Historic Hops: A Beer-lover's tour of Fredericksburg's history
Back in Colonial times, alcohol and fermented beverages played a big role in people’s daily lives. After all, this was before modern water treatment facilities made plain old H2O safe to drink in cities, and alcohol served as pain reliever, medicinal treatment, sleep aid and general lubricator of daily life.
These days, we know a bit more about responsible consumption, and the production of beer, wine and spirits has also evolved to produce some much tastier tonics than what our forefathers relied upon.
Here’s a fantastic way to enjoy the craftsmanship of Fredericksburg-area brewers while also learning something about the region’s storied past: Historic Hops is a new way to tour the Fredericksburg region. It’s a celebration of both history and modern craft brewing. Five area breweries have teamed up to produce craft brews that help tell a specific part of Fredericksburg’s story.
Take a look at the interactive map here, and plan to visit each brewery to taste its special beer. Each beer matches up with a specific place in the Fredericksburg region that you can visit to learn more about the historic story it tells.
Here are a few fun facts to get you excited about this beer-lover’s tour of Fredericksburg history:
Photo credit: Maltese Brewing
George Washington was known to end dinner parties by sharing a glass of Madeira with his guests, and he ran a distillery in his final years at Mount Vernon. But he was also a known beer-lover, especially fond of dark porters. Championing the Founding Father’s spirit during Historic Hops is Spotsylvania’s Maltese Brewing. Founded by two firefighters, this self-described nanobrewery will be serving Founding Father Historical Porter this month. This is a malty, sweet beer with smoky hints that evoke the wood fires used in Colonial brewing, with mild bitterness and a bold molasses flavor. Fredericksburg has many connections with Washington and other Founding Fathers. Delve into this history with visits to the Washington Heritage Museums, Kenmore, Ferry Farm and the James Monroe Museum.
Photo credit: Adventure Brewing
The Rappahannock River certainly played a huge role in Fredericksburg’s development, from its early settlement by Native Americans, to John Smith’s explorations in the 1600s to its role in making Fredericksburg a major Colonial port. But the river also likely played a role in beer consumption—as a major water source, the muddy hue of its waters likely caused Fredericksburg and many other colonists living on rivers to opt for ale instead. Today, the Rappahannock is a place to enjoy wildlife and water adventures, and that spirit is celebrated with Adventure Brewing’s Expedition IPA. This is the Stafford brewery’s most popular variety, with citrus and white wine hop flavors, but without the overly hoppy punch you find in many IPAs.
Falmouth was as busy a port as Fredericksburg during the late eighteenth century, but lost prominence as the river became less navigable at its position just downstream of the fall line, and as land-based transportation gained favor. But touring Falmouth today is like like a treasure hunt for clues from different eras of American history. Within this charming, peaceful historic district, you can visit Falmouth Beach, where Fredericksburg slave John Washington made his journey to freedom in 1862, during the Union Army’s encampment at Chatham Manor during the Civil War. You can visit Belmont, the country retreat of 20th-century American Painter Gari Melchers. Adventure Brewing South, located in Spotsylvania County, celebrates Falmouth’s rich history with its Falmouth American Pale Ale. When you visit Adventure South, you also might want to make time to tour the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, which can add another layer to your spirited tour of the region.
Photo credit: 1781 Brewing
The Rising Sun Tavern was a popular stop for travelers through Fredericksburg in the eighteenth century, and if you stop in today, the wenches at the tavern can tell you where within this well-preserved building you would have imbibed, based on your social standing, and what kinds of traditions went along with drinking in the Colonial Era. Spotsylvania’s 1781 Brewing salutes that history with their Rising Sun ESB, a caramel-hued beer fruit, nut and citrus flavors. (Don’t miss a visit to the historic farm that houses 1781. Learn more about its historic ties here.)
Photo credit: Spencer Devon Brewing
Downtown Fredericksburg is not a new destination for beer-lovers. You might say that the taverns of Colonial times have their modern match in the vast selection of restaurants serving artisan food alongside some of Virginia’s best craft beers. Downtown’s first modern brewery, Spencer Devon Brewing, celebrates the Historic District with its Olde Towne Old Ale. (Don’t miss the locally sourced food at Spencer Devon, it’s excellent.) As the brewer says, “Our Old Ale is quite complex, boasting flavors of raisin, plums and figs, layered over warming brown sugar, toasted malts and just enough alcohol to keep things interesting. This is a beer for sipping and for aging, and like Olde Towne Fredericksburg, it gets better with time.”
If you love craft beer, spend some time looking at the Historic Hops map and plan your very own beer and history tour of the Fredericksburg region.