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Southside Virginia breweries offer barrels of fun
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Southside Virginia breweries offer barrels of fun

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Fifty years ago, Southside Virginia was home to massive tobacco farms, curing sheds and auction warehouses. Norfolk and Western Railway was the major employer in Roanoke, and Danville and Martinsville were known as massive producers of textiles and furniture.

Over time, these businesses moved away. But after years of decline, dilapidated, run-down downtown districts have been revitalized. Breweries have contributed to this resurgence, offering travel-worthy destinations with spectacular views, gourmet foods, live music and creative libations. These venues have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic with social distancing and other safety precautions.

Join me as I explore some of the breweries in the Roanoke, Martinsville, Lynchburg and Danville area.

A Few Old Goats Brewing – Roanoke, Virginia

A few years ago, a local urban revitalizer purchased the abandoned Health Department building on Eighth Street in Roanoke. A portion of the building was converted into luxury apartments, but a group of old Cleveland Browns fans that were avid homebrewers acquired the other portion of the building and invested their own money and labor to create a brewery. One of the Cleveland folks was Ken McGraw, an English professor who relocated to the Roanoke area to teach at a local college. He and his partner Curtis Reed built the brewery themselves to avoid debt. They have installed a two-barrel nano-brewing system that produces a batch of approximately 62 gallons. They have a can sealer and sell some cans on-site.

They used a concrete counter kit to create the dark gray bar top and built a walk-in cooler out of panels made from stainless steel and Styrofoam. The cooler is a large, matte black box with tap handles sporting stylish goat heads. The names of the brews sprang from the creative mind of English professor McGraw.

The Goats have some very warming brews on the way for winter sipping. One is Collusive Resistance Imperial Milk Stout. The brew is aged for over a year in barrels that previously contained Buffalo Trace Kentucky bourbon. This smooth brew weighs in at 9% ABV. Also featured is Tethered Fears Oatmeal Stout at 12%. If you feel adventurous, try Damaged Souls Imperial Stout, a potent brew aged in bourbon barrels weighing in at 15% ABV.

The brewery has an outdoor seating area with heater lamps, and patrons can order from the nearby restaurant Food Fanatics, which delivers at the brewery. Food trucks are also frequent visitors. The brewery offers less potent brews than the previously mentioned, such as Li’l Red Irish Ale and Galactic Retribution IPA. Regular customers are greeted by name, and if you drop in, one of the owners might be there to engage you in interesting conversation.

A Few Old Goats Brewing

515 Eighth St. S.W., Suite 228, Roanoke, VA 24016

(540) 339-9562

afogbrewing.com

Open Wednesday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Big Lick Brewing Company – Roanoke

In 2015, Bryan Summerson, who at the time was most awarded homebrewer in the Star City Brewers Guild, opened a nano-brewery on Salem Avenue in downtown Roanoke. The brewery quickly became a hit, due to the quality of the brews. A few years later, Summerson and his partner Chuck Garst had the opportunity to move up the street to the old abandoned trolley depot. A large door that the trolleys used remains at the back of the facility, and the parking lot overlooks the Virginia Museum of Transportation. The interior has been renovated quite nicely, and a patio has ample outdoor seating.

Patrons can use a provided iPad to order from nearby restaurants Beamer’s 25 or Tuco’s Taqueria, which deliver to the brewery. The brewery has upgraded to a 15-barrel brewing system but still brews experimental 2 gallon batches. Some of their winter warmers include Yuve Yuve Yu Double Milk Imperial Stout, which was aged in barrels that previously contained Smooth Ambler bourbon. Summerson said the brew has notes of sweet milk chocolate followed by some vanilla picked up from the barrels. It weighs in at 9.5% ABV.

Also available is Dying Days Russian Imperial Stout. This brew was aged for a year and a half in barrels that previously contained George Dickel Tennessee whisky. It is described as roasty with notes of coffee, chocolate and a touch of whisky. At 10.5% ABV, it will definitely provide warmth. The brewery is conveniently located downtown within walking distance of other attractions, such as the Martin Luther King Jr. statue.

Big Lick Brewing Company

409 Salem Ave. S.W., Roanoke, VA 24016

(540) 562-8383

biglickbrewingco.com

Open Wednesday-Monday. Closed Tuesdays. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Mountain Valley Brewing – Axton

Mountain Valley Hops became the first hop farm in Henry County when friendly owners Herb Atwell and Peggy Donivan broke ground in 2014. Their initial goal was to cultivate Cascade and Chinook hops for homebrewing purposes. They soon found that the hop vines would easily climb to the top of a 20-foot-tall telephone pole. In 2017, they added a brewery using a three-barrel fermentation system designed by Atwell, an industrial controls expert by trade. Visitors to the brewery can sit next to a fire pit among the hop vines and enjoy a spectacular view of the entire eastern horizon.

The venue features live music and food trucks on the weekend. The hop farm is 450 acres, and patrons can walk about and play yard games while enjoying the view from one of the highest hills in the area.

In 2018, the brewery’s Chocolate Vanilla porter won first place at the Microfestivus Festival. In the pipeline for the holidays, they have crafted an Irish Stout aged in a Jack Daniels Barrel. The name is Slainte, which is an Irish greeting. This brew weighs in at 6.5% ABV.

Also on the way is Gingerbread Stout for Christmas. It has been aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels and is about 9% ABV. Atwell saide they have some Chocolate Cherry Stout left over from last year that is still tasty, and their Vulture Roost American Pale Ale is quite popular. It’s named for a tree on the property that vultures like to hang out on. A cold brew, a warm fire pit and a spectacular view await!

Mountain Valley Brewing

4220 Mountain Valley Road, Axton, VA 24054

276-833-2171

mountainvalleybrewing.com

Open Thursday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Apocalypse Ale Works – Forest

Master brewer Doug John runs a homebrewing and winemaking supply shop where he teaches people how to make beer and wine. He’s so good at his craft that he won Heavy Sea’s brewing competition in Baltimore with his interpretation of a Belgian ale.

John acquired the abandoned fire station next door and converted it into a brewery, installing high-quality brewing equipment and a canning operation. The brewery was doing well — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Apocalypse responded by turning to its huge outdoor beer garden area, which can seat 400 patrons under normal circumstances. With social distancing, they can still seat 100.

Apocalypse has 3 acres of land and is a member of the Harvest Host program for RVers. Harvest Host members can park their RVs at the site if they spend $20 at the brewery. That way folks staying there can amble over to the beer garden for a delicious brew and a great meal from a food truck. The brewery limits the number of RVs on the weekend so customers have a place to park. John is adamant about following safety rules regarding masks, gloves and social distancing.

Every year on Black Friday, the brewery releases a new line of stouts. This year there will be four variations of the Wrath of the Lamb series. These are hefty English imperial stouts weighing in at 10.2% alcohol. The flavors include coconut, coffee, peanut butter (think Reese’s Pieces) and Neapolitan. That’s right — it includes vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Anyone who says they don’t like beer might want to give this one a shot.

Apocalypse Ale Works

1257 Burnbridge Road, | Forest, VA 24551

(434)-258-8761

endofbadbeer.com

The brewery is open Tuesday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Three Roads Brewing Company – Lynchburg and Farmville

Three Roads opened its Farmville brewery in 2016 with the goal of promoting community development. Since then, they have partnered with charitable causes such as Special Olympics and Ducks Unlimited.

The owners branched out to downtown Lynchburg in 2019 when they acquired and renovated an abandoned Ford dealership. The brewery hosts events such as live music, Trivia Night and a Punk Rock Flea Market.

General manager Mollie Fusco said that patrons enjoy viewing the stainless steel brewing equipment from the tap room and watching beer being made. The brewery is open, but they enforce social distancing and masks during this time.

Three Roads brewmaster David Steves crafts creative brews, such as Drifter’s Apple Ale, Three on a Tree Peach Tripel and Cashmere India Pale ale. To warm your soul this winter, try their Snickerdoodle Stout and Runaway Heifer Imperial Milk Porter at 8.3% ABV.

The brewery has a Crowler machine that can seal a 32-ounce can of your favorite brew to go. The brewery has a very large outdoor seating area with warming fire pits.

Food trucks visit regularly, including the Batter Bar, which specializes in both sweet and savory crepes, including a delicious chicken and avocado. The Harajuku-style crepes are made from a thin pancake rolled into a cone and filled with ingredients. Patrons can hold this in hand as they walk around and observe beer being made. What could be better to do with batter?

Three Roads Brewing Company

1300 Court St., Lynchburg, VA 24504

(434) 386-8153

3roadsbrewing.com/lynchburg

The brewery is open Wednesday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Mount

ain Valley Brewing – Axton

Mountain Valley Hops became the first hop farm in Henry County when friendly owners Herb Atwell and Peggy Donivan broke ground in 2014. Their initial goal was to cultivate Cascade and Chinook hops for homebrewing purposes. They soon found that the hop vines would easily climb to the top of a 20-foot-tall telephone pole. In 2017, they added a brewery using a three-barrel fermentation system designed by Atwell, an industrial controls expert by trade. Visitors to the brewery can sit next to a fire pit among the hop vines and enjoy a spectacular view of the entire eastern horizon.

The venue features live music and food trucks on the weekend. The hop farm is 450 acres, and patrons can walk about and play yard games while enjoying the view from one of the highest hills in the area.

In 2018, the brewery’s Chocolate Vanilla porter won first place at the Microfestivus Festival. In the pipeline for the holidays, they have crafted an Irish Stout aged in a Jack Daniels Barrel. The name is Slainte, which is an Irish greeting. This brew weighs in at 6.5% ABV.

Also on the way is Gingerbread Stout for Christmas. It has been aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels and is about 9% ABV. Atwell saide they have some Chocolate Cherry Stout left over from last year that is still tasty, and their Vulture Roost American Pale Ale is quite popular. It’s named for a tree on the property that vultures like to hang out on. A cold brew, a warm fire pit and a spectacular view await!

Mountain Valley Brewing

4220 Mountain Valley Road, Axton, VA 24054

276-833-2171

mountainvalleybrewing.com

Open Thursday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Beale’s Brewing C

ompany – Bedford

The 16,000-square-foot facility that houses Beale’s in downtown Bedford has changed hands several times since it started out many years ago as a woolen mill. It was purchased by Rubatex Corporation, then a furniture company and finally local developer Dave McCormack. He has developed several old properties in the area, including the Bedford Lofts apartments next door.

Beale’s achieved notoriety in October by winning the Bronze Medal at the 2020 Great American Beer Festival. Their Plumpricot, brewed with all-natural plums and apricots, earned third place in the Specialty Berliner-Style Weisse beer style category at the virtual ceremony hosted on The Brewing Network. The style is crisp, tart and refreshing and sports a haze because it’s unfiltered in the traditional manner.

McCormack said they avoid producing high alcohol beers. That way patrons don’t get inebriated, and a better time is had by all, he said. Brewmaster James Frazier, head brewer Bryson Foultz and their team also produce a Helles lager named Gold, which is bottled and distributed regionally. The crowd-pleasing beer is smooth and mild.

Beale’s has a few warming brews on the horizon for the cold weather ahead. They recently released Brunch Stout, which showcases notes of chocolate, coffee, maple syrup and caramel delivered in a roasted, smooth oatmeal stout. The brew contains 6.8% alcohol. They will soon release an Old Forester Brunch Stout, which is the same brew aged in Old Forester bourbon barrels. It weighs in at 6.3% and will be released soon.

Beale’s is one of the few breweries in the area that features an in-house restaurant. They specialize in comfort food such as barbecue, burgers and decadent macaroni and cheese. Taproom manager Brittany Canterbury said COVID-19 safety rules regarding mask wearing and social distancing are strictly enforced. Social distancing is easy to maintain with the brewery’s spacious outdoor dining area.

Beale’s Brewing Company

510 Grove St., Bedford, VA 24523

540-583-5113

bealesbeer.com

The brewery is open Wednesday-Sunday. Contact the brewery for current hours.

Ballad Brewing – Danville

Danville’s business district had fallen into decline after the tobacco and textile industries receded in the area. Real estate developers Ross Fickenscher and Garrett Shifflett acquired an abandoned 1891 tobacco warehouse and renovated it into a warm and inviting brew pub.

The brewery’s name comes from a famous ballad covered by Johnny Cash and many others that paid tribute to the wreck of the Old ‘97. In 1903, the Southern Fast Mail train was trying to make up lost time and careened off the nearby Stillhouse Trestle, killing 11 people. A large mural memorializing the event greets visitors when they enter town.

The brewery features a 20-barrel, modern facility capable of brewing 10,000 barrels of beer each year. The beers are bottled and distributed throughout Virginia. This is just part of the historic revitalization of Danville.

The tasting room features an open rustic space with exposed beams and comfortable seating. Patrons can scan the QR code on the menus of local restaurants Mucho Taco or The Garage Barbecue for food delivery to accompany their beer. Ballad brews a Just Pressed Lime and Ginger sour that pairs quite nicely with spicy tacos. Bar manager Kirsten Goodson says it’s quite popular.

Also on the way is a rich and tasty Lebkuchen Doppelbock for cooler weather. This German style uses lots of caramel roasted malts and elevated alcohol for a rich and warming beer. Another one in the works is their annual Cranberry sour. Ballad brews this tart and tasty beer every year to commemorate the holidays. When you leave, you can stroll through Danville’s renovated River District.

Ballad Brewing

600 Craighead St., Danville, Virginia 24541

(434) 799-4677

balladbrewing.com

The brewery is open every day. Contact them for current hours.

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