By Jeremy Bender
Each summer, millions of people flock to the coast like seagulls hovering over a fish fry.
In Coastal Virginia there are some two hundred miles of varied communities ranging from the small fishing town of Chincoteague near the Maryland border on the Eastern Shore all the way down to the resort strip in Virginia Beach, and then over to the Chesapeake Bay where Shore Drive and Chicks Beach thrive.
These areas on the coast offer a sea swell of outdoor activities that include everything from deep sea fishing excursions, para-sailing, sea kayaking and surfing like a champ at the 1st Street jetty to hiking in the Spanish moss covered swampiness of First Landing State Park, riding beach cruisers up-and-down the boardwalk, enjoying free outdoor concerts at 24th and 31st Street parks and watching wild ponies in marshy wetlands.
And talk about fresh seafood and outdoor patios with clear views of coastal marinas, the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay — there are many attractive options to choose from for lunch, dinner and after hours.
The one thing this region has lacked within walking distance to the sandy coast is a craft brewery. That’s all changed within the last two years, and now there are multiple options for weeklong vacationers, weekend tourists, day-tripping Virginians, and locals who pedal a few blocks from home for growler refills.
Virginia Beach attracts an estimated 15.2 million visitors each year. There’s a lot of beer sales and branding opportunity for sure.
Following is a brief summary of Coastal Virginia independent craft breweries grouped geographically. Most will offer extended hours during the summer.
Virginia Beach Oceanfront
Home Republic Brewpub
You can read the positive reviews online stating “here on a Wednesday, great atmosphere, food, beer and staff” and “great selection of beers and simple brewpub entrees” to get a feel for what others think of Home Republic. We totally agree.
Home Republic is a much needed brewpub positioned just a block away from the Neptune/31st Street Park on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
The super friendly staff and brew crew operate a tiny, nano scale brewery with all of the R2D2-sized shiny equipment in clear view.
The interior is dark and cozy, offering a nice break from the bright sun and heat of summer. The brewpub also has an attractive outdoor patio that’s totally covered. It’s ideal seating for people watching while offering protection from a sudden rain shower.
As you might expect, Home Republic serves both a cast of year-round flagships and some one-off seasonals. We recommend anything unique, of course, but also try the Gladiator Session IPA, Galaxy Pale Ale, King Kolsch, Salted Caramel Ale and for dessert enjoy a Cup of Joe Coffee Brown Ale.
As for eats, you’ll find plenty to satisfy during the heat of summer. Try the Fried Goat Cheese Salad, Cuban Panini, crab cakes, shrimp tacos or build your own burger.
Home Republic Brewpub, 328 Laskin RD, Virginia Beach, homerepublicvabeach.com
Smartmouth Brewing Pilot House
The Pilot House is the recently opened satellite location of Norfolk’s award-winning Smartmouth Brewing Company. It’s just a 2-block stroll from the Boardwalk.
While the craft brewery is often known for its big IPAs like Notch 9 and Rule G, its perfectly brewed pilsner called Safety Dance was deemed the best in state and won the Virginia Beer Cup in 2017.
Visitors will find all of Smartmouth’s widely distributed flagship brands like Alter Ego (a saison) and Murphy’s Law (amber red ale) as well as tasty seasonals like Sommer Fling (Bavarian-inspired hefeweizen).
The primary mission, however, of The Pilot House is test batching experimental recipes brewed onsite, and that’s a real plus for vacationing beer enthusiasts.
Smartmouth’s Pilot House sports a clean, modern decor with views of the brewing equipment and both indoor and outdoor seating.
Trivia nights will be held every Thursday night. On June 23, they’ll present the Lupulin Effect IPA Festival at the brewery.
Smartmouth Brewing Pilot House, 313 32nd Street, Virginia Beach, smartmouthbrewing.com/vb
Back Bay Brewing Company
One of the more interesting tasting room experiences you’ll find is at Back Bay Brewing Company. It’s a few blocks from the main resort area in a cluster of locally-owned businesses that includes an artists’ gallery, coffee shop, and an excellent fish taco joint — all within a few yards of each other. This is where the locals hang to get away from the tourists. So, keep it quite.
The tasting room at Back Bay shows off its nano brewery setup, but the true uniqueness is the aesthetics: the bar has a secondary, beach cottage-like storefront, the walls are old vintage outbuilding inspired tin with mallard and goose decoys nicely mounted. There’s also a small room to relax in on the second floor with open interior windows for looking down upon the brewing equipment.
Among the Back Bay beers to try this summer are the Mango Hefeweizen, POG IPA (passion fruit and Guava), Lotta Colada Belgian Tripel Ale, Leishman Lager, and the newly packaged Scotchy Scotch Ale (aged four months in highly peated Scotch barrels).
Back Bay Brewing Company, 614 Norfolk Ave., Virginia Beach, backbaybrewingco.com
Coming Soon: Young Veterans Brewing Company will open its satellite location dubbed The Bunker mid-summer, with a grand opening likely in July. The Bunker will feature all the exceptional flagship brands the brewery is known for such as Pineapple Grenade Hefeweizen, GI Pilsner, Jet Noise Double IPA and Night Vision American Stout, but its primary mission, like most satellite ventures, is to operate as an experimental laboratory for unique beers. The Bunker will also allow the brewery to have entertainment and lots of live music, something forbidden in its manufacturing home-base due to US Navy zoning (its near an air base).
Also coming to the Virginia Beach oceanfront this summer is Richmond-based Isley Brewing Company. We broke that announcement back in February, and the expectation is for Isley to open to the public in July. Isley’s location (315 Virginia Beach Blvd) is in the newly trendy Vibe District — just 3 to 4 blocks from the boardwalk — where outstanding restaurant/beer bar Esoteric operates.
Owner Mike Isley said, “Fifty percent of the beers will be the same (as in RVA),” but noted “we may do more genuine sours. We’re really loving out kettle sours and goses.”
Get ready to pucker-up to Isley come July in Virginia Beach.
Near the Oceanfront Strip
Wasserhund Brewing Company
A German admiral serving at NATO headquarters in nearby Norfolk stated the hefeweizen brewed by Wasserhund was as good as any from Bavaria. What more do you need to know before making this place a must visit?
Wasserhund specializes in German-style beers, but also delves into many interesting brewing excursions. In addition to the Shepeweizen, be sure to enjoy the Berhund Lager and Purebread Pilsner on a hot summer’s night. Also recommended are Summer Fetch Citrus Honey Wheat, Kettle Sour Gose and Sunny Dog IPA.
Wasserhund doubles as a brewpub and features top notched gourmet pizzas and salads.
Wasserhund Brewing Company, 1805 Laskin RD, Virginia Beach, wasserhundbrewing.com
Reaver Beach Brewing Company
Quietly, Reaver Beach has been producing some of Coastal Virginia’s finest hoppy beers for eight years, and has recently greatly enhanced its sour program. In fact, Reaver has a real cool ship — just like Belgian brewers use in Lambicland.
For hop lovers try Hoptopus Double IPA. Sour lovers will be in heaven this side of Brussels when enjoying seemingly endless sours re-fermented with everything from apricots, black currents, blueberries and even watermelon.
Reaver Beach Brewing Company, 1505 Taylor Farms RD, Virginia Beach, reaverbeach.com
Young Veterans Brewing Company
In addition to the flagship beers previously mentioned, Young Vets vintage military-themed tasting room is a nice showplace for its arsenal of sour beers like Private Plum Sour Ale, The Objector (sour IPA with hibiscus) and MOPP 4 Sour IPA.
You’ll need a vehicle to drive to this industrial zone craft brewery, but it’s a must for all veterans and active duty personnel.
Young Veterans Brewing Company, 2505 Horse Pasture RD, Virginia Beach, yvbc.com
Coming Soon: When Green Flash Brewing exited its Virginia Beach facility in January, it left behind a fully functional, large scale brewing operation. Atlanta-based New Realm Brewing Company acquired the equipment at auction and struck a deal with the city and property owner to operate this turn-key business, with the addition of a full-service kitchen. New Realm expects to open at 1209 Craft Lane later this summer.
Shore Drive/Chicks Beach/Chesapeake Bay (Virginia Beach)
Commonwealth Brewing Company
In the Chicks Beach neighborhood in close proximity to the mighty Chesapeake Bay, Commonwealth Brewing Co is housed in a former fire station. The “garage” was converted into a tasting room with the large rolling doors opened to let the bay-breeze filter in on cool summer nights.
The tasting room decor smacks of coastal vibes and is most relaxing. An outdoor patio uses barrels for barriers and lightbulbs dangle overhead for evening atmosphere.
The brewery does an exceptional job with barrel-aged beers and sours. The core lineup and hazy IPAs are equally on-par. You really can’t go wrong with any selection, but we certainly recommend whatever limited release featured the day you visit as well as There Gose Gravity (IPA), Tina Rosa (gose), Bodhisattva (tropical gose), Dysphotic (black saison), Cheval de Trait (Belgian quad), and Cheval au Soleil (Belgian wit).
Commonwealth Brewing Company, 2444 Pleasure House RD, Virginia Beach, commonwealthbrewingcompany.com
Pleasure House Brewing
These folks know their beer and have fun developing the recipes their local clientele prefers. There’s a constant rotation of new beers that keep things as fresh as they are interesting. For example, Shark Tears is a fruity gose made from chopped rhubarb and salt extracted from gallons of sea water brought to the brewery from a local fisherman who frequents the brewery. The brewers have also used rainwater collected from the nearby Brock Environmental Center to create a fine pils.
It’s a fun place just to select something described with the most unusual ingredients. We also encourage visitors to try the Ambie-Dextrous Doppelbock, Shrove Tuesday English Bitter, Light Tower Wine Barrel Aged Saison, and Glo.
Pleasure House Brewing, 3025 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, pleasurehousebrewing.com
Deadline Brewing Project
The trio of owners hail from local media outlets and brand these qualities with craft beer for a fun experience. Their beers include Airline Cookie Amber, Pacer Blonde, Chocolate Porter, IPA and Pale Ale.
Deadline Brewing Project, 2272 W. Great Neck RD, Virginia Beach, deadlinebrewing.com
Ocean View/Chesapeake Bay
Coming Soon: Norfolk’s The Bold Mariner Brewing Company will open a satellite location in the Ocean View section of the city, just 2 blocks from the sandy shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Surprisingly, it’s this community’s first craft brewery.
The satellite brewery will be known as The Reserve (1901 East Ocean View Avenue) and located in an attractive two-story beach house-like structure with outdoor porches.
The brewery will serve Bold Mariner mainstays such as Frogman Lager, but the showcase will be on premium craft ales, sours, and barrel-aged beers.
Opens in the Fall of 2018.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore
Black Narrows Brewing Company
The first brewery to open on the Eastern Shore calls the storied fishing village of Chincoteague home. Tourists come to see the wild ponies, natural wildlife refuge and pristine beaches of Assateague Island (a US National Park) during the day, and then spend the night in the town. Black Narrows is an ideal addition to a community lacking in craft beer. It’s also a lot of fun, especially with beers like Cockle Creek (Scottish ale), Plum Wild (fruited barrel-aged wild), Salts (tart oyster wheat) and How Bout It (heirloom corn lager with grits, pear). The beers are on rotation so what you see is what you get. If you’re lucky they may have Chicken City Pale Lager on tap when you visit.
Black Narrows Brewing Company, 4522 Chick City Road, Chincoteague, VA, blacknarrowsbrewing.com