I had the chance to spend a day ripping fresh singletrack at Massanutten, just outside of Harrisonburg recently. And by “ripping,” I mean squeezing the shit out of my brakes until I left a trail of smoke. I can’t remember the names of the trails I rode, because I was being led by a local who was like, “oh, yeah, let’s turn here…this should be cool, let’s go here…you’re gonna love this…” but the singletrack on the mountain was a beautiful mix of fast, bermy descents intermixed with methodical, rocky juggernaut-like stretches. Fun, challenging and gorgeous—occasionally, we’d pop out of the woods to pedal through an expansive meadow with thigh-high grass and sweeping views.
Naturally, after the ride we needed food and beer. Not necessarily in that order. My local “guide” started rattling off the breweries we could hit—Harrisonburg now has three legit beer-makers. Instead of choosing favorites, we decided to go to Bella Luna Pizza, where we could sample the wares of all three. This wood-fired pizza joint prides itself on stocking a large selection of beer from Harrisonburg and Virginia. About the only beer they bring in from outside of the region is Bell’s Two Hearted, and you can’t really blame them for that, now can you?
It was hot, and I just pedaled a dozen miles, so naturally, I wanted a pale ale—the underappreciated work horse of the craft beer world. Pale Fire is the newest brewery in Harrisonburg (they just opened their taproom in April), and they’re coming out of the gate strong with their doozey of a pale called Deadly Rhythm. It comes in at a super sessionable 4.8% ABV, but packs a vibrant, hoppy punch. The beer is crisp, but fruity with plenty of citrus hop character and just enough malt to give it a little backbone.
The world is going gaga for “session IPAs” right now, but I’ll take a proper pale ale any day of the week—something like Pisgah Pale or this new standout from Pale Fire. Pales have a balance that the new breed of session IPAs don’t typically have. They’re not just hoppy, they have body and a legit malt bill. Seems like Pale Fire understands this as well as any long-standing brewery in our region. If Deadly Rhythm is any indication, I’m pretty stoked to have these guys on the scene.