Load up on stellar suds at these 9 Richmond breweries

If the lines for can releases are any indication, Richmond, Va., is becoming a hotbed — and destination — for incredible beer. I’ve already road tripped down there twice from New Jersey in 2017, and I can’t wait to plan a return visit.

Check out these options if you’re a first-timer in search of quality suds. Please note that all blurbs below were adapted from my Yelp reviews.

When I start to feel restless, I plan trips to new cities. Knowledge of The Answer and too much free time led me to Richmond in March. All I can say: One night and one visit was not enough time. In fact, I returned to repeat the experience two months later!

This place really is one of the country’s best. No one is exaggerating. I don’t think I rated any one beer lower than 4.75 stars during either visit…and that’s rare! Their big thing is the Andall series — beers with fun flavors added in, including pineapple popsicle, raspberry, and tiramisu, among other inventive flavors.

I tried eight drafts (out of 50 available!) and they were spectacular. The goses stole the show for me. All were so good. Especially the Double Scoop Raspberry and Kromer Juice. Even the IPA was good, and I’m not a hoppy person!

You *must* visit if you’re a beer enthusiast. That is all.

(2) The Veil Brewing

I just loved The Veil! It has a welcoming vibe and fun atmosphere. It feels established in the community and is spacious enough to hold large groups at long tables or on plush chairs inside, as well as a nice outdoor space.

They offer small (6 oz.) or large (12 oz.) pours and an orderly purchase queue to minimize line cutters. My friend and I both opted for the smaller size. That beer was delicious! In fact, I probably should’ve just ordered the 12 ounce. it was that good. I later ordered their farmhouse and helles lager, and enjoyed both of them — but not as much as the gose, of course.

Bathrooms are clean. Staff is friendly. Seems a can shortage is common due to their huge popularity (they were sold out during my visit). They also didn’t have all the T-shirts advertised on the wall.

Beyond those small quirks, I’d still say this is a must-visit brewery if you’re visiting Richmond. Top-quality stuff is being brewed here!

(3) Isley Brewing Company

My friend and I were in the area and noticed Isley was only a couple blocks away. Obviously, we had to stop in. Since we were watching our booze intake, we opted to split a flight of six 3-ounce tasters for $8. She likes darker beers more than I do, so she ordered the Choosy Mother and the PB&J; then we decided on the last four — Plain Jane, Plain Jane Blueberry, Honey Ginger, and Grapefruit Pale.

I’m very vocal about how much I despise peanut butter in beer, but I tried theirs anyway just for kicks, as I generally do as if I expect my taste buds to radically change. It’s still a big ‘nope’ for me, but my friend loved it. [No worries – I never rate peanut butter beers on Untappd anymore since I know it’s just my personal feeling.] I really enjoyed the other four, though — especially the regular Plain Jane and the Grapefruit. My friend didn’t like the grapefruit as much, so our flight split worked out pretty well!

I also appreciated that Isley “toasted” and commented on my Untappd check-ins, signed by Eric. Something simple like that shows they care what their customers think and don’t just shrug off reviews. That’s always nice to see.

Do note that you’ll likely get carded at the counter. I’m used to it so I usually just say “of course!” and whip out my ID (unless you bark for it — that I find annoying and hostile, fortunately, this place is neither), but my friend is a bit older and protested a bit as she fished for hers. Just make sure you have it handy.

Isley has an adorable outdoor area that you can access by walking through their brewery operation. Seating is available on their deck (tables are available between some chairs) or down by the food truck. It’s such a chill, fun vibe out back. I could see why locals love this place. I’m positive this would be one of my usual spots if I lived in the area.

(4) Garden Grove Brewing Company

Awesome, lively brewery!!

I had no plans to visit Garden Grove, but my mom was a few doors down staring at nutcrackers (yes, nutcrackers) for so long that I couldn’t bear to stand idly or pretend to care about Christmas decor in the springtime any longer. So I told her I was going to walk down the street to see what was around. Obviously, a brewery *would* be where I’d end up.

It was Sunday afternoon and there were ample seats inside, as well as a few groups of locals enjoying the day. I stepped in, grabbed a bar stool, and was immediately greeted by a super jolly bartender. He worked his way around the bar chatting with all the customers as if they were old friends equally and effectively. He just seemed to truly love his job. It was refreshing to see.

You can make a flight of any size here, so I chose the typical four to get an introductory sense of their style. You’re given a dry-erase marker and a menu and can circle, star, or draw on your choices.

I went with:
1) The Bee & the Vine Sparkler
2) Isabella Sparkler
3) Orange Crush Belgian Wit
4) The Farmhouse Saison

My mom joined me a bit later (she did, indeed, purchase a nutcracker), and actually wanted to try my beers. Quite a rare occurrence. She doesn’t like beer! But you know what? Not only did she like a couple of them, but she nearly single-handedly finished the orange wit. A HUGE compliment to them!

I preferred the beers most to least in the order above. The Vine was especially great, and it was like no other drink I’ve had before. I’d highly recommend it, if available.

Beyond the brews, they also have night-themed events, including board games and flight nights. It’s right on Cary and surrounded by shops and restaurants, so it’s easy to make a half day of your trip. And prices don’t break the bank.

All around, a stellar choice for a brew or two in Richmond.

(5) Castleburg Brewery and Taproom

Admittedly I probably didn’t need to come here. Castleburg was my third brewery visit within a 2-hour timeframe — but it was also a Sunday, I was an out-of-town visitor, we were just at Hardywood down the road, and also I just plain wanted to see the place. It had been bookmarked prior to my Richmond trip and would’ve been closed on my final two days in the city.

Point being: I wanted to stop in but my memory of the actual visit is a bit fuzzy. I’m hopeful I’ll make it back down to Richmond in the future and would like to return to get a better feel. But here’s what I can recall from my time here!

My mom and I walked into a casual, non-descript taproom. Spacious with couches and plenty of tables. Not too many patrons…I’d assume because it was a Sunday evening. I inquired about a flight, which they offer, and they requested my ID, as well as my mom’s since they card everyone regardless of age. I handed mine over, but my mother, who is more than double my age, refused to give hers. Therefore, she was banned from my flight. I understood the policy but also found it completely hysterical. Fortunately, she doesn’t even like beer so it was fine.

As part of my flight, I tried the:
– Watchman’s Wit (4 bottle caps via Untappd)
– Castleburg Cream Ale (3.75)
– Bishop’s Brown Ale (4)
– Kings, Crime & Punishment (4.25)
– Court Jester Porter (3.75)

I know I was later asked for my favorite (well, I think at least) and I said the cream ale and somehow ended up buying a regular growler of it. My check-ins, however, obviously point to Kings, Crime & Punishment being my preferred of the medieval-inspired names. It’s a Scottish ale with a bunch of cool stuff in it. Not my typical style, but totally worth it to try. And, apparently, it almost didn’t even exist! No matter, all the beers were solid. Anything 3.75 or above is generally a positive vote from me.

I also recall chatting at the bar for a bit when I dropped off my empty flight glasses and also being shown the brewery area from the door. I’m pretty sure I asked about sour capabilities and they’re still too small for that. Very friendly staff and welcoming little brewery. I only wish it had been the first brewery stop of the day!

(6) Ardent Craft Ales

Ardent is an open brewery — figuratively and literally.

My friend and I walked by around 8 p.m. on Saturday evening and decided to try a couple brews before moving on to another brewery on our agenda nearby. They have a queue system but fortunately, it was short.

You show your ID and order your beer from one person who sends it through, and you pick it up when they call your name. Pretty easy. They don’t do flights, but they do offer 5 oz. pours like some of the other places in the vicinity, so I ordered a couple of those and waited for my friend.

She didn’t have the same luck I had. She got flustered by the ID process and confused by the order system, so she ended up with a large IPA when she thought it would be something else entirely. I’m not sure how that happened — I had already moved along — but I will say my review rating is likely higher than hers would be.

Once we had our brews in hand, we headed back outside to their expansive space and found seats at a picnic table. Lots of kids were running around with toys (hence, they are open to anyone…) and some were even playing with chalk on the ground.

The open-air and tent space were both well done. I’d definitely say this is a fair weather brewery, and if we weren’t looking to maximize our time in the city, we likely would’ve stayed longer and tried more options…especially to redeem my friend’s poor ordering experience.

I enjoyed both of my selections: the honey ginger and the saison. Definitely solid choices!

(7) Strangeways Brewing

Strangeways is aptly named. Their brewery originally popped onto my radar about a month ago when my beer friend traded me a box of Richmond-local beers. Their Uberlin Berliner Weiss was, by far, my favorite of the bunch. So light and lovely…and awesome label art!

So when I decided on a whim to casually drive 3.5 hours down to Richmond, I knew a visit to Strangeways was a must. It ended up being our last stop of the weekend before heading home, but it was well worth going a little out of the way to see.

Similar to many other breweries, their location is a little funky — but it works for them. They’re at the end of a strip mall away from downtown Richmond. If you’re heading to The Answer from the city center, it’s a good place to stop along the way. It’s also not too far from the Scotts Addition neighborhood, which is brimming with breweries and delicious food options.

The weather was gorgeous — a warm and sunny early spring day — so we walked inside, ordered flights, and chose a picnic table to imbibe. Keep in mind: You may not want to sit at the very end of the seat if no one else is sitting already…unless you want to induce a see-saw effect. I felt so hefty for a second.

For the flights, you can choose any amount up to 10. I couldn’t help myself with all their incredible options, so I picked six for my flight:

– Smucker’s Jelly Uberlin
– Sour Cherry Cobbler
– Red Sangria
– Lücky Charms
– Pink Lemonade
– Razzle Dazzle

Yep. Basically, you’ll be in good company if you’re not all about bitter brews and insane stouts. Although they do offer several stouts. My friend enjoyed them (and bought some bottles to go) but I stuck to my flight.

Red Sangria, Razzle Dazzle, and Sour Cherry Cobbler were my standout favorites. I felt like the jelly fell a little short in potency, and the pink lemonade radler would have been better had I been sitting on a beach somewhere. I understand they also had fruit loop and jolly rancher beers in the past, and I’d LOVE to try those if they bring them back someday.

It’s worth taking a walk around the brewery before heading out. The operation is pretty large, and they have a diverse stock of beer merch in addition to their bottled to-go section. I only regret not purchasing that 6-pack of Uberlin.

Oh well. I’m sure I’ll be back one day soon anyway!

(8) Triple Crossing Brewing – Downtown

Triple Crossing has a cool, relaxed vibe. It’s situated downtown — if you couldn’t tell by the name — and isn’t far from Jackson Ward. My friend and I walked down from that neighborhood after putting our name in for an hour+ wait at a nearby restaurant. Triple Crossing was an ideal place to kill the time.

We walked in midday and the interior was rather empty. This turned into a theme during our trip. It seems folks like to drink outside in Richmond. I like that!

So we walked up to the bar and I noticed we were passed over several times. Maybe we didn’t look like we were ready to order, but I found it kind of weird. A queue like some other local spots have might benefit them. It was probably the least welcome I felt during our Richmond brew hop, but they were pleasant enough once they spoke to us.

I ordered a flight of:
– Waxing Poetic (Berliner Weiss)
– Saison Brett
– Paranoid Aledroid (Pale)
– Pride of Monroe (English Bitter)

My local friend had warned me not to buy the berliner because he had a can of it to pass along the next day, but I didn’t listen. I can never turn down a berliner…especially when the weather was gorgeous! I drank that thing in like two seconds. It was just so good!

The other three were also top quality and I’d highly recommend them all. I rated each between 3.75-4.25 on Untappd. My friend struggled a bit with a porter — probably due to the heat. Their deck gets direct sunlight.

Overall I see why people like this place. I’d return!

(9) Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Hardywood has become a fairly common brewery name in my home state (Jersey). That said, I didn’t feel a burning desire to visit the actual grounds considering I have easy access to their stuff already. That also said, curiosity won out and I made the trip about an hour before their closing time on a weekend last month.

Upon arrival, I noted it was one of ~the~ places to be in Richmond. It was packed both inside and in their parking lot. It appeared there had been some sort of craft tents earlier, as well as food trucks. There were lots of tables outside as well, and that’s where I eventually ended up after easily purchasing my flight in the bar area from the friendly staff.

Since it was hot out, I chose four light beers. They were all pretty good, but I didn’t like their use of plastic cups for the flight. Think about it. One person alone uses four cups. Consider how much plastic is exchanged over the course of just one day of operation. I’m not even a big environmentalist, but plastic cup use at breweries and similar establishments bothers me to no end.

Otherwise, Hardywood is big and established. Very nicely put together. There’s even a big merch area. I picked up a couple beers to go for a yelp friend while there. They had some of the good stuff that’s hard to find in other states. So I guess that’s the big plus of stopping at the actual brewery: more selection and exclusive pours.

If I lived in Richmond, I assume I’d stop by more frequently, but certainly not all the time. I still prefer the Scott’s Addition area breweries, but I’d never say to no to a GBS.

Which spots would you add to this list?

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