by Marty Nopper, Tastemaker in Residence
The exploding craft suds scene around the Richmond, VA., area is unbelievable. Interest in craft beers is so smoking hot right now that it has grown to over 30 local and national breweries, with 6 more to start soon. Included in this onslaught of foamy friends is the usual suspects like Legend Brewing, Hardywood Brewing, Lickinghole Creek Craft Bewery and Rusty Beaver Brewery (I SWEAR I didn’t make those up). Recently, national craft superstars like Stone Brewing Co now pay taxes in the Commonwealth and have made their east coast distributorships all over Virginia. Spending a Sunday afternoon (who am I kidding? It’s Tuesday night) is always a great way to spend the day and enjoy some collegial-type comradery at one of these specialty taverns. If group partying is more your thing, one can get around to 3 separate breweries, receive a brief course on beer tasting before your departure and even enjoy a flight of samples at each brewery INCLUDED with the price when you ride along with Richmond Brewery Tours (https://richmondbrewerytours.com/). Might be good for an adult birthday party!
Sounds like it would be a blast with 13 of my closest libators but I’m here for a lower key evening so I settled on a spot with an unusual moniker. Nestled away in the back corner of an office park off Route 288 in Goochland, VA., Kindred Spirits Brewing (http://www.kindredspiritbrewing.com/) is a little hard to find to someone without Waze but was well worth the trip. As a general rule when I travel, I let Waze lead the way and Yelp determine my night depending on the mood I’m feeling. Tonight, I’m in the mood for hops. Having been to Richmond several times and experimenting always, I chose one close to my hostel as I got a little later start than usual and the Ubermeister was summoned. Anyway, I elected to inhabit an establishment I wasn’t familiar with but that presented some good reviews and some enticing pictures. More importantly, it was open. Weird name but I decided to try it. Walking in on a typical weekday night, I found the establishment very roomy and inviting; 3 and 4 tops of young professionals sat on my left and appeared to be playing board games and laughing as though they had been there awhile. Offering a relieving warmth from the frigid outside, the smell of percolating mash stung my nostrils as soon as I walked in, almost beckoning me to come in and sample the goods, very similar to the old-time cartoons where someone is elevated in a prone position following a smell of something wafting through the air before it disappears, and they drop violently to the floor (anyone? Anyone? Bueller?). Anyway, some of you will get it. Almost running up to the sparsely attended bar, I was invited to try whatever I wanted of the 16 delicious brews on tap (they offer pints, growlers, and flights of 4 if you can't decide). As a sidebar, they also have the current list of tapped suds on their website, as well as entertainment and food offerings for those that stay a little too long (try the Tacos from Jorge’s from the food truck. Just sayin). Just celebrated their inaugural anniversary several months ago, this establishment is a true microbrewery that isn't looking to take on the Big Dogs or be compared to the other local flavors. I scanned the board and found it overwhelming. Mouth watering selections were mixed in with some controversial yet unusual offerings, but I figure there’s a beer belly for every flavor. This belly is in need of grain.
Being an IPA patriot, I was drawn immediately to the professional varieties. 1 IPA and 3 DIPAs (Double IPA) beckoned for my approval (they were 7.7%, 8.7%, 8.9% and 8%, respectively), with names like Headspace, Planetary, Paid In Full and Don't Believe The Hype. I had my work cut out for me and couldn't wait to slurp. This chap decided to try them all...in a flight, of course (I have to wake up tomorrow). Anyway, after considerable appraising (did I mention they let you sample whatever you wanted???), I made my way to Don't Believe The Hype, the 8% New England style DIPA (I mentioned that I was a patriot earlier) that is 'not a typical New England DIPA as it lacks the haziness of that brand but all of the flavor'. This statement, by my keeper, Sam (ask for her-very cool), also came with a description of the flavorings that included Mosaic, Vic Secret Bravo and El Dorado hops. Fortunately, this DIPA was just released today so I knew the brauenhausen was tartingly fresh (2 words spell check can’t fix!). Paired with a freshly made crop of popcorn (free if you can’t find the food truck), this DIPA is hard to beat and balance just right for those that appreciate a hardy performance. New releases are like catnip for their patrons and by my second round (just kidding, fourth), the place was 3 deep with about half of the beer brigade ordering the new blend. Making sure that this New England loyalist was consistent from glass to glass, Sam poured me another and thanked me for my business. Was she trying to tell me something? Was that a tab she laid out in front of me? Is it time for El Marteen to roll? Oh, wait. NM. That’s a napkin. As I came out of that fog of misunderstanding, I noticed the place starting to fill up. Suds seekers continually flocked to the alter of alcohol at this point in the evening and most had an idea of what they were after. At one point, I had to look up when I heard a somewhat masculine voice order something called a Strawberry Milkshake. Must be with his kids, I thought…15 minutes later, another voice, a little less masculine and much younger, ordered a Mochacchino Shake. What the hell is going on? Thought this was a brewery!?! With McDonalds down the street, I’m not sure why these particular novices wandered in here. The crowd has expanded now and I can see that I need to get on the road as Jorge’s cantina on wheels is long gone. Finishing off the last quaff of my spider-webbed rimmed pint, I punched in the secret code for my ride home.
If you are ever in the very far west end of Richmond, VA., you should definitely check this place out. There is something for everyone and even have some of those berry and latte flavored suds I really enjoy (not). The Urban Dictionary describes kindred spirits as ‘two people that make a special connection by sharing a bond that has joined them by the means of an experience that has drawn them together on a higher level of consciousness’. Wow. A higher level of consciousness. Let that sink in. I guess me and the brew master are dating now. Hope she’s not a brew blogger.
Although I wasn’t drinking with her, Miriam Webster defines a kindred spirit as ‘a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one's own’. Bet she would have loved it here, too. Believe The Hype, Miriam. It’s real. Enjoy responsibly, my friends!