Historic Virginian outpost in Blue Ridge Mountain foothills featured one snugly hotel pub, a quaint microbrew-selling coffeehouse and two decent brewpubs within walking distance on December ’04 trip.
Renovated hay-grain warehouse SOUTH STREET BREWERY has operated since ’98, serving handcrafted beers alongside Contemporary American, Continental, Creole, and Carribean dishes. Old brick walls, hardwood floors, and central fireplace adorn spacious area, with brew tanks to the right behind bar. Recommended are floral grapefruit rind/orange peel-centered Scotch-malted American-styled pale ale JP Ale, crisp orange-burnt banana-sweet clove-spiced Drunkel Weasel Bock, and bold coffee bean-roasted mocha-dried cognac-finishing South Starr Chocolate Espresso Imperial Porter (made in conjunction with nearby Starr Hill brewmaster).
Other worthy choices included subdued perfume-hopped Satan’s Pony Amber Ale, cherry-rimmed caramel-coated English-styled Absolution Ale, and dry-bodied soft-watered black cherry-lingered coffee-stained Irish-styled Special Stout. Interestingly, Old Dominion Lager, a dryly hop-tingled quince-tinged grain-languid Budweiser substitute from esteemed Ashburn-based brewery, was submitted for sampling as well.
Though neighboring Starr Hill left the brewpub biz to become a microbrewery, I revisited the still-thriving red-bricked black-lettered South Street Brewery, July ’09. Manager Kirt Strother provided updated samples of caramelized floral-hopped apricot-pear-apple-fruited currant-juniper-nipped JP Ale and musty red-fruited cocoa-malted barley-roasted Satan’s Pony Amber Ale.
Newly tried libations from brewer Jacque Landry included corn-husked wheat-dried pumpernickel-soured green-hopped Pilsner, bold perfume-hopped cream-corned lemony grapefruit-embittered Liberation Lager, and soft banana-honeyed clove-coriander-spiced lemon-candied El Jefe’s Hefeweizen.
Better still were velvety coffee-beaned caramel-malted almond-hazelnut-sweetened peanut-shelled Nut Brown and lactic milk chocolate-y hop-roasted Old 420 Stout (with its spirited coffee ice cream, cherry puree, sugared fig, butter pecan, and licorice niceties). Before heading West to Harrisonburg, downed Cask Conditioned JP Ale, a softer yellow-fruited variant.
Located near the original red brick-adorned buildings Thomas Jefferson designed for University of Virginia, cozy, low-ceilinged Court Square Tavern may not be as celebrated as freestanding mountaintop Monticello-based Michie Tavern, but its great bottled selection (Allgauer Teutsch Pils and Victory Hop Wollop Ale), antique wood décor, caricature portraits, and homestyle sandwiches are worth checking out. As for Gravity Lounge, this below-street-level art-salon-performance space specializes in respected international and U.S. microbrews and offers acoustic concert performances.