It's fairly amazing that we've never covered good spots to hit in Richmond, VA. We've talked a lot about places like Mekong and Hardywood on Twitter but somehow have no formal posts on the other sights in the area. Until we can get down there to do a full post, guest author Mitchell Smiley shares some of his insights from living in the capital of the commonwealth. (Thanks, Mitchell!)
Richmond Virginia sits just two hours, without traffic, south of the District of Columbia and has a thriving beer scene worth a first, second, or third look from anyone who considers themselves a beer nerd, enthusiast, snob, or lover. From big west coast breweries like Stone to pioneering local breweries like Hardywood down to the plain niche breweries for fanatics like The Answer, Richmond has plenty to offer DC area beer enthusiasts who are looking for great beer.
Breweries of Note
The Answer/Mekong (6008 W Broad St, Richmond, VA) – “Mekong” is a Vietnamese restaurant and craft beer bar, hailed as the “Best Beer Bar in America” and most recently from USA Today, run by An Bui. Mekong features a wide variety of Belgian and local beers. Additionally, there is usually at least half a dozen sour beers and custom concoctions known as the “Andall,” (a riff on Dogfish's Randall) which feature additions like coffee and or fruit to base beers. These are all sold at a very reasonable price point. The Answer, which opened in 2014, is An's brewery located next door to Mekong, and it's the only place where their house beers can be purchased. The Answer features an extensive and well curated tap list of beers from other breweries. Answer beers focus heavily on fresh IPAs; they sell 32 oz. “crowlers" to go. The best beer at The Answer is whatever IPA is the freshest. The Answer has a front bar and dining area as well as a rear bar next to the brewery area. It showcases a great menu that offers bahn mi and other Vietnamese fare. If you're only going to make one stop in Richmond then Mekong and The Answer will make the trip worthwhile.
Center of the Universe Brewing Company (11293 Air Park Rd. Ashland, VA) – This brewery was founded by a
minor major league baseball player and was one of the earlier breweries to open in the Richmond beer scene's new era. Just off of I-95, this is one of the easiest breweries for a DC visitor to find, and it makes for a good first or last stop on an RVA beer tour. The brewery itself has my favorite pale ale, Ray Ray's Pale Ale, and the excellent west coast style IPA, Pocahoptas. Operation Homefront is an IPA aged on Louisville Slugger Maple Bats that typically is released around Memorial Day. El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing, is a white Russian milk stout inspired by The Dude himself and released in the fall. It's usually accompanied with a screening of the Big Lebowski at Richmond's historic art-deco Byrd Theater.
Legend Brewing Company (321 West 7th Street Richmond, VA) – Richmond's original craft brewery and founded in the early 1990's. Legend has a relatively standard tap lineup of lager, pilsner, pale ale, IPA, brown ale, stout and golden ale. They also make seasonal ales, rotating cask offerings, and custom “firkins” with spices and seasonings added to a base beer. I'm partial to the brown ale and the summer seasonal Z-Dam Ale. Legend also has a full service kitchen and has a commanding view of downtown Richmond from their patio. Grab a table on the patio, eat some lunch, and try some of the beers that got craft beer started in central Virginia.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (2410 Ownby Lane, Richmond, VA) – The first of the new wave of craft breweries in Richmond, Hardywood has been around since 2011. Keep an eye on their release calendar before you visit to see if you can catch one of their many special offerings, most notable of which is Gingerbread Stout. My personal favorite is the Capital Trail Pale Ale and their seasonal Bourbon Barrel Stout. They have a very aggressive barrel program and frequently host release parties for rare beers. They recently expanded into a neighboring building and will soon open a second location in the Richmond suburbs to increase their production. Their brewery-only and experimental releases tend to be excellent and are worth a taste and a trip.
Have questions about Richmond? Leave them in the comments and we'll have Mitchell chime in! Cheers!