Thursday, October 4, 2012

Operation: Norfolk, Virginia



My homey Ben, the co-owner of the awesome Birch Bar.
The Green Onion and The Birch Bar 
were on point!

What’s up, Beer Sippers!

Since so many of you know that I can’t sit still because I do my best to travel the world in search of the coolest beer spots, a few fellow craft beer enthusiasts said they were heading to Norfolk, Virginia (pronounced Nor-fuk...seriously) for a couple of days and wanted to know if there were a couple places I would recommend for a great imbibing experience. Well they lucked out because I had the pleasure of hitting up this charming city recently and yep, there are some sure shots they can’t miss.
The USS Wisconsin chillin'.
Since I was only in town for two days due to a crazy travel schedule, I made sure I got my photography on shooting everything from Nauticus’  jaw-dropping USS Wisconsin battleship sitting on glistening waters to walking the cobblestone streets of the Freemason District. It only took a few minutes to realize how picturesque the city Norfolk was. But let me stay on course: the brew.
Norfolk is renowned for kickass seafood due to its location right off the water, collection of wine varieties from its hosting state, and delectable cuisine (if you want to see how awesome the food scene is, don’t miss the Granby Street Culinary Tour). Keeping this in mind, I found the best place to indulge in one of my favorite culinary combinations—mussels, pommes frites, and Belgian-style ales—at a charming bistro called the Green Onion.

The Green Onion
Green Onion’s covered patio adorned with fresh flower arrangements, a smiling staff, local art, tablecloths, and chalkboard boasting daily specials perfectly embraced the southern charm travelers flock to the Ghent region to experience. Although the numerous specials of the day had my mouth watering—especially with my seafood fanaticism building an instant craving for the Lobster Roll, Seared Diver Scallops, and famous Lobster Cheesecake I heard so much about—my mind was set on mussels. 
Flexin' my Green Onion mussel. Delicious!
The beer menu boasted an impressive variety of craft brews including Belgian-style ales, so I chose the Unibroue La Fin Du Monde­—one of the best beers in the world—which flawlessly complemented the plump, fresh and plentiful mussels that were bathing in a wine broth. And the pommes frites? A healthy serving of crisp, fresh-cut fries, but soft in the middle and spiced to perfection sealed the deal. It was one of those times where your foot taps while getting your grubbing on. The entire experience confirmed that Green Onion deserves a thumb’s up and recommendation when you are Cruisin’ For A Brewsin’ in Norfolk. Lobster Cheesecake, you are mine when I come back!

The Birch Bar

After a busy day exploring the historic Freemason District of the city (look for a full account of my culinary experience on J’Adore Magazine’s website soon!), I found the perfect place to spend my evening: The Birch Bar. Since everything is relatively close in Norfolk, I heard so many things about this bar so I grabbed a cab and head over to West Ghent—a burgeoning neighborhood—with a couple of other beer enthusiasts. Plain and simple, we were not disappointed.
A fellow beer geek
diggin' the selection.
From the outside, the décor was simple: a sign that read “Birch Bar” on a lime green-colored brick wall followed by the uplifting words, “Craft Beer, Growlers, Kegs & Eats,” adjacent to a garage door and a sign brandishing drawings of various beer glassware. I was sold!
Upon entrance, it struck me as a mechanic’s workplace that was transformed into a dimly lit, intimate space complete with an L-shaped bar, 21 taps along the wall, wooden tables, coolers filled with a book’s worth of bottled beers, and my favorite feature—a chalk board taking up a whole wall listing the incredibly diverse menu of craft beers on tap from around the world. Breweries ranging from Denmark’s Mikkeller and  Nøgne Ø out of Norway, to the renowned U.S. “gypsy” brews from Stillwater Artisanal Ales were listed from the floor to the ceiling. Since I just ate an awesome meal at a colossal old school bank-turned-posh-eatery called Trilogy Bistro (who also had pretty impressive brew list), I didn’t get a chance to indulge in the Birch’s array of cheeses, famous P&J, and grilled cheese sandwiches, but the Gaverhopke/Tired Hands Bittersweet Symphony DIPA collaboration out of Belgium (7.8 ABV) served me just fine. Speaking of “served,” the super cool husband and wife team Ben and Malia—the Birch Bar’s owners—showed me hella love and even posted my sticker on their wall. We chopped it up and learned that they take the beer thing seriously, hosting special nights weekly and special events including their very own upcoming 43 Hours of Dark, featuring all of those potent imperial stouts, barley wines and other warming ales the cold season ushers in on January 15 through January 19. I pledged to not only come back, but to make sure I let the world know about the Birch Bar, a must-visit in Norfolk.
Well here you go.
Stay tuned for a recount on another part of the Old Dominion State that is becoming one of the most concentrated regions for microbreweries, Nelson County. Yep, Virginia is doing beer big!

Cheers!

Ale



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