Three Cheers for Beer

We quench your thirst for quality craft brew in Hampton Roads

Beer was a very common beverage in 18thcentury Virginia. George Washington loved his porter—but only if it was brewed in America—and Thomas Jefferson considered beer one of the necessary “table drinks.” But it wasn’t just a drink for the elite; according to Frank Clark, historic foodways supervisor for Colonial Williamsburg, it was the everyday beverage for most people.

Clark has a keen interest in beer and has penned a paper on brews of the 1700s titled A Most Wholesome Liquor: Beer and Ale in 18th-Century England and America. He periodically leads workshops on the subject at Colonial Williamsburg.

It also wasn’t unusual for most folks to brew their own; there were limited commercial brewers in Virginia at the time, and many households created their own beer with ingredients we’d recognize today: grain, water, hops and yeast.

But Clark says that malted barley wasn’t easy to come by in Colonial Virginia, so brewers improvised with what they had at hand like pumpkin, molasses and sometimes even spruce and pine.

Small batch brewing like that of our forefathers is still hot. Craft brewing is a real trend—the number of small, independent craft brewers has skyrocketed. It is the highest number in 100 years, when Prohibition and consolidation of breweries after Prohibition’s repeal drove it down.

In Hampton Roads, we have seven craft breweries from Virginia Beach to Williamsburg turning out America’s drink and riding the wave of excitement for reclaiming fine-quality, small-batch beers.

Here is a list of the breweries of the region. Check with each individually for beer offerings, as they sometimes change seasonally; tasting room information; and where to find their quaff in area restaurants and stores.