Beer brewing has a long history in Virginia. In fact, Native Americans were experimenting with brewing even before the first colonists arrived in America. And when the colonists did arrive in the Old Dominion, they, too, began making their own beer. The main reason? In the 1600s, potable water was not always available, so Europeans would typically pair their meals with beer in order to protect themselves against nasty stomach bugs.
Brewing beer is no longer a necessity in Virginia. But it has become a passion for both those who love to drink beer and for those who love creating amazing brewskis. Winchester is fortunate to be home to five of the best breweries in the state, including four (Alesatian, Backroom Brewery, Escutcheon and Winchester Brew Works) that are featured on the Helltown Beer Trail. The following is a quick glimpse into what each of these breweries has to offer:
Escutcheon Brewing, 142 W. Commercial Street
Escutcheon not only serves beer in its Commercial Street facility, it also brews and cans all of its beverages there, as well. In fact, the back of this building is home to the large kettles where Escutcheon’s beers — many of which are German-style — are born. The taproom is warehouse chic — open and airy with tables, TVs for watching sports and a bubble hockey table. Although Escutcheon doesn’t serve hot food, this brewery allows you to bring in your own, and it also sells Route 11 chips (yay!).
Alesatian Brewing, 21 and 23 North Loudoun Street
Cozy nano brewery Alesatian is located in the heart of Old Town Winchester on the Loudon Street Pedestrian Mall. It is situated on the second floor above Roma Old Town Wood Fired Pizzeria, which also provides Alesatian with its food. And while Alesatian may not be the biggest brewery in town, it is known for its fine beers, knowledgeable staff and special events, such as trivia night and a Saturday brunch, where guests can enjoy beer pairings. Alesatian’s beer selection typically includes a variety of ales, sours and IPAs.
Winchester Brew Works, 320 N. Cameron Street
In addition to serving great beer, Winchester Brew Works has another claim to fame. It is currently the only majority woman-owned and brewed establishment in Virginia. Its brewer, Bonnie Landy, is also a woman. The tasting room is open with light-colored wood tables, and there is also a fairly roomy outdoor space. You’ll find a good variety of brews being served here, including stouts, IPAs, ales and shandys. And while this nano brewery does not feature a full-size restaurant, Winchester Brew Works does sell some snacks and also invites you to bring in your own food or have it delivered to you. This brewery, which is located in downtown Winchester, is family friendly and does allow dogs, but only on the patio.
Backroom Brewery, 150 Ridgemont Road, Middletown
Beauty and the beer — this little boutique brewery is located about 20 minutes south of Winchester on an herb farm in the midst of the pretty rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley. The farm grows hops for Backroom’s beers and also more than 120,000 potted herb plants each year. The beer selection here includes some standard brews, but — probably not surprisingly — Backroom Brewery also offers some interesting herb-infused beers. This is a pet-friendly brewery that even once welcomed a Tegu lizard on a leash. Unlike many other breweries, Backroom Brewery has its own kitchen, which serves delicious farm-to-table fare made from scratch.
Broken Window Brewing Company, 14 W. Boscawen Street
The new kid on the block is Broken Window Brewing Company, which entered the local beer scene in February 2018. This nano brewery is located in an old stone building in downtown Winchester and is the love child of two childhood friends. The taproom of the Broken Window Brewing Company is rustic and cozy, with brick walls and exposed pipes, and a window gives patrons a peek into the fermenting room, where four stainless-steel tanks reside. The beers on tap rotate, and typically include a nice selection of ales and IPAs. Broken Window is a bring-your-own-food establishment or you can have something delivered to you. It is also dog friendly.