The Southern Appalachians have their share of trails: bike trails, hiking trails, paddle trails—and now, thanks to the craft brewery boom, beer trails. Explore multiple breweries and find quick access to the South’s best adventure. Here are six beer trails worthy of your precious weekends.
Brew Ridge Trail
Nelson County is the epicenter of Virginia’s first craft beer boom, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Starr Hill, Blue Mountain and Devils Backbone. Brewing has grown in the county, and now you can link up almost half a dozen breweries via a scenic mountain ramble. The hiking isn’t too bad, either.
South Street Brewery
Kick the trip off in downtown Charlottesville and order the easy drinking Satan’s Pony, a malt-driven amber ale. southstreetbrewery.com
Pay homage to Virginia’s first craft brewery in Crozet. Starr Hill has revamped some of their classic beers and introduced outstanding new IPAs. Jump on their imperial IPA, King of Hop, which is loaded with citrus. starrhill.com
Blue Mountain Brewery
Blue Mountain helped pioneer the new wave of hop farming in Virginia, and you can see the fruits of their labor at their Afton brewery, which houses two expansive hop fields. Full Nelson is a solid pale, but try to get your hands on Blue Reserve, which uses only home-grown Cascade hops. bluemountainbrewery.com
Detour onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and climb Humpback Rocks, a fin of rock with killer views that come after 800 feet of climbing in one mile.
Wild Wolf Brewing Company
Wild Wolf’s backyard is ridiculous—a white-fenced beer garden set amongst the hardwoods—and it’s the perfect road trip distraction. Order the Blonde Hunny, an unfiltered wheat beer, and bring your appetite—Wild Wolf runs a farm to fork restaurant that gets most of their ingredients within 30 miles. wildwolfbeer.com
Devils Backbone Brewing Company
Devils Backbone has grown significantly (they’re actually owned by Anheuser Busch now), but their Basecamp campus in Roseland still has adventure-hub charm. DB Brewing made a name for themselves with their Vienna Lager, and it’s still a solid option, but consider their Gold Leaf lager for something a bit more crisp and sessionable. dbbrewingcompany.com
The Beerwerks Trail
The only problem with the Shenandoah Valley? There’s so much to take in, it can be hard to focus. You have the Shenandoah River running through the heart of the pastoral valley, which is framed by the rugged peaks of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, as well as Shenandoah National Park. You’ve got the A.T., the best mountain biking in Virginia, paddling, road cycling…and now beer. A dozen breweries are scattered along the valley’s new Beerwerks Trail. We’ve picked a few highlights to help you focus. beerwerkstrail.com
Blue Lab Brewing
Start at this former doctor’s office that’s been transformed into a tiny microbrewery, where the tap list is always rotating. Be bold and try the Green Chile Ale if it’s on tap. bluelabbrewing.com
Stable Craft Brewing
You have five breweries to choose from between Waynesboro and Staunton. We say hit Seven Arrows Brewing (sevenarrowsbrewing.com) on your way to Stable Craft, just outside of Waynesboro, which operates a working hop and horse farm on the site of the brewery. Get one of their IPAs and have it poured through their Randall, which infuses the beer with a different fruit or herb each day. stablecraftbrewing.com
Head into Shenandoah National Park and tackle the road climb on the southern end of Skyline Drive that gains more than 1,000 feet in 10 miles on its way to the top of Loft Mountain. nps.gov/shen
This small college town has become a hotbed of beer, so prepare for a quick walking tour that takes in four breweries. Brothers Craft Brewing, on the north end of town, is in an old Coca-Cola plant (order their pale ale, called The Great Outdoors; brotherscraftbrewing.com). Then hit Wolfe Street (get the Citra Tonic if it’s on tap), Three Notch’d (Jack’s Java Espresso Stout for a kick; threenotchdbrewing.com) and finish at Pale Fire, where you’ll order the medal winning Salad Days Saison.
Get a trail pass from Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition and knock out a couple of dirty loops on Massanutten’s rugged Western Slope, just outside of downtown. svbcoalition.org
The High Country Beer Trail
North Carolina—40 miles
You could knock out every brewery on this High Country route in a day if you were ambitious, but you’d be missing the entire point of this trip. While the beer is good in the High Country, the adventure is better. Along this 40 mile trail that connects four breweries, you have either lift-served mountain biking or downhill skiing depending on the season, a legit peak scramble, some of the best road biking in the country, and even a bit of bouldering if you’re game.
Blind Squirrel Brewing Company
Located in a lodge in sleepy Plumtree, Blind Squirrel has been knocking out solid beers quietly since 2012. Show up on Saturday and you can take a tour of the brewery. Order the Nut Brown Ale. Because it’s a squirrel brewery. Bonus: There’s a zipline course and disc golf course on site. blindsquirrelbrewery.com
Flat Top Brewing
Make a pit stop in Banner Elk for shuffleboard and a pint of Rollcast, a super crisp and refreshing Kolsch. flattopbrewing.com
Head to Grandfather Mountain State Park for a five-mile hike/rock scramble along the Grandfather Trail to Calloway Peak. Or knock out a 20+ mile road ride that combines a choice piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway (crossing the Lynn Cove Viaduct) and US 221.
Lost Province Brewery
Get an education in hops at this young brewery in downtown Boone by ordering the Lost Province IPA side by side with the Lost Province Mosaic IPA. You’ll see what the addition of specific hop strains can do for a beer. lostprovince.com
Appalachian Mountain Brewery
AMB might be on the outskirts of town, but it’s the center of craft brewing in the High Country. Order anything—it’s all good—but we’re partial to Long Leaf IPA. appalachianmountainbrewery.com
Less than a mile from AMB, Booneshine is a tiny brewery without its own taproom. You can watch the gang make beer through the window, then step next door to Basil’s for a sample at their bar. Get a flight, or go with the Sencha Saison, a Belgian farmhouse-style beer brewed with ginger and green tea. booneshine.beer
Rocky Knob Mountain Bike Park, in Boone, has several miles of cross country trails built for progression so you can work on your tabletops, skinnies and drops. rockyknob.wordpress.com
Blue Ridge Beerway—Virginia
Roanoke is rapidly becoming Virginia’s hub of good beer, and Deschutes choosing the city for its East Coast expansion brewery helps solidify the city’s reputation. But there’s no need to wait until Deschutes opens its doors to enjoy the hop-bounty of the area. The new Blue Ridge Beerway connects five independent breweries operating in and around Star City.
Sunken City Brewing Company
Named after the city that sits 300 feet below the surface of Smith Mountain Lake, Sunken City is a small, 25-barrel brewpub with a killer taproom and beer garden near the shore of the lake. Order the Dam Lager, a malt-driven amber lager. sunkencitybeer.com
Paddle a piece of Smith Mountain Lake’s 500 miles of shoreline. Bridgewater Marina has paddle boards ($60 a day; bwmarina.com).
Chaos Mountain Brewing Company
A rotating list of food trucks, live music and the occasional cornhole tournament makes Chaos Mountain a lively pit stop. You’re ordering the Squatch Ale, a malty Scotch ale with plenty of caramel goodness. chaosmountainbrewing.com
Soaring Ridge Craft Brewers
Downtown Roanoke’s first craft brewery has become a community center thanks to regular yoga classes, game nights and family fun days (with bounce houses and climbing walls!). Order the Virginia Creeper Pale Ale for the perfect balance of malty sweetness and hop bitterness. soaringridge.com
Big Lick Brewing Company
You can walk from Soaring Ridge to Big Lick, a nano-brewery that manages to put out an impressively diverse lineup, many of which are named after local personalities. Try the Jack Taylor’s House Party, an amber ale named after a morning talk radio show host. biglickbrewingco.com
Explore Park, on the edge of downtown, offers 1,100-acres and 14 miles of mountain biking and trail running (explorepark.org). Or head to Mill Mountain for a mix of greenways and purpose-built singletrack overlooking downtown (playroanoke.com).
Flying Mouse Brewery
Head out of town and into the mountains for the Flying Mouse, a brewery that’s within walking distance of the Appalachian Trail and directly on the TransAmerica 76 Bicycle Route. With the tagline “Life’s an adventure, drink accordingly,” I think you should order a flight and see which of the four flagship beers you like best. flyingmousebrewery.com
Head straight for the A.T.’s McAfee Knob, and the best Instagram post of your week is nearby.
Brewly Noted Beer Trail
Tennessee + Virginia, 48 miles
While Tennessee was a bit slow to the craft beer game, the state has been catching up at breakneck speeds, particularly in East Tennessee, where the Tri-Cities of Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol have become a beer hub. The Brewly Noted Beer Trail links several craft breweries together while passing some of East Tennessee’s most underrated hiking and mountain biking.
Johnson City Brewing Company
Start in the very hip downtown of Johnson City. With a little luck, you’ll have the chance to try JCBC’s Community Brew, which uses hops gathered from customers. johnsoncitybrewing.com
Yee-Haw Brewing Company
Hit Yee-Haw, in the renovated Tweetsie Train Depot, for an Eighty Shilling Scottish Ale, which is all malty goodness in a sessionable 5% ABV. yeehawbrewing.com
Head south of town and climb a three-mile loop on Buffalo Mountain, which includes the White Rock Trail, where mountaintop cliff outcroppings provide big views to the east.
Sleepy Owl Brewery
Cruise through downtown Kingsport for a stop at Sleepy Owl, which got its start through a successful Kickstarter campaign. You’ll find a bunch of different IPAs on tap, but go with the slightly sweet Honey Ale if it’s available. sleepyowlbrewery.com
Explore an eight-mile loop in Warriors’ Path State Park, where singletrack cruises along the shores of Fort Patrick Henry Lake. Watch for the rocky downhill on Boneyard.
Bristol, Tennessee/ Virginia
You’re gonna stroll into Virginia on this two-stop walking tour of small town beer. Grab a Mex-I-Can Backfire, an easy drinking Mexican-style lager, at Studio Brew. And buy your designated driver one of Studio’s homemade Big E’Z’ Root Beers (studiobrew.beer). Wander over to the one-year-old Bristol Brewing, in the historic bus station, and order the Red Neck Amber. Because it’s called “Red Neck Amber.”
LoCo Ale Trail
Virginia—30 miles (by bike)
Loudoun County is best known as Virginia’s wine country, but the area now has 17 breweries churning out beer in the midst of rolling farms. While it might be tempting (and a bit dangerous) to hit all 17 breweries in a single trip, we recommend you focus your efforts by grabbing a bike and knocking out a handful of breweries along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail, which runs from D.C. to Purcellville. A 30-mile one-way ride on the trail will run you by half a dozen breweries. Here are the highlights.
Beltway Brewing Company
Beltway was built to be a contract brewery, producing beers for breweries all over the region. Their small taproom is a showcase for the beers brewed on the premises, so you never know what you’ll get, but the diversity is usually impressive. beltwaybrewco.com
Old Ox Brewery
Located at mile 25 on the W&OD, Old Ox is a cyclist’s retreat known for impromptu cornhole tournaments. Order the Black Ox, a rye porter that balances the roast character of the porter with the spice of the rye-heavy malt bill. oldoxbrewery.com
You can knock out two breweries within a couple of blocks of each other at the halfway point. Crooked Run is a low-key nano-brewery with five rotating taps. Look for their Jake o’ Lantern, a spiced butternut squash ale, in the fall (crookedrunbrewing.com). Stroll over to Loudon Brewing Company for a pint of their flagship Loud and Brewing, which is all about the Cascade and Chinook hops (loudonbrewing.com), on their shady deck.
Belly Love Brewing
On Purcellville’s Main Street, and near the end of the W&OD, Belly Love has a fairly swanky taproom with solid pub fare. Order the Narcissist, a malt-forward but still crisp lager (bellylovebrewing.com). Bonus: If you still have legs, you can tack on two more breweries in Purcellville—Corcoran Brewing and Adroit Theory.