The Blue Ridge foothills of Central Virginia have long boasted an abundance of wineries with thousands of acres of vineyards. But recently booze cultivators in the region are bucking the sour grapes in favor of barley and hops. A network of breweries in close proximity are part of the new Brew Ridge Trail near Charlottesville, Va. All can all be reached with 35 miles of total driving. Each stop offers a unique atmosphere and tap loads of locally crafted microbrews ready for tasting.
Grab a designated driver and start here:
South Street Brewery
This friendly brewery is located in a brick warehouse building in downtown Charlottesville. Step up to the long copper bar and play with opposing forces of good and evil by ordering a high-octane amber Satan’s Pony followed by an English-style Absolution Ale.
Drive 12 miles west to:
Starr Hill Brewery
Starr Hill Brewery has won enough medals to make Michael Phelps jealous. Six Starr Hill beers have been given medals at the Great American Beer Festival, including the Jomo Lager and The Love, an unfiltered wheat beer that goes down smooth in the warmer months. Now branching out with distribution around the region, Starr Hill can be visited on Saturdays for tastings and tours at its brewing facility in Crozet. Best bet: opt out of your next Guinness and instead grab a Dark Starr Stout, a rich and robust Irish-style ale.
Head 10 miles northwest to:
Blue Mountain Brewery
At Blue Mountain Brewery it’s hard to tell what offers a better buzz—the locally crafted Full Nelson Pale Ale in your glass or the wide-open mountain panorama on the front porch. Blue Mountain is an off-the-beaten path farm brewery in the rural countryside of Nelson County. Hop gardens surround the outdoor seating of the cozy cabin-style tasting room that’s set in the backdrop of the towering Blue Ridge escarpment. You’ll taste the forcefulness of those cascade hops in the Full Nelson, an unabashedly strong pale that hits the palette with just the right amount of bitter bite. Other winners include the Evil 8 Belgian and the Rockfish Wheat. This place also has a killer menu of high-end pub grub with snacks made from local meats and veggies.
Continue 13 miles to:
Devil’s Backbone Brewery
The newest addition to the Virginia beer scene, Devil’s Backbone has secured a sweet location at the base of Wintergreen resort. Going big right out of the gate, the brewery has 10 different beers on tap at a time with a range of variety from the light Gold Leaf Lager to the Eight Point IPA to the Scottish brown Ale of Fergus. Another operation that puts heavy emphasis on keeping it local, the impressive brew pub was built out of salvaged materials from the area and hosts a regular lineup of the region’s best musicians. They even reserve guest taps for other Virginia beers.
View Southern Appalachian Beer Guide in a larger map
The Brew Ridge Trail will soon include Albemarle CiderWorks in North Garden and Eades Whiskey Distillery in Lovingston, which are both set to open later this year. More info at brewridgetrail.com.