Take a trip on the Charlottesville Ale Trail

Take a trip on the Charlottesville Ale Trail
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The Charlottesville area is known for its rich hospitality scene, which includes an impressive mix of breweries, cider houses and distilleries. It’s becoming one of the go-to centers in the south for handcrafted beers — and that’s reflected in the Charlottesville Ale Trail.

Starting in earnest in 2018 with just a handful of businesses, the Ale Trail now features a baker’s dozen of bespoke brewers and distillers. Now, it’s pretty easy to savor the best from Charlottesville’s craft scene with the trail, its website and app.

How the trail works

You’ll need a passport to visit everyone along the Ale Trail eventually. You can get this from the trail’s website and an app you can download from that same site.

More than one passport is also available, structured for convenience and interest.

The Discover Albemarle Passport: There’s something special going on in nearby Albemarle County, and the passport for it features six great brewers.

The Walk Our City Passport: This groups together nine different brewers all within walking distance of Charlottesville.

Who’s on the trail

There are 15 businesses total that are a part of the Charlottesville Ale Trail and they range in style and form to encompass all that brewing and distilling has to offer. This means it’s not just lagers, IPAs and stouts being made in the Charlottesville area. There are liquor distillers and one business with an entire winery and brewer — complete with acres and acres of materials — on its premises. Here’s a closer look at a few of them:

Champion Brewing Co.
This brewer has a three-barrel tap room and what it calls “the missile factory,” which is a 30-barrel production facility. It makes ales and lagers, famous among which are the True Love lager, Shower pilsner, and the Hatchback Lyfe IPA. It also makes Cavalier lager, the official beer for University of Virginia sporting events.

North American Sake Brewery
One of the more distinctive distillers in town, NA makes its own sake, a rice-based distilled liquor that has garnered a reputation for being paired with Asian food. They craft a variety of sake for drinkers, including Real Magic junmai craft sake, Olympus junmai ginjo craft sake, and an extra dry karakuchi genshu named Quiet Giant.

Potter’s Craft Cider
Part of Albemarle County, Potter’s brews drinks made from local Virginia apples and with a traditional method. It leads to a tart and crisp drinking experience with no sugar or carbs. Products range from Farmhouse Dry cider to Strawberry Ginger cider to Hewes Cuvee, among many other varieties.

Mount Ida Reserve
This excellent restaurant expands to include farm wines and craft brews made right on the premises. It owns 5,000 acres of vineyard land and produces small-batch wines in various styles. On the brew side, they use malted grains locally and include techniques such as Farm Use helles, Frost Moon hefeweizen and Lunar Eclipse pale ale.

Three Notch’d Brewing Co.
Another brewer serving food, Three Notch’d is in the IX Art Park. Some of its entrees have beer as part of the ingredients as well. Among the beers it makes is Ghost of the James pale ale, Minute Man IPA and No Veto, an English brown ale. It also crafts ciders, non-alcoholic options and sours as part of its mix.

Heading out on the trail

Some many more brewers and distillers make up the Ale Trail, and you can even buy merchandise as part of this effort, which the Charlottesville Office of Economic Development supports.

Consider it a fun adults-only jaunt that can take place over many weeks, and you’ll be able also to see what makes Charlottesville special besides the suds — the people who live and work here.