Fredericksburg, Virginia is a booming town midway between Washington DC and Richmond. It was founded as a colonial outpost and port in 1728 and has long been known by history buffs as the boyhood home of George Washington and as the site of two major Civil War battles. It is also home to Mary Washington University and boasts a thriving cultural scene for a city of its relatively modest size; including museums, galleries and a variety of excellent restaurants. Its very-well preserved downtown is a charming and lively mix of historic character and contemporary style, and is a perfect choice for a day trip to escape the urban and suburban sprawl of Northern Virginia. Even more perfect now that Fredericksburg is fast becoming known for its vibrant craft beer and brewing community! It boasts at least seven microbreweries, each with a diverse set of excellent brews and each with a different format; from a traditional British pub vibe to a modern gourmet brewpub and everything in between!
Last weekend I finally had a chance to sample two of Fredericksburg’s breweries and the trip left me craving more and more! I’ll make another trip soon but can share my initial impressions of these two gems now. Let’s start right at the top with the incredible Red Dragon Brewery.
Red Dragon Brewery
Founded in 2015 Red Dragon has already earned a cult following for its exceptional beer and uniquely inviting atmosphere. In my opinion Red Dragon consciously tried to mimic a British pub in all the right ways and does a spectacular job of it. From the friendly staff and relaxed vibe to the ample variety of board games on hand you could easily spend an afternoon here. Doing what? Well, drinking a great beer or two to start but also just… being. Sit down, stay awhile, and catch up with your friends or your spouse. Want to play a game? Sure, they’ve got plenty. We played a few heated rounds of Uno! The point is that Red Dragon just oozes a relaxed charm that makes you think immediately of your favorite chill coffee house or a corner pub in England. Grab a pint and stay all day. Relax and recharge. That’s what this place’s atmosphere is all about and it’s incredible. Such a welcome relief and refuge from the hectic and chaotic pace of modern life.
And the beer? Oh yeah, that. Spectacular. It’s a bit biased towards English styles and almost always has a bitter or two and a traditional stout on tap, and sometimes an English style IPA. But they also regularly produce excellent WCIPAs and NEIPAs, trendy craft lagers (including a kellerbier last weekend!) and of course their unbelievably good sours and their goses. They are absolutely epic; fruited, aged and boasting a near perfect balance of sour and salinity wrapped in a smooth, creamy and colorful beer that will leave you breathless. And thirsty for more. I had their newly released Mixed Berry Creamsicle Sour on this trip and its exactly what the name implies- an explosive mix of blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry riding on a creamy backbone with the sour and the salt dancing an inspired duet on your tongue the whole way through. Just stunning. I also sampled their radler and saison ale and actually brought a crowler of the saison home with me. It was also incredible- funky, yeasty, and spicy and perfectly refreshing on a very hot day.
Red Dragon is located just a few blocks north of downtown at 1419 Princess Anne Street. It has a small parking lot and plenty of nearby street parking as well. Snacks are available for purchase inside and food trucks are almost always there too. You won’t go hungry and you certainly will not go thirsty. So go. Just go. You’re welcome.
Spencer Devon Brewery
Location, location, location. Spencer Devon has that and more. It’s in the heart of downtown Fredericksburg a literal stone throw from the Rappahannock River, adjacent to some great restaurants and shops. But why not eat at the brewery? Trust me, at this one you should. Their food is a big step above typical brewpub fare and 80-90% of it is locally sourced. Farm to table and great craft beer, what’s not to love? Let’s take a quick tour.
As mentioned, Spencer Devon is located downtown and along the river. It doesn’t appear to have its own parking lot but with plenty of free municipal parking nearby that’s not an issue at all. It’s located in a renovated historic building and has a very bright, airy and inviting feel to it. Décor is a mix of modern and industrial retro with the centerpiece being a massive bar that fronts their glassed-in fermentation tanks. I love it when breweries make their tanks so prominent and visible and it works here too. And those tanks do a lot of work as I counted at least 12 different brews on tap during my visit.
Such a large selection screams sampler so that’s exactly what I did. I got a flight of six including their brown ale, pilsner, NEIPA, gose, Mexican lager, and GABF bronze-medal winning Belgian blonde. Obviously, they have a diverse selection of both trendy and traditional brews. None disappointed and both the Belgian blonde and the NEIPA were exceptional. The blonde was a spirited rendition indeed with all the funky and spicy characteristics you’d expect. Pretty flawless in my opinion and worthy of its medal. The NEIPA was a tropical juice bomb; dank and fruity with a somewhat unexpected but nice bitter kick on the finish. I also must mention the gose which I struggled with all lunch. It wasn’t bad at all, but it had a smoky and almost meaty flavor that I just couldn’t place. It was interesting but also strong enough to be distracting. Again, not a bad beer but weird enough that it didn’t work for me.
Did I mention lunch? Wow. I had the Cowboy Burger which was a delicious two patties smothered in jack cheese and fried jalapenos with bacon, tomato and stout mustard on a brioche bun. Ridiculously good! Also available is a portabello burger, a catfish po’ boy, a variety of flat breads, southwest egg rolls and other delights that will suit almost any palate.
Great beer and great food. Perfect for lunch or a light dinner. Spencer Devon is a can’t miss!