Williamsburg, Va. is a place I hold near and dear to my heart. I grew up 30 minutes from the birthplace of America and have dined on many an overpriced Busch Gardens pizza within its city limits. So naturally, I’m a staunch supporter of Billysburg’s offering to the world of craft beer – the Alewerks Brewing Company.
Open since 2006, Alewerks has made a name for themselves by making beers that reflect their love for their historic surroundings and their passion for the craft of brewing. I discovered Alewerks’ brews under their former name, Williamsburg Alewerks, while beer shopping in my hometown of Newport News last summer. Sadly, Alewerks beers were only a hometown luxury, unavailable here in Columbia – until now.
Since early spring, Alewerks’ six year-round brews have graced the shelves of Total Wine and More in Harbison. As of three-ish weeks ago, the same selection became available in bottles at the Flying Saucer in the Vista. The following beers comprise the Alewerks lineup – do your taste buds a favor and get familiar with it:
Tavern Ale – A classic brown ale, Billysburg style. Think Newcastle, but with a slightly sweeter and heavier feel to it. The malts here aren’t overly roasted like in many browns, making it a great session beer with full flavor. // 5.6% ABV
Washington’s Porter – This is the beer that got me hooked on Alewerks. It’s silky-smooth mouthfeel and substantial head make it best enjoyed out of a glass. The chocolate and coffee flavors will keep dark beer fans coming back for more. // 6.5% ABV
Chesapeake Pale Ale – My buddy Colin’s beer of choice. The five hop varieties in this brew give it both a floral aroma and a crisp finish that has staying power. A great entry point to the Alewerks family for someone who doesn’t profess to be a beerhead. // 5.3% ABV
Redmarker Ale – Alwerks’ take on the classic Irish red is as beautiful as it is delicious. This beer is specially filtered to bring out the red-orange shine of the liquid nectar when poured into a glass. Tastes of both malt and light fruit. // 5.0% ABV
Drake Tail IPA – Washington Porter aside, this one is the bee’s knees for me. Boasting a body of six hop varieties, the Drake Tail has some serious aromatics and some underlying citrus flavor in the aftertaste. For the true IPA fan only. // 7.5% ABV
Wheat Ale - Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to try this one. I know what I’ll be ordering next time I’m at the Saucer. Until then, click the name to read up on it on Alewerks’ website. // 6.0% ABV
While home on vacation this past week, Colin and I went out and toured the brewery. We were in awe by how much our tour guide, Joshua Octaviani, knew about the history of beer in general (seriously, he should teach a graduate level course) and by the high volume of superb craft beers that came out of a relatively small operation (they only had six fermentors and two bright tanks).
The entire Alwerks staff was extremely laid back and accommodating during our time there, answering any questions we had and made us feel like old friends, not random walk-ins for a tour. Colin, Joshua and I chatted about beer, music and being broke for a good while during the beer tasting portion and Joshua was kind enough to give me an interview on the future of Alewerks Brewing.
What does Alewerks have to offer that’s unique to the craft brew scene?
JO: I think about breweries as having different values. One of our main values is drinkability. We wanted to produce traditional styles of beer that you could drink for our year-rounds. Our Brewmaster’s Choice series is really killer. [Head brewer] Geoff [Logan] does an excellent job at producing really excellent beers, consistently winning Grand Champion at the U.S. Beer Tasting Championship for styles of beer that he’s been working on at home for years. I don’t know…it’s good beer [laughs].
What’s next on the horizon for Alewerks? Are there any new styles?
JO: Yeah, we’ve got a few new beer styles. We’ve released three new styles this year. Bitter Valentine was released February 14. After that we did Caledonia, which is a Scottish style IPA. To my knowledge, we’re the only brewery in the United States making that style of beer currently. And I think sometime next month we’re going to start doing a tripel…One of the ideas we’re currently flirting with is expanding the tasting room and putting in a seating area and a food component…basically doing a little pub.
One of the traditional questions on our sites…what is your spirit animal?
JO: Personally, it’s a Wolverine. They’re pretty dope…they kill bears sometimes.
Awesome. Conversely, what’s your spirit beer?
JO: Man, that’s hard. Something really sour. It has to be really, really acidic.
As a proud Virginian, I’m overjoyed by the success of Alewerks and their emergence here in South Carolina. Spread the word, Columbia. Like them on Facebook, follow brewmaster Geoff Logan on Twitter, or even just tell a friend the old fashioned way via word of mouth. This beer buzz brewery shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Six-pack price at Total Wine: $10.99
Bottle price at Flying Saucer: $4-6