhere up in the mountains between Charlotteville and West Virginia, where the sky was crystal clear and full of stars, and the temperature comfortable for a good night's sleep. I encountered what I thought was a bobcat, but that's another story for another time...
My next few weeks will revolve around shows and short runs throughout the midwest, primarily in Ohio and Indiana, and I'm happy to say I'll be back in Virginia for one more run in mid September, assuming the COVID gods smile down on us.
If you're in coastal Virginia put Gloucester Brewing on your short list. It may be a little out of the way, but it avoids the busier city places, and it's worth the short trip.
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