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Williamsburg Area Features

A Tasteful Journey: Sampling Beer, Wine and Spirits

  By: Jacquelyn Eurice
For adults seeking to explore the array of beverages that are being brewed, distilled and fermented around Williamsburg, a number of opportunities are close at hand.

Breweries

At Virginia Beer Co., Brewmaster Jonathan Newman (formerly of SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia) typically has about eight beers on tap including Elbow Patches, an oatmeal stout and Saving Daylight, a citrus wheat. Their very hoppy Free Verse IPA (77IBU) combines two different types of hops—Azacca and Chinook—and is a favorite among those who love bitter ales.

Open since 2006, Alewerks Brewing Company was the first microbrewery in the Williamsburg area. The company brews over 30 different styles of beer with up to 16 on tap including their flagships such as the Chesapeake Pale Ale, Red Marker Ale, and Tavern Brown Ale. As the popularity of craft beer has grown in Virginia, so has Alewerks’ taproom where visitors can relax and sip their brew.

Brass Cannon’s claim to fame lies with their six mainstay brews including Hazy Daze Lager, Angry Scot, and Muzzle Flash American Ale. However, they are always coming up with small batches that consist of unique flavors. The Lover’s Lager has chocolate and strawberry notes and was created for the 50th anniversary of the slogan “Virginia is for Lovers.”

Within a mile of the Jamestown Settlement lies Billsburg Brewery “B2” at the James City County Marina. Offering beautiful views of the river and delicious craft brews, B2 is the city’s only microbrewery. In addition to a lineup of beers that are usually on tap including Fly Away IPA, Planet 4, and Classic Lager, seasonals and special editions are also offered in small-batch quantities throughout the year.

Amber Ox Public House is open for business near the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary. Their sister company on the same premises, the Precarious Beer Project brews a large array of ever-changing beers. Try one of their beers including Belgian dubbels, stouts and Double IPAs.

Twisted Knot Brewing Co. opened near Newport News City Center at Oyster Point in early 2019. Beginning with a one-barrel system, Twisted Knot carries up to 10 beers on draft. Some selections you may find include IPAs, sour beers, a salted caramel milk stout, hoppy IPAs, and lighter beers such as pilsners and wheats. As this new brewery continues to grow, you can expect more unique concoctions!

The first brewery in Newport News, Tradition Brewing Co., is also at City Center at Oyster Point. The brewery not only keeps exceptional ales like the Mothership Cream Ale and the Hull 488 IPA on tap, but you’re sure to find some interesting seasonals to sample as well.

St. George Brewing Co.
has been brewing beers in the downtown area near NASA-Langley Research Center in Hampton for almost 20 years. Their beers, such as the English Style Nut Brown and the Golden Ale (an American Pale Ale), are almost as well known in Hampton Roads as the company’s namesake—the famous patron saint of England and chivalry.

At historic Fort Monroe, The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery has a rotating list of beers on tap including the Lady in White Hefeweizen and Coffee Cake Imperial Pastry Stout—also called the Shugga Shugga. What’s an oozlefinch? According to local legend, it’s a backwards-flying, large-eyed, goose-shaped bird. It became an unofficial emblem of the army’s Coast Artillery Corps—now the Air Defense Artillery.

Bull Island Brewing Co. is perfectly situated along the Hampton River for some exceptional water views. In addition to the list of seasonals they offer, five flagship beers are consistently on tap. You’ll definitely find a variety of beers to sample, from the Waterman’s Wheat to the Double-Dare Stout. Try the Queen’s Way IPA that they say is truly fit for a queen!

Capstan Bar Brewing Company is a family-owned brewery in Hampton that makes a variety of ales including an IPA, cream ale, and historically inspired brown ale. Yet they also rotate some seasonals along with their Apricot Wheat and the Red IPA. FYI: A capstan resembles a horizontal wheel that sailors use on ships to hoist the sails. Stop in Capstan Bar Brewing Company to try some of their flagship ales!

Distilleries

Rick Wasmund studied the art of distilling whiskey through an internship at Bowmore distillery in Scotland where they still malt their own barley. He then came to Virginia to open the first Copper Fox Distillery in the Shenandoah Valley. In 2016, the distillery opened its Williamsburg location and currently offers product tastings and free tours. In addition to their “hand-malted and applewood aged” rye and single-malt whiskey, they also craft a gin using local barley.

While visiting the colonial capital of Virginia, be sure to stop into the 8 Shires Coloniale Distillery. Here, you can try some of the liquors that would have been enjoyed in the early days of America. Using techniques and ingredients that were employed between 1600 and 1775, 8 Shires creates silver and gold rums, and also a whiskey-based Genever gin that is unlike any other gin you’ve likely tried.

Ironclad Distillery
in downtown Newport News is only a half-hour away from Williamsburg. Named for the ironclad ships (the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia) that participated in the famous Civil War battle in Hampton Roads, this distillery features Virginian bourbon that’s just as fortified as the ironclads themselves. Fun Fact: In order to be bourbon, it only has to come from the United States. So yes, Virginia can and does make bourbon!

While you’re jamming to a local band and enjoying a bite to eat at the massive Vanguard Brewpub and Distillery in Hampton, order a beer or a vodka cocktail made by Caiseal Beer & Spirits Co.  There are a dozen craft beers to choose from including their Snap Guns IPA, the House Kolsch, or an Off-Duty Oatmeal Stout. However, their distillery also produces vodka, gin, and single-malt whiskey. The bartenders at Vanguard are experts at combining these liquors into delicious cocktails!

Meadery

Mead is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages. If you’ve never tried this sweet drink, venture over to the Silver Hand Meadery where adults can sample the fermented honey beverage! Plus, honey samplings are available for a small fee for those who are interested. By tasting a few different types of honey, you’ll be able to see how different pollens ultimately affect the outcome of the mead.

Cidery

Apples grown exclusively in Hampton Roads are combined with interesting and sometimes unusual natural flavors to create delicious ciders at Sly Clyde Ciderworks in Hampton. Try a pint of the Submersive—a sweet cider that showcases the local apples. Or do an entire flight and get exposed to ciders containing hints of herbs, spices, hot peppers or fruits such as figs and blackberries.

Wineries

The Williamsburg Winery has been crushing grapes into award-winning and best-selling wines since 1987. The Adagio, a red blend, is one of their most coveted wines and even won the Governor’s Cup award in 2014. Their best-selling wine, a semi-dry Riesling named Governor’s White, is perfect to relax with after touring a local historic landmark.

Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery
is situated a few miles south of the James River Ferry in the beautiful, natural countryside of Surry County. After tasting some of their wines including their Simply Seyval or Cabernet Franc in the tasting room, buy a bottle or glass of your favorite and sit on the back patio to take in the scenery.

Please be safe while enjoying these beverage destinations. There are always bottles for sale, growlers to fill and other to-go options so you can sip these beverages safely at home or at your hotel. Plus, these items also make wonderful gifts and souvenirs. Cheers!
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