Blues, Brews and BBQ in Greater Williamsburg? You Bet!

Feast on this Southern trio at two annual festivals, craft breweries and down-home eateries that will keep you coming back for more.

Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival in Yorktown
Bluegrass, Beer and Barbecue in the 'Burg
Brass Cannon Brewing
Enjoy summer nights at Alewerks outdoor patio

Smack dab in the middle of spring, what could energize you more than the fourth annual Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival held on the river in Yorktown? It’s a six-hour jolt of energy sure to get you moving that features three performances, a barrel full of craft breweries and platters of smoky, mouth-watering Q.

The fun begins at noon on May 6, in a perfect setting on the York River Landing with Shadowjack playing covers and blues before The Dikon Vallet Trio gets down to acoustic blues and boogie featuring harmonica player Tom Dikon, vocalist and guitarist Jon Vallet and upright bass player Robb Van Der Riet.

The music headliner is North Carolina’s Lipbone Redding, who has to be heard to be believed. He's a one-man band, but not the kind you may know.

Here's a clue: His name is a contraction of Lip Trombone.

He uses his lips to create sounds imitating trombones, bass and percussion, skills he first honed busking in the subways of New York. Now, he tours the world playing close to 200 shows a year featuring blues originals, jam band (one-man band, of course) songs and the occasional classic cover like "Saint James Infirmary Blues." He moves easily from sounding like Louis Armstrong to sounding like Jack Johnson.

Their blues will only whet your appetite for the brews and the barbecue. And, oh, does this festival have the best of both. For the barbecue look for local favorites, including Bubba-N-Franks from Hampton, famous for their brisket and pulled pork served North Carolina or St. Louis style, or Smoke BBQ from Newport News, known for their pulled pork and succulent ribs.

Wash that BBQ down with some craft beer. Among the participating breweries are area favorites like Alewerks, Tradition, Smartmouth, St. Georges and Oozlefinch Craft Brewery as well as New Belgium from Fort Collins, Colo., SweetWater from Atlanta, Ga., and Devils' Backbone from Lexington, Ky. That means you'll find everything from your favorite IPA to a bold stout or a refreshing saison.

If that isn't enough to keep you busy, there are dozens of vendors selling everything from specialty food items to pampering goods and services like soap and massage. You'll find Virginia Blue Crab, Pop's Kettlecorn, Sinful Treats (goes perfectly with sinful blues), the Carrot Tree Restaurant as well as Glass by Basha, Moonstruck Soap, Coastal Creations, Peace Frogs and many more. It's a full afternoon for a good cause: the York Foundation for Public Education.

The fun doesn’t end there. The next day, May 7, the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary hosts the third annual Bluegrass, Beer and Barbecue in the 'Burg festival. It features five kinds of BBQ and more than 25 sauces prepared on site by Craig Reeves of The Catering Company, along with contemporary bluegrass, and a selection of craft beer from The Virginia Beer Company. This year’s headliners are the Wampler Brothers Band and the Chisman Creek Band. So sip, savor and sway to the music for a delightful afternoon.

Craft Breweries

If you’re a beer lover and can’t make it to these festivals, be sure to visit some of Williamsburg’s breweries any time of the year. Brass Cannon Brewing Co. offers kegs, growlers, and draft selections in their tasting room. In addition to five year-round brews, you can enjoy four rotating seasonal selections and a changing line of langrage beers in its tasting room and outdoor patio. This spring, the company is releasing a specially made oyster stout called Shell Shot using oysters donated by the Hayes Oyster Company, which will benefit the James River Association. 

Over at the Virginia Beer Company, which is celebrating its first anniversary this year, a changing lineup of beers is tapped daily and a sprawling outdoor patio offers a fire pit, tables to play the odd selection of board games and, of course, cornhole. Inspired by Old World brewing techniques, it’s one of the only breweries in the area to barrel-ferment beers, using wild yeast strains from a lab in Richmond and Williamsburg Winery red wine oak barrels to ferment the beer. The taproom and outdoor beer garden feature a weekly schedule of food trucks, events, live music, and more.

Alewerks Brewing Company has been brewing award-winning beers in Williamsburg since 2006. Weekend tours and guided tastings are offered in its taproom and outdoor biergarten, with up to 16 beers on tap, from year-round offerings to special small batches, as well as cask ale served weekly. Coming in July of 2017 is the long-awaited return of Alewerks Lover's Greed American Wild Ale. The unique sour ale, introduced in 2014, won numerous medals including gold in the sour beer category from the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

Coming later this year is the new Billsburg Brewery “B2” that will celebrate the artisan craft of small-batch beer.

Barbeque Joints

‘Cue lovers, take heart. There’s plenty of the lip-smackin’ stuff year round, too, at several authentic eateries. Garden and Gun, the magazine Bible of all things Southern, named Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que to its bucket list of barbecue places you must visit, one of only two in Virginia. And Pierce’s was voted by USA TODAY as one of the 10 Best Southern Barbeque Spots. The Q is bathed in the secret family sauce, which dates back more than eight decades. That's a long time, but then it takes a long time to smoke the pulled pork and brisket that’s served here.

What is it about barbeque and the blues? The casual Red Hot & Blue serves award-winning St. Louis-cut hickory smoked ribs, BBQ pulled pork, beef brisket or chicken, and Mississippi Delta catfish, along with a soulful side of the blues. Now, that’s sweet music.

Satisfy your BBQ cravings with slowly cooked pulled pork or chicken, smoked beef brisket and Texas BBQ sandwiches with all the fixins’ at Rocco’s Smokehouse Grille. Patrons rave about the cornbread.

With a name like Two Drummers Smokehouse, you know you can’t go wrong.  Try the 12-hour beef brisket, spice-rubbed pork ribs, or cherry-smoked pork plate. Or go hog wild with smokehouse combos featuring cherry-smoked pork, house-smoked sausage, honey-brined chicken, smoked pork belly, 12-hour brisket, smokey portobello mushroom and spice-rubbed ribs. You won’t leave hungry.

For the best of both worlds, Craft 31 combines 28 craft beers with a selection of tasty barbeque including house-smoked wings, smoked brisket BBQ, Carolina BBQ, NOLA BBQ shrimp and scallop grits, and barbeque chicken.

If you want to keep on dancing and singing along, check out the extensive music festivals and concerts in Greater Williamsburg highlighted by Sheryl Crow and Bruce Hornsby at Funhouse Fest and LeAnn Rimes at The Williamsburg Winery, both in June. And if you wake up the next morning thirsty for more, take a journey on the Williamsburg Tasting Trail. 

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