Cheers! Williamsburg’s Most Innovative Drinks

From alfalfa honey mead to peach wood-smoked single malt whiskey to barrel-fermented beer, Williamsburg area breweries and spirit makers are letting their creative juices flow.

AleWerks Brewing Company Lovers tasting
Brass Cannon Brewing menu board
Silver Hand Meadery
Copper Fox Distillery
The Virginia Beer Company
8 Shires Distillery

Saunter along the Williamsburg Tasting Trail and you never know what boundless creativity from local distillers and brewers will be on the menu — and soon on your palate — right around the next corner.

Looking for something with summer fruit? It's just down the road. Craving the return of a long-gone and long-favorite ale? It's back. Want to try a barrel-aged beer that's all the rage? Step up to the bar.

We've sent our thirstiest advance scout ahead on the trail to report back on the best of the latest drink offerings. He starts on the trail’s north end and heads south, sampling something for every taste. 

Alewerks Brewing Company

It's back. Alewerks' Lover's Greed American Wild Ale, first released in 2014, has returned. This is a sour ale aged for three years in red wine barrels that won numerous awards, including the coveted gold in the sour beer category from the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. 

The folks at Alewerks will release no beer before its time and this one rewards your patience. Wild years and bacteria work to cultivate a bold, tart backbone, a fruity aroma, and a dry finish. Conditioning the beer in red wine barrels adds a complexity to the exotic flavors created by the wild years.

But, wait, you're greedy for more than Lover's Greed, right? Alewerks anticipated the need and will be releasing more from their wine barrel aging program, notably a Saison Brett created with a special yeast then conditioned in white wine barrels, producing an unusual and complex flavor.

Brass Cannon Brewing Co.

Get your shot here: Muzzle Flash is a hoppy amber ale with a big, complex hop aroma and flavor from unique American hops.  It is less bitter than your typical Pale Ale or IPA thanks to the balancing caramel and malty notes of its Amber Ale base.  With a medium-light body and big flavor, this is one beer you can't miss.

In the fall, one of Brass Cannon's most popular seasonal beers is Kanonefest! This unique beer uses lager yeast and is fermented closer to ale temperatures, giving it elements of both flavors. This fantastic beer, out just in time for Oktoberfest, shares many of the German-style malts and hops of the traditional lagers from the Vienna region of Austria. 

Silver Hand Meadery

Honey takes on a new role at Greater Williamsburg's only meadery, where the offerings have titles inspired by popular music. Coffee Cantata is named after a miniature comic opera written by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s actual name is Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211 but the folks at Silver Hand Meadery thought Coffee Canata was easier to pronounce. If you check out the label you will see Bach’s bust created by the steam of the coffee mug as well as Bach’s seal on the mug itself.. 

Copper Fox Distillery

When Copper Fox founder Rick Wasmund got into tasting whiskies he wondered what they would be like if they were flavored with fruitwood smoke instead of peat. "I began to search for a flavor that I soon discovered did not exist," he says.     

It does now. He created it. Copper Fox uses cherry and apple woods to impart unique flavors to its single malt and rye, spirits that have earned critical raves. On tap is a peach wood-smoked single malt, to be released "soon."     

Meanwhile, what’s new at Copper Fox is shrubs — fruit syrups preserved with vinegar and mixed with carbonated water for a perfect summer refresher. Shrubs have a long history dating to the 16th century and are also called drinking vinegars. They can be mixed with alcohol to make flavorful cocktails.

Go on, have one. It’s good for you. The early English version of the shrub has its origins in the medicinal cordials of the 15th century. 

The Virginia Beer Company

Creativity flourishes at The Virginia Beer Company and not just in the choices of board games, cornhole or the food truck often parked outside. It’s one of the few places that is barrel-fermenting beers, a tricky technique shaded in a mystery ending. The folks here take inspiration from Old World brewing techniques by filling used wine barrels with freshly cooled wort direct from the brew house, completely bypassing the usual stainless cellar tanks. Then they add wild yeast obtained from a lab in Richmond. Talk about merging history and your best Friday night mad scientist routine.

"There is a definite lack of control involved in this project and that makes it that much more exciting," they say. The large — 25.4 ounce — bottles are at the brewery now. They will be releasing a rotating series of beers fermented in barrels in the future.

No wonder Beer Advocate proclaimed The Virginia Beer Company one of the best new breweries in the country. 

8 Shires Distillery

They do it differently at 8 Shires Distillery, the old-fashioned way. Their Jamestown Gin is not made with a vodka base, like many modern gins, but begins life as a whiskey flavored with juniper. Their Yorktown Rum is made from organic, non-GMO sweet molasses. And, you guessed it; it’s handmade just as it would have been in 1720. ​What goes better in a highball glass than gin or rum made to last through the centuries?

If you've worked up an appetite to match that thirst, check out the best romantic meals and cheap eats. Start planning your visit to Greater Williamsburg today.