24 Hours in Charlottesville, VA


These Wahoos know how to make beer!

Just a short 2.5 hour drive southwest of Washington, DC sits one of America’s best college towns: Charlottesville, VA. Home to the University of Virginia, Charlottesville boasts a great food, arts, and (of course) beer scene! I was in town for a concert and had the afternoon to kill before the show, so decided to see what I could see, and drink what I could drink!

Starr Hill Brewery

The Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA.
The Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, VA.

Starr Hill is, in many ways, the OG VA brewery. Around since 1999, It is the second oldest craft brewery in the state. Their brewery and tasting room is located in Crozet, which is about a 15 minute drive west of downtown Charlottesville. They host lots of fun events so be sure to check their calendar before heading over to see what is going on that day. There was also a food truck there, (which was really nice and a little surprising for a Thursday afternoon) so that base is covered.

On draft @ Starr Hill
On draft @ Starr Hill

Brews to Choose:

  • If you are new to Starr Hill, you need to try their year round  IPA options: Northern Lights, The Hook, and Double Platinum. Starr Hill is readily available to us back home in DC, so I focused more on the seasonal items that I hadn’t tried yet.
Doing flights right - even with space on the sheet to make tasting notes!
Doing flights right – even with space on the sheet to make tasting notes!
  • The Nitro  pour Hop Buzz was so smooth – like drinking a hoppy baby bottom as I wrote in my tasting notes.
  • It’s that time of the year! Be sure to try the Festie – Starr Hill’s Oktoberfest.

Next, I headed downtown, where there are many options to try new libations, and they are all within walking distance of each other! (cheers to responsible drinking).

Hardywood Pilot Brewery and Taphouse

The taps at Hardywood Charlottesville

Open in February of 2017, this Hardywood location is an outpost of the Richmond based brewery (an there’ll be a future Brew Coup article about them!) and has a great location right on Main Street. In addition to lots of great tried and true Hardywood options,  this location is also focusing on experimental and collaborative brews. They also boast $1 soft pretzels on Thursday nights with any purchase, a very friendly bar staff, and perhaps “too friendly” fellow patrons? I spent a significant amount of my time at Hardywood playing a game called Chickapig with some delightful strangers. Never heard of Chickapig? Me neither. But it is a board game that involves pigs, hay bails, daisies, and a cow with a digestion problem.

Chicka what? Chickapig!
Chicka what? Chickapig!

Learn more at: https://chickapig.com/

Brews to Choose:

Flights are pick four from what is available on draft.
Flights are pick four from what is available on draft.
  • As with Starr Hill, we get a lot of Hardywood back home. But if you are a newbie definitely try the VIPA and the Great Return West Coast IPA
  • Of what I tried at the Pilot Taphouse, my favorite was the Cassowary, a fantastic Imperial Milk Stout. At an ABV of 11.0% it does not mess around either!
  • Not available but always worth mentioning when talking about Hardywood: their Gingerbread Stout  (known as the GBS) is some of the best beer you will ever have. It isn’t easy to find, but if you have the option to try (especially the bourbon aged version) do so! #GBSforLife

Three Notch’d Brewing

From Hardywood, head north on 10th street for about six blocks and turn right onto Grady/Preston avenue. It is there that you’ll find the next stop on your downtown CVille brew crawl: Three Notch’d Brewing.

Draft list at 3 Notch'd

Named after the ax notched trees marking a colonial path through Virginia, Three Notch’d opened in 2013, with the mission of leaving their marking on the brewing industry. They offer flights of 4 for $6 or flights of 6 for $8. Food is available from Cho’s Nachos next door. The bar staff was awesome – asking lots of questions about what I thought of the beers and even offering some free samples so we could do a blind taste test of the Pomegranate vs Watermelon Goses. (the Pom won).

Brews to Choose:

  • From the flagship beers: the Minute Man IPA is always a winner. Especially if you like your IPAs New England style and citrusy.
  • From the seasonals: go with the Grapefruit Ghost.

Random Row

Random Row Brewing

Head down Preston Ave, past the beer garden Kardinal Hall (the self proclaimed “home of Chickapig”) and settle in on the final brewery in the tour: Random Row.

Random Row is the new kid on the block, opening up just about a year ago. They’ve got a great space, a food truck out front, and there was live music inside. All signs I was going to have a good time. Flights come in batches of 4/5/6 for $6/7/8 – It was my fourth brewery of the day so I took it easy. Major shout out to Kristen Kuiper for providing an awesome soundtrack to the night!

Brews to Choose:

The bad handwriting is mine, not the bartender’s. I blame a faulty pen, and faulty handwriting skills.
  • I did a flight of four different IPAs and thought there was some interesting differences between them. Of the four I’d vote for the Comfortably Numb, their Session.

Side Quests

  • Need a place to stay? The Graduate is just a few blocks from Hardywood. https://www.graduatehotels.com/charlottesville/
  • The Southern Music Hall on Charlottesville downtown mall is a fantastic live music venue. http://www.thesoutherncville.com/
  • Go to four breweries in one day/night? You are going to need a hearty breakfast the next day. Head to Ace Biscuits and BBQ. Get the Ol’ Dirty Biscuit. Fried chicken, gravy, dill pickle, and smoked pimento cheese. Enjoy the impending food coma.

What do you love most about Charlottesville? Let me know, and as always…

Best Brews!


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