Downtown Harrisonburg Crafts Beer to Support Revitalization Efforts

By Kim Kirk

There’s no question that downtown Harrisonburg is living up to its name of “Best Beer Town” (Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine, 2013). Home to Three Brothers Brewing, the Three Notch’d Brewing Co. Taproom, the future Pale Fire Brewing Company and dozens of locally-owned restaurants with every style on tap, this town is quickly becoming a beer destination.

What beer town is complete without its own events where craft beer is a culinary product valued more for its tradition and flavors than its inebriating potential? Every year, in April, 3,000 people from all over the east coast converge on downtown Harrisonburg for the Rocktown Beer & Music Festival. More than 30 handpicked breweries bring their flagship brews along with seasonal and rare finds for a day that can only be described as amazing.

If a sellout crowd every year isn’t evidence of its popularity, perhaps adding a second edition of the festival this year will be. On September 20th, attendees can expect to do it all over again by experiencing new bands, breweries, and most importantly, more great beer.

Craft beer has also become a staple at Valley Fourth, Harrisonburg’s quintessential Fourth of July Festival. In 2012, event organizers, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), expanded the festival’s traditional beer garden to feature Virginia craft beer in celebration of the movement emerging in downtown. The event, dubbed Beers n’ Cheers in the Park, showcases local favorites such as Three Brothers Brewing and Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company.

With a new beer on tap at Beers n’ Cheers this year, there will be even more to celebrate. Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, a non-profit whose mission is to revitalize downtown Harrisonburg, is partnering with Three Brothers Brewing and Pale Fire Brewing to produce its own specialty branded beer for downtown. Named Rocktown Rye as a nod to Harrisonburg’s history, the rye pale ale will be a limited release beer that will launch at Beers n’ Cheers and be distributed exclusively to downtown restaurants. “As natives of the Shenandoah Valley, we are thrilled to be a part of the culture here in Downtown Harrisonburg,” says Adam Shifflett, co-owner of Three Brothers Brewing. “The beer scene here has been extremely supportive of us and we are happy to be giving back in this way that we feel showcases the creativity of our town.”

Rocktown Rye, a 5% ABV, will have a crisp malt backbone with a rye spiciness flavor. The hops added create a piney/citrus note leaving a balanced bitterness flavor. “We wanted to create a sessional beer so that consumers can focus on the enjoyment of the craft product and its flavors without it being too heavy,” says Shifflet.

Rocktown Rye will be available in downtown restaurants beginning July 4th. A portion of the proceeds from this project will support the efforts of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance to preserve downtown’s historic charm while making it a destination for people to live, work, shop, dine, and play.

This partnership is a great example of how HDR works with downtown businesses and is forward thinking in the way the organization promotes them. It also emulates the collaborative spirit that exists amongst the downtown businesses and organizations.

“We’re excited to collaborate with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and our friends at Three Brothers Brewing,” says Tim Brady, owner of Pale Fire. “Harrisonburg has such a great beer culture and a collaboration beer that supports a great cause is the perfect entry for Pale Fire Brewing Co.”

Rocktown Rye is a not only a celebration of Harrisonburg’s craft beer scene; it’s a reflection of the strong agriculture, culinary and local foods movement that exists in the downtown community. Congrats Harrisonburg on continuing a long-standing tradition in a new and exciting way — your own beer.