It’s easy to love quaint Scottsville, a small town less than 20 miles south of Charlottesville in Albemarle County. Everything is walkable, the pace is slow, it sits astride the James River, and combines both history with outdoor water adventure to reach a sophisticated yet easy-going contemporary culture.
So in our ongoing quest to try all the microbreweries and tasting rooms in Virginia, my hubby and I were anxious to check out James River Brewery, which we’ve had on our list since we first heard it was coming a few years ago.
That said, we’ve been to a lot of Virginia breweries which means, you know, you start comparing them to the others even while taking each on its own merits.
One vote up, one down
From a taste perspective, hubby the home brewer declared the beer a rousing success. There were six brews on tap that day, some with a very low ABV (very low alcohol), which is our preference. So we each got a flight.
Annoyingly, at least when I went, they had no good method for offering a flight (no accompanying chart, list, chalkboard coaster, tray, paddle, or whatever) so we had to keep looking at the blackboard, which itself offered no visual guide (color coding the beer tones and then writing the name, for example) and trying to recall which beer went with which beer name. At the same time, they had a bunch of expired beer names on the board where the beer name was gone but all the other info was up there, crowding up the board and totally confusing us.
From the perspective of really tasting the beer as wannabe beer connoisseurs the confusion took a lot of the fun out of the tasting and we left with little understanding of their different brews.
But just from a did they suck or were they awesome perspective, hubby thought they were great.
But me, I hated all of them but one.
Maybe it just wasn’t a beer drinking day for me, having had plenty the night before on July 4th (2014). But I just found them all to be overstated, whatever flavor it was, except one. I only liked the Hopstacles Ahead IPA, which was very well balanced and flavorful.
Nice concept, improve the execution
One cool thing they’ve nailed is the naming of their beers for the surrounding area, history, and river life. The batteau poler on their logo is equally strong, giving a strong nod to the place that’s the brewery’s home. It’s a solid branding direction for anyone who wants local bonafides and they’ve executed this well. It lends a lot of charm and provides perfect conversation fodder.
The building is just fantastic — a three-story, 19th century brick warehouse that’s cleanly painted green at the ground level, with unpainted brick above. The low ceilings on the tasting level cements that 19th century feel.
If only the decor did the same.
The downstairs tasting room came off as kind of unclean. They didn’t have enough glass supplies for the Sunday afternoon crowd, and the room adjacent to the bar area, with its dirty couch flopped askance felt like a frat room. Okay when you’re 21 and male, but not so much for a date or a more mature crowd.
We didn’t go back to the back yard/beer garden because it was crowded and there wasn’t enough seating, but it’s really nice that they have outdoor space.
The brew room is totally walkable to any in-town place which makes it nice for nearby campers, and those staying at a bed and breakfast to hobble home if you’ve had one too many!
Give it a go?
The focus is beer, sure, but aesthetics matter. Since they apparently have great beer according to my mate, they should now step up the interior space to reflect a mood more suitable to the destination brewery concept (if we’re going to come all that way to try it, make the tasting room nice). Of course, it has been a year since I went so some improvements might have already happened.
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia
James River Brewery
561 Valley Street Scottsville, VA 24590
(434) 286-7837 | [email protected]
Hours: Wed-Fri: 3pm – 9pm, Sat: noon – 9pm, Sun: noon – 8pm.