The day was arranged by Visit Richmond VA – the tourist authority responsible for promoting the former Confederate capital to the outside world. The organisation looked after us extremely well, having conveyed us by coach from the conference hotel, close to Washington Dulles Airport, to the Omni Hotel, which would be our overnight base in Richmond.
Unfortunately the one thing which was outside VRVA’s control was the weather; although to be fair they were aware of the distinct possibility of thunderstorms on that Sunday afternoon. The plan was our coach would drop us off in the Scott’s Addition neighbourhood at Väsen Brewing Co. There were four other breweries within easy walking distance, plus two more a short taxi ride away. At 6.45pm the coach would pick us up again, outside Väsen in order to transport us to the final venue of the evening.
So far, so good, but almost on cue, the first of several thunderstorms hit just as we were getting off the coach. I was with a group who decided that it would be better for us to head for The Veil Brewing Co’s premises first, in order so as not to swamp Väsen with a sudden influx of people. Veil was only a couple of blocks away, but the heavens opened whilst we were on our way and we had to sprint the last couple of hundred yards.
We had been told to wear our conference badges, as these would ensure that any beers we ordered would go on the Richmond Region Tourism tab, but despite the possibility of almost limitless beer, I decided to take things a little easy. The Veil Brewing Co. are a relative newcomer on the Richmond scene, but have quickly established a reputation for brewing some excellent beers.
Their taproom is characterised by dark walls and minimalist décor, with a large stuffed and very fierce-looking grizzly bear standing in one corner. The brewery’s tap list is constantly rotating, but the notes I took at the time showed I enjoyed a 6.0% IPA called Catnap, plus a nice and well-hopped 4.5% Pilsner, called Child Support.
Looking out through the window, we noticed the rain coming down as hard as ever, and with no signs of it abating, we were debating what to do next. Fortunately one of the team from Visit Richmond was in the bar with us, and she had the foresight to call the coach and ask the driver to come and collect us.
With this accomplished, we had the choice of a few beers at Väsen or some at nearby Ardent Craft Ales. As it was still raining heavily, most of us opted for Väsen, especially as that would be where the coach would be departing from. Väsen Brewing, are one of the newest breweries in Scott’s Addition. In Swedish, the word väsen is a reference to one’s inner essence, or spirit animal, and the taproom, has a real Scandinavian feel to it.
My first beer, the 7.6% Norse Pale Ale, fitted well with this theme, but the other two had more in common with the beers of the Low Countries. Figue Rustique Saison 7.3%, a reddish-gold saison, conditioned on fig purée and Sugarbear Quad, a dark, Belgian abbey-style Quadrupel beer, dominated by dark chocolate and vanilla flavours, was a good beer to finish on, but given its strength of 12.1% ABV, it was a good job I shared this beer with another member of our group.
Väsen Brewing site as a whole.
After Väsen, it was back on the bus and off to our last port of call. This was a multi-brewery reception and tasting at The Answer and Mekong Restaurant. These two establishments are owned by An Bui, a Vietnamese former chef, who developed a passion for craft beer whilst working at his family-owned restaurant, Mekong.
The Answer Brewpub, his very own craft brewery, sited behind the restaurant. Featuring 56 taps, 2 bars, and a stage area for live music, The Answer is a welcome addition to the local beer scene in Richmond.
I must admit I was feeling rather “beered-out” by this time. I’ve looked through all the paperwork and leaflets which I brought back with me, and have been unable to find any notes or lists of beers from The Answer, so can only assume that I stopped recording my consumption by that stage.
The food though was a different matter, as an extensive and very welcome Vietnamese buffet had been laid on for us. The photos show just how much food had been made available to us, but what they don’t convey is just how good it all tasted. The chicken Spring Rolls, rank amongst the finest I have eaten whilst the string beans with noodles and the sweet and sour fried pork were also of the highest quality.
Before leaving, we nipped round to the Mekong Restaurant, at he front of the complex. It was packed out with diners, all enjoying the excellent food, but there were quite a few beers on tap as well. Again I have no record of what or how much beer I drunk, but I’m certain it was pretty minimal. I was well aware that I had a train to catch, back to Washington, the following morning and the last thing I wanted was to either miss it, or to be travelling with a hangover.
I shared a Lyft taxi back to the hotel with a couple of fellow beer writers. The coach was no longer available, so Visit Richmond had given us all some credit to use with this “on-demand” , app-based, taxi service, which operates in much the same way as Uber. I was glad not to be travelling on my own, as the journey back seemed to take quite a long time, and took us onto the local freeway. I didn’t recall travelling that route on the outward journey, but eventually we reached central Richmond and our comfortable and well-appointed hotel.
So a special thank-you to Owen and Charles for letting me share the ride back with you, and a huge thank-you to Erin and Meghan at Visit Richmond for organising such an excellent tour of some of Richmond’s finest breweries.