I was searching for a place to eat last Saturday, wracking my brain for a place to go out to dinner in Charlottesville. Going out to dinner should be easy, especially Charlottesville, I mean, its not even two hours out of Washington, so it should be easy to come up with a place or two that serve craft beer and a fairly interesting menu.
Finally, it was there. A place that served up their own craft beer and created their own menu: South Street Brewery (106 W South Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902 V: 434-293-6550). I pulled up the directions and headed off. The South Street Brewery should be familiar to a number of you because it is owned by Blue Mountain Brewery's team of Mandi and Taylor Smack.
The South Street Brewery is in a group of developed and developing businesses on a central walk in Charlottesville. When I walked up to the brewery, I was taken aback by how different the outside was compared to the inside. The outside is rather unremarkable, but the inside is large and nicely framed around a bar and to a lesser extent a dining room. As a matter of fact, I would say that it is more bar than dining room given that the bar is so extensive and has space all of its own.
I put in an order for a Hogwaller Kolsch and an order of fish and chips. I don't know what brewers are told about kolsch in this region of the country, but they are generally pretty weak. This kolsch was no different. The secret to kolsch is that it comes in two parts: the kolsch's unique flavor is driven by the hops and then the strength is in the body. They don't come together, but rather at opposite ends of the taste spectrum and that gives the brew its flavor. The Germans learned this a long time ago, but somehow it is getting lost in the translation to the American beverage. I was able to taste some of the kolsch flavor from the hops but it had none of the strength in the body and this kills it for me.
Next up was the Anastasia's Chocolate Fantasy which leads off with a mild ale, extra dark crystal malts, flaked oats and roast barley. This tips the scale at great than 10% alcohol and it carries through with lots of good old cocoa and Russian Imperial taste. One sip and I was off of the kolsch and into the chocolate fantasy. All was right with the world and I settled into into sipping at my new topaz hops, Guatemalan cocoa nibs and Scottish ale yeast. It was a marriage made in heaven.
I can recommend South Street Brewery for the beer enthusiast. Avoid the kolsch and head straight for the Imperial Russian stout. I have yet to try the other dark beers, but if they even come close to the Russian Imperial, I think we have a winner. It has all of the pieces for a nice, safe, "go to" place in Charlottesville. I know I will be going there again.