Saturday was the second-to-last show of the Spring Tour, in Suffolk, VA, and the last show in a coastal town, as the final show took us inland to Richmond. I don't think I'd ever been to Suffolk before, but it was not far from the previous night's show in Norfolk (in the Tidewater region of SE coastal Virginia).
Brick & Mortar Brewing is in a stand-alone brick building on Suffolk's main downtown street. Like many older downtown areas, the streets were sadly populated with a combination of shops and vacancies, a typical scene since the WalMarts, CVCs, and Home Depots killed off the independent drug store and hardware stores... but there were enough businesses open to indicate a revitalization might be underway. We did have a nice early dinner down the street at a little mom & pop Italian/pizza joint, and that was a good way to start off the evening.
We had spent much of the day on the beach, and it was from what I was told one of the first really lovely Saturdays of the Spring. Between being the first beautiful Saturday, and the fact that the brewery was in the midst of a major management change, the show didnt get much of a marketing push, and the crowd was a little light. No worries, though... we came to play music and drink beer, and play music and drink beer is what we did!
Brick & Mortar Brewing Company - Suffolk, VA
Brews are available at the tap room, and select local drinking establishments.
As the name might have hinted, the brewery is an old brick building, and the taproom benefitted from the raw unpainted brick walls, with a good sized L shaped bar on one side, the stage area on the other next to the windows, and a second room towards the back that housed a pool table and various other games. Beyond the game room was the brewing facility. Outside, along the side of the building, was a patio area with tables, which ran the length of the building.
As the crowd was a little light, and the room really projected the sound, the setting was perfect for a set of quieter, more intimate and delicately played songs, and so that's what I did. The change of tempo and adjusting of my playing (I did a lot more finger picking) and singing delivery for the space and mood of the room was a refreshing change, and made the performance feel good to me, and the night memorable. There is usually an element of playing to the crowd that is just the nature of the beast, nights like this can be a nice change because you can really focus on your playing of the music and not worry so much about whether the room needs another upbeat number, etc. It also helped that the crowd that was on hand was very much into the selections played, and made sure I knew it.
Brick & Mortar's beer menu wasn't as elaborate as some breweries, and due to their limited production capacity they were actually out of one or two items on the menu. That said, all of their beers were high quality, and I enjoyed pretty much everything I tried.
I started out with the Skeetertown (6.6%) Hazy (New England) IPA. A light golden, hazy pour, this haze was loaded with floral and tropical fruit references from the (I'm assuming) Citra and possibly Mosaic hops. Nice and fruity without an overdose of pine, it was a fine beer to start with, and a smooth, easy drinker that you could probably crush all day.
Suffolk is known as the Peanut City, so I had to try the Peanut City Porter (4.7%) next, which is indeed brewed with fresh peanuts, but it is a bit of a beer of surprises. A very good porter with a nice dark pour and a somewhat lighter and crisper than expected body, it had a rich porter flavor with upfront chocolate and roasted malt flavors... the aroma gave you a good sniff of peanut... but the brew was not overwhelmed with peanut flavor. I've had some rather nutty peanut and peanut butter beers (in fact, read on about tomorrow's PBJ experience in Richmond), and really enjoyed many of them, but this was a much more low-key peanut presence. Essentially what we have here is a very good porter that let's you know it's from the Peanut City via the aroma as you put it up to your mouth, but then drinks like a very nice traditional porter. A nice beer, and one I could have continued drinking if not for my mission...
I've been on a streak of finding some very good sours out there, which are particularly refreshing in this region where the daytime sun is so strong, and your lips get that saltiness from the sea air, and if you do any swimming you get so thirsty... so the particularly thirst quenching and refreshing beers have been jumping off the boards for me lately, and today's Cranberry Gose (4.2%) sounded and looked just about perfect. Pouring at a hue that was somewhere between mauve and cranberry, you could almost quench your thirst just looking at it. Almost. Medium bodied, but crisp and clean with a moderate level of carbonation, the cranberry again was not too overpowering, not too perfumy... just enough to give you a hint of it, and then finish a bit sour on the backend. Not obnoxiously sour, just enough to make you immediately want that next gulp. I think I might have broken my normal policy and had a couple of these.
My son and periodic travel companion Brad of Freak Mythology fame decided to take advantage of the room and crowd conditions and played for about a half hour, instinctively taking a similar approach to mine, and playing a quieter, meticulously played set focusing on tastier guitar work, etc. As I recall I think he might have also been somewhat hooked on the Cranberry Gose for much of the evening.
My last drink of the night was the Backwoods Lager (4.1%), which is a lighter lager/pilsner in the tradition of American lagers. Brick & Mortar, like many breweries I've encountered, offer these as a sort of fig leaf to the people dragged to their breweries who would rather just have a Bud or Miller Lite, and so that's often how they pitch them to me.... “it's our light lager for those who are looking for something more like a Bud Light”. While I get why they do it, and I'm sure it's filling a market niche, it always sets my expectations so low, whereas they're usually light, yet considerably tastier than the mass produced brands. That said, I've also had rather crappy ones (New Belgium has one that is particularly bad... tastes more like they are trying to compete with a warm PBR), but Brick & Mortar's was actually pretty good. Light and crisp, well carbonated, but had enough flavor to satisfy... probably more like a Moosehead than a Coors Light, which is fine by me.
The crowd and new management were very complimentary after my set, and also due to the more intimate setting we had a little more open discussion about my tour between songs during my sets, which I enjoy. At the end of the night I sold some tour t-shirts and was asked about future dates in the area, which currently I don't have any scheduled, but I've had enough demand expressed to think I'm going to try to work back through North Carolina and Virginia in September, so hopefully we'll be back.... and the new brewery management expressed the same interest and discussed a little more promotion for the next time... so hopefully I'll be back soon!
After the show we decided to push a bit north in hopes of avoiding some of the end-of-weekend traffic out of the beach areas heading up towards Richmond, DC, and Pennsylvania. We made it up a ways past Williamsburg and camped in a rest area that looked more like a park... heavily wooded, nice dark areas to park away from the rest of the traffic, etc. and I slept like a rock (I have a great big bed in the tour van). Just one more show to go in Richmond, and an early afternoon show at that. Onward...