a hop and a skip: swover creek farms and brewery.

burgimg_7371I was excited enough about seeing a real life chainsaw artist and drinking some new beer. I totally didn’t anticipate the beauty of the drive.

If you leave my house in Timberville and head north on 42, you’ll drive over a high ridge — a narrow ribbon with rolling farmland falling away on both sides. The naked trees of winter are no longer a visual barrier to the golden mountains in the distance, and the wind howls around your car. Onward through Forestville, Getz Corner, and Hudson Crossroads, you’ll see centuries-old farmhouses, barns, and buildings that in the suburbs would translate into “dilapidated.” Here, though, in this rocky and imperfect terrain, they are rustic, if not downright beautiful. It’s like driving through the landscape of history itself. There is something comforting about traveling over that ancient bedrock, so heavy, solid, and rooted to the earth.

When you get to Conicville, you’re close. Swover Creek Farms and Brewery, officially located in Edinburg, feels like a combination of everything outdoorsy: a little bit summer camp, a little bit ski lodge, a little bit cabin on the river, a little bit grandpa’s farm. Plus a chainsaw artist. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Lynn and Dave St. Clair started Swover Creek Farms in 1998. In 2011, the farm began producing sausages, and little by little, yet with consistent progress, beer came along — starting with the planting of hops in 2013, the nano-brewery in the old tractor garage in 2014, and then in 2015 moving into the current brewery building with a 3.5 barrel brew system. In fact, up until 2014, the land where the brewery now sits was mostly land and cows.

burgimg_7458When you arrive, you might think you’re at someone’s private residence, because that’s how it looks. You’ll see a wide front porch with colorful Adirondack chairs, a patio with a fire pit, and some dogs and kids running around in the yard. Yep, you’re welcome to bring your dogs and your children. The owners of the place are quite friendly and love company: on Fridays they host Dart Night (7pm) and the third Thursday of the month is Trivia Night (7pm).

Just inside the front door is the taproom. A long bar runs along the back wall, and comfortable seating (and a couple TVs) fill the rest of the warm and cozy (yes, fireplace) space. The large room to the right is called the “Loafing Shed.” It’s an enclosed and heated space where the farm’s cows used to hang out. This room boasts seating for nearly 50 guests, a little play area for the kiddos, two dart boards, and an 11-foot TV screen! You can access the patio from this room, and beyond the patio is a nice grassy area.

burgimg_7404So, the beer and the menu. On tap they usually have six or eight beers, like the Dirty Blonde, the Vanilla Sour Wheat, or the Nitro Oatmeal Porter. You can order a flight, fill your growler, or even join their Farmer in the Ale club and get your very own, one-of-a-kind mug crafted by SENK Pottery. Looking around the place, you might not realize how close to Interstate 81 it is. But the brewery enjoys consistent patronage from locals and from travelers passing through. We’ve all had that point on a long trip where you say, “GAHD I NEED A DANG BEER.” Plus, there are three wineries within just a few miles, which makes for a nice little tour. This is one reason why Swover Creek tries to keep a Belgian on tap — Belgians appeal to wine drinkers. Since business at the brewery is hopping, there are no plans for distribution. For now, they’re happy to be a beer destination. However, they will start bottling soon (12 and 22oz) for purchase at the brewery. Also on tap for 2017 is a non-alcoholic beer, a gluten-free beer, and “Firkin Friday,” when they’ll brew a special firkin (11 gallon cask).

burgimg_7382In the Swover Creek Farm Store and Kitchen (on the other side of their parking lot), you can buy many many many wonderful items. Made-on-site quiche using local duck eggs, jams, pretzels, mustard. About a dozen kinds of smoked sausage, produced on site. Black raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and blueberries. Smoked chicken salad and sweet zucchini relish. And you can even pick your own hops in their hop yard (but this requires a reservation, so call first!).

You can order food in the brewery: the Farm Store and Kitchen makes it and then delivers it to the brewery. They offer about ten different brick-oven pizzas (and they make the dough on site), about a dozen smoked sausage products served on homemade pretzel rolls (such as andouille, chorizo, bratwurst, kielbasa, and even apple maple), plus pepperoni rolls, baked jalapeño poppers, chipotle cheese dip, beer cheese, and Firefly Hot Sauces, made at nearby Passage Creek Farm.

There is a story in here… I know it.

So on this particular day, Brandy and I drove on out to Swover Creek Brewery for the purpose of (drinking beer and) seeing a chainsaw portrait artist doing live portraits on the patio. His name is Glen Richardson, and it was a sight to behold. His subject sat in a chair with a barber cape around his neck while Glen carved (WITH A CHAIN SAW) the man’s profile into a slab of tree. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to complete the carving, and then Glen charred the portrait with a propane torch, and he let the subject help with that part, too. He advised the subject to lightly sand the portrait once it cooled down. It was amazing.

burgimg_7387burgimg_7386burgimg_7420burgimg_7427burgimg_7426burgimg_7425burgimg_7422burgimg_7438At Glen’s website called Sawaddict, you’ll see photos of the many characters he creates, such as Fraidy Dance and Slug Boy. He’s done series like “Rabbit Folk” and “Wackadoodles,” and he’s created lawn furniture based on the phrases “putting your butt in danger” or “bite my ass.” You can follow Glen on Facebook to keep up with his events or to reach out if you’re interested in a carving.

burgimg_7372Once the sun went down, Glen’s carving demonstration ended and we all piled into the Loafing Shed for another beer, some pizza, and an awesome chorizo/pretzel sandwich. The brewery has a friendly, welcoming, relaxed vibe that’ll leave you warm and fuzzy. It’s open Thursday from 4 –  8pm, Friday and Saturday from noon – 8pm, and Sunday from noon – 7pm. Go try ’em out — it’s just a hop and a skip, and well worth the journey.

burgimg_7460Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

laughing matters: cards against humanity at pale fire brewing.

burgIMG_0871Things That Make Me Laugh Until I’m Snorting and Wiping Mascara Off My Chin
1. The episode of Friends where Ross wears leather pants
2. “Celebrity Jeopardy” with Will Ferrell and Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live
3. The entire Cake Wrecks web site
4. Any instance of a person (or animal) falling down, even if it’s my own child
5. And now, Cards Against Humanity at Pale Fire Brewing!

We all love to laugh. Whether you’re hanging out with goofy little kids (nature’s clowns, as my mom would say), or watching stand-up on Comedy Central, or bingeing on You Tube blooper videos, it just feels good to come home from a long day at work and unwind with humor. In fact, just this week, my first week back at school, one of my colleagues gave a speech of sorts that had us all howling with laughter one minute and stifling tears the next… his words were inspiring and moving, laced with humor and raw sentiment. And I left that meeting feeling relaxed and renewed and emotionally massaged. Sometimes we forget — we NEED to laugh, every single day. There’s science behind this. You probably know that exercise causes your brain to release endorphins (endogenous morphine) which are actually your body’s naturally occurring pain relievers. But guess what? Laughing does the same thing! Laughter also helps you learn new skills or material, deepens social bonds, and boosts your immune system. So I think it’s time to add laughter to your wellness routine, right up there with exercise, drinking water, and all that jazz. Our Friendly City has lots of ways to help you achieve that goal, and you can start on Monday nights at Pale Fire Brewing.

burgIMG_0884Brandy and I were so excited when the Cards Against Humanity host (and owner of Midtowne Market and Midtowne Bottle Shop) Lauren Penrod asked us to serve as judges last Monday. Having never played the game before, I looked forward to seeing how it worked. I really wasn’t prepared for how funny it would be. If I’d known, I would’ve dug out the waterproof mascara and brought some tissues.

We arrived and got the scoop from Lauren: The game is like Apples to Apples, but for adults. And I mean, ADULTS. If it were a movie, it would be rated R. For that reason, you might want to consider not bringing impressionable youngsters. And for that same reason, I simply can’t include all the answers we judged that night!

So. People who want to play arrive at Pale Fire by 8pm. You can arrive with a team, you can play solo, you can try to join a team after you arrive… there’s no limit to the number of teams or the number of people on a team. Easy peasy. Then you decide a team name. The teams we judged were called The Wookie Squad, Plain Old Scorcerers, Monday Night Book Club, Spiteful Lady in the Hat, and Last Call. And of course every time we said the name of that team, Jared had to yell from behind the bar, “It’s not actually last call!”, which was funny, too.

burgIMG_0867After you’ve established your team and name, you come get ten cards and a sticky note. You write your team name on the sticky note so we (the judges) know who gave which answer. Then Lauren reads a prompt and teams choose one card from the ten in their hand that they think is the best/most clever/dirtiest/funniest/most bizarre/etc. and turn it in to us. We select what we feel is the winning answer, then see who the team is that supplied it and announce the winner. This goes on for several prompts; then there’s a break, followed by a second round. At the very end, Lauren adds up the points and announces the winner. Lots of great prizes are awarded, including rounds of beers, gift cards, and the right to create your own card to be used in the next week’s competition!

burgIMG_0877 burgIMG_0874For example, Lauren read the prompt, “The healing process began when I joined a support group for victims of __________.” Teams filled in that blank with answers like “Shaquille O’Neal’s acting career,” “my ex-wife,” and “yeast” (incidentally, that card had a little fleck of dirt on it, and SOMEONE at the judge’s table asked if it was a hyphen. Bahahaha!). Here’s another one:

“Puberty is a time of change. You might notice hair growing in new places. You might develop an interest in _____________. This is normal.”

I must censor all the answers we received to this one, but let me just say that it involved poop in a bucket, hair removal, and “jobs” for everyone. Then there’s this one:

“Don’t worry, kid. It gets better. I’ve been living with ____________ for 20 years.”

We received “waiting till marriage,” “women’s suffrage,” “an inability to form meaningful relationships,” and “special musical guest, Cher.”

The music was playing, the beer was pouring, the whole room was laughing in what was like a huge communal improv exercise, and the three of us were pretty much LOSING IT every two seconds. Plus we were all trying to use different accents while reading all of it out loud, and at one point Lauren mixed up “sushi burps” and said “surshi boops” instead, and I just didn’t think I’d be able to breathe again.

burgIMG_0843 burgIMG_0836 burgIMG_0831Then things got real because there was a tie. That means a sudden death situation. The two tied teams came to the table, chose two answer cards, and had to quickly apply only one of them to the tie breaking prompt. In the end we had a winner: Monday Night Book Club!

burgIMG_0881 burgIMG_0883I can’t think of a better way to end a crappy Monday than to go laugh my butt off with some buddies at Pale Fire. Go check your calendars, move a couple things around, make other plans for your children, and go get a healthy dose of funny! See you there!

burgIMG_0858 burgIMG_0861Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

center fold: dj hyfi and the center.

burgIMG_2999I retired from distance running not long following the birth of my son. After 20+ years of high mileage, my body finally started to rebel: my hips got wonky, I developed a bum knee, my hamstrings would tie themselves in knots over nothing…  even my feet are… well, they’re just disgusting. Even with all these reminders of my physical limitations, I still think of myself as some  25-year-old running phenom (ha), dive headlong into new exercise programs or physical challenges (such as carrying a few dozen 40-pound bags of stone up and down the hill in my backyard), and then find myself arrogantly surprised when I get tired, or my muscles (ha) start shaking, or I’m too sore to even lie down the next day.

Thank goodness for yoga. I mean it. One, it can be as challenging as you need it to be. If you’re an elite athlete and think everything’s too easy for you, there’s a yoga for you. If you’re a beginner who needs to work on balance and flexibility, there’s a yoga for you. Two, if you tend to be a stress ball all day and need to be emotionally untangled, there’s a yoga for you. Three, if you’re an old washed up athlete who struggles to do any kind of exercise, there’s a yoga for you.

And now, if you love yoga but also love electronic music, there’s a yoga for you! Yep. Brandy, Ella, and I, along with about twenty-five other folks, recently attended a 90-minute (!!!) yoga class with a DJ, the Friday Night Live: Cool Music, Groovy Yoga class AND happy hour at The Center.

burgIMG_2933The DJ arranged his sound and light equipment at the front of the yoga studio; as we all filed in and placed our mats on the floor, I felt like I had a little subwoofer in my chest. I worried for a few minutes that the music would be too loud, but before long, the movements and the sound fused together in a way that connected all the senses. The music was so much a part of us and our movements that it seemed to both predict what we were doing and respond to it, simultaneously. I lost all track of time. It was a RAVE of relaxation, if you will.

burgIMG_2947DJ Hyfi works as a “nomadic DJ, on the road, fusing fresh beats with vinyasa.” I admit, when I saw this event come across my newsfeed, I wondered how it would work and thought it sounded strange. How would I quiet my mind in a loud environment? I still don’t know the answer to that question, but having now experienced it, it seems completely natural. Yoga is rhythmic. Breathing is rhythmic. One’s heart beat is rhythmic. Why not give those things a rhythmic soundtrack?

burgIMG_2952The session started with multiple sun salutations and warrior poses, followed by balance work.Suzanne McCahill Perrine’s instructions and cuing were, as always, impeccable. If I couldn’t see anyone to mimic his or her movements, her verbal descriptions saved me. If anyone needed help getting into a pose, she was right there. My favorite part was when the entire group formed a circle and held hands during Warrior III. I got to hold Ella’s hand and the hand of a complete stranger — what a beautiful thing! Another notable moment was how gooood everyone looks doing what I call the “pretty pose” (i.e., Half Lord of the Fishes pose) — all those whittled torsos and strong shoulders and piles of messy hair. During one of the inverted poses, I could see Brandy through my legs and Ella beyond that through Brandy’s legs, and it made me smile the way, even upside down, those two gals look so much alike.

Just when I thought I couldn’t hold any pose for even one more second, sweat was pooling in awkward places all over me, and every muscle fiber burned with constant exertion, Suzanne instructed us all to lie down. I closed my eyes and let myself be carried away by the throbbing music. I might have fallen asleep… I’m not really sure… but for several minutes I thought of absolutely nothing. When I opened my eyes, the lights were dancing all over the room, and I saw faces in the ceiling. First there was a lion. Then I saw a man with a beard, until the beard morphed into a baby, being held by its mother. To the left I saw a caricature of John Lennon, while a man and his cat sat over to the right. Brandy remarked that she had an out-of-clothing experience where she snapped out of her trance and thought she might be nakey… but then she checked and realized she did indeed still have pants on. We really did lose track of time… and space.

burgIMG_2959After peeling ourselves off the floor, we quietly emerged into the lobby of Ice House Studios, where Suzanne had arranged a buffet catered by Food Bar Food and Pale Fire Brewing. Starving from our efforts in the last ninety minutes, we devoured the delicious snacks: falafel fritters with tatziki; tofu and shiitake mushroom croquettes with Thai caramel sauce; and black bean & goat cheese hummus with corn tortilla chips. For the next hour we enjoyed chatting about the class, the DJ, and our lives, making this workout as much emotional and spiritual as it was physical. I also got a chance to check out Ice House Studios: I admit, I had not set foot in there before tonight!

burgIMG_2925 burgIMG_2940burgIMG_2966 burgIMG_2978The space houses both The Center and Breathe Pilates and Yoga. There are two yoga studios with mats, bolsters, blocks, and blankies. The Pilates room contains mirrors and ample equipment, while the Barre room offers mats and balls to its users. Large windows and soft lighting contrast the concrete columns and exposed block walls throughout the old factory. There’s also a terrace — you can make yourself a cup of tea in the lobby and enjoy it outside.

burgIMG_2944Ice House Studios also hosts services provided by several other professionals: Four Seasons Harmony Massage Therapy and Healing Arts; Mary Straub Pargas Yoga Therapy and Holistic Coaching; Kate Miller’s “Be” Bodywork, Yoga, and Aromatherapy; Blue Heron Healing Arts owned by Grayson Pritchard; and Becky Bartells Massage Therapy.

And, the merchandise. You can find beautiful jewelry by Rhoda Miller of Rhodarts, Lily and Laura bracelets made by artisans in Nepal, colorful tote bags, essential oil kits, and candles. Body products, journals, mats, socks, and headbands. Icehouse, Breathe, and The Center shirts and other crucial apparel, just in case you arrived without something.

And if you’ve never really explored the Ice House in entirety, you can take a class or get a massage at Ice House Studios, grab a perk-up at Black Sheep Coffee, shop for clothing and jewelry at The Yellow Button and Hugo Kohl’s, eat dinner (or breakfast or lunch, for that matter) at Pure Eats, and then savor a beer at Pale Fire Brewing. Too bad you can’t just move in there. Oh wait, YOU CAN.

Ice House Studios are located on the second floor of the Ice House, which is located in downtown Harrisonburg on Liberty Street across from Turner Pavilion. Coming up on April 30, it’s the return of Detox Retox — an outdoor yoga class in the circular drive of Pale Fire Brewing! Click to see the classes offered at The Center and Breathe. See you there!
burgIMG_2949 burgIMG_2962burgIMG_3008Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

high score: ruby’s arcade.

burgIMG_1285The bar has been raised.

Ruby’s Arcade, the newest endeavor of local restauranteur Clay Clark, has been open for six weeks or so, so this post might seem a little late arriving. But since its opening, Brandy and I (or just Brandy, or just I) have been in that place like ten times: the Downtown Renaissance Awards ceremony, an evening out with all the kiddos, a happy hour celebration with some teacher friends, friend and family bonding time after our art show, to name a few. She kept taking photos and I kept taking notes and ding dang it, we can’t hold it in any longer.

This place is AWESOME. First, you won’t be surprised to hear the food is excellent. They pride themselves on their fresh meats, never frozen, including their pork, ribs, and brisket smoked DAILY. The fried chicken sandwich and the fried catfish sandwich (I’ve had both) are succulent and delicious, and please do yourself a favor and get the smoked gouda mac ‘n cheese. They’ve got a great selection of burgers, appetizers, and salads, too. But the pizza. Whoa. Wood-fired pizza in their snazzy red wood oven, loaded with noteworthy toppings like pickled peppers, smoked pork, artichokes, and bleu cheese, and names like The Keanu, The Swayze, and The Bern.

burgIMG_1319 burgIMG_1323But that’s not all. They’ve got several excellent draft beers, and YOU CAN GET A PITCHER of any of them. Yep, you heard me right! A pitcher!! I remember twenty years ago, I could get a pitcher of beer at one of our very few local watering holes… but then pitchers went away. It could be, and I’m just speculating, that as the quality of H’burg beer increased, pitchers got pricey, and establishments stopped selling them. Whatever. That’s all water under the bridge now, because the pitcher is back! You can even get a 2-topping pizza and a pitcher of PBR for eighteen bucks!

And that’s still not all. Let’s get to the reason it’s called Ruby’s Arcade. The games! The showpiece of the whole joint is the four-lane duckpin bowling alley. Clay rescued the duckpin bowling apparatus, Chris Howdyshell tinkered and toiled and got it all working again, and now you and up to three of your buddies can share a lane for just $20/hour. Our kids LOVED it. After that you can amble on over to the billiard and pingpong tables. Or play shuffleboard. Or Foosball. Or you can play a board game. Or darts. This list is getting long.

burgIMG_1295 burgIMG_1299 burgIMG_1310 burgIMG_1321The place is huge, so don’t worry about it being too crowded. When you first walk in, there’s a large area with high-top tables and a little lounge area. Continue down a short flight of steps and to the left is the bar and the bowling area. Tables of various sizes (and made of re-purposed wood from antique bowling lanes!), assorted game tables, and upholstered furniture fill the rest of the space, and if you keep walking toward the back, there’s another swanky lounge area back there.

burgIMG_1287 burgIMG_1289burgIMG_1292 burgIMG_1307Decorating the huge space might have seemed daunting at first, but with the help of mural artists like Lynda Bostrom, Derek Niver, Michael Broth, Andre Shank, Trip Madison, and Elliott Downs, those walls weren’t bare for long. It’s worth a trip in there just to see the art work.

burgIMG_1305burgIMG_1290Gourmet food + games for all ages + quality beer (in PITCHERS) + stunning artwork + tons of space + friendly staff = the place to go for any occasion. This is why I said the bar’s been raised. Ruby’s Arcade fills a hole I didn’t realize existed until I got in there to see what it was all about. Now it’s your turn. And to get in there, you enter from the paved area behind Clementine and You Made It!, sort of adjacent to the back of the bike shop/little bridge over Blacks Run. They’re open seven days a week! See you soon!

Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

we new it: ride along.

When I sit down to write my list of New Year’s resolutions, it usually goes like this:

Things I Should Do in the New Year:
1. Exercise more.
2. uuuuuuuuuggggghhh.

Things I Want To Do in the New Year:
1. Read.
2. Learn an instrument.
3. Be more creative.
4. Make my own sushi.
5. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people.

Things I’ll Most Likely Actually Do in the New Year:
1. Netflix.
2. Fish tacos.
3. Funny cat videos on YouTube.

I guess the three lists show a trend… that I don’t like to resolve to do things I’m simply not interested in, and that sometimes I feel I’ve accomplished NOTHING, that I’ve wasted yet another year not doing what I want, doing more working than playing, more frowning than smiling, more scrolling than learning, more spending than saving, blah blah blah. But, when I truly look back over 2015 as a whole, I see it was not a waste at all. Not a minute. Indeed, 2015 was marked by unprecedented newness and adventure, for both Brandy and for me. She and I both traveled to new destinations — she to Alaska and Oregon, and I to several national parks as far west as Yosemite. We also started an awards program called Harrisonburg Action Figures and presented the first one back in September. We were interviewed for a podcast — another totally new experience — by Kai Degner (Hello Harrisonburg), and because of that experience, we offered our first I Love My Burg prize to listeners who shared that podcast– a ride along with us, wherever he or she wanted to go, our treat! We covered the opening of two new breweries and a restaurant (Pale Fire, Wolfe Street, and Jalapeño), we attended Megan Tiller’s first ever pop up show featuring Bradford Lee Folk, and we finally tried some lavender ice cream. I’m teaching a class I’ve never taught in my seventeen years of teaching, and Brandy documented nearly twenty hikes all over Virginia and the US in her Took a Hike, Took a Camera series. Our lives are full of new things, not necessarily previously written down on a list of resolutions, but things that arise organically because we’re friends. So I think my “list” this year will simply be this: Continue doing new stuff.

This post is about a whole night of new things! Our ride along winner, Sharon Skates, wanted to try out Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Wolfe Street Brewing. The brewery is located on Wolfe Street (duh) between Liberty and 42 and adjoins the Rock’n Wolfe Food Truck Park, which is super handy. The building was, at one time long ago, a chicken slaughterhouse, then a mechanic’s shop, and then it sat empty for a bit before the owner of the property decided to convert it to a brewery. Inside it’s a cozy space. The dropped ceiling directly over the bar holds Wolfe St. growlers re-purposed as lights. A split-level seating area leads to a homey and sizable yard out back. On the left side of the space, nine thousand pounds of malted grain in neatly stacked sacks is all that separates the general public from the brewing area. The entire brewery is cloaked in gorgeous woodwork by Benevolent Design, lending a Scandinavian cabin feel to the whole place.

burgIMG_7098 burgIMG_7105burgIMG_8258 burgIMG_8261We sampled four beers that evening. The Winter Lager is their seasonal brew, and Hop Pocket has a crisp, piney flavor. The Scotch Ale is a full-bodied, smokey beer, and the Nut Quacker is spicy and refreshing.

burgIMG_8264 burgIMG_8281Our next stop was the grand re-opening of The Mark-It in its new location at 125 West Water Street, right in front of the wooden bridge. You might be surprised to know that the business has been around for about 20 years — starting as a little kiosk in the mall, moving to several locations, and finally being operated by its current owners, Susie Diehl and Jeff Guinn. The walls of the store are filled with the work they’ve done over the years, for people and companies ranging from the Super Gr8 Film Festival and Pale Fire Brewing to Uncle Bengine and the Restraining Orders. The store looks great, the location is awesome, and we wish them happiness and prosperity in their new location!

burgIMG_7122 burgIMG_7125 burgIMG_7128 burgIMG_7132 burgIMG_7136 burgIMG_7144 burgIMG_7149Brandy and I had been to Food Bar Food several times, but for Sharon it was a new experience and we were so happy to take her there. Seriously. The food is absolutely exquisite, and the prices are so reasonable. Plus the bloody Mary menu — sheesh! I might have to update my resolutions to include “try every singe item on the Food Bar Food menu.” For now, I ordered the haddock burger with a fried egg on top (omg, I’m drooling as I type that); Sharon got the duck leg, and Brandy got the Thai curry noodles. We talked about all sorts of girly topics that I can’t really share here, but we did discover something we have in common: we’re all old enough to know what a “pager number” is. If you don’t, you could always add “learn about obsolete technology” to your list of resolutions.

burgIMG_7152 burgIMG_7163It’s a new year in our beautiful city and there’s so much to look forward to. This city is FILLED with people who “do new stuff” all the time, and that’s why Harrisonburg is so rich in art and music, gourmet food and top notch beer, unique shops and excellent, efficient service. So, thanks for helping me keep my resolution, Friendly City. I couldn’t do it without you.

If you’re looking for something new to do this year, here are the highlights of our 2015:
Hot Ticket: Jalapeño Southwest Grill
All In: unJURIED Exhibition
Freezer Burn: Pale Fire Brewing
Take Your Pick: Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys
Follow Your Hearts: Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts
Here’s the Deal: Harrisonburg Pokemon League
Tap Dance: Brothers Craft Brewing Music Festival
Grass Roots: Our Community Place Annual Lawn Jam
Cold Off the Press: Old Hill Hard Cider
Field Day: White Oak Lavender Farm
Full Alert: Edible Fest
Be In the Running: VA Momentum
Royal Treatment: 2015 Progressive Party

burgIMG_7166Copyright © 2012-16 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

full alert: edible fest.

burgIMG_0507Trying to schedule an outing usually goes like this:

Katie: We need to get out soon.
Brandy: Agreed. How about Tuesday?
Katie: No can do, Bree’s got a meet. What about Wednesday?
Brandy: I’ve got a photo shoot.
Katie: Okay. Friday?
Brandy: Blake’s got a band thing. How about next Monday?
Katie: I have a hair appointment.

Still, as you and the rest of our readers can see, we do manage to get out occasionally. And on a very rare occasion, we are able to attend an all-day event. When that happens, man – do we milk it for everything it’s worth!

So a few weeks ago Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I were fortunate enough to attend the Fourth Annual Edible Fest in Orange, Virginia. Driving from Harrisonburg, careening through Shenandoah National Park, traversing the curves and mountains of Greene County before crossing into Orange County, home of Montpelier and Barboursville and punctuated by corn fields and kudzu dinosaurs, provided ample and much-needed time to talk and catch up with each other, to breathe and simply sit – restricted by the seatbelt from doing anything at all but sitting side by side. There’s something beautifully restful about a drive.

Once there, we parked and took a shuttle just a couple blocks to the site, right on Main Street in downtown Orange. Presented by edible Blue Ridge Magazine, the Orange Downtown Alliance, and the AV Company, the day-long festival includes Chef Demos with food tastings, a huge open-air market, live music, food trucks, beer and wine, DIY seminars, and kids’ activities. The whole time we were there, we kept saying, “Harrisonburg could TOTALLY do this!” and we really hope that happens soooon!

burgIMG_0543burgIMG_0456Here’s how it was set up: On one end were two large tents with a closed-circuit TV, a microphone, and about 100 seats in each. These were for the Chef Demos, and the two tents took turns so that patrons wouldn’t miss half of the demonstrations. Running at staggered times in a third tent were DIY seminars on topics ranging from making Kombucha to cooking with mushrooms to beer brewing. The chefs included Dwayne Edwards from Keswick Hall; Jason Daniels from Vintage Restaurant at The Inn at Willow Grove; Curtis Shaver from Hamiltons’ First and Main; Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange; Ralph Brown from RBC Institute; Tucker Yoder from Eljogaha; Angelo Vangelopoulos from The Ivy Inn Restaurant; Pete Woods from Merrior and Rappahannock Oyster Co.; Ken Notari from Nude Fude; and Martha Stafford from Charlottesville Cooking School. The chefs’ demos lasted from 10:30am until 4:45pm, so if you wanted to, you could just scoot back and forth between those two tents and spend the entire day watching these incredibly talented chefs and sampling TONS of amazing food.

On the other end of the festival site was a covered dining area with plenty of tables and chairs and a bandstand for the three bands who played (Michael Coleman, John Kelly, and Erin Lunsford). Between the two ends (chef tents and dining area) were ZILLIONS of vendors of most anything you can imagine. Plus food trucks (nine of ’em!!) and a beer truck. I can’t remember all the beers offered, but Pale Fire was one of them, and I remained faithful!

burgIMG_0479And so finally getting to the story, here’s what we did:
First we saw Chef Dwayne Edwards and his assistant from Keswick Hall make a succulent watermelon salad with lavender, sea salt, chili flakes, goat cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, tangerine oil, oak barrel aged vinegar, fennel pollen, and basil. Mind you, I didn’t know what HALF those things were, at all, but this tattooed chef in his pinstriped apron narrated every step and it was quite educational. I learned a lot – a new way to chop up a watermelon (my way is pretty efficient, too, I must say, but his added a ninja element), a new way to choose a watermelon (I’ve been drumming on it like a bongo all this time, but apparently you should look for bumps on the “ground side” of the watermelon), and a crazy amount of information about all the different kinds of salt, and even the origin of the word “salary,” which appealed to the word-nerd in me.

burgIMG_0316 burgIMG_0328 burgIMG_0344 burgIMG_0354Next in Tent 2, Chef Tucker Yoder and his assistant Angelo were whipping up Sprouted Grain Salad with Seasonal Veggies and Duck Ham from a local farm. All the chefs used locally-sourced ingredients in their dishes, and Chef Yoder makes most all of his sauces and spreads from scratch – a nice nod to sustainability and craftsmanship that’s usually absent in chain restaurants – resulting in fresh and vibrant flavors.

burgIMG_0368 burgIMG_0372 burgIMG_0379Back in Tent 1, Chef Jason Daniels and his assistant Anthony put together a Pan Roasted Pork Loin (dear gaaaaahhhhd) with Yellow Squash Casserole, Baby Spinach, and Blueberry Salsa. That dish smelled SO good while it was cooking I could barely resist climbing onto the countertop. The casserole included sauteed yellow squash, olive oil, butter, scallions and onion, salt and pepper, sugar, flour, a whole bunch of cheese and heavy cream. While that baked, he made the salsa from red onion, jalapenos, blueberries, garlic, mint and cilantro, and simple syrup – all smushed by hand. The pork sizzled in its skillet in brine. Then it all went together in a happy little cup. Unbelievable.

burgIMG_0397After that demo, we ventured out into vendor-land. So many products. So many samples. So much gooooood. I couldn’t possible list them all, but we saw insect repellant soap by Eastham Farms, Bloody Mary mix (three varieties) by Back Pocket Provisions. Their “Bloody Bangkok” is a throat kicker! Hot Jelly Pot brought 72 flavors of jams and jellies, including their number one seller, Pineapple Pepper. There were Wakefield Peanuts and Hickory (not maple!) Syrups. Mushroom spawn kits. Barefoot Bucha and culinary herbs. Beautiful wooden and ceramic products from Madeira and Lifeware. Tea for all occasions from Fairweather Farm Tea with names like “What the Fxxx Happened,” “Chill the Fxxx Out,” and “Calm the Fxxx Down.” No, I’m not kidding. It was awesome. Coffee, cheese, wine, vinegar, honey, produce, meat, pies, all of it!

burgIMG_0408 burgIMG_0416 burgIMG_0432 burgIMG_0449burgIMG_0462 burgIMG_0467 burgIMG_0468We made it to the end of the marketplace and found the food trucks. We all found something refreshing and reviving and sat down together to enjoy the music. Kids who’d gotten a smoothie from Maui Wowi flashed blue smiles at each other, knowingly, like a secret handshake. Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to try to catch one more chef demo.

This time, it was Chef Craig Hartman from The Barbeque Exchange and his Sweet Corn and Bacon. It was after 2pm. People had been there a while and were relaxed and jovial. You could feel the excitement; the tent seemed hotter. We all clapped when he pulled out the giant slab of bacon; we cheered when he said “butter”! His biggest piece of advice when cooking the meat was to “control the flame” at all times. Don’t let the pan get too hot; don’t lose control of that flame. So it was especially funny when his towel caught fire. And when he handed out the sample of that sweet corn and bacon, it was like Oprah’s Favorite Things: “YOU get bacon! And YOU get bacon! AND YOU GET BACON!” People went crazy! Lots of laughing and clapping and yum-ing – what an awesome day.

burgIMG_0511 burgIMG_0514 burgIMG_0522 burgIMG_0531burgIMG_0538All in all, this was a fantastic festival and something WE KNOW Harrisonburg could pull off. Who’s in?

burgIMG_0493 burgIMG_0494Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

freezer burn: pale fire brewing.

burgPaleFire29After months and months of waiting, viewing mouthwatering photos of what’s to come, and receiving countless tantalizing updates, the day is finally here: today is the day that Pale Fire Brewing officially opens for all to patronize, covet, admire, and dream of, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Anticipation is one of my favorite sensations: looking forward to a fun trip, the aroma of a simmering meal, excitement about a visit from an old friend, knowing a rare book I ordered is en route via UPS and will be on my doorstep soon. So I have thoroughly enjoyed savoring the delicious weeks leading up to today’s grand opening. But you know what else is a great feeling? My butt in a chair on a sunny patio, enjoying the company of a fresh, cold beer. That first sip is the exact moment when anticipation fuses with the present and everything is perfect.

burgPaleFire18So, wait no longer! Go today! Go tomorrow! And go every single chance you get – here’s what’s waiting for YOU, as Brandy and I discovered when we got a sneak peek earlier this week:

These beers, as described by the brewer himself:
Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale – 4.8% ABV – 45 IBU
~ American two row malt, Maris Otter, Munich, Crystal
~ Warrior, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook
Deadly Rhythm, by its very name, creates a graceful balance between Pacific Northwest hops and a blend of American and English malts. Floral and fruity hop aromas provide the introduction to the lightly toasted malt backbone of this beer. This American pale ale finishes dry with a smooth but lingering bitterness.

Salad Days American Saison – 7.0% ABV – 40 IBU
~ American two row malt, Rye, Wheat
~ Warrior, Cascade, Amarillo, Simcoe
American two row barley and malted rye provide the canvas for pungent Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade hops to mingle with our house Saison yeast. Notes of grapefruit, peach, and bubblegum dance out of the glass and mellow into a refreshingly tart, dry finish.

Saving Grace Table Beer – 4.2% ABV – 26 IBU
~ Pilsner malt, Wheat, Carapils
~ Northern Brewer, Czech Saaz
Saving Grace is based on the Belgian “patersbier” which Trappist monks used to brew for sustenance that would allow them to continue to work during the day. This low-alcohol farmhouse beer is brewed with Pilsner malt, Czech Saaz hops and our house Saison yeast to provide a satisfying end to a long day of hard work.

Double India Pale Ale – 8.0% ABV – 100 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Crystal, Wheat
~ Warrior, Summit, Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, CTZ
Double IPA is intensely hopped with six hop varieties that offer a cornucopia of aromas ranging from passion fruit, peach, and pineapple to grapefruit and lemon zest. We use English Maris Otter to balance the intense hop aromas producing a malt-balanced East Coast version of a Double IPA.

Smoking Scottish – 5.6% ABV – 20 IBU
~ Maris Otter, Victory, Roasted Barley, Crystal, Beech-smoked malt
~ Perle
Smoking Scottish is a legacy beer from Calhoun’s, Harrisonburg’s first modern brewpub. This Scottish ale features a complex blend of English Maris Otter, roasted and caramel malts for a rich malt backbone. German Perle hops add a clean bitterness to balance the toasted caramel flavors from the malt.

Get a tissue – you’re drooling.
burgPaleFire09 burgPaleFire28You can also anticipate a large, blonde, modern bar in the taproom with plenty of seats, in addition to several bar tables.

burgPaleFire16A spacious and inviting patio becomes one with the inside once the large, glass garage doors are raised.

burgPaleFire12 burgPaleFire11burgPaleFire06A cozy (and by that I mean comfortable, not small) lounge area centers around a functioning fireplace and a Little Free Library, AND a turn table and record collection for Album Night. (From what I understand there’s also a secret TV hidden behind a secret panel in some secret section of the bookshelves.) Seriously, it feels like home. I wonder if there’s a way I can make a little house in the secret compartment and hide in there.

burgPaleFire08 burgPaleFire07Expect to be astounded by the amazing view from the taproom into the gleaming brewery itself, with its perfectly polished vessels and pale fire floors. And a happy, relaxed staff waits ready to shake your hand, share a laugh, and pour something perfect.

burgIMG_8077And if you haven’t toured the rest of the Ice House yet, give yourself a little time to do that today, too. You can visit the Yellow Button at their new location, stop in at Black Sheep Coffee, browse vintage jewelry at Hugo A. Kohl’s shop, and check out Breathe and The Center which now share a space called Ice House Studios.

Winter’s finally over, a Pale Fire is smoldering, and the Ice House has permanently thawed. Grab a friend and go get warmed up today!

burgPaleFire17burgIMG_8066burgPaleFire24Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

take me to cask: casks for a cause at three brothers.

burgIMG_5408bwI love genius combinations.

Some of you might remember the old commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: “Hey! You got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” “You got peanut butter on my chocolate!” And while the actual invention of the super-popular candy didn’t happen in the ’80s as the commercial suggests (nor was it nearly as sexy [hello, wah-wah pedal] — it was merely created by a guy named Reese in the 1920s who was just experimenting with candy recipes), it certainly is one of the greatest genius combinations of all time. There have been others. Like putting Velcro on children’s shoes. And the most recent pair of sneakers I purchased have memory foam in them. MEMORY FOAM! Or, for example, my son’s eggheaded idea to make a chess board out of LEGO. Even if you have to get up and move the board mid game, the pieces stay put. And Instagram would never have happened if someone hadn’t come up with the camera phone.

So recently I discovered another mind-blowing combination. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, you CAN be good to yourself and good to others simultaneously. It’s called Casks for a Cause, a monthly event at Three Brothers Brewing that benefits a local charity or initiative. The brothers design a specialty beer and donate a whole keg to the cause, and all the money from the sales of drafts from that keg go to the lucky organization.

burgIMG_5405This particular Cask for a Cause featured lots of genius combinations. First of all, the “cause” was Spitzer Art Center, and we all know that art and beer is a winning combo. The special cask of the night was Three Brothers Slide infused with honey and cayenne, a concoction that was smoooooth going down and then slapped you in the throat. And Mama’s Caboose was there serving up cayenne-chocolate brownies. THAT combo was ridickers yummy. And don’t forget the music: Jason Summer (DJ Real Gone) followed by Jeff Gorman is a combination I hope to hear again in the near future.

burg3bros4 burgIMG_5418Spitzer Art Center provides workshops and classes to the general public, such as oil and pastel painting, silk painting, and metal making. The center hosts a variety of art shows and speakers and provides studio space for seven local artists. This Friday, January 16, Spitzer Art Center will honor Barb Gautcher, featuring works by her and by many of her former students, including Todd Yoder, Molly Whitmore of Molly Whitmore Photography, Zachary Nafziger of ZN Stained Glass, Steven Stauffer, Bomb Proof, Ashley Miller of Ashley Sauder Miller Art, Elizabeth Frey Davis , and Kimberly Juda Souder. Barb is the recent winner of the Shenandoah Valley High School Art Teacher of the Year award AND the High School Art Teacher of Virginia Award. And on February 6, you can see ANOTHER genius combination called WORD: A Juried Show Uniting Writing and Visual Art, in which artists “write an original poem or short prose piece in any style, about any subject, and then use any medium to display/frame/decorate the words and/or the space around them.”

With the sale of the cask, the Spitzer membership drive, brownie sales, and generous donations, Spitzer far exceeded their fundraising goal. Three Brothers have supported numerous organizations in this way, like the Wounded Warrior Project, RISE, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. If your desire to be charitable and your desire to drink a beer happens on the third Friday of the month, save yourself one trip and just go to Casks for a Cause at Three Brothers.

burgIMG_5406Three Brothers Brewing is located at 800 North Main Street, just north of and across the street from The Little Grill. Spitzer Art Center is located at 486 West Market Street, a couple blocks west of Court Square.

Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

hearts and crafts: from grain to growler, court square theater.

burgIMG_2359Beer entered the realm of human existence around the 5th century BC, roughly the same time as the invention/discovery of bread. One can only imagine it was some kind of heaven-sent happy accident. And we’ve been lucky to enjoy the beverage ever since. Several hundred years later, big corporations figured out how to manufacture huge quantities of beer very quickly, but the selection of beer – the types – remained relatively skimpy. I remember, for example, when Guinness was a luxury beer. And when, if the bar also had Bass on tap, you could get a Black and Tan. Guinness – and I still like it, don’t get me wrong – was this exotic, dark, mysterious, fancy beer consumed by college philosophy majors and poets. It wasn’t Keystone or Natty Light – the beer for everyone else.

I traveled overseas a lot during college, and I remember a youth hostel I stayed in that had a 24-hour bar downstairs. They served Guinness on tap and the most awesome grilled cheese sandwiches. I remember waking up at like two in the morning with a hankering, throwing on my bathrobe and slippers, and playing Rummy with a bunch of other Guinness-swilling cheese-munching revelers. I was in hog heaven. To this day, I want that. I want access to good beer, good food, and good people at any given time. I doubt with Virginia’s ABC laws that I’ll ever find such a paradise in this state, but who knows? Virginia’s been at the forefront of beer evolution, in case you didn’t know.

I learned this and other fascinating information about the craft beer movement when Brandy and I saw From Grain to Growler, a short-film documentary by Aaron Stanley and Megan Troy about independent beer brewers in the Old Dominion. Sometimes things come full circle: the whole craft beer phenomenon hearkens back to traditional breweries of yesteryear, with a modern technological sophistication. In other words, the “little beer guy” now has access to what the big beer companies have had for a long time: technology, equipment, reach, and ease of distribution. This is all due to a few passionate brewers who pushed for legislation that would open doors for the little guy.

I was so excited to see a movie about beer that I nailed down a babysitter like two weeks in advance. I made the kids do calisthenics and take extra vitamins to make sure they wouldn’t get sick that day. Okay, just kidding about that. But I did hound Brandy (“Can you go? can you go? can you go?”) about it til she was near the point of slapping me.

And so we went. Of course we had to swing by Capital Ale House first. Brandy’s got this new camera lens that doesn’t zoom, so she has to physically lean forward and back to get the right shot, and wouldntchaknowit, she knocked over her beer. I predict about twenty more spilled beers before she gets used to that thing.

burgIMG_2356 burgIMG_2347Then on the way into the theater, she banged her flash on the door frame, which is pretty much like banging YOUR CHILD’S HEAD. Thankfully we made it to the front row without injuring ourselves or anyone else and plopped down. The film started and I was taking notes like crazy: that short little thing contained TONS of information shared by TONS of beer experts. Following the film was a lively panel discussion that included representatives from Three Brothers, Midtowne Bottle Shop, Pale Fire Brewing, Champion Brewing, and Lickinghole Creek. Here’s what we learned during the film and the awesome panel discussion that followed:

burgIMG_2377Currently, Virginia is 4th in craft beer production. In 2010, there were about 40 brewpubs in Virginia. These were places that brewed their own beer but also sold food. They operated like a restaurant but sold their own beer. Everyone loves a brewpub, yes, but staffing and operating a full-on restaurant just to get to sell your craft beer is kinda expensive. So in 2012, the Virginia Senate passed SB 604, which essentially granted “vineyard rules” to breweries: brewers could sell their beer on site, but without having to provide a full food menu. Like at a vineyard, customers can buy snacks or bring in outside food, then enjoy freshly-brewed beer. With Harrisonburg’s outrageous food truck presence, we have a nice little set up: food trucks roll up to breweries like Three Brothers or Three Notch’d or (coming soon!!) Pale Fire, hungry patrons buy some grub to go with their suds, and everyone’s happy. So Yay! to everyone who lobbied for that bill. Because of it, it’s much easier for brewers to stay in business, hone their skills, and enjoy their passion.

During the panel discussion, several questions were answered. One was, “Who is your beer hero?” Answers ranged from craft beer pioneer Sierra Nevada to Russian River and something called Toad Spit. Panelists were asked what beer logo they’d have tattooed on themselves: Big Sky, Firestone Walker, anything by Flying Dog, and Tim chimed in with the original Calhoun’s logo. And when they’ve had a really rough day, which beer do they want the most? One panelist answered, “The one I can get in my mouth the fastest.” Amen, brother.

burgIMG_2375We learned a great deal about farming and beer, too. Apparently hops is very hard to grow in Virginia; still, our craft brewers try to use as many ingredients from local farmers as they can, which has led to some interesting collaborations. I have a sneaking suspicion that beer fanatics are just trying to get their daily fruit and veggie servings through their beer, what with blueberry beer and pumpkin beer and such… I don’t know… call me paranoid. But farmers have certainly inspired brewers. Which brings me to what I affectionately call Beer Porn. Get ready for these stimulating facts!

* One brewer named his new brew after Jerry Garcia because when he tasted it, “smoke came to mind.”
* Three Notch’d and Adroit collaborated on a Bloody Mary beer called Bloody Roots. Yes. A Sunday morning beer.
* Three Brothers’ Rum Barrel Aged Belgian Dubbel will remind you of Bananas Foster. And it’s won awards, people.
Port City Revival Stout contains oysters.
* The panel agreed that the weirdest name they’ve ever heard is the Woodbooger Belgian-style Brown Ale by Strangeways.
* Many of these ideas came to the brewers because they couldn’t sleep one night, or they dreamed it. So, no, you’re not the only one who wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about beer.

burgIMG_2384In short, it’s hard to brew a beer from start to finish with ingredients all from Virginia, but thanks to dedication, the willingness to sweat and lose sleep, hard-fought legislation, cooperative farmers, and just plain inspiration, we’re getting there. Let’s celebrate those victories, and all victories, and heck, let’s celebrate our troubles, too, at one of our local breweries: Three Brothers, Three Notch’d, and coming soon, Pale Fire and (rumor has it) Back Bay Brewing from Virginia Beach. Let’s face it: Harrisonburg loves beer. We have at least three big beer festivals each year, we were voted Best Beer Town by Blue Ridge Magazine for Pete’s sake, and we have beer-related events constantly, like this Tour and Taste one this Saturday, and now this Beer and Book Share (OMG I AM GOING TO FAINT)  on October 19. Thank you to Megan and Aaron for so eloquently conveying the evolution of craft beer in our state, and thank you to all our local craft brewers for being a HUGE part of that, and thank you, Beer, for ALWAYS BEING YOU, and always being there.

burgIMG_2388Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

that’ll leave a mark: three notch’d brewing company.

three notchd signThere’s something about sitting at a rough-hewn wooden slab in front of a tray of Three Notch’d beer samples that makes you want to spill your guts. Perhaps it hearkens back to the days of my beer-swilling ancestors in Ireland and Germany, when men would fill their steins to the brim and vent about a crazy day on the battlefield. It’s in my blood. And so after the casual chit chat that marks the beginning of every visit, Brandy and I delved into a deep discussion of religion as a human construct, what it means to believe, the illusion of time, and all sorts of other topics like life on other planets, photon torpedoes, and David Blaine. Our musings were accompanied by the acoustic stylings of Jeff Gorman and decorated by the works of Erin Murray hanging throughout the rustic taproom.

three notchd lounge three notchd musicNamed as a tribute to the historic Three Notch’d Road in Central Virginia, Three Notch’d Brewery offers a simple yet warm and beautiful tasting room with ample room for beer fans. Sometimes one of Harrisonburg’s awesome food trucks will make an appearance and fill everyone’s bellies. And even though they’re new to town, they’ve already shown their support of the arts by sponsoring this year’s Art Lotto!

three notchd bw three notchd collageThe six beers before us carefully paced out our thoughts and sentences. We leisurely made our way through the Hydraulion Irish Red, the No Veto English Brown, the Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout, The Trader Crystal-Hopped Saison, the Gray Ghost Pale Ale, and my favorite, the 40 Mile IPA. They also have, from time to time, the Bloody Roots Brown Ale, the Citra Wheat Ale, Jack’s Java Stout, the Rauchig Fuchs Smoked (gesundheit!), the Scot Notch’d Scotch Ale, and debuting this week, the Raucous Honey Double IPA! Just imagine all the philosophical conversations you can have with that selection!

three notchd islandthree notchd tapsSomehow our conversation digressed to the documentary Mortified Nation,which I haven’t seen. It’s about adults who share things they wrote as kids… really embarrassing, humiliating things that happened to them and left a mark. It sounds more cringe-worthy than an episode of the BBC’s version of The Office. Eeek. I made a mental note to soon fill my growler with Three Notch’d IPA and white-knuckle my way through that documentary.

three notchd nuts three notchd samplesAnd then we somehow aged about 25 years and started swapping medical stories. I told her about the first time I ever had an eye exam. Prior to the appointment, they told me on the phone that my eyes would be dilated. “Sound great!” I said.

I had no idea what that meant.

I drove myself there, alone. It had recently snowed, and it was a beautiful, BRIGHT, sunny day. Long story short, I tried wrapping my head in my scarf, ninja-style, so I was peeking through a tiny slit while driving the slippery roads home. But I ended up skidding into the Kroger parking lot and calling my then-husband to come get me. I was convinced my eyes were bleeding. Brandy had a similar story except no one could come get her. She sat in her car for an hour waiting for her eyes to “sober up.”

The music continued and by now we were crying (from laughing) over our twelve empty sample glasses. People were starting to stare and it was getting on time to go. Three Notch’d is located at 241 East Market St and is open Tuesday through Sunday. Visit them now!

three notchd staffCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

grin and beer it: rocktown beer and music festival 2014.

rocktown beer fest wooAfter having attended the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival all four years, and having documented it on this site for three of those four, I’ve come to understand that the Beer Fest — now a beloved Harrisonburg tradition — is really just a large family reunion, minus the awkwardness. Beer is the ultimate social lubricant, after all.

You won’t run into eccentric relatives, like your Aunt Norma who always asks, “When are you ever going to have a baby?” Or your great Aunt Phyllis who’s determined to tell you about all twenty-three of her cats. Your teenage niece, who was so cute and fun at the last reunion but is now all brooding and angst-y and Snapchat-y. Or that relative you don’t know at all, who’s parked himself at the chips and dip. And Aunt Norma’s new hubby, who sneaks out to hide in his car until it’s all over.

You won’t run into that relative who constantly brags/complains about his all-important job, or the one who constantly brags/complains about his corns, bunions, sciatica, and that punk who moved in down the street. And the reunion ambles along a path that eventually arrives at the collective question: WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO??

Nope. You won’t find any of that at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival. But here’s what you will find.

1. Your buddies. You’ll see people you haven’t seen since last year’s Fest, and people you just saw yesterday. I run into my old friend Melissa every single year. I worked with her ages ago at Clayborne’s, and I never, ever see her anywhere… except the Beer Fest.

rocktown beer fest group2. Music. This year, Rocktown Beer and Music Festival welcomed three bands: Harrisonburg favorites The Deadmen out of DC; the mood-elevating Bronze Radio Returnfrom Connecticut; and the versatile jam-band out of Baltimore, the Kelly Bell Band.

rocktown beer fest bronze radio rocktown beer fest deadmenrocktown beer fest dance3. Food. Patrons enjoyed delectables from ClementineJack Brown’s, the Local Chop and Grill House, and Union Station. This is some of the best food in the city, making the Beer Fest way classier than your family reunion at picnic shelter #4, no offense.

4. And finally, duh, the beer. More than thirty breweries to sample, including seven from Virginia: Blue Mountain BreweryBold Rock CiderChampion BrewingDevil’s Backbone Brewing Co.St. George Brewing Co., Three Notch’d Brewing Co. (who just opened at tap room here in Harrisonburg, in the Urban Exchange building!!), and our hometown heroesThree Brothers Brewing Co. I’ve been thinking about those small mugs the Beer Fest gives to its guests, and I’m just gonna put this suggestion out there for what it’s worth. Some people like a wide variety of beer and like having ten 4-oz samples. However, I’m an IPA fan, and I would appreciate being able to get an 8-oz mug filled five times, since I know I’m sticking to IPA. Maybe in the future, we can select our preferred mug size when we order tickets?

rocktown beer fest  couple1 rocktown beer fest couple2 rocktown beer fest couples rocktown beer fest crowd collage5. The staff. You get friends, music, food, beer, and people who will help you. The Beer Fest’s more than 150 volunteers keep the lines moving, the music playing, and the place clean and safe.

rocktown beer fest staff 1 rocktown beer fest staff2And now here is something exciting: Rocktown Beer and Music Festival Fall Edition!! Yep! September 20, 2014, come on down to the Turner Pavilion for another festival. So far they’ve lined up thirty breweries; the band lineup will be announced by June 1st, and tickets go on sale July 1st. And hey, maybe Harrisonburg’s newest brewery, Pale Fire Brewing, will ready by then! If you ask me, I think it would be wise to just go ahead and have your family reunion here. Everyone will get along much better, trust me.

rocktown beer fest crowd collage2 rocktown beer fest loungerocktown beer fest hugCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

family guys: three brothers brewing co.

brewery signIt started awkwardly, as it sometimes does. Like the nerds we are, Brandy and I got to Three Brothers Brewing Co. before they opened. In our defense, we’d started back to work that week and were just a wee bit anxious to get in there and finally see Harrisonburg’s new brewery and taproom. Adding to the awkwardness, Brandy’s car door make a strange sound as she opened it, sending the kids into spasms of giggles as the sound reverberated across the parking lot. To make matters MORE awkward, my coffee thermos had leaked all over the passenger seat, and when Brandy decided to get in my car so we could chat while we waited, she sat right in it. And because I always have a large quantity of cardboard in the back of my car (?), I made her a cardboard blotter to sit on. Thank goodness the time to go in came quickly. We were getting less presentable by the minute.

three brothers cardboardWe met Jason behind the bar, one of the three brothers. Adam, Jason, and Tyler own and operate the facility, and Adam’s wife was our bartender. She and Jason graciously served and described several samples to us. I asked about food… and at first I was a little surprised when Jason said they don’t have a food menu. BUT, get this — as a brewery, they operate on “vineyard rules.” Customers can bring in any food they want! You can order food and have it delivered there! You can pack your own picnic! You can come in with a giant tub of cheese puffs if you want! The possibilities are endless. For some reason, this completely blew my mind. It’s a new level of freedom for me. I’m thinking about just rolling a mini-fridge and a hot plate in there and pitching a tent.

three brothers brewing bartender three brothers brewing tapsFurthermore. The place is ridickers beautiful. And huge. You can sit out on the patio at a cute little table, there’s no shortage of stools at the lengthy bar, and they even have a nice, cushy lounge area with leather seating. Decadent. The rich tones of the wooden wall above the bar, the rustic lighting, the aqua sea foam green tiles in what used to be the old Coca Cola plant, the spacious taproom, and the gleaming metal equipment create an elegant blend of vintage and modern, warm and cool.

three brothers brewing vessels three brothers brewing wooden wallhanging light fixtureThey offer 5-sample flights for $8, or you can get a full-size draft, or you can buy a growler and have it filled. They also distribute their beer for purchase at various locations all over town. We sampled several beers, including their Pilsner, the American Amber, the Tri Brathair (this one would be enough for me for dessert), the Hoptimization, and the Admiral (super hoppy and bold). Brandy is partial to the Belgians, so she really liked the Belgian Dubbel and the Belgian Blonde, and my favorites were the Virginia Dark Ale, which has a smooth milky texture, and the Great Outdoors, a pale ale not quite so bitey as an IPA, and it tasted a little buttery to me.

three brothers brewing bottles three brothers brewing flightthree brothers brewing empty flightI have to say, since I’ve lived here, Harrisonburg has had a beer-splosion of sorts. You can find almost any beer you want in this town, whether it’s at a restaurant or a festival, a wine shop or even a convenience store. And now we have this awesome hometown brewery to enjoy. It’s no wonder we’re about to be named Best Beer Town. (Have you voted yet? Good grief, do it!!)

the three brothers1 the three brothers2Hopefully we’ve convinced you to go visit the Three Brothers as soon as you can. Their normal hours are Thursday – Saturday, 4 – 9pm. From time to time they feature live music and stay open a little later. And if you’re not sure where they’re located, it’s easy. They’re at 800 North Main. Just head north like you’re going to the Little Grill, and go a little further, and it’s on the right side of the street. Here’s to good beer!

three brothers brewing cheers bwCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.