Bed, Breakfast and Brewery
I’ve toured breweries, drank beer at breweries, ate delicious meals at breweries. But until I went Belgium in 2014 I had never spent the night at one. Or at least stayed in lodging owned by nearby a brewery.
We were touring Belgium breweries and on the list was the famed St. Bernardus Breweryin Watou, near the French border. The tour of the brewery was fabulous and ended in their large tasting room and included some free glassware. But the real highlight was staying at the Brouweshuis, a spacious three-story bed and breakfast in the shadow of the brewery. As it happened during a late fall mid-week stay, a friend and I had the guest house --which has five bedrooms-- all to ourselves. With large library room and conservatory dining area and tree lined garden, the place was a treasure even on a cold rainy night. With a giant hop farm across the street and the brewery next door, the house felt perfect spot to begin our brewery tour week. Of course, the refrigerator the living room was stocked with St. Bernardus—all paid for on the honor system.
All through our stay, I wondered why such a bed & breakfast & brewery had not caught on in the United States.
But in the past couple years a number of inns have started making their own beer and some U.S. breweries that have added their own unique lodging. This includes Hopkins Ordinary, a quaint bed and breakfast in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Dogfish Inn, a Rehoboth Beach, Delaware motel and two large luxury rental homes just outside the Devil’s Backbone Brewery in central Virginia.
Hopkins Ordinary is the kind of bed and breakfast most city folks think about when going away for weekend.
The inn is named for John Hopkins who build the brick structure in the 1820s as a place for weary travelers to dine and stay overnight. There was a tavern downstairs and guest rooms upstairs. During colonial times, a tavern that served meals at a fixed price was known as an "ordinary."
The inn was restored, remodeled and reopened in 2005 by Sherri Fickel and Kevin Kraditor, a married couple that had lived and worked in Washington D.C. but sought a more serene lifestyle. They found it in Sperryville, Va., about 75 miles southwest of the nation’s capital.
The small town offers views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. The five bedroom inn plus guest cottage was doing well, but Kevin and Sherri wanted to offer guests something that would help set them apart from many other B& B’s in the area. Kevin, a former labor economist, had been home brewing for several years and wanted to share his brews with their guests.
In December 2014 they opened a small brewery in their cellar. Its big enough to hold a 1 bbl electric brewing system as well as about 10 people along small bar. On my visit over Memorial Day weekend, a friend and I took our flight of six beers into the garden sitting area outside the inn where we relished our find under a shady tree. Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works attracts a mix over day trippers, locals and those looking to stay the weekend. Overnight guests enjoy a complimentary pint in the cellar or back in their room or along the outdoor porch that has white rocking chairs looking out on the quiet mountain road. For guests looking to have their own stash of beer in their room, they can buy a stainless steel growler.
There’s no immediate plans to distribute the beer beyond the inn though Kevin does a couple batches of 22-ounce bottles that can be purchased on site. The beers reach a wide range of tastes including the Little Devil Blond, a 5% ABV that’s low in bittering hops, a Second Breakfast Stout, a modest 4.4% brew with nice mouth feel and Sassy Fox Rye Ale, a 5.1% ABV ale made with sassafras-smoked rye that gives pleasant smoky taste.
Kevin uses local ingredients from their garden in the beers including juniper berries and lemon thyme. He’s planning to try adding some home grown cucumbers to a new beer this summer.
Sherri says there’s no plans to grow too fast because they both enjoy talking to people who come in to the brewery. The brewery has also been good for the lodging business as its helped to increase reservations particularly during slower winter months. “Its no secret that was our motivation. There are a lot of B&Bs in this world that offer a charming history with super nice hosts and we were looking for something to distinguish ourselves and offer something unusual,” said Sherry, who used to work information technology at the American Red Cross.
About two hours south of Sperryville, Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Roseland, Va. offers a different type of lodging experience. They have two large homes within a 10-minute walk of the brewery that can be rented for long weekend or a week.
The 4-bedroom homes, both over 3,000 square feet can hold guests in a mountain lodge feeling with all modern appliances and furniture. And both offer spacious views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround the brewery. The homes were first built by brewery co-founders Steve and Heidi Crandall who originally were going to build a small housing development until the 2008 recession hit. Although the downturn prevented the neighborhood from taking flight, the Devil’s Backbone brewpub flourished and has grown to be one of the largest regional breweries in the country. The brewery was acquired this year by Anheuseur-Busch. The two homes were the models for the community. Both are just a 10-minute walk to the brewpub and its vast biergarten. There are no set rental prices for the homes which are perfect for multi-family gatherings. Just make an offer.
The mountains are not the only places to find a brewery with nearby lodging. In 2014, Dogfish Head Brewery bought and refurbished a motel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware a few miles from its Milton, Del. headquarters. The inn features 16 rooms, half of which are dog friendly.
All the rooms are beer themed including a wool Dogfish blanket created and screenprints of beer labels from the brewery’s many music collaborations. There’s even beer soap in the bathrooms. In the mornings, guests enjoy complimentary Dogfish Chicory Coffee.
There’s a few other brewery-related inns around the country including The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe Vermont and the Calistoga Inn and Brewery in Napa Valley. There’s also The Inn on Peaks Island in Maine, which is owned by Shipyard Brewing, which has its brewery a short ferry ride away in Portland, Maine. And that’s where I’ll be later this summer. Can’t wait!