By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
We’ve been thinking about the amazing growth in the local craft beer scene, and are feeling more patriotic by the second (“Oh beautiful …”). By year’s end, we are liable to have over 20 breweries and brewpubs in the 757 (“for spacious skies …”), all making delicious beers from (“for amber waves of grain …”) barley! Yes, many of those amber waves of grain were amber waves of barley! So it’s your patriotic duty to get out there and hoist a few now and then, responsibly, of course. And the newest brewery where you can perform this patriotic duty and taste beers made fresh on the premises is Commonwealth Brewing Company, located at 2444 Pleasure House Road in the Chic’s Beach section of Virginia Beach.
Brewer-owner-visionary Jeramy Biggie, formerly an engineer, has re-engineered a cinder block anti-conflagration location into a beer lover’s destination. Jeramy and head brewer Greg Fleehart, a Seattle transplant and pro brewer, have converted this former fire-and-rescue station from a place that delivered CPR to one that delivers IPA, as well as other ales designed to revive your palate. The tasting room has large interior windows so you can admire the shiny new 20-barrel brewing system as you sip one of the nine beers currently on tap. The large bay doors on the brewery façade, big enough to accommodate fire trucks in a former life, can be opened in nice weather to turn the tasting room into a commodious indoor-outdoor covered porch. Jeramy will point out the “vintage” oil stains on the floor as a telltale sign of this historic building’s former life. The weathered, repurposed wood on the wall behind the bar and the solid ten-top picnic tables add to the feeling that Commonwealth Brewing fits the Chic’s Beach vibe perfectly. You can come by after a day on the beach, fishing, or biking without feeling out of place; you’ll be warmly welcomed by the staff and friendly patrons happy to share space at the large communal tables.
It’s a lively and periodically cacophonous space, but those conversations buzzing around you are in-depth discussions from patrons pursuing the perfect pint. The brewery name, Commonwealth, acknowledges that we exist in a Commonwealth, but also alludes to Mr. Biggie’s desire to create a place where there’s a beer for everybody, whether you are a craft beer novice or a seasoned ale aficionado, and folks from various walks of life can perhaps find common ground while musing over malt beverages. (NOTE: Maybe we can have him deliver some Commonwealth Brewing beverages to the U.S. House of Representatives? If any group of people needs to find common ground over a sixtel or two, it’s those folks.).
And in what exactly are the patrons partaking? Well, when we visited in early September, Jeramy and Greg introduced us to the six beers then available, served in a cool sampler-flight contraption. Deliquesce is a Belgian-inspired table beer, a low alcohol (4% ABV) that surprises you with hints of black pepper. Aureole is a Belgian-ish lager (5.4% ABV) that delivers a clean, crisp mouthful of hops. The Wealth is a Blonde Saison (5.1% ABV), a refreshing take on a Belgian-style farmhouse ale. Supernaculum is a big, massive mouthful of slap-you-down, dry-your-mouth-out mess of hops, with enough alcohol to get your attention (6.9%ABV). Chris’s favorite two were the Taonga (7.5% ABV), an out-of-the-box Imperial Hopfenweizen (7.5%) and the Hoi Polloi, (5.1% ABV), a session IPA. The Taonga is a “West Coast IPA meets a German Hefeweizen.” This beer, also Diane’s favorite, is a very deceptive 7.5% ABV as it is tasty and very easy to drink. The Hoi Polloi (that’s us by the way, “the common people”) is a solid session ale that you can settle down with when you want a lighter beer that is full-flavored.
The beer offerings change regularly. When we visited there were six on tap; at press time, there were nine (they had added Wapatoolie, a “Tropical IPA”, Cheval de Trait, a Belgian-style Quad, and Marvolo, an Imperial Chocolate Stout). Who knows, by the time you read this, there may be even more (they will eventually expand their offerings to 28 taps). And, something special is on the horizon!
Commonwealth has a large barrel room on premises, and will have brewed their first sour beer by the time you read this article. “Mad Fermentationist”, author, and brewer Michael Tonsmiere will pay a visit in early October to help Commonwealth’s sour program take off with a sour brown ale. It won’t be ready for a awhile, as sour beers need time to age in the barrel. Sour beers are some of our very favorites but patience is key, so let’s promise not to ‘bug’ them about it, ok?
Catch the aqua waves of water at Chic’s Beach or the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, then catch the amber waves of grain at Commonwealth Brewing. Come by for a beer, or book your private event for that holiday party or class reunion. On weekends they offer free brewery tours on the hour, as well as food trucks to nosh some surfer chow. And seriously study what you’re sipping. You may be a gremmie with a surfboard, but you can become a Grand Master with a tasting glass.
Questions or comments? Email us at Brewsclues2@verizon.net