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Ultimate Guide to Craft Beer

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

Here’s the ultimate Charlottesville Guide to craft beer in Charlottesville. It’s a guide to our hallowed beer destinations, and also a guide to what pairs best with each one. You’re gonna need it because now is unquestionably the belle epoch of craft beer in Charlottesville.

Here we count over a dozen convenient, red-carpet opportunities for the elixir of your dreams and the fun experience you seek in our town.

Some of our recommendations are breweries, where your draft is brewed onsite. Others are what we consider superior craft beer halls, where you will find a wide variety of delicious beer. In both cases, we recommend the ideal pairing to render an authentic Cville vibe. Enjoy!

Pairing: Hard to Find Beer for the Craft Beer Collector with a Sense of Belmont Culture/Neighborhood Vibes

A spot fiercely embraced by locals, this restaurant/bottle shop combo is everything you’d want in a neighborhood watering hole. Of course, to get the full experience you’ll want to eat and drink like a local on your visit, so let’s make it worth your while. When in Rome, right? Come to Beer Run for a delicious brunch (on weekends?), lunch, or dinner, and a six-pack of your favorite hard-to-find brews to take back to your hotel or AirBnB.

As for the food, start with the Nachos. Arguably the top nachos in Charlottesville (or anywhere) they are best ordered fully loaded, and eaten immediately. Enjoy them with a basic Pilsner from none other than Basic City Beer Co., located in nearby Waynesboro. The light-bodied pils could not be more perfectly suited to enjoy with a heaping tray of munchable ‘Chos. You’ll also want to chat with the Beer Run team, as they’ll have loads of suggestions for what beers are available both in their bottle shop and on tap. While this spot isn’t exactly walkable from downtown, it is a short drive. Keep in mind that parking is limited, so snag a spot on the street if you see one!

Pairing: Biergarten Vibes/Great Food at Sister Restaurants

With three locations (one in Downtown Cville, a sports bar at The Shops at Stonefield, and their newest in nearby Gordonsville), Champion is an oldie but a goodie. In traditional biergarten style, its laid-back atmosphere (both inside and out) is perfect if you’re looking for a place to stop post-hike/pre-dinner. Its beers are always winners, and we particularly suggest going for something light, like their well-known Shower Beer. Other beer must-drinks: Missile IPA and the perfect-for-summer True Love, Champion’s take on Corona, with a lime, of course.

Hungry? Head to the Stonefield spot for a great chicken sandwich, or stop by the Gordonsville location, appropriately named the Champion Ice House. Do not leave without ordering the Fried Chicken, an exclusive recipe from the renowned chef/owner of the BBQ Exchange, also located in Gordonsville. While this location still pulls its inspiration from the biergarten model, it’s slightly more upscale and perfect for families, as it’s effectively a playground enclosed by a large fence.

Pairing: Pilsner & People

With big brewing in full swing across the US and beyond these days, both beer snobs and casual beer fans alike are on the hunt for the perfect independently owned microbrewery. This is where Decipher comes in. Family-owned and -operated, this is the off-the-beaten-track spot, located in the regentrifying Woolen Mills area of downtown, that features all of the right things: great beer and a strong sense of community.

Come in and sidle up to the bar knowing that you’re likely ordering your pint from one of the owners, and get ready to settle in and stay for a while. If the weather is gorgeous, head outside with the kids (two- and four-legged variety) to enjoy cornhole and comfortable seating. Be sure to inquire about the large array of diverse beer offerings this brewery has, as their menu is ever-changing, and each brew is traditionally fermented and delicious! On a hot summer day, we suggest going with their Pilsner which is crisp, light, and has an appropriately low ABV for relaxed drinking. There are nice bitter notes of hop and a subtle floral finish that makes going back for a second sip (or stein) easy.

Pairing: Alpine Inspired Brews & Food

With a now long-standing relationship with the city of Charlottesville and its inhabitants, Kardinal Hall has become a mainstay for unique, hard-to-find beers from around the world. Not only that, but its menu is outstanding and continues to offer up diverse flavors for every palate, from Alpine-inspired favorites like Bitterballen and Schnitzel, to traditional Belgian Fries and Burgers.

A highlight on the menu? Their handcrafted, house-made sausages that come with innovative toppings like pickled onions, sauerkraut, mushrooms, and, of course, spicy mustard. We suggest ordering a stein of the Köstritzer Schwarzbier which offers toasted malt notes, is fruity on the front with dried raisin and prune accents, has a light body, and a smooth finish. If you mean what you say when you say you’re into beer, you’re going to love this one. As mentioned above, order any of their house-made sausages with toppings on a locally made pretzel roll. Bitterballen, poutine, or just plain perfectly golden fries with curry ketchup are other great pairings.

Pick a spot inside, where you can enjoy a game of Chickapig (just ask/Google it), or sit outside under the tent or by the bocce court.

Pairing: A Country Brewery Experience with English Brown Ale + Grilled Chicken

Patch is one of the area’s newest breweries, and has already received a tremendous following of craft beer fans. Located in Gordonsville (and right down the road from Castle Hill Cider), its indoor/outdoor vibe is warm and welcoming. As soon as you pull up you know that this brewery is just as a country brewery should be: low key, unpretentious, inviting, full of charm, and filled with locals who know good beer. With rotating seasonal brews, and flagship staples, make sure to ask your beertender what’s new (and what the favorites are).

We recommend starting with the English Brown Ale, A Stone in the Woods, a light bodied, mild yet robust toasted malt coming through. It’s easily drinkable on a warm day as it’s thin on the palate yet rich and flavorful. Reminiscent of an ale you’d have poured at a local pub tucked away in a London alley, there’s nothing too different here to make you turn up your nose. This beer is easily embraceable and can withstand the enjoyment of a pint or three. Tangy and effervescent—it grows with you/on you with each sip.

Other recs? Home Run Hefe, Fox Hole IPA, The Father, The Son, and The Hoppy Gus, the Pylon Pilsner, and even The Home Field Advantage. Keep in mind that during your visit their rotating tap options may differ. Other bonuses: kid area, dog park, live music (check their schedule on their website), and soon: brew space and event venue.

Want to sample some of their other offerings? Grab a flight of the following (or whatever style you fancy):

  • HR: banana and melon, raw flavor with tons of earthy flavors coming through

  • Fox: nice haze but not overpowering, bitter lemon with sugar spike, smooth lactose-like texture

  • HG: nice floral bitterness, beautiful color, slightly sweet on the back end coming through

  • PP: honey, low grade hops, golden color, clarity is awesome, easy to drink on a hot day

  • Porter: bitter, sweet undertones, light bodied, not silky but buttery

Pairing: Mosaic Hazy Pale Ale & Hearth-Fired Pizza

A favorite spot for athletes and local medical employees from UVA, this brewery and taproom-in-one is both kid- and pet-friendly, and is becoming extremely well known for game nights, bingo, and artisan pizza. Stopping by while in town is a must! Make sure to check Random Row’s Instagram account @randomrowbrewing before heading over to best plan your trip, as there’s always something fun going on.

Once in the taproom, ordering a Mosaic should be first on your list. With a super bright flavor profile on the palate and fruit undertones of pineapple, it’s got a smooth hop suggestion that is absolutely perfect for the IPA lover who likes something not so robust in the hops department. This pint will be slightly sweet and very effervescent. If you fancy a pint of something else, make sure to chat up the bartenders, as they will be able to address your preferences and find you the perfect brew.

Now, we all know that the perfect pairing for beer is pizza, of course, which is why RR has partnered with Billie Pie (based out of Richmond) to offer one of the best pies in town. Billie Pie Pizza is Neapolitan-style hand-thrown, hearth-fired pizza with flavor combinations like Crispy Cupped Pepperoni, Smoked Mozzarella and Sausage, Classic White with Calabrian Chili Pepper with Chili Oil, Ricotta & Mushroom, and even just a plain old Margherita.

With concrete floors and plenty of wooden tables, this taproom is simple in its atmosphere and an easy one to enjoy. Outdoor seating plus a more private alleyway make this brewery and tasting room a great choice for those bringing kids (furry and not so furry).

Pairing: Artful IPAs + A Passion for Brewing

One of the best parts of this brewery is its location. It’s tucked away on Route 29 in an industrial complex, and even though your GPS may fail you at first, it’s worth pursuing! Started in 2017 by three hometown best friends, there’s a reason for every business decision and every beer that’s brewed. And, they were recently acquired by hometown producer, Champion Brewing.

Pattern Recognition (an American IPA) is their flagship, and for good reason. It’s easily drinkable/enjoyed at 6% ABV, and offers a chance to have a lot of fun without having too much fun. Subtle malt on the front with a slightly dank nose, which carries through after introducing a fruitiness that’s hard to place. The hop flavor profile is light, but steadily there. If IPAs aren’t for you, or you’d simply like to branch out, try a sour! Reason’s Sours have won gold and silver in the past couple of years. They are barrel fermented, and are mixed with local raspberries before being canned/stored. Look out for the bottled choices near the bar, including the Wood Song Red, which has made quite a name for itself.

Pairing: Unique Micro Brews with a Chill Atmosphere

If you love being at the forefront of something big, make sure to stop by this microbrewery where you’ll be in for a treat. Located next to an eclectic garden supply shop, Rockfish is in the middle of a growth spurt. With a new location just opened on the Downtown Mall next to The Bebedero, you can say “you knew it when…” by stopping by its current small and perfectly sized taproom. Once you step inside, the ambiance resonates with a solid “Cheers” vibe as you’ll be met by a warm and welcoming staff that will be happy to pick out just the right brew for you.

When you’ve made your choice, grab your pint and sit at the bar or head back outside to enjoy the warm weather at one of the many picnic tables situated in the front of the taproom. Make sure to add this brewery to your list of must-visits, as it is a favorite among locals and generally known to pour some of the best beer in town.

Pairing: IPA & Nature/History/Industrial

A hidden gem of a taproom, this microbrewery takes some sleuthing to find. Once you’re in, we promise you won’t want to leave. Enclosed in a mixed-used space, its industrial design suits its menu and branding well. A new brewery in town, its beer names are reminiscent of the Woolen Mills clothing factory textiles once created here. This brewery keeps with its industrial-themed roots and is an eclectic gathering spot, surrounded by a train trestle, the Rivanna River, and a restaurant, coffee shop, and wine shop. You’ll love popping in and enjoying life like a local.

We suggest starting off with Britches Get Stitches, a robust West Coast IPA with a bright hop on the nose. Slightly metallic, but smooth and well-rounded with a hint of grapefruit and a subtle malt tease, at 6.6% ABV, this one is very easy to drink, or crushable, as they say at the taproom. A full menu accompanies the beer list, and reservations are recommended.

Pairing: Music, Gourmet Food Court

Starr Hill Brewery, known for its early genesis on the Charlottesville beer scene, was born in 1999 and has since expanded to include six taproom locations throughout Virginia. We’re highlighting one of its shiniest new taprooms, located in downtown Cville at the fun and innovative Dairy Market. Not only is the Dairy Market chock-full of diverse food vending experiences, but any menu item purchased can be brought straight back to the taproom to be enjoyed with your favorite Starr Hill brew, of course. With 24 award-winning beers on tap, you’ll never be at a loss to find the best brew for each member in your party.

For the perfect pairing, there’s no better combination than to join together the two things that have made Starr Hill famous: the perfect pint + live music, performed weekly by local up-an-coming artists. For summer months, we suggest a flagship pint of Ramble On IPA with lush tropical and bright flavor notes. If juicy IPAs aren’t your thing, opt for a lighter brew, like Murphy’s Gold or Grateful Pale Ale. No matter what you choose, know this: Starr Hill downtown is the perfect spot for the beer & music lover. Make sure to check their live music schedule on the web or by visiting their Instagram account @starrhillcville and plan to sit outside on a beautiful day or night and watch the world pass by. Cheers!

Editor’s Note: one of six taprooms under the Starr Hill umbrella, this spot holds true to its roots by offering live music, reminiscent of the original brewery’s iteration as a food and music hall.

Pairing: Big Slice Juicy IPA & Brunch

If you’ve traveled to Charlottesville before, chances are you’ve heard of 3NB. What started out as a humble brewery and tasting room in what is now the Dairy Market has grown into a VA mainstay with locations throughout the Commonwealth. While visiting anytime (by foot is fun if you’re staying downtown since the Cville taproom is located at the IX Art Park) is a fabulous idea, we suggest hopping over on the weekend for an early Sunday brunch. Why early? Tables fill up fast and for good reason: the brunch menu is out of this world and not what you’d typically expect as brewery fare.

We recommend a pint of the Big Slice Juicy IPA with an order of Chicken & Waffles, but really you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Be adventurous and sample a few of their award-winning brews, especially the limited releases. Make sure to sit outside if you can, and bring your well-behaved dog if you’ve got one with you! Three Notch’d is the perfect spot for people — and dog — watching.

Editor’s note: 3NB will open a new brewery on 151 in the old Wild Wolf location.

Pairing: Rotating Brews + Outside Vibes

Not to be confused with the popular stationary bike, Peloton Station offers an awesome vibe in an off-the-beaten-path spot, close to both downtown and very walkable from the Corner. The inside decor is eclectic with a slight industrial ambiance, but sitting outside is really where it’s at. Once you’ve found your spot, make sure to take a look at the food menu, created by the guys that brought us Hamilton’s at First & Main.

You can’t go wrong with the wings, burgers, or salads, but we recommend the Roobaix Wrap, with Blackened Shrimp, Shredded Lettuce, Avocado, Tomato, Red Onion, Lorenzo, and Crunchy Noodles, in a Spinach Wrap. For something new, try a Gose or Sour Beer on tap. Anything that adds an effervescent sweet & sour flavor component is perfect for a hot day.

Pairing – Craft Cider, Vegan Fare + Arcade

The perfect neighborhood favorite right down the street from Beer Run, this restaurant has become a beloved local spot for the vegan/vegetarian community. Not only is the food/drink menu full of delicious options, but Firefly also features a mini-arcade, complete with classic favorites, a pool table, and even board games to bring back to your seat.

When it comes to ordering, you’ll want to throw a refreshing Potter’s Craft Cider on your tab, as well as an order of the Tater Totchos (vegan or regular) and the Vegan Crab Cake sandwich. The Potter’s is tart, dry, and full of ripe apple fruit — no expense wasted on ingredient quality and freshness…tastes like a just picked apple! And if you’re a plant-based diner, the Vegan Crab Cake is crisp on the outside, tender and soft on the inside, and pairs perfectly with the flavored Vegan mayo and potato bun! White bean and artichoke for the mix gives that tangy quality that is always good in a true crab cake. This spot is a must stop if you want to a place that is never too crowded, but still buzzing with activity. Plus, if you’re trying to figure out how to squeeze Firefly into your itinerary, keep in mind that it’s also around the corner from Decipher and Selvedge!

Pairing: Cider + Paninis/Blue Ridge Views/Charm

If you’re looking for incredible views tucked away in a country escape, you’d be missing out if you didn’t stop by this incredible cidery. Not only are the ciders fantastic, award-winning, and fermented in a traditional manner, but the folks who work here have a passion for good cider and really want their guests to enjoy their time. Bring a blanket and a picnic, or order food from their kitchen (you don’t want to miss the paninis). Make sure to also check their social media channels @castlehillcider for live music and food truck schedules.

Pack a cooler in the car if you can, because you’ll not want to depart without stocking up on some bottles to go. The Serendipity 2020 and Rose are particularly good choices for the summer months, and with dry notes (plus a touch of sweet) these ciders made from estate-grown apples promise to be the best you’ve had.

Want to discover more craft beer options? See our Comprehensive Guide to Charlottesville Breweries here.

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