Planning Your Next Flight: Visiting Northern Virginia’s 60+ Craft Breweries

waters end brewery photo credit josh fournelle

*Please plan responsibility and use a designated driver when traveling the brewery trails in Virginia.*

Right across the Potomac from Washington, D.C. the Northern Virginia region of the Commonwealth is an interesting blend of historic urban areas, suburban communities, and rolling farmlands at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. But each of these landscapes have something in common; they all are home to a surprising number of award-winning craft breweries. Out of Virginia’s over 200 breweries, Northern Virginia has about 60 craft breweries along five beer trails, offering several distinct day trips for those looking to discover what Virginia’s craft beer scene is all about. Use this guide to plan your brew-based outing along the beer trails of Northern Virginia.

—BELTWAY BEER TRAIL—

As the largest beer trail in Virginia, the Beltway Beer Trail is made up of 29 breweries in the Fairfax, Prince William, Manassas, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Arlington areas of Northern Virginia. With the furthest north just outside of Reston and the southern portion of the trail near Woodbridge, every brewery is within a 35-mile drive of each other. Plan Your Route

Water’s End Brewery—Lake Ridge

Photo Credit: Josh Fournelle

The 1,800 square-foot tasting room at Water’s End Brewery is bathed in natural light from the expansive glass windows, but on sunny weekends, grab a seat on the brewery’s patio, which is actually the drive-thru for the neighboring bank during weekdays. This fact speaks to the brewery’s relationship in the community, where both businesses and locals are eager to support the burgeoning craft brewery, newly opened in September 2016. Since their opening date, they have been busy formulating new beer recipes, with 28 distinct beers under their belt to date. They aim to keep about six to eight beers on tap at all times, with only a single staple remaining on the menu, their “Damn Beer”, a refreshing and drinkable golden ale. Every other beer on draft is selected from a steady supply of experimental and seasonal batches produced by the brewing team, giving you the opportunity to try new creations with every visit to the brewery.

Caboose Brewing Company—Vienna

Founded in 2015, Caboose Brewing Company was the first brewery to open in Vienna, bringing a farm-to-table philosophy and a commitment to environmentally sustainable practices to both their brewing process and their food menu. They test out a variety of beer styles, and visitors should sample the flight to get a taste for their innovative brewing practices. The brewery is right off the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, making it a popular spot for cyclers to take a break from their ride and enjoy a much-deserved craft brew.

Lake Anne Brew House—Reston

Lake-Anne-Brew-House-Charlotte-Geary

Photo Credit: Charlotte Geary

Lake Anne Brew House provides small-batch, hand-crafted beers in their nano-brewery taproom, which sits right off the water in Lake Anne Village Center Plaza. Owned by husband-and-wife team Jason and Melissa Romano, Jason runs the …read more

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Brewing Musically: Where Great Beers and Great Music Meet

Starr Hill Brewery

Virginia is home to some of the most delicious and creative beers anywhere, and there’s an excellent chance that while you’re reading this, somewhere in the commonwealth, devoted fans of craft brewing are gathered at the source to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of the brewery boom that’s taken the commonwealth by storm. And they’re not the only devoted fans; if beer enthusiasts take a look around the taproom, they’ll likely see a healthy delegation from the local music scene as well.

Musicians, DJs, even the brewers themselves so many people who are passionate about beer also make and enjoy music, and breweries have started playing a central role in music communities all over the state. From weekend concerts to beers named after bands, here are a few of the Virginia craft brewers who tunefully infuse their beers.

Starr Hill BreweryCrozet

Should we be surprised that a brewery that was born alongside a concert hall is keeping the musical connection going almost 20 years later? Starr Hill Brewery was founded in 1999, sharing a space with the upstairs Starr Hill Music Hall on Main Street in Charlottesville. The brewery’s operations have since moved to a larger facility in nearby Crozet, and while the facility still hosts live music, they don’t stop there. Music has made its way into their beers, and several of their brews have music-themed names and labels, like their Grateful Pale Ale (nodding to the Grateful Dead) the Reviver Red IPA, which sports a keyboard on the label, and the Double Platinum IPA, which includes a visual nod to vinyl enthusiasts.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery—Richmond

The founders of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery led the charge in getting a 2012 bill through the Virginia General Assembly that would allow breweries to sell their beer for on-premises consumption, and in doing so, they helped create countless gigs for musicians out of thin air. Since then, Hardywood has become a premier Richmond venue, with a busy schedule of free and ticketed shows, ranging from jazz combos and touring indie acts to full-day music festivals, like the annual A Good in Day RVA Festival. Performances take place in the original taproom, a massive space that manages to feel intimate thanks to a top-notch sound system and aging barrels that line the walls. The brewery also regularly hosts the VG Minus Richmond Record Fair, an event in which both of Hardywood’s Richmond buildings are overrun by vinyl buyers digging through who knows how many thousands of albums. Just be careful if you’re sipping while flipping…

Champion Brewing CompanyCharlottesville

“The Pils Are Alive” at Champion Brewing Company as the name of their dry-hopped pilsner would suggest, but not with the sound of music that Rodgers and Hammerstein would have written. Champion offers events like “Rad Dads Burgers and Records” on Father’s Day, and the Charlottesville brewery has become a home for music fans looking for louder accompaniment. In addition to their own metal shows, they’ve hosted the Metal Showcase as part …read more

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Waterfront Wanderlust: A Guide to Fishing, Food, and Fun on the Dan River

dan river paddling

Virginia’s portion of the Dan River starts near Meadows of Dan, traveling south through Patrick County in the Blue Ridge Highlands before crisscrossing the border between Virginia and North Carolina, then emptying into the Kerr Reservoir, also known as Buggs Island Lake. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast traveling through Southern Virginia or the Blue Ridge Highlands, the Dan River provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and tubing. The river also has several parks along its banks with hiking and biking trails. In addition to outdoor activities, you’ll probably want to take a few breaks along the way to sample local flavors at restaurants, breweries, and wineries, as well as potentially staying overnight in the region. Use this comprehensive guide to plan your getaway along Virginia’s Dan River this summer.

Communities to Visit along the River: Meadows of Dan, Berry Hill, Danville, South Boston

River Outfitters & Guides:

  • Three Rivers Outfitters—Ridgeway: Canoe and kayak rentals. About 15 miles from the Dan River.
  • Danville Parks and Recreation—Danville: Canoe and kayak rentals available at the Abreu-Grogan boat ramp. Hours vary, so call ahead of time to ensure rental office is open.
  • River Traders—Scottsburg: Pontoon, kayak, canoe, and fishing boat rentals. Guided river tours available upon request. Also sell bait and tackle supplies.

Local Dining Hot Spots:

Downtown South Boston

Wineries, Breweries, & Distilleries:

Area Highlights:

mabry mill

Near the beginning of the Dan River, Rocky Knob Recreation Area contains miles of hiking trails suitable for every skill level, ranging from a pleasant one-mile hike through mature forests to an 11-mile hike along creeks and fields of wildflowers. Next, stop at Mabry Mill off the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway just northwest of Meadows of Dan to see a significant piece of Virginia’s storied history. The site is one of the most photographed destinations off the Blue Ridge Parkway and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Originally a gristmill that was built around 1905, the mill still demonstrates skills from the time period such as weaving, apple butter making, and chair caning. For a little bit of pampering at the end of the day, book a stay at Primland Resort, a luxury 12,000 acre resort situated on the banks of the Dan River that has everything you could want in a relaxing overnight getaway, including a world-class spa, golf, fine dining. Looking for more outdoor excitement? The resort also offers ATV tours, horseback riding, and fly-fishing.

Golden Eagle Treehouse

If you’re traveling near Danville on the …read more

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Under the Stars: 8 Nighttime Activities for the Outdoor Enthusiast

adventure kayak

While there are plenty of recreational activities in the waters of Virginia to cool you off during the hot days of summer, we have an even better alternative; enjoy the Great Outdoors at night to skip the blistering heat that often comes with the sunniest days. Make plans to attend these eight evening activities this summer and discover what makes Virginia’s outdoors so unforgettable.

Adventure Kayak Tours—Chesapeake

When: By Appointment Only

Adventure Kayak Tours offers night paddling trip by reservation request, creating a custom evening out on the water for your group. In addition to a “Paddle Under the Stars” package, they also have a “Full Moon Paddle” trip to correspond with the lunar calendar. Call to inquire about dates and availability for your starlit paddling excursion.

Movie Night at Veramar Vineyard—Berryville

When: Friday August 18, 2017

Pack a picnic and head to Veramar Vineyard for their Movie Night, featuring lovely Virginia wines and a great movie in a romantic setting. This event is the perfect date night idea, with the movie starting around 9pm and only costing $8 per person. The vineyard will be screening “Born to be Blue” for the August movie showing.

Night Skies—Luray

When: July 21, August 12, September 22, October 20, 2017

Held in the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park, Night Skies draws amateur astronomers and romance-seeking stargazers to catch a glimpse of the stunning starlight. Pack a blanket, chair, and a flashlight for some of the most uninterrupted views of Virginia’s night skies. For an overnight trip, book a room at Big Meadows Lodge or bring along your camping gear and stay at the nearby Lewis Mountain Campgrounds. This monthly event is dependent on the weather, and will be rescheduled in the case of rain or heavy clouds.

Mountain2Island Paddleboarding—Hiwassee

When: August 7 and September 6, 2017

The Once in a Full Moon Paddle Trips with Mountain2Island Paddleboarding on Smith Mountain Lake includes the paddleboard rental, glow lights, and a guided tour of the lake for just $39 per person. The tour starts at around 10pm and lasts for about an hour and a half as you’ll traverse the quiet moonlit waters. This paddling adventure is best suited for intermediate level paddleboarders ages 16 and up, and reservations are required in advance as the tour books up quickly.

Starry Nights at Veritas Vineyards & Winery—Afton

When: August 12 and September 9, 2017

starry nights at veritas vineyards

Veritas Vineyards & Winery hosts Starry Nights, a summer outdoor concert series held on the lush lawns of the vineyard. Bring picnic blankets or lawn chairs to relax under the stars and sip on fine wines, all while enjoying live music performances. See the Legwarmers, an 80’s cover band, play on August 12, followed by Chamomile & Whiskey with special guests Jim Waive & the Young Divorcees on September 9th. Call in advance to reserve your spot at the …read more

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Virginia’s Bluegrass History, One Stop at a Time

The nickname “The Bluegrass State” may already be taken, but no thorough exploration of the genre’s sights and sounds would be complete without devoting a generous amount of time to exploring the rich tradition of bluegrass in Virginia.

More than 70 years after the Stanley Brothers formed, bluegrass is still thriving in Virginia, and all over the state you’ll find venues, landmarks, and museums that tell the story of how this particular form of mountain music began and evolved. With so much to see and do, there’s no single path through the genre’s history, but here are a few stops worth factoring in as you plan your journey into the past and present of bluegrass in the Old Dominion.

The Lincoln Theatre—Marion

The Lincoln Theatre is a destination unto itself; one step inside the stunning space with its colorful murals and red and gold glow and you’re bound to realize you’re in one of the most gorgeous venues in the state. Not only is it on the National Register of Historic Places, the Marion, Virginia theater is also notable for playing host to Song of the Mountains, a PBS-syndicated TV series that’s carried on more than 150 stations across the United States. More than 10 seasons in, Song of the Mountains features some of the finest bluegrass you’ll find anywhere. Past performers have included the Seldom Scene, Ralph Stanley, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and the Grass Cats, and country legends like Doc Watson have also graced the Lincoln Theatre stage. It’s a beloved bluegrass tradition that’s well worth tuning in for or even better, seeing firsthand. It’s part of the Crooked Road music heritage trail, a network of Southwest Virginia musical landmarks that offer bluegrass enthusiasts countless opportunities for listening and learning.

Listen on the way: Steep Canyon Rangers Rare Bird Alert

Blue Ridge Music CenterGalax

So much of the shape and personality of the sound of bluegrass comes from the banjo, and some of its most prominent founding fathers made their name by innovating how the instrument is played, Dr. Stanley included. But the banjo’s story starts long before the Blue Grass Boys kickstarted the genre. Evolutionary versions of the instrument trace a path from West Africa and the Caribbean to America during the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, and the Blue Ridge Music Center has a collection of instruments showing just what that evolution looks like, including a reproduction of a fretless gourd banjo that would have been made in coastal Georgia or South Carolina in the late 18th century. Their Roots of American Music exhibit is packed with fascinating ephemera like this guitars, dulcimers, fiddles, photos, and records but the Center isn’t just a museum; it also plays host to regular jam sessions and concerts featuring bluegrass, among other genres.

Listen on the way: Punch Brothers The Phosphorescent Blues

Ralph Stanley Museum …read more

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