Tag Archives: RICHMOND VA


mike may
Right along Main Street in downtown Richmond, CAPITAL ALEHOUSE may be the city’s best beer pub. With franchised Virginia locations in Innsbrook, Midlothian, Fredericksburg and Harrisonburg, the statewide chain does a great job promoting a host of exceptional newfangled indigenous brews. 
Entering thru the brown wood-paneled front door to a narrow bar space on a snowy February ’13 evening, the crowded public house clearly deserves some credit for expanding the horizon of young beer-centric Virginians. Thirty taps plus two coolers filled with handcrafted beer provide a wide stylistic variety for any and all beer enthusiasts.
Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, Capital Alehouse not only serves some of the best Virginia-made beers, but also hosts many local musicians in its right side Music Hall. In the main area, several booths oppose the elongated 40-seat walnut bar (which utilizes two ice rails to keep frosty mugs cold). Downstairs, a gameroom with 16 taps and 2 casks keeps sports-minded patrons busy. 
I had the Capital Cobb Salad (with big chunks of ham and chicken and a side of bleu cheese) to go alongside five pints of previously untried brews while seated at the front corner of the bar. Cool Blues music played continuously in the background while I conversed with Frank, whose band the Lost Satellites, recently played here. Several people nearby recommended Prince Edward Mussels as well as the specialty burgers and sandwiches.
For openers, the moderate-bodied fare, including Devil’s Backbone Vienna Lager, Wild Wolf Hunny Blond and Wild Wolf Alpha Pale Ale, proved highly sessionable, if not completely special.
Better were the rich bourbon barreled ales, such as the oak-charred, berry-soured, chocolate-fudged Blue Mountain Dark Hollow Imperial Stout and dark-roasted coffee-fronted Williamsburg Alewerks Bourbon Porter (full reviews at Beer Index).


 A virtual godsend for the city of Richmond, HARDYWOOD PARK BREWERY resides inside a luxurious 12,000 square foot red brick warehouse in the light industrial section of the former German brewing district. Co-founded by enthusiastic New York transplants Eric Mc Kay (Fordham business grad and creator of GreatBrewers.com) and Patrick Murtaugh (Masters of Brewing at Munich’s renowned Doemens Academy), Hardywood Park takes its name from an Australian sheep station where the pair first discovered hand crafted beer in 2001. Open since October 2011, this outstanding brewhouse bottles, kegs and serves growlers to go.
On my February ’13 journey, a blackboard lists today’s available tapped beers and a community table just to the left of the entrance sports a flatscreeen TV. Glass-encased brew tanks and wooden barrels behind the serving station hold various full-time, one-off and seasonal brews. To the right side, a gray-floored room with high ceilings, exposed pipes and metal beams features a growler filling station and food stand (with cheeses, croissants and locally grown foods).
Hardywood Park serves four libations from its atrium taps. One’s a Belgian styled staple that’s put thru a Randal tube dispenser with fresh fruit and vegetables and the other two are related dark ales.
Sitting at one of the couches to the left of the tap room, I get ready to throw back my 6-ounce samples amongst a litany of beer enthusiasts. One of ‘em is a native New Yorker who attended Richmond University. We get to talking while I sip on my first offering.
A zesty citric effervescence brightens the white-peppered grassy hop spicing and Belgian yeast cellar musk of Hardywood Singel (Abbey-style Blonde Ale). Its tangy grape-skinned tangerine, navel orange, pineapple, melon and banana sweetness contrasts lemon-rotted peppercorn, coriander and dank cannabis resin.
Put thru the Randal dispenser (with fresh lettuce plus lemon and orange slices), the fruitier tapped version softens its funky Belgian yeast attributes and tones down the Cascade-hopped carbolic fizz, leaving a fresher citric frisk to mellow out the buttery biscuit bottom.
On the dark side, Hardywood Sidamo Coffee Stout loads Ethiopian coffee (from local Lamplighter shop) atop serene caramel-malted milk chocolate creaminess. Its roasted coffee bean bittering picks up dark-spiced dried cocoa, molasses, toffee and hazelnut undertones for a soothingly approachable Russian Imperial.
For this wintry cold day, the most worthy libation is the fascinating one-half Bourbon Cru and one-half Sidamo Coffee Stout concoction simply known as Brian’s Barrel Blend. Its creamy bourbon-soothed mocha contour outlines sour raspberry, brambleberry and dark cherry fruiting. Dewy peat mossing soaks into the chocolate-covered blueberry center (where tertiary raisin, red grape, oaken vanilla and pecan nuances reside).
While in Richmond, don’t forget to pick up beers at Once Upon A Vine (www.onceuponavine.us), owned by beer enthusiast Robert Kocher. I picked up several cool local brews by Williamsburg Alewerks, Devil’s Backbone, Center Of The Universe, Lost Rhino, Blue Mountain, 16 Mile and O’Connor.



Besides two corporately predictable Hops Grillhouse & Brewpubs, this State Capitol once offered commendable RICHBRAU BREWING, based in the heart of Richmond’s cobblestone Shockoe Slip section. It closed down in ’09 due to economic woes. Legend Brewery, a decent microbrewery, still exists (bottled versions reviewed in Beer Index).

Richbrau’s plentiful downstairs dining area had dark-stained wooden booths, bi-level marble column bar, and decorative beer barrel balcony. Upstairs, large billiard rooms festooned wood bar area; brew tanks adorned the rear.

 Post-X-Mas ’04, quaffed crisp lemon-grapefruit rind-embittered, wheat-backed softie Griffin Golden Ale, mildly phenol, red-fruited Old Nick Pale Ale, silkily fruited, dry-hopped Real Ale, caramel-butterscotch-splotched, dark-spiced Big Nash Porter, and Kahlua-like mocha-marshmallow-deepened Imperial Stout.

Bottled versions of each are available on site, alongside brisk grapefruit rind-embittered, orange peel-brightened, lemony-hopped Richbrau Belgian-Style White Ale, acridly gauzy, coffee-butterscotch-hazed Richbrau Brown Ale, and dry chocolate-roasted, hop-spiced Richbrau India Pale Ale, tasted afterwards. Post-script: Mc Nasty Nachos are recommended.

On July ’06 trip through Virginia, revisited Richbrau, trying spicy vegetal-dipped, yellow grapefruit-sharpened, corn-husked Kolsch and lemony banana-surged fruit-hopped candy-tart spritzer Kristal Weizen on tap.

With pal Al back home in Jersey, swigged bottled versions of plain pale-toned Richbrau Alley Oop Ale (a dry-bodied grassy-hopped lightweight with faded yellow fruited frontage plus pleated peppery tobacco nip), soft bubblegummy coriander-spiced banana-sweet floral-tinted Richbrau Belgian White Ale, and dry chocolate-roasted coffee-milked honey-dipped fig-soured dilution Richbrau Big Nasty Porter.


Heading West a few miles, one of the finest microbrew stores is undoubtedly Glen Allen’s Wine & Beer Westpark. Bought five Legend brews, Utah’s Uinta Brewery sampler 12-pack, and Colorado-based Oskar Blues Old Chub there (reviewed in Beer Index).