When fall rolls around, we look forward to the creative releases from Virginia’s 300+ craft breweries, who infuse their brews with everything from pumpkins and sweet potatoes to fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. We sampled a few of our Central Virginia favorites, comparing notes with the breweries to share our thoughts on these autumnal ales. Read on and head to your local brewery to pick up your own six pack of fall craft beers.
Center of the Universe Brewing Company–Ashland
Brothers Chris and Phil Ray opened Center of the Universe Brewing Company after their passion for home brewing went from hobby to career in 2011. This year, their fall flavors included RedRum Bloodsucker Double IPA, the Oktoberfest Marzen, and Giant Pumpkin Beer, a collaboration with Giant, a supermarket company with locations in Northern Virginia.
How They Describe the Beer: Oktoberfest–German Munich and Vienna malts are used to give the beer a slightly sweet and malty flavor with some toasted notes as well. Noble German hops were added during the boil, adding just enough bitterness to balance with the flavors of the malt. We then chose a Czech yeast strain that accentuated the malt and fermented nice and clean. Golden to amber in color, we think our Oktoberfest would be right at home in the festival tents of Munich. Or Virginia. Prost!
RedRum IIPA–Welcome to a world of sheer terror, where nightmares come Alice and the dead feed on fear. In this devilish domain, only one elixir can satisfy their eternal thirst and vanquish the beast within – REDRUM IIPA. Kings Dominion and Center of the Universe are proud to present this double-powered India Pale Ale potion of American hops and savory malts is certain to give goosebumps to even the bravest of souls.
Giant Pumpkin Beer–The Giant Pumpkin beer has a malty, sweet backbone that is balanced with a kiss of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
What We Tasted: The Oktoberfest beer is easy (almost too easy) to drink. The Giant Pumpkin Amber Ale brewed with spices is not heavy on the pumpkin, nicely spiced and perfect for fall. The RedRum Bloodsucker IIPA is a gorgeous red color, not too hoppy, very approachable. Good fall beer if you’re not a pumpkin fan.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery–Richmond
Photo Credit: Joey Wharton, @joey_wharton
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery was one of the first Richmond breweries established after laws passed in 2012 allowed for more lenient alcohol sales on-site. As one of the originals in the Central Virginia area, their craft beers can be found in local grocery stores as well as in their two Richmond tasting room locations. We sampled their Benny & the Fest Lager, but as of October 22, they also carry a Halloween-themed line of Imperial milk stouts, including Trickery (an apple brandy barrel-aged Imperial Milk Stout), Foolery (a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Milk Stout), Ruse (a red wine barrel-aged Imperial Milk stout), and Puffery (a rum barrel-aged Imperial Milk Stout).
How They Describe the Beer: Hardywood Benny & the Fest is our take on a traditional marzen lager. Malt forward with a light sweetness and dry finish, Benny & the Fest is a wonderfully crisp treat to pair with the cooler temperatures of fall.
What We Tasted: This Marzen lager tastes just like fall in a glass. Put on your lederhosen and pick up your stein because Oktoberfest has arrived.
Photo Credit: Samantha Phillips, @belladonnasafterlife
Founded in 1996, Stone Brewing began in California, and has three tasting rooms across the state, but after witnessing Virginia’s craft brewery Rennaisance, Stone decided to open a downtown Richmond location. Check their website to see what’s on tap at the tasting room, and stop by to pick up their specialty Halloween beer, “Enjoy by 10.31.22 Hazy IPA”
How They Describe the Beer: Stone’s “Enjoy by 10.31.22 Hazy IPA” is a Halloween-themed brew jam-packed with more than ten varieties of hops for a beer so fresh it must be enjoyed by 10.31 to enjoy it’s full profile of hop flavors.
What We Tasted: Hazy IPA, a little strong at 9.4% but dangerously drinkable. Not overwhelming with the bitterness of the hops, but tastes very fresh and approachable.
Trapezium Brewing Co.–Petersburg (Secondary Location in Amherst)
Trapezium Brewing Company opened their first brewery location in Petersburg in 2016, and in addition to the main production facility, this taproom offers brick-oven Neapolitan-style pizzas and other small bites to pair with your beers. In 2022, they added Camp Trapezium in Amherst, a 76-acre farm brewery with an on-site Airbnb, and in 2023, they’ll open their third location in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood. We sampled the Spooky Szn, an Imperial Amber Ale that reads like a traditional pumpkin beer with extra spices shining through.
How They Describe the Beer: Spiced with nutmeg, candied ginger, cinnamon and vanilla, it's basically a pumpkin beer. This Imperial Amber Ale pairs well with Instagram, Pinterest, flannels, boots and other basic fall fashion.
What We Tasted: The pumpkin comes through immediately, but we also detected hints of maple. Ideal for sipping in front of a roaring fire.
Ardent Craft Ales–Richmond
Photo Credit: Ryan Kelly
In Richmond’s popular Scott’s Addition neighborhood, Ardent Craft Ales produces and celebrates exceptional and ambitious beers with Richmond’s ever-growing craft beer community. While they release limited edition beers seasonally, their Sweet Potato & Sage Saison is an annual brew we always look forward to savoring during those chilly fall nights.
How They Describe the Beer: Sweet Potato & Sage Saison dry, farmhouse-style saison. Earthy notes from the sweet potatoes are balanced by the fragrant aroma of fresh, local sage. This fall seasonal features a continental malt backbone and subtle hop presence in a well-rounded beer.
What We Tasted: Light, refreshing, not what you would expect in a typical fall beer. The sage really stands out in this seasonal saison.
Stay tuned for as we sample more batches of fall beverages from some of Virginia's best breweries.