While camped out in North Carolina, Ash and I decided to try out some breweries we weren’t terribly familiar with that we found through the Brewer’s Association independent brewery locator as we continue our quest to #seektheseal in all lower 48. We found one in the Outer Banks and the other in Norfolk, Virginia; both places we had already marked as stops on our journey around the United States.
The first stop was on Roanoke Island to find the newishly renamed Lost Colony Brewery & Café, formerly the Full Moon Café. Ironically, the name change apparently was prompted by tourists to Manteo looking for and not being able to find “Lost Colony Brewing” – Full Moon’s distributorship name at the time, but not the name of the brick and mortar the beer was made. It must have seemed to travelers that the brewery had vanished much like the eponymous British colony of the 1600s.
Lost Colony sits overlooking a rather picturesque little area of the town of Manteo and abuts a waterfront park; fantastic for day trippers like us. Also, Jackson is pleased to report that he was invited to sit on either the patio or inside the taproom, and that a kind gentlemen working the kitchen came out and gave him crispy bacon for being such a good boy and following some basic doggy instructions he gave.
While we didn’t grab a bite, they offer a full-service pub fare menu and our neighbors’ nacho plate smelled incredible! What we did enjoy was a flight of beers: the Hatteras Red, the Nags Head IPA, the Kill Devil Scotch Ale, and The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch imperial stout. The Red was a rich garnet colored ale with mellow, easy drinking mild qualities that finished with a very nice roasty malt flavor. The Nags Head IPA was more of a British style IPA with less prominent hops than most modern American variants; moderately floral on the nose and tongue. The wee heavy was bursting with caramel nose, smelled of sugar and rum in the glass, but its flavor was more balanced than its aroma belied with a nuttiness that helped keep this huge ABV beer from becoming cloying; heavy booze heat kept it from being one of my faves though. And finally the Holy Hand Grenade: nose of coffee and ash with a taste of dark chocolate and a hint of charcoal that covers the tongue in an oily, but still full feeling in the mouth; powerful stuff enough to blow thine enemies to tiny bits. All were tasty, but our favorites were definitely the red and the imperial stout!
Having committed ourselves to visit at least one independently owned brewery in all contiguous 48 states, we could not pass up the opportunity to make the hour or so drive back up north to Norfolk, Virginia while camped out in this part of the world to visit Smartmouth Brewing Company. Not only was this stop ensuring we checked off a state we sadly skirted by crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to avoid D.C. traffic in the rig, but it also satisfied with flavorful, diverse, and fun beers!
Located at the end of a little dead end street that sits next to what appears to be a rail depot, Smartmouth feels urban but isolated from the busyness of more downtown areas and gives them the opportunity to have a lot of outdoor space for picnic tables and corn hole boards. We called ahead and were pleased that this is another Jackson approved, dog friendly spot at the outdoor tables so we packed a bagged lunch to enjoy while sampling a few of Norfolk’s finest brews.
I tried to walk up the flavor power level from lowest expected to strongest so I began with the pilsner. The Euro-noble hops really open up as a bouquet for the nose at first whiff with excellent floral notes that scream for the imbiber to stop sniffin’ and start sippin’. The flavor didn’t quite live up the promise of the aroma, subdued and more cereal-like than intensely hoppy, but the pils burp after taste was A+. Just remember, if your friends don’t pils then they’re no friends of mine. I then tried the amber and it had a great balance between honeyed bread, roasted nuts, toffee, with just a hint of earthy hoppiness. Moving onto the gose, this brew was playfully effervescent, like a sparkling rosé with similar strawberry and raspberry character in the flavor. I didn’t really get a whole lot of the salt I expected from a gose, but I don’t know if that was because this was a hybrid? In any event, this was a fun one to drink! I moved up to the collab brewed hazy IPA; it had nice tropical fruit notes of pineapple and mango, but was more restrained in hop profile than a New England style IPA so for my taste was a little too soft on flavor. Finally, I came to the spiced Belgian and without knowing what spices they used I got heavy doses of clove and maybe all spice (Note: I later looked it up and it says orange peel and cinnamon, which I could see as orange pith can be a bit clove like to me and cinnamon tastes like a sweeter, less licorice-y all spice for my palate). Clear, brown color in the glass and approachable at 6.6% ABV for the style which often includes additions of crystal sugars to boost the strength and sweetness of the beer. My favorite was the pilsner by a fairly wide margin, while Ash’s pick was the amber.
All in all, we really enjoyed our two short but fulfilling visits to these breweries! If you want to find some local independent breweries in your area, try out THIS handy little tool! Ash and I both firmly believe that while there is nothing wrong with “macro” or “big beer”, supporting independent brewers looking to live out their dreams and broaden the craft of making beer is important and we couldn’t be happier making these stops a part of our grand adventure!