Tag Archives: NORFOLK VA


 Image result for bold mariner brewing


Inside a gray aluminum warehouse off the beaten path in Norfolk’s Old Dominion University area, BOLD MARINER BREWING COMPANY came to fruition during November 2015. Owner Michael Starks, A former Navy officer, and head brewer, John O’Reilly, take a few good chances crafting stylistically whimsical elixirs.

A large overhead-doored American flag proudly beams down at the wood-lacquered J-shaped bar and standard community tables . Glass-encased brew tanks peak out from the cement-floored bar area. A gated picnic area, large beergarden and private party room offer plenty of extra seating.

I try all ten available samples on my initial July ’18 afternoon sojourn. Unlike most brewpubs, Bold Mariner concentrated on making lagers as well as ales.

Fair maize-dried Middle Light Lager brought corn-husked astringency to mild rice niceties and sweet floral accents, suiting only blue collar thirsts.

A better lager choice, Lafayette French Lager had subtly spiced citrus zing that went sour with lemon-rotted orange desiccation.

Just as worthy, easygoing Frogman Lager relegated dry floral earthiness and grassy hop bittering for its mineral grained toasting.

Floral hibiscus serenity hybridized Fete de la Mer Hibiscus Wheat, a salty lemon-soured moderate-medium body contrasting mellow yellow grapefruit and lemon meringue tartness against less prominent Belgian candi-sugaring.

Lemony grapefruit-soured Scurvy Dog Saison relegated blanched strawberry-grapefruit illusions and distant herbal notions.

Sessionable Bold Dominion Pale Ale saddled lemon-spiced grapefruit and orange tanginess with caramelized pale malting.

Dry Baja Coffee Pale Ale placed medium-roast coffee inside crisp pale malting, proving perfect as a breakfast alternative.

Middling dry-bodied moderation, Red Maiden Irish Red, placed toasted caramel malting alongside spicy apple-peach-orange jaunt.

Floral-fruited Dog Zebra IPA gave pine-dried yellow grapefruit and orange rind bittering a zesty lemon spritz.

Sweet toffee malts and floral hop spicing girded bittersweet tropical fruit sharpness for bold medium-bodied Liberty Risk Imperial IPA.



At a dead end street just off bustling Colley Avenue, Norfolk’s uniquely rewarding BENCHTOP BREWING does a fine job re-creating, reimagining and Americanizing the crisply clean mineral-watered splendor of old-styled Norwegian-styled ales. Boasting “hop-forward ales harmoniously blending scientific approach and artistic freedom” using local ingredients, this spacious red-bricked pub will please any serious hophead as well as lighter thirsts with its crystalline IPA’s and provocative stylistic changeups.

An orange-lettered Benchtop sign welcomes thirsty minions to the 12-seat wood lacquered bar that includes five left-windowed community tables, eight-plus draught handles, railroad-tied bar backdrop, exposed ducts and one TV. A few metal-furnished front patio seats are also available out front and to the side.

Seated at one of the metal-backed patio seats with my wife, I sampled seven happily hybridized suds mid-July ’18.

Musty cellar-like Norwegian yeast inundated Gong Session IPA as well as Gong Water – Citra IPA. The former regaled mild grapefruit and orange rind bitterness that contrasted candied peach, pineapple and mango spicing while its fizzy lemon lime spritz gained momentum alongside Hallertau-hopped white grape esters.

The latter Gong benefited from juicy Citra hops and dank earthen wood musk as its floral-spiced grapefruit rind, orange peel, pineapple and mango tang spread across mild pine resin.

Lemony passionfruit guided Hazing Face Galaxy Pale Ale, a soft-toned moderation with floral-spiced tangerine, mandarin orange and grapefruit tanginess gaining wispy herbal nuances.

Straightforward Proven Theory IPA let brisk orange-peeled lemon rind and juicy grapefruit gain pungent yellow-wooded juniper bittering and desiccated mango, pineapple and peach undertones.

Adding a little sourness to the mix, Juicy Thoughts Double IPA allowed bitter lemon rot to ransack sunny grapefruit, peach and tangelo tanginess as well as mild piney hop resin.

Foraged oyster shells brought viscosity to salty lemon-limed Mermaid’s Scorn Oyster Gose, a sweet-tart coriander-spiced moderation with lactobacillus souring gaining vinous white grape esters.

For dessert, Walter’s Brunch Coffee Chocolate Maple Porter draped maple sap across roasted coffee, milked espresso, chalky chocolate and dried cocoa illusions.




At Norfolk’s artsy Neon District, BEARDED BIRD BREWING crafts well-rounded Americanized versions of several standard beer styles. Open since May 13, 2017, manager Matt Harte and brewer Joe Cloonan help guide the delightful l’il nanobrewery.

Beneath a generic black and white Bearded Bird sign, patrons enter the high-ceilinged one-room pub to find a 10-seat L-shaped bar, gorgeous black serpent queen mural and front-windowed community tables. Its unfinished warehouse feel is increased by the aluminum-roofed back patio (with metal furnishings).

My wife and I visited during a hot Friday evening, July ’18.

Smooth ‘core beer, Angry Aly Amber, allowed yellow fruited spicing to brighten the front end above mild leafy-hopped grain roast and nutty remnants.

‘Sunny’ Clean Cut Canary Cream Ale let its sweet orange tang coerce raw-honeyed lemon rot souring over toasted wheat malts.

Sour-creamed White Flag Vanilla Cream Ale offered lemon meringue tartness and mild vanilla bean sugaring to grassy hop astringency.

Ginga Ninja Honey Ginger Saison raised ginger and honey adjuncts above lemon rot souring and leathery barnyard acridity.

Vibrant The NEON IPA saddled lemony grapefruit and orange-peeled tangerine tanginess with dry piney hop resin and floral-spiced herbage.

Milk-sugared Big Trouble coffee beans lifted Early Bird Hazelnut Stout as hazelnut sweetness and chocolate-spiced vanilla fudging edged out toasted hop crisping.

Similarly-styled 1st Anniversary celebrator, Early Bird In Russian Stout, brought sweet-milked hazelnut coffee to dark chocolate, cocoa and carafe malts as well as tertiary black cherry and black licorice snips, picking up a peppery nuance over time.



Smartmouth Brewing Co. :: McPherson Design Group  Smartmouth Brewing Co. - Virginia Is For Lovers
A diverse group of parents with children and post-collegiate hop-heads gather on blankets spread across the cement porch fronting SMARTMOUTH BREWERY’s inconspicuous gray brick warehouse to enjoy the sunny Saturday afternoon swelter on my initial July ’13 one-hour stopover. Set in a light industrial Norfolk hub, this spirited microbrewery has gained quite a substantial local following since opening for biz, November ’12.
Inside, the pristine white interior features eight back-walled metal stools, six community tables, four tap stations (with two handles each), black acoustic ceiling tiles, a huge blackboard beer list andglass-encased copper-kettled brew tanks. A beautiful beer-centric collage painting hangs from the front wall. Presently, Smartmouth only sells kegs and growlers to the general public, but imminent expansion will increase capacity and bottling seems likely in the future.
Flagship Alter Ego Saison spreads buttery caramel malting across Belgian candi-sugared sweetness, white-peppered grapefruit-orange-lemon bittering and soft hop-spiced prickles.
Lighty caramel creamed Murphy’s Law Amber Ale pleased moderate thirsts with its nutty toffee dalliance, mild perfume-hopped stone fruiting, minor wood char and toasted white bread base.
Extremely dry Bandwagon Citra Pale Ale plied hardwood lacquer to resinous hop-embittered orange rind and grapefruit illusions, picking up spritzy lemon zest along the way.
Sharp wood-dried hops also affected Rule G IPA, an orange-dessicated grapefruit peel-embittered medium body sweetened by creamy crystal-sugared malts.
Harsher wood tones embedded Notch 9 Double IPA, where creamier crystal malts contrast dry-hopped pine needling and livelier grapefruit-orange briskness.
Flaked corn malting gave grassy-hopped Inappropriate Cream Ale an approachable easygoing nature underlined by a subtle perfumed whiskey niche.


O'Connor Brewing Co. | Norfolk, VA | Beers | BeerAdvocate
Just two miles east of Smartmouth Brewing on the other side of the railroad tracks in a tan industrial building lies O’CONNOR BREWING COMPANY. A glass-inlaid brown tree insignia welcomes patrons to the raw cement-floored warehouse space where entrepreneurial brewer Kevin O’Connor opened this increasingly popular Norfolk microbrewery July ’13.
Beforehand, the crafty zymurgist worked at Viriginia’s well regarded St. George Brewery. Gaining experience, he soon set up a basic garage operation and began brewing under his own name (receiving plaudits for O’Connor Red Nun Red Ale).
A few days after opening in its current space I got to visit and try a truly terrific tap-only Irish Stout while purchasing bottles of El Guapo Agave IPA, Great Dismal Black IPA and Norfolk Canyon Pale Ale (all listed in the Beer Index under O’Connor).
Atthe entrance, two guys are tossing back a few on the front deck. Inside, a few community tables sidle silver brew tanks and bottling equipment. A few batenders serve the late afternoon crowd from the right side serving area. Extra glass-encased brew tanks hold beer being readied for bottling or kegging.
Today’s worthiest brew may’ve been O’Connor IDry Irish Stout, an illustrious sedation layering molasses-sapped coffee, vanilla, cocoa and walnut pleasantries beneath creamy dark/ brown chocolate sugaring.