In scenic Nelson County, Va., you’re always within hollering distance of a location where exquisite beverages are being brewed, distilled, fermented, or served.
Three hours south of Washington, D.C., this rural county boasts just one stoplight, but an almost uncountable number of distinct beverages produced by its 10 wineries, five breweries, two cideries, and four distilleries.
In fact, this region south of Charlottesville is also the place to find those rare brews you’ve been seeking since your last vacation. Devils Backbone Brewing Co. makes its own citation brews, but also caters to aficionados of hard-to-find beers at its intimate on-site tavern, The Shanty.
“Some of these beers are brewed in such limited numbers you’ll ordinarily get only them through a lottery system,” said Heidi Crandall, a co-founder of the brewery.
Located on 100 acres off Route 151, Devils Backbone is the state’s largest and most award-winning craft brewery. It offers an array of outdoor activities, including trail runs, bike races, and festivals. Tickets are selling briskly for a Bavarian beer fest scheduled for Oct. 14. (dbbrewingcompany.com)
The brewery’s Brewpub serves gourmet cuisine and tap brews, while fast-casual fare can be picked up outside at Oak Grill in Meadows Bar, which has both beer and wine.
Later this month, Devils Backbone will open a distillery, the county’s fourth in as many years.
Although the first batches of gin, brandy, and silver rum require a few more months, the distillery will be selling spirits distilled at other companies, including those in Nelson County.
Among them are spirits from the Lovingston-based Virginia Distillery Company, which garnered “Best American Single Malt Whiskey” at the World Whiskies Awards this year.
Down the road, the 3-year-old Silverback Distillery has already snagged 14 international awards, and Woods Mill Distillery, open weekends, has established a niche for handcrafting single-barrel brandies, bourbons, and whiskies from locally sourced fruits and grains. Allot a day for distillery tours and enjoy the sights.
Nelson’s oldest brewery, Blue Mountain, is throwing itself a 10th birthday bash Oct. 27– Nov. 5. “Ten Bands, 10 Beers for 10 Years,” will feature 10 specially released beers.
Speaking of new beers, Wild Wolf Brewing Company has just released a new seasonal beer with a great name, Primal Urge Session IPA.
Who says spring is the frisky season? Wood Ridge Farm Brewery is serving a wide variety of “dirt to the glass” beers from grains grown and malted on the brewery’s own sprawling farm. A farmers market, pizza woodstove, and outdoor tap add to the site’s festivity this fall.
Harvest ciders on tap
Bold Rock Hard Cider’s new tap room opens in time for its Fall Foliage Festival on Oct. 21. The free family-friendly event features pumpkin carving, hayrides, and great live music, as well as the re-release of its popular spiced cider, Orchard Frost.
Blue Toad Hard Cider took a gold medal at the Great Lakes International competition and is gearing up for “Oktoaderfest,” also on Oct. 21. The cidery now has overnight cabins for folks who don’t want to leave.
Wineries: A very good year
The word among vintners at Nelson County wineries this year is “great.”
Afton Mountain Vineyards co-owner Elizabeth Smith said the weather has smiled on the sunrise side of the Blue Ridge this year, and quantity and quality are up at the county’s 10 wineries.
“The fruit chemistry for 2017 is incredible,” said Delfosse Vineyards and Winery co-owner Adrienne Albers. “We’re poised to bottle some phenomenal wine!”
If you go
Nelson Co. Tourism: nelsoncounty.com