Brewery Name: Fair Winds Brewing Company
Type of Brewery: Retail Brewery
NOTE: As this is the first brewery post, a brief explanation of how we categorize breweries:
Production Brewery: A Production Brewery is solely focused on producing and selling beer. You only go to these breweries to fill growlers and/or buy packages of beer. They do not serve beer on site, and the most that they offer is maybe a sample so you can try a beer before you buy it. They can sell merchandise but the goal of these breweries is to get you in and get you out with beer; you are not supposed to linger at these locations. These breweries are fewer in number, but they also tend to be the highest rated (see: Tree House, Trillium). Don’t be discouraged. Just take the beer somewhere else to enjoy.
Retail Brewery: The most common type of brewery offers a location to buy beer but also to enjoy a glass of it. It is called retail because they want you to come, spend time, and spend more money there. Many of these breweries will partner with food trucks to offer food, have games to play, and generally offer the kind of calm environment that you expect at a bar.
Brewpub: The main difference between this and a Retail Brewery is that Brewpubs have on-site kitchens to serve hot food. They function as a restaurant and a brewery.
Anyway, back to Fair Winds!
Location: Lorton, VA (about a mile off exit 166A off 95). Not public transportation accessible.
All very responsive, and posts all updates.
Growlers: Bring your own or buy there.
The Beers: While there, I was able to try:
They do some really solid hoppy beers and dark beers too. They also have firkins of special casks (including their Howling Gale IPA with Blueberries which was perfect for the weather), and they also have special keg releases of small batch beers.
Vibe: This place is the exact setup that I love in a brewery. Everything that they have is perfect for a low-pressure, enjoyable drinking experience. They have a great bar setup, plenty of seating, and at least 10 beers on tap. They have nice high ceilings, which don’t make you feel cramped. The location has a nice open feel that is perfect for bringing kids and pets out to watch a game. The brewery is also sectioned off so you don’t get that brewery smell. Some people like it, some hate it. I say it's nice but during the summer it can be harsh because you can sometimes get that skunked beer smell. They have nice garage doors to open during the summer so you get that sense of being outside. There is a cordoned off location to drink outside, they have board games for kids and adults to play which is awesome. They have a chalkboard battleship game set up, can this be any more perfect? I know it's kid-sized but that doesn’t stop me. There is plenty of seating to sit and enjoy food. The staff has always been wonderful and attentive every time I have been there. The only drawback is that they don’t bottle or can outside of special releases.
Dogs: Hell yeah.
Price ($ to $$$$$): $$$. The growler price is pretty standard and doesn’t change based on the beer. Pints are reasonable and the flights are a great value. They also do half-priced growlers during the week.
Food: They have restaurants that deliver and food trucks that come by, in addition to the crawfish boils and other food related activities they do to get people out.
Final Thoughts: If there is a better setup for a brewery, I haven’t found it.
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Shane: From Bissell Brothers in Maine to Treehouse in Massachusetts to Alchemist in Vermont, when you visit New England you’re never far from a brewery that has drawn national acclaim. From my vantage point in New Hampshire, I have access to some of the best, and I wanted to ensure that, for the first New England-based post, at least a couple of the major names were represented. I made a trip up to Portland, ME to visit the Bissell Brothers Brewery and grab a few beers. Bissell is a stone’s throw from at least three other breweries, including Foundation Brewing (some of whose offerings are also included in this post), Austin Street Brewery, and the more well-known Allagash. The area is basically a beer Mecca. I have to admit, my expectations were thrown out of whack during my first visit: with only The Substance and Lux on offer, it didn’t take long to get in and out. This created...well...let’s just say false expectations. When I returned a few weeks later for the Swish release, it drove home just how much of a big deal Bissell really is. So with that in mind, let’s dive in.
Pete: New England is my favorite location for beer right now. At first, I just loved Sam Adams and only wanted to drink their beer, then on a random Saturday Churchkey in Washington, DC managed to score a few cases of Heady Topper and that changed the game. The cloudy fruit-forward New England IPA was on my mind and I could not get enough. This beer list really excited me because clearly everyone in New England is producing these wonderful beers, and I had not tried most of these breweries before.
York: I haven’t had much from the New England area before this. I’ve always been sort of apathetic to most of Sam Adams’ beers and just hadn’t been exposed to much else. I am really interested in wrapping my head around the 'New England' IPA and where if falls in my preference spectrum, as well as getting to try all the different hop combos listed for these beers. Looking forward to the complex and drinkable combo Shane seems to endorse from the region.
Don't Forget About the DMV
Pete: So, as the one of the three of us who still resides in the DC area, I had a little bit of a challenge on my hands to contribute to the beer discussion because Shane and Brian had lived in the area for a while. They know the "heavier" hitters in DC Brau and Port City, and a lot of the smaller breweries in the area that are in the stage of development where they only offer draft and growler beer, no cans or bottles. Luckily, there is a DC law that allows bars and beer stores to purchase beer from anywhere and pay a separate tax on it to import it without using a distributor with a more limited list. This can help the area get some strange and wonderful beer that would not normally be available in our market. The area has also been a hotbed for older craft breweries like Bell's (Hopslam) from Michigan and Ballast Point from California (Pineapple Sculpin) to send a lot their newer or more popular releases to DC before many east coast markets get them. I also got lucky because Hardywood in Richmond has grown to a point that they are supplying local Whole Foods with their special releases. I was able to grab their Gingerbread Stout and their Bourbon Sidamo Coffee Stout for everyone to try. I hope that I can get some more cans soon as many of the breweries in the area are expanding.
Shane: It's been a little more than a year since I left DC, and in that time I've had my eyes opened by a lot of great New England beers. I've also been keeping track of the beer scene in DC, and I've noticed with more than a little irritation that quite a few breweries have started popping up. Where was this when I was living there? Why was I subjected to nothing but (actually pretty drinkable) DC Brau? Whatever. This batch of beers only has a few that are local to DC, but that's okay. I've been eager to try some of Hardywood's offerings, and I can’t exactly complain about the area getting Hopslam.
York: I spent a long time in DC. Admittedly, most of that time did not include an appreciation for beer. Pete was a big part of my getting into beer and finally acknowledging that Rolling Rock and Highlife left a bit to be desired (I will defend those beers 'til I die though). Pete held a few tastings at his place and invited a few of us over to sample some rare or unique brews, and then did a batch of homebrews for his wedding that really turned my attention to trying new craft brews. The timing was perfect, and right as my interest grew, some great breweries popped up in the DMV. I got exposed to sours at Right Proper and Denizens, some great full bodied beers at Port City, and also made a point to give the DC Brau (among others) selection a comprehensive sampling. I have had a few of the Hardywood brews before, but nothing quite as specialized or impressive. Looking forward to those, and hope to have some more DMV representatives in later exchanges as more of those breweries start bottling/canning.
New Coast, New Beers
York: The first group of West Coast beers! When I moved to California just a few months ago, I was completely overwhelmed by the number of GOOD craft breweries at my disposal--many within walking distance! A lot of my favorites are not yet bottling/canning, but I still tried to choose beers that are not available to my DC and New England partners. California is definitely an IPA centric beer culture, so until I learn and try a bit more in that space, I decided to go for an approach that got as many different types of beer as possible resulting in choices that represent a huge spectrum of flavor. My entries this round span from San Diego to Corvallis and there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t recommend.
Shane: I was born in Virginia, grew up in New Hampshire, and went to school in DC. The furthest west I’ve ever been is Chicago. So it should probably come as no surprise that I haven’t had many beers from California. The one brewery on this list that I have had plenty of is 21st Amendment, which I’ve seen distributed as far as Maine. I've enjoyed enough of their beers that I’m really looking forward to tasting some of their small-batch, hard-to-get beers. Their Marooned on Hog Island and Golden Road’s Wolf Among Weeds are definitely the two beers I’m looking forward to most here.
Pete: I crawled out of the cesspool known as New Jersey. Because I survived my youth in that dark land, I am certain that no man made chemical can kill me. Anyhoo. I have been to California once before, and it was to go to Los Angeles. I focused all my effort into getting the famed Pliny the Elder, so I probably missed a lot of the other stuff. I was impressed at the variety of beer in the state and would like to get a large variety of anything they can offer outside of what i know in Stone and Sierra Nevada. I am most interested in the Truthful Statement because it is a beer modeled after an Old Fashioned. I like those, I like beer, how can that be bad?
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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