Richmond, VA Roundup: Go for the craft beer, stay for the rest

Like us, you’ve probably seen Richmond, VA on one of the many “booming craft beer cities” lists popping up in your newsfeed over the past year. Well, being the “will travel for great beer” types that we are, we just had to see for ourselves, so we set our sites (and GPS) on Richmond for a holiday weekend road trip with our beer-loving brother and sister-in-law, Chad and Lindsey. 

To be honest though, none of us really knew what we were getting into. I mean, how much do you really hear about Richmond, VA? We wondered, will there be anything to do in Richmond? Will it have a cool vibe? And most importantly, will they have good food? Well, we’re elated to say the answer is YES, YES, and HECK YES.

So let’s get into the rundown, starting with the breweries, since that is the initial reason for our trip. . . 

Aslin Beer Company

Caveat, Aslin is not in Richmond, but rather about 2 hours North outside Washington, DC, which if you’re coming from the tri-state like us, is perfectly on your way. When we went, they were open for can sales only, so while it’s a no frills experience of standing in line, putting in your beer order (and maybe some cool swag), paying and leaving, it’s worth it because you’ll get you some highly drinkable, highly braggable, highly shareable, highly tradeable, and highly ABVable (ok, we made that up) beers. A. LOT. OF. BEER. as you can see from this picture of Kristien doing some heavy lifting.  

Known for their stouts and New England IPAs, we went heavy on the IPA side of things. A solid brew was You Call That a Knife?, a DIPA dry-hopped with some Citra, Vic Secret and Wamiea. But, we liked Johann Buys a Broat even more for it’s smooth creamy taste, hints of pineapple, and a smooth bite for a 9.4% DIPA. Our favorite from the trip, though, was the Sensei, a double dry-hopped Triple IPA full of citrusy juiciness, which oddly (and so nicely) hid that high ABV well.

Stone Brewing Co. 

Now, if you’re all confused thinking, wait, “I thought Stone was in Cali?”, you’re right, but back in 2016 they opened up this pretty SWEET second brewery, tasting room and company store in Richmond. Now, unlike Aslin, this space is everything you want in a brewery–that iconic industrial look, a big open tasing room, an inviting bar with all the beer taps you can dream of, an outdoor space, games . . . it’s pretty great! And, since their beer is super widely available, you know you can always find a solid pint of whatever you want from good ‘ole reliable Stone. Will it blow your tastebuds and your mind? Nah, but who’s gonna complain about enjoying reliable, quality craft beer in a super cool spot with friends? Not us, nope! 

Because we were already familiar with a good chunk of the menu at Stone, we went with their newer stuff and the exclusive brewery brews. Our favorite from the day was their new (now in cans) take on a NEIPA: ///FEAR.MOVIE.LIONS DIPA. Behind that, we thought the I’m Peach DIPA and the Hop Revolver IPA: Hop #7 w/ Ekuanot were solid choices, too. And, while we thought that the Vengeful Spirit IPA and Idolatrous IPA weren’t bad, we wouldn’t get those ones again.

The Veil Brewing Company 

So if Aslin kills it with their beers, and Stone kills it with their vibe, Veil is the spot where both come together in harmonious perfection. You get that quintessential industrial taproom space with lots of community seating, a little store with some cool gear to take home, and tap upon tap of DELISH brews for flights full pours, or growlers, and cans to take on home because you just can’t get enough. 

While we just whet our Triple IPA whistle at Aslin, we were in TIPA heaven at here, going f’n bonkers. Our favorite triples were (in order) Buried Alive, We We Ded Ded and the hazy juicy fuzzy hoppy danky Personvl Personvl Spvce Spvce. But, by far the biggest mindfu©k was IdontwanttoBU which is a 0 IBU IPA with Citra and Mosaic. You just don’t know what’s going on because you get the hops flavor and the juicy pop, but there’s no bitter finish at all. MINDS. BLOWN.

The Answer

We saved The Answer for last before getting into our food experiences since it has both, as the only brewpub we visited. The space itself is HUGE with lots of room to sit, eat, drink, and just enjoy life. There are TVs to watch and retro video games to play, making it super hangout (and even family) friendly. In terms of their beer, we have to say, it was just OK all around. Nothing terrible by any means, but not much that we’re excited about. And unfortunately, same with the food too, and actually the service. Just an overall fine experience, nothing to complain about, but nothing to make us come back . . . well, except for their SUPER COOL limited edition retro video game inspired glassware they release, which we have to admit, we’d totally come back for. 

By far the best drinks were their sours which they have a boatload of on the menu. The Unicorn Joose, with dragonfruit, passionfruit, and guava was all sorts of tropical tangy, while the 2 Scoops: Passionfruit, Raspberry was our favorite for its thick, creamy, tangy, berry bite.

Now, before we get to the food, we only had a weekend to do it up, so we didn’t get to try even 1/20th the hoppy goodness Richmond has to offer.  So, if you’re beer-y senses are tingling and you want more, here’s a nice list of about 30 more reasons to visit. 

Ok, now onto the food . . . oh, the food! 

The Fancy Biscuit

For the love of all things holy, YES. F&CK YES. When you’re even remotely approaching the South, biscuits for breakfast are an absolute must for us, and man did this place not disappoint. Sure, you’ll have to get to The Fancy Biscuit early and wait in line to order, and sure, after you order you kind of have to hover like a vulture for a table, but after eating there, we would’ve happily gone out back and wrestled people twice our size just for a taste of one of their many amazing biscuit concoctions and side dishes.

Pictured up above were our two faves: Got Your Goat and the B&G. The Got Your Goat had their signature fluffy, yet also substantial buttermilk biscuits with plenty of their crispy fried chicken and . . . hell yeah . . . goat cheese. A must order, people. And, how can you not get the classics like the B&G? The use of maple sausage added a nice hint of sweetness to the savory fatty goodness of the gravy and biscuit.

Beauvine Burger Concept 

We were too busy stuffing our faces (and a bit drunk by then) to get some good shots, so here’s their website. 😉

If you find yourself saying, “sure, who doesn’t love burgers, but how different and amazing can another burger joint be?” Well, to that we say HUSH YO MOUTH and get your arse out to Beauvine. The creative burger concoctions they put together here are so amazing that other burgers shouldn’t get to call themselves burgers. In fact, Kristien and Lindsey (who are both goat cheese fiends in case you didn’t notice from their biscuit order) said their burger, the Belle Ringer, was the best they’ve ever had. And the fries? Yep. Crispy, hot and delish as well. But, get this: the last thing you’d expect a burger joint to blow your minds with is cocktails, but they were AMAZING! And as if that’s not enough to sell you, you KNOW we had to end with milkshakes, which, guess what? PERFECTION as well–that perfect level of thick and creamy that makes them slightly tough to sip through a straw but not so hard you pop a vein in your forehead! Now what kind of burger joint do you know that can rock burgers AND fries AND shakes AND drinks? Almost always, one of those four suck. But NOPE, not here.

The star of the night was the Belle Ringer, topped with herbed goat cheese, pickled red onions, tomato jam, and herb aioli. All the flavors came together so well and the burger was cooked just right with a little bit of pink in the middle (they’re served that way by default… you can ask for no pink, but who da faq would ever do that?). We also loved the Irish au Revoir, which is one of their decadent adult milkshakes, with some maple salted caramel ice cream blended with enough Jameson to make you giddy.

Sugar Shack Donuts & Coffee

Did you REALLY think that donuts would last 20 seconds after we opened the box? Psshhh!

When a donut shop is hailed “Best in America” by more than one reputable source, who the heck are we to pass that up? Even if we did have to force ourselves to find room for some Sugar Shack Donuts in our bellies. With just the right level of sweetness, that perfect soft doughiness you crave and a variety of fun flavors like Bacon Maple and Glazed Granny Smith Apple Fritter, they were worth the extra calories. And although for us, the best donuts we’ve had on our travels will forever remain The Holy Donut in Portland, ME, these were pretty high up there on the list.

It’s tough to pick a favorite, like how do you pick a favorite child, but IDK, we’ll go with the Tastes Like a Samoa for starters. How can you really beat coconut, dark chocolate, and caramel? Answer: maple and bacon. Yeah. It’s just an obvious choice at a donut shop, right? Obvious, but always so right.

Lemaire

Our brother and sister-in-law headed back home Sunday, but we decided to stay ’til Monday, giving us the chance to get all gussied up and go out for a nice, intimate, fancier dinner as a palette cleanser to all the fried Southern goodness and craft beer. After seeing great reviews and how gorgeous The Jefferson hotel was, we knew Lemaire was the place. From a stunning ambiance, impeccable service, and fantastic upscale dishes served in the perfect portions, this was the perfect place to end our trip as a couple. Awww. 

We really dug the citrus roasted beet salad with grapefruit, sweet and crunch candied pecans, tangy goat cheese, and tarragon creme fraiche. This is Kristien’s holy grail salad. The yellowfin tuna tartare also stood out to us because of its salty and acidic contrast with an olive tapenade and tomato vinaigrette on top. For apps, definitely try the cast iron seared jumbo sea scallops. The dish really pops alive with a saltiness coming from the country ham and pairs nicely with the fregola sarda (similiar to Israeli coucous).

Ok, with that, we’re gonna go out on a limb and say up til now, Richmond was probably just a blip on your radar, but as you can see from our enthusiasm, it should a lot more than a blip! Richmond has so much more to offer than you’d expect, including a bunch of things we didn’t even get the chance to explore. At the very least, you’ll enjoy walking the streets to see all the cool row homes pictured above, you’ll love the food, and you’ll go gaga for the beer. So, if you love that stuff like we do (and we assume you do since you’re reading this), then go ahead and move Richmond on up to the top of that “must visit” list you got going on in that daydreaming head of yours. 

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