Thursday, September 11, 2014

Brewing Innovation at Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg, Virginia


Just west of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia sits Montpelier, home to the 4th president and father of the constitution James Madison. Madison has been linked to erroneous stories about creating a “National Brewery” and Secretary of Beer which has once and for all been properly debunked. As people around the world continue to enjoy the new creations from American craft brewers, we can all be glad James Madison did not take up this request.

Harrisonburg, Virginia

45 minutes from that historic site sits Harrisonburg, Virginia, home to the university that bears James Madison’s name. Harrisonburg lies on the eastern slope of the Shenandoah National Park. This midsize college town is situated 2 hours from both Washington, DC and Richmond in the Shenandoah Valley. With mountains to the east and west, Harrisonburg is a great spot to make your base as you hike off to wilderness adventures.

Harrisonburg also has a great mix of restaurants and shops in its retro revitalized downtown area where you can sample many local eateries using only the finest locally sourced ingredients. If you are a food truck person Harrisonburg has you covered as well boasting one of the finest grilled cheese food trucks out there. But I’m not here to talk about food trucks or wood fire pizza, I come forth to tell you that Harrisonburg has wonderfully hand crafted beer that, paired with outdoor and even cavern adventures, makes this part of Virginia a real gem to travel to.

Virginia craft beer is for lovers
Brothers Craft Brewing

The craft beer industry in Virginia has taken off over the last few years. Though they may not be California type numbers, Virginia boasts 60 craft breweries right now with more getting ready to open their doors. In 2012 the state of Virginia tagged August as Virginia Craft Beer month, and in that same year Brothers Craft Brewing in Harrisonburg cranked out their first brews.

The name Brothers Craft Brewing is self-explanatory. The brothers who founded the brewery grew up in Harrisonburg, had a dream to brew beer (which should be every brothers dream instead of throwing things at each other..cough…my brother and I), and with the help of family and friends were able to fulfill that dream in their hometown. The brewery and taproom are located in an old soda bottling plant (perfect for bottling beer) with perfect access for those local food trucks.

Different mountains, more great beer
We arrived in Harrisonburg with our children in tow on a whirlwind family style trip. Family style trips with wee ones don’t always lead to a lot of tap room shenanigans (though having little ones should not hold you back). With that in mind I knew that Brothers Craft Brewing was in town and I would have to get my hands on some of it locally before we headed home. One of our mottos around here is "to support local breweries when in their locales". This trip would be no different.

Unfortunately we never made it to the tasting room though, which has been described to me as very unique and a must stop next time we’re in town (accepting free airfare now airlines). I was able to enjoy a few of these fine crafted brews in town though at a few eating establishments. As a native of the Northwoods the first brew that drew my attention was The Great Outdoors, a Virginia Pale Ale (not a huge pale ale fan but it is interesting to see a brewers take on the style).

The Great Outdoors was a wonderful choice on warm humid Virginia day. Unlike other pale ales, the offering from BCB packed some great flavor while remaining light and refreshing. There was a distinct sweetness with enough hops to be bitter, but not overly bitter. As the Great Outdoors was a great start I knew that (beyond wishing we would have had an opportunity to pop into the brewery) I needed to dive into another beer from these brothers.

The next beer on the menu was the Hoptimization American IPA. As described by BCB, this IPA was brewed without the “regular” IPA hops. What the Hoptimization was made with were heavy hitting bitter hops, I’m talking West Coast IPA citrus clean and bitterness. The IPA from BCB was bold, innovative in their choice of hops, and a must try for true East Coast IPAs. I finished that up with some tasty east coast seafood and unfortunately called it a night. The other flavors offered from BCB that I couldn’t taste (but will our next east coast swing) were rum barrel aged blondes and dubbels that sound, like the IPA hops, innovative and noteworthy.

Virginia Caves, optimal for beer storage?

The Shenandoah Valley is one of the prettier areas that I’ve been to in the Eastern US. Between rolling mountains (that I imagine are even more amazing in the fall as the colors change), gigantic natural caverns, and back country hiking trails, this portion of the US is a must stop for adventure seekers and families. When it comes to brewing with big ideas in a laid back locally inspired town, Harrisonburg’s Brothers Craft Brewing are local artisans that deserve your (and your taste bud's) attention when you visit.

Steven Grams is a seeker of new knowledge. He lives for travel, for adventure, for a new story. He absorbs everything and never forgets where he has been, who he has met, what he has seen, and how he got there.