Scott’s Addition In RVA!

If you are planning a mini-vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a night out, I can’t think of a better place than Scott’s Addition in Richmond, VA. This historical district currently boasts 5 craft breweries, 2 craft cideries, a meadery, and a craft distillery, not to mention over a dozen restaurants, coffee houses, and even a bakery: all within a 4-block radius!

Scott’s Addition was originally planned as a residential neighborhood. However, in 1927 it was re-zoned for industrial and a number of large plants, commercial buildings and warehouses were built, sometimes replacing the existing homes. The area thrived for a time, but then it started to decline. More and more buildings became empty as businesses began to close or relocate to larger and more modern facilities.

Fortunately, in 2010 a renaissance began in this mostly forgotten neighborhood. Buildings were renovated and turned into apartments, new apartments were built, and businesses began to return. Seeing the potential of this revitalizing neighborhood, Isley Brewing Company was the first craft brewer to move into Scott’s Addition, opening their doors on Oct. 23, 2013.

Since then they have been joined by Ardent, The Veil, Väsen, and Three Notch’d craft breweries. Buskey and Blue Bee cideries also moved into the neighborhood, as well as Black Heath Meadery. And of course, we shouldn’t forget Reservoir Distillery who opened their tasting room doors in 2009!

But there are more than just craft beverages in Scott’s Addition. Each brewery is likely to have a gourmet food truck parked right there, and if you’re looking for something a little different, there’s the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, Peter Chang’s, Lunch|Supper, ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue, The Dairy Bar, and many more restaurants. No matter what you are in the mood for; Chinese food, barbecue, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, or even a hearty breakfast, it’s there.

And did I mention The Circuit? It’s an arcade bar and, while it’s not a brewery, it does feature 44 self-service taps with both craft and non-craft beer,  ciders and wines, and an arcade with pinball machines and some of the best classic arcade games like Crazy Taxi, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Defender, Frogger, Galaga, NBA Jam, Guitar Hero, Packman and more!

If you’re into award-winning craft beer or cider, mead, finely crafted distilled spirits, good food, live music, and/or vintage video games, you should check out Scott’s Addition.

So, what are you doing this weekend?

Ode’ To Craft Beer

I remember my first beer. It was mid-summer and I was about 12 years old. My friend grabbed a couple of bottles of Old Milwaukee when his father wasn’t looking, and we put them in the creek to chill. When we finally drank them, I found it wasn’t as cold or as tasty as I thought it would be.

Years later when I turned 18 it was legal for me to purchase and drink beer (they hadn’t raised the drinking age for beer to 21 yet). Having very little money, I bought and drank Red White and Blue, and Black Label because they were the cheapest beer I could get. I eventually got a real job and began earning a decent wage. This enabled me to move up to Miller Lite and Coors.  At the time I was pretty happy.

Then sometime in my late 20’s I was sitting in a bar and a friend pushes a pint of what looked like coffee to me and says “Try this.”

Despite serious reservations I did try it, and something called Guinness changed what I thought of as beer forever.

This beer had flavor- not taste, but flavor! And the aroma!  It was like nothing I had ever had. It made me wonder, what else I had been missing, and I began to look a little more closely at the taps behind the bar. I tried Killian’s, Yuengling, and a few others, and discovered a world of flavor I hadn’t known existed. I tried to drink Miller and Budweiser again, but couldn’t. I branched out into imports like Becks, Heineken, Harps, Stella, New Castle, and more!  I had been living in darkness and had finally come into the light! There was color and texture in the world I had not known existed.

And then the craft beer revolution happened, and my head nearly exploded.

Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium, Deschutes, Stone, Loose Cannon, Steamship, Hardywood Park and, and so many more! Small mom and pop craft breweries opening everywhere. Microbreweries, Nano breweries, new flavors, new aromas, new styles, and even experimental beers like Oreo Cookie, peach cobbler, fried chicken, key lime pie, and bacon!  If it can be imagined, for good or bad, a craft brewer will probably try and brew it.

Craft beer represents limitless creativity, imagination, and so many choices. Craft brewers are rediscovering hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of years of brewing tradition. Alewerks Brewing in Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to recreate 3 colonial beers from the 1700’s. Off Color Brewing in Chicago, working with the Field Museum of Natural History recreated beers of the Wari Empire in Peru from the 11th century.  Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio revived a   5,000-year-old Sumerian beer recipe!

Today, everywhere I go, when I’m asked what I would like to drink, I always ask, “What do you have that’s local?”.

I’m always looking for the best beer I’ve never had.

Domestic vs Craft and Specialty Beer

You ever notice that beer menus in restaurants and bars are usually divided into 3 categories: Domestic, Craft, and Imports? Yes? Then have you ever thought about the fact that all the “Domestic” beers are actually owned by foreign companies, and that the only actual domestic beers (beers brewed by American companies) are labeled as Craft or Specialty?

Maybe you think that it really doesn’t make a difference. If it is brewed right here in the USA, then it’s a domestic beer. If you believe that then  I have another question for you.  Toyota builds their cars here in the USA because it’s cheaper than building them somewhere else then ship them here.  Since they are built here in the USA by American workers, would you consider Toyota an American product?  Is it a domestic vehicle?

“Domestic” brands such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Bud Light Lime, Busch, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Landshark Lager, Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Blue Point, Elysian, Redbridge, Natural Light, Shock Top, Wild Blue, Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider, and others are owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev- a Belgian company.

“Domestic” beers like Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Extra Gold Lager, Icehouse, Keystone, Killian’s Irish Red, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, Miller 64, Milwaukee’s Best, Steel Reserve, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s, Redd’s Apple Ale, Crispin, Smith & Forge, and others, are brewed by MillerCoors which was a joint venture between SABMiller (Owned by South African Breweries) and Molson Coors (a Canadian company) until they were bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016.

So I ask the question again. If Toyota is considered to be a foreign brand, despite being manufactured in America, then why are Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Landshark, Goose Island, Blue Moon, Coors, Miller, Milwaukee’s Best, Icehouse, and the others considered domestic?

Why are all the American owned beers considered “Specialty”?  When did something made in America by American companies stop becoming domestic?

Strange Brew

With the craft beer boom of recent years, many brewers have begun pushing the boundary of beer styles, creativity, and taste. Brewers have started experimenting with ingredients that you would not normally consider when brewing beer.

We all know the different kinds of beer, or at least the majority.  First there are only two types of beer: Ales and lagers. Ales are fermented with top fermenting yeasts which work best at what most would consider room temperature, and lagers are fermented with bottom fermenting yeasts at cooler temperatures.

Within those 2 types are many different styles of beer. Within ales there are blonds, pale ales, IPAs, ambers, browns, porters, and stouts, and more.  Within lagers there are of course lagers and pilsners, bocks, dunkels, marzens, and others. And within these styles there are even more styles. For instance stouts can be Imperial, milk, chocolate, Irish, and coffee. You can also bend elements of different styles to make even more styles of beers.

And then there are the really creative beers. Ones that can make you scratch your head and say, “Hmmm.” Here is a short list of some experimental beers from across the country. Most are not currently in production, but some are still available.

Catawaba Brewing in Asheville North Carolina brewed a beer they call Peanut Butter Jelly Time, which is apparently brewed with raspberries and aged with peanuts.

The Veil Brewing in Richmond Virginia released an Oreo cookie chocolate milk stout, which is conditioned with real Oreo cookies. Many described it as tasting like Oreos dipped in melted chocolate- and no one is saying that’s a bad thing.

Herbert B Friendly Brewing in Renton Washington brewed a Nutella Stout. It had a complex, slightly sweet taste with the flavor of chocolate, a bit of coffee, peanut butter, and hazelnuts.

Coney Island Brewing in New York brewed a Cotton Candy Kölsch. It’s a light golden beer with a pink tinge, a fruit-forward strawberry and floral aroma, and a caramel malt and strawberry flavor.  The taste is remarkably similar to cotton candy.

Hardywood Park Brewing in Richmond Virginia has a Peach Cobbler Ale that smells like you have your nose in a desert dish. The aroma takes me back to Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house and the fresh hot cobbler we would sometimes have after dinner in the summer. The taste is only slightly sweet, with a nice roasted caramel flavor with a light taste peach and a medium hoppiness.

Wynkoop Brewing in Denver Colorado brewed Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. Now I know what some of you are thinking. What’s strange about that? Oyster stouts are great. Right? Well rocky mountain oysters are not the type of oysters you get in a seafood restaurant. This beer is brewed with roasted barley, seven specialty grains, “steerian” golding hops, and roasted bull testicles. And how does it taste? I don’t know. I will never know.

Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn New York brewed bacon beer. It’s a brown ale infused with bacon fat and aged in bourbon barrels. That’s right. Bourbon, bacon, and beer. Sounds like the makings of a perfect Saturday night.

Shorts Brewing in Bellaire Michigan brewed Key Lime Pie beer. It’s made with fresh limes, milk sugar, graham crackers, and marshmallow fluff. Sounds good? Well, it is. This beer’s sweet-meets-tart flavor won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2010.

3 Sheeps Brewing in Sheboygan Wisconsin has brewed Squid Ink beer. It’s an IPA made with squid ink imported from Italy. It had an almost black color with a purplish grey head and a mild citrusy aroma.

Clipper City Brewing and Heavy Seas

The Clipper City Brewing Company was founded by pioneer Hugh Sisson, with the intention of restoring a rich brewing tradition to the entire Baltimore area.  While focusing on classic beer styles made with fresh ingredients and high standards, Clipper City became the largest brewing company in Baltimore, giving the entire Bay area residents reason to celebrate.

According to their web site, Hugh’s family owned a tavern called Sisson’s, and in 1980 Hugh went to work there with the intention of help out for a short while. However, on very his first day his father tossed him the keys to the pub and said “OK, don’t f*** up!” and promptly walked out the door.

In 1987, Hugh and many others lobbied the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation to make brew pubs legal in the state. When they succeeded, Hugh promptly converted the family tavern into a brewpub, making Sisson’s Maryland’s first pub brewery to operate since Prohibition. He finally left in 1994 to found Clipper City Brewing.

For a time, Clipper City Brewing marketed and distributed their beer under the name Heavy Seas. However in 2010 Clipper City was absorbed into the Heavy Seas brand and became no more.

The Heavy Seas Brewing Company produces a number of regular year-round offerings such as: Loose Cannon Hop³ IPA, Double Cannon Double IPA, TropiCannon Citrus IPA, Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Cutlass Vienna-style Lager, and Powder Monkey Pale Ale.

They also have an extensive line of limited release beers such as The Alpha Effect Hazy IPA, Smooth Sail Summer Ale, Treasure Fest Oktoberfest Lager, Winter Storm Imperial ESB, Siren Noire Imperial Chocolate Stout aged in bourbon barrels, and Blackbeard’s Breakfast Imperial Coffee Porter aged in bourbon barrels (just to name a few).

For many years, Clipper City was the dominant brewing company in the entire Baltimore area.  Now as Heavy Seas they are continuing to set standards for what a craft beer should be.

Alaskan Brewing

The Alaskan Brewing Company is the oldest operating brewery in Alaska and they brew a wide variety of year-round, seasonal, and limited-edition beers, with their amber beer being their most popular.  If you’ve never had one and you enjoy a good amber beer, Alaskan Amber will not dissapoint.

As you can probably guess, brewing beer in Alaska is not an easy thing to do.  The coastal community of Juneau where the brewery is located doesn’t have road connections to the lower 48 states. This means everything arrives and leaves by water or air, assuming the weather permits.

There are some benefits to brewing in Juneau AK. Arguably the most important ingredient in brewing an exceptional beer is the water, and Alaska has just that. The 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield supplies the brewery with a truly remarkable source of water.

In 1986 the Alaskan Brewing Company became the 67th brewery to operate in the United States, and the only one operating in Alaska.  Since then, Alaskan Brewing has received more than 49 medals and awards at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, most recently winning gold in 2017 for their Heritage Coffee Brown Ale.

Over the years the popularity of their beer has made it difficult at times to keep up with the demand from consumers, and has required increases production and most importantly efficiency. They hold the unofficial record for the production on a 10-barrel brewing system, which produces an amazing 42 batches a week. Unfortunately these award winning beers are currently  only distributed and available in about 20 states.

Here are just a few of the Alaskan Brewery’s most popular beers:

  • Amber – This is the company’s flagship beer and is based on a turn of the century recipe that was used during the Gold Rush era.  It provides a smooth, malty, rich taste that goes well with meals – or friends.
  • Big Mountain Pale Ale – This beer is fresh, crisp, and inviting.  The aroma of Asian pear, citrus and pine are beautifully balanced by the complex combination of biscuit, toasted pine nuts, and caramel flavors from the malt.
  • Freeride APA- If you like hops, the combination of cascade, Citra and Centennial hops in this beer will amaze your nose while providing a wonderful crispness to both the flavor and the finish.  This beer is great with spicy food, wild game, and other wintery food.
  • Smoked Porter – This very exclusive Alaskan porter has a world class reputation for excellence.  Brewed in the fall with malt that has been smoked using alder wood, this beer has a unique flavor that is anything but ordinary.
  • Winter Ale – This amazing brew uses the tender new growth from the tips of Sitka spruce trees to give this beer a subtly sweet floral flavor. The practice of using spruce tips in brewing has been used in Alaska since the late 1700s.