Scott’s Addition is officially the booziest neighborhood in Richmond. As of the time of writing this post there exists one distillery, one meadery, one wine dispensary, two cideries and four breweries with a fifth set to open shortly.
So, let’s talk numbers.
There are approximately 1,140 apartments in the neighborhood. That would mean (factoring in the unopened brewery) that there is one alcoholic establishment for every 114 apartments. VERY roughly guessing that there are 3,500 residents in the neighborhood, we get a “boozery” for every 350 people. Here is the biggest takeaway — of the roughly 30 breweries/cideries/meaderies in the Richmond-metro area, 1/3rd are in Scott’s Addition. If you doubt my numbers, Google “Scott’s Addition” and check out any article you find. We are in the midsts of a booze soaking my friends and I live in the biggest wave pool. Therefore, it only makes sense that I invite a bunch of friends on a “Walking Tour of Scott’s Addition” in order to make sure everyone has at least dipped a toe in the water.
Before I get into the tour itself, a quick public service announcement. All of the breweries/cideries in Richmond allow — most actually encourage — you to bring food. Yes, a lot of them have food trucks that visit for the day and I advocate for you to support them. Still, don’t be scared to pack a meal and bring it. A day of straight drinking with no snacks is bound to be a failure and truly a rookie mistake. That being said, the good old Brewery Wagon (I outfitted an old wagon with coolers and a drybox to make it a picnic basket on wheels) was loaded to the gills with a wide variety of snacks plus a speaker playing summer hits of the 80s. If you are going to do it, do it right.
Everyone met at my house for our 1pm departure on a fairly beautiful Saturday afternoon. Our first stop on the tour was Black Heath, the meadery located at 1313 Altamont Ave. This deep building is used mostly for production with a small front area for tastings. Mead, for those who are unsure, is a drink made from fermented honey. Bill Cavender, the owner and head mead maker, uses honey from beekeepers all across Virginia. He also uses Virginia grown fruits, herbs and spices to flavor his meads. Black Heath doesn’t sell by the glass or the ounce, but they will instead provide you with a tasting of the various meads that they currently offer. We were lucky enough to taste 11 different varieties which included a basic mead, a hot pepper mead, a ginger mead and a blackberry mead to name a few. Black Heath isn’t a place to go for an afternoon of drinking, as I said. Their hope is during the tasting you will find a mead you truly like thus buying a bottle. Our group bought several before we headed on to stop two.
Stop two was right up the street at 2930 W. Broad Street. It is the Richmond branch of Three Notch’d known as the RVA Collab House. This is the third location of the Charlottesville brewery. It was created with the premise of being a place that Three Notch’d could collaborate with the Richmond community to create a wide variety of beer styles while still serving some of the flagship beers made in the original brewery. Every Thursday night the Collab House releases a local collaboration selling the pints for $3 until the first keg kicks or 9pm hits. I have attended quite a few and can assure you, it’s a tasty deal. Due to the heat on this day, we by-passed the large outdoor seating area and claimed two of the large indoor tables. The brewery was busy but not overwhelmingly packed. We were all able to walk right up to the bar and get beers without a long wait. I encouraged people who had never visited to get a flight of beers. I actually encouraged splitting flights as we had a long day ahead of us. I myself am a fan of the Jack’s Java Espresso Stout. The blend of locally roasted coffee and chocolate flavors perk up the tastebuds as you savor each sip. I usually get at least one every time I visit. Now, as this was stop one, I only busted out light snacks. Long day ahead of us, folks. After about 45 minutes or so, we wrapped it up to head out for the next stop on the journey.
This was probably the longest walk of the tour as we headed from one side of Scott’s Addition to the other. Stop three is located at 1301 Roseneath Rd, The Veil Brewing Company. Purely eyeballing it, I would guess that The Veil is the biggest of the breweries in the neighborhood. With a massive parking lot, generous indoor seating and extensive brewing area, The Veil takes up some real estate. Named one of the “best new breweries in America” by BeerAdvocate magazine, The Veil is never far from the lips of those in the craft beer know. Drive by on a Tuesday at 3:50pm and look at the line that runs down the sidewalk for the 4pm can release they do and you will understand the popularity of this brewery. The outdoor area has lots of seating and usually holds a local food truck. Inside is decorated with various taxidermy animals and unique light fixtures. Seating was at a premium due to the large crowd so we were concentrated around the end of one table. The Veil specializes in hoppy beers. They work with a lot of barrel-aged and wild yeasts as well. They also offer a nitro coffee on tap which is delicious. As far as the beers, I like the Master Master Shredder Shredder, which is a double American IPA. The hops are the star here producing the fruity flavors that make this not only incredibly enjoyable, but an easy drinker over and over again. Unfortunately, our time here was short due to the crowds, but the odyssey must carry on.
For our fourth touch-down I decided to switch up the hit to the palate with our first cidery. Blue Bee Cider originally started in Manchester but decided to expand their production by moving to the old Richmond city stables located at 1320 Summit Ave. Retaining the beautiful stone buildings and courtyard, this may be one of the loveliest outdoor drinking areas in the entire city. Its charm is undeniable. If anyone is looking for a quaint date night idea, pack yourself a picnic and head to Blue Bee Cider. Delicious cider enjoyed with a good meal outdoors in the whimsical setting is a win. Blue Bee is the first urban cidery in Virginia. If you want to know all about them, I suggest you read this article written by a savvy reporter. Blue Bee cider is not for swigging as it generally rocks a high ABV so I encouraged sharing in all cases. Marathon drinking day, not a sprint. I went for my favorite of the ciders here which is also one of the original ciders, the Aragon 1904. Named after the original building it was made in, the Aragon Coffee building in Manchester, this cider is amazing. Refreshing and slightly dry (which means not as sweet) this cider pairs well with a variety of foods because it accents instead of overwhelms. It drinks easy on a hot day, which was convenient as it was quite toasty out. Our sojourn at Blue Bee complete, we continued on.
Stop five of this jaunt took us to 3200 W. Leigh St. which is the home of Ardent Craft Ales. Ardent is one of my favorite breweries so I visit there often. What started as homebrewing in a Church Hill garage expanded into a brewery set in a 1940s Scott’s Addition warehouse. The outdoor beer garden is spacious with ample seating. Inside is open and welcoming. I find the partially finished ceiling to be dashing, but what do I know. We were able to carve out some space at one of the picnic tables in the beer garden. I chose this stop to lay out our spread. Taking a moment to brag, the star of this spread was my smoked chicken salad and my house-made pickles. I’m more than just a pretty face and a stellar writer, y’all. Moving along… Picking my favorite beer here is hard. All of the IPAs are great. The gose Ardent recently made was a flavor explosion. Still, I think I will narrow it down to a beer currently not on tap, the Earl Grey Brown Ale. This beer is so much deeper than its spirited brown color. Its opulent aromas of tea and orange avail the flavor of black tea that encapsulates your tastebuds. If I were to pick the perfect cuddle-up in front of a roaring fire on a cold day beer, this is it. After a brief rain delay we packed it all in and got the caravan moving to stop 6.
Our campaign took us to 1715 Summit Ave and the most crowded stop yet, Isley Brewing Company. The original Scott’s Addition brewery is set in a yellow-trimmed brick front along Summit. Once inside you realize the small front deceives you as the brewery is quite spacious. The bar is, smartly, set towards the back of the space leaving copious amounts of seating, which was all full by the time we arrived. With no place to set anything we decided to forego flights in favor of easy held beers. The beers here are numerous and oft changing, meaning you get to try a variety of styles while at Isley. While most people would tell you that the Choosy Mother, a peanut butter porter, is their go-to beer, I go in a slightly different direction. I am a fan of the first beer Isley brewed which is the only flagship beer they have, The Bribe. Beneath the dark, bubbly surface lies the flavors of a well executed oatmeal porter. Chocolate swims alongside a subtle swirl of malt. It isn’t pretentious, nor is it showy. I find comfort in its simplicity. Once beers were done, we stepped out into the light misty curtain of rain to reach the final piece of our quest.
The old train car loading building at 2910 W. Leigh St is now home to Buskey Cider. Apple trees line the sidewalk in front of this brick building, giving the feel of a small orchard in the city. We entered into the front room/seating area. This is room is smaller than its companion which sits just past the glass windows that serve as Buskey’s menu board. Buskey Cider is the place to go to find both semi-sweet and dryer ciders. I fondly describe the ciders here as “pint ciders.” By that I mean they don’t overwhelm you with sugar or destroy you with high ABVs so you can have several pints in a sitting. By this point the original group had thinned out and those that remained were ready to chill over a nice refreshing pint. Seeing as my absolute favorite, the coffee cider, wasn’t on tap, I went with my second favorite which is the citra hop. Not overly sweet, this cider has the added tang of hops in it. The citra hop has a wonderful tropical fruit aroma that blends impeccably with the soothing odor of apple. The flavor mirrors the smell in the most elegant way. It is truly a refreshing cider.
Like all good things, this pilgrimage to taste all the beer, cider and mead in Scott’s Addition must come to an end. It took us roughly 8 hours to flit around and sample all the goods. We laughed. We ate. We drank. We conquered. It’s so easy to say “there isn’t anything to do” and just sit home on a weekend. Instead, pack yourself a bag of snacks, slip on a good pair of walking shoes and go explore Scott’s Addition. Until next time my friends, may your drinks be locally made and your wagons full of snacks.