What's your go to drink at a bar? I always love a good glass of wine, but after a few I know I'm probably going to regret it in the morning. So if I know I'm going to be out for a long time I try to stick to beer. Living in Richmond, VA I am no stranger to the brewery scene. However my favorite beer, Vienna Lager, is from Devils Backbone, an off the beaten path brewery 30 minutes outside of my hometown Charlottesville.
This past weekend I was graciously offered the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Devils Backbone Basecamp facility. A part of their "Thru Hike" campaign to bring the spirit of the Virginian heartland to cities all over the country, I joined a handful of Richmond bloggers and outdoor enthusiasts for great beer in the beautiful setting of the Blue Ridge mountains.
I had been to the brewery before when I was in college, but it had been at least five years. It's at the base of Wintergreen Mountain so it's always been a good pit stop before a day full of skiing or if you're making your rounds drinking, you'll find plenty of breweries and cideries on Route 151. But the Devils Backbone Basecamp location has grown since the last time I had been there. It's now a destination all in itself.
What used to be a small kitchen and brew pub now feels more like adult camp. A full service kitchen that pulls herbs and fresh veggies from gardens onsite, multiple bars both inside and out, corn hole on the patio and trails you can hike for an afternoon make this place every beer enthusiast's dream. They have festivals throughout the year to learn about what food pairs well with their newest concoctions, music festivals on their 100-acre property for local artists to bring cool jams to the amphitheater on site (The Hoopla Music festival is set for September 28-30th!) and soon they will be adding a camp ground area if you want to spend a weekend getaway with family or friends.
But aside from the atmosphere that feels like home away from home, it's the beer that will make you want to stay. Jason Oliver, the Brewmaster at Devils Backbone, is nothing short of a hops genius! An expert in germanic style beers, he has helped develop over 500 different recipes, 16 of which they have on draught at the Basecamp location in Nelson County, VA. Besides my fav, the Vienna Lager, notable brews to try are the Maibock, with notes of honey that feels just right for Spring, and the new tart Cran-Gose that's sure to make your mouth pucker in delight.
They don't tend to give tours at this location because it's a bit small, but it was there in the back brew room that I tried a beer that might rival the Vienna Lager. The Mile 842 - a hybrid between a golden lager and an IPA - is a new beer they just released with a crisp, fruity finish that quenches your thirst without the overpowering aftertaste of hops. It got it's name because Devils Backbone Basecamp is located just off the Appalachian Trail at mile-marker 842. Hiking is near and dear to DB's heart and many AT thru-hikers like to spend an afternoon relaxing on the patio before hopping back on the trail. I can see why, after a long day of hiking I would welcome a 6-pack of Mile 842 to beat the summer heat.
What I love the most about Devils Backbone is what they stand for. Started during the 2008 recession, this brewery truly seeks to unite people - over the campfire, on the trail, or a lazy Sunday afternoon on the porch - DB prides itself on connecting people over good beer. But it's not just their beer they believe in. Devils Backbone believes all beers should be celebrated. Surprisingly beer sales are down across the nation (might have something to do with hops other cousin getting legalized in some states). Right in line with their family values, DB seeks to unify even the beer community with the push to be #BeerPositive, celebrating all beer making, no matter the style, craft or level at which you distribute. Beer is beer and we should be delighted to drink it!
After a full day of tasting we headed back to Richmond. I was notably pumped after my visit because of the sheer energy and passion everyone at Devils Backbone exudes. Thankfully, the fun doesn't end with the Saturday adventure! DB is continuing to share their love of beer throughout this week in the Richmond area May 5-11th. If you want to join in the fun, attend one of the many events below. I hope to see you there!