Holy Grail of Virginia Brewery Tours

(Left to Right)  Chuck Triplett, Charlie Buettner (Mad Fox Head Brewer), Rayner Johnson.

(Left to Right) Chuck Triplett, Charlie Buettner (Mad Fox Head Brewer), Rayner Johnson.

Chuck Triplett & Friends complete quest to visit all of Virginia’s breweries in a single year

By Chuck Triplett with Jefferson Evans


What seemed like a fun challenge amongst a group of fellow craft beer drinkers and travelers at the end of 2013 ended up being a substantial and difficult, yet certainly rewarding and enjoyable quest.

Rayner Johnson, Robert Fondren, Erik Benedict and Chuck Triplett were discussing and comparing their yearly brewery visits and Chuck made the boast that he would visit every open brewery in Virginia during 2014. Chuck, having visited every brewery in the state previously, with the exception of Damascus and Miller Coors, thought it wouldn’t be that hard to do them all in a single year.

This group, who routinely travels the country and the world visiting breweries every year, was up for the challenge.  After all, they were veteran beer travelers who visit more than 300 breweries a year each. In fact, Rayner holds the record of 615 in one year.

The group has long been breweriana collectors, and most of them began touring breweries back in the 1970s.  Chuck has visited breweries in 45 states and 28 countries. The others have similar histories.

The challenge began near the first day of January 2014 with the group visiting Forge Brewery in Lorton and ended in late December with Rayner and Chuck visiting the newly opened Belly Love in Purcelleville.

Completing the challenge was much harder than they had expected; mostly because there were not complete listings of the breweries in Virginia, and due to the sheer number of new breweries that were popping up over the course of the year.  Raynor and Chuck now maintain what they believe is the most current list of VA breweries that is out there.  It includes not only open breweries but those that are rumored, are in planning, are in build-out and permitting or that are very close to actually opening.  They also share the list with others and accept tips and contributions from anyone that has any information on new breweries in the state.

Many trips were made to regions where the brewery count was high and they could knock out clusters of open breweries in a day or weekend, but other breweries were remote and spread out.  Plus, many of the newer breweries were opening at a time after they had visited an area so they had to schedule return visits. This was complicated by the fact that most breweries have limited visiting or tap room hours when they are open.  If they couldn’t get inside a brewery it did not count as a visit. Just pulling into the parking lot did not count.  They found out just how geographically large the state of Virginia is as there are now breweries in every corner it seems.  One of the breweries, Seven Arrows, actually had their official opening on December 31, the last day of the year. However, Chuck and Ray were able to get in a little early so they could check it off the list. The quest was exhaustive, but rewarding.

Rayner and Chuck managed to hit 101 breweries missing only one – Anheuser Busch in Williamsburg. Erik and Robert got very close with brewery counts in the low 90s.  The current open brewery count in Virginia is 97.  The reason Chuck and Rayner were able to exceed that number is because several of the breweries moved and changed locations this year so they actually visited both the old and new locations. Also, a couple of the breweries are no longer brewing. Chuck and Rayner often travelled together and sometimes Robert and /or Erik joined them. Robert and Erik, though, often travelled solo and at times different members were ahead for awhile which made for good natured razzing and bragging but also served as inspiration to those who were behind.  The end of year rush to completion was challenging to say the least.

All and all, it was a great time and adventure that took the group all over the state and back again. They saw and tasted just how great Virginia beer is and how interesting, diverse and different the breweries can be.  They visited the giant Miller Coors Brewery in Elkton down to a few one barrel nanos. They were able to enjoy all of the different areas of our beautiful state from the Atlantic Ocean to the lovely western mountains.  But just as important as the beer for them was the meeting the folks who actually brew it and those who had the love and gumption to open the breweries in the first place. They met many new friends along the way and visited many old friends as well and that is actually the most rewarding part of the quest. The brewing community is awesome.

None of the group will try for a repeat in 2015, however. It was daunting and much harder than they all had anticipated but they all intend to revisit favorites and, of course, any new ones that will open in our fair state this year. There are no regrets and the group would love to challenge others to try and do the same this year.  They know you would find it interesting, rewarding and tasty. Are you up for it?


Chuck Triplett & Friends 2014 Brewery Tour

1 Abingdon Wolf Hills BC
2 Afton Blue Mountain Brewery
3 Alexandria Hops Grill & Brewery
4 Alexandria Port City BC
5 Arlington Capitol City BC
6 Arlington Rock Bottom Restaurant-Brewery
7 Arrington Blue Mountain Barrel House
8 Ashburn Lost Rhino BC
9 Ashburn Old Ox BC
10 Ashland Center of the Universe BC
11 Barboursville Beer Hound Brewery       Old location
12 Blacksburg Bull & Bones Brewhaus & Grill
13 Callaway Callaway BC
14 Callaway Chaos Mountain BC
15 Centreville Sweetwater Tavern
16 Charlottesville Champion BC
17 Charlottesville Champion BC  Production
18 Charlottesville C’vill-ian BC
19 Charlottesville South Street Brewery
20 Charlottesville South Street Brewery/ Blue Mtn
21 Charlottesville Three Notch’d BC
22 Crozet Starr Hill BC
23 Culpeper Beer Hound Brewery       New location
24 Damascus Damascus Brewery
25 Danville 2 Witches Winery & Brewery
26 Edinburg Swover Creek BC
27 Elkton Coors/Miller BC
28 Falls Church Mad Fox BC
29 Falls Church Sweetwater Tavern
30 Forest Apocalypse Ale Works
31 Fredericksburg Battlefield BC at The Pub
32 Fredericksburg Blue & Gray BC
33 Gainesville Tin Cannon BC
34 Galax Creek Bottom BC
35 Glade Spring Old Glade BC
36 Goochland Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
37 Hampton St George BC
38 Hardy Sunken City BC
39 Harrisonburg Three Brothers BC
40 Harrisonburg Three Notch’d BC
41 Ladysmith Rusty Beaver Brewery
42 Leesburg Barnhouse Brewery
43 Leesburg Beer Joint Brewery (New Name)
44 Leesburg Crooked Run BC
45 Leesburg Mud Hound BC
46 Leesburg Vintage 50 Restaurant & Brewery
47 Lexington Blue Lab BC
48 Lexington Devils Backbone BC
49 Lorton Forge Brew Works
50 Lovettsville Mad Horse Brewpub
51 Lynchburg Jefferson Street Brewery
52 Manassas Bad Wolf BC
53 Manassas Heritage BC
54 McLean Gordon Biersch Restaurant Brewery
55 Middletown Backroom Brewery
56 Midlothian Extra Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery
57 Nellysford Wild Wolf BC
58 Norfolk O’Connor BC       Old  location
59 Norfolk O’Connor BC       New  location
60 Norfolk Smartmouth BC
61 Purcellville Adroit Theory BC
62 Purcellville Belly Love
63 Purcellville Corcoran BC
64 Purcellville Old 690 BC
65 Radford River Company
66 Richmond Ardent Craft Ales
67 Richmond Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
68 Richmond Isley BC
69 Richmond Legend BC
70 Richmond Rock Bottom Restaurant-Brewery
71 Richmond Strangeways BC
72 Richmond Triple Crossing BC
73 Roanoke Big Lick BC
74 Roanoke Roanoke Railhouse Brewery
75 Roanoke Soaring Ridge Brewers
76 Rockville Midnight Brewery       Old   location
77 Rockville Midnight Brewery       New  location
78 Roseland Devils Backbone BC
79 Salem Parkway BC
80 Scottsville James River BC
81 Sperryville Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works
82 Stafford Adventure BC
83 Stafford Wild Run BC
84 Staunton Queen City BC
85 Staunton Redbeard BC
86 Staunton Shenandoah Valley BC
87 Sterling Beltway BC
88 Sterling Sweetwater Tavern
89 Toano BC Brass Cannon BC
90 Troutville Flying Mouse BC
91 Vienna Caboose BC
92 Vint Hill Old Busthead BC
93 Virginia Beach Back Bay BC
94 Virginia Beach Beach BC
95 Virginia Beach Gordon Biersch Restaurant Brewery
96 Virginia Beach Home Republic BC
97 Virginia Beach Pleasure House BC
98 Virginia Beach Young Veterans BC
99 Williamsburg Aleworks BC
100 Winchester Picadilly’s Public House




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