Breweries are the new neighborhood pubs and lucky for us, Norfolk’s brewery scene has taken off! With multiple breweries calling Norfolk their home and more to open within the year, Norfolk welcomes all beer enthusiasts. Below you’ll find a quick guide that enlightens you on all the breweries in Norfolk.
O’Connor kick-started the brewery scene in Norfolk in 2010 and we couldn’t be happier they did. Of course they have delicious beers and offer multiple flagship beers, as well as limited releases, but one of the best parts of O’Connor’s is their atmosphere. Their welcoming vibe and large outdoor bier garden make for a perfect afternoon of sippin’ brews, and their annual events will give you some serious FOMO if you aren’t in attendance! For instance, their anniversary celebration coincides with St. Patrick’s Day every year, making it a can't miss event. With yoga classes, food truck pop-ups, a farmers market and so much more, there is always something to partake in at O'Connor Brewery.
Elation brings great happiness, hence the name, to Norfolk’s Larchmont neighborhood. Here, at Norfolk’s only brewpub, you’ll find black leather chairs accompanied with high top tables made of old bowling alley lanes, that complement the overarching centerpiece of the brewery, the bar. It might seem obvious that the bar is the centerpiece, but the arch that resides over Elation's bar was handcrafted by the owner himself, an architect guru. The remainder of the space is filled with Oktoberfest style tables, made from reclaimed wood from Suffolk, VA’s planters peanut factory. Elation brews all different types of beer while also serving local Virginia wine for those who are gluten-free or simply love the grapes more than the hops. Be sure not to miss the two-dollar grilled cheese and Sunday brunch!
Just outside of the Ghent neighborhood (and a four min walk from O’Connor Brewery) lives the Chesapeake Bay-themed microbrewery, Rip Rap. Their once four tap menu has now more than doubled offering many much-loved brews. This being said they brew in smaller batches and once the barrel is gone, it is gone. With their ever-revolving beer list, you’re in for a surprise with each visit allowing Rip Rap to continue to surprise their customers while giving the brewery an exclusive feel. Picnic tables and board games fill the brewery with a mural of coastal waterways that is the main decor focus paying tribute to the owners' Coast Guard roots.
You might have heard of this Norfolk-born brewery -- they made national news for their Lucky Charm’s beer, Saturday Morning -- ring a bell? Well whether you’ve heard of Smartmouth or not, this brewery puts out some creative beers with even more imaginative cans. Located in the Chelsea District, just outside downtown, Smartmouth hosts many events year-round including street parties and concerts. Food trucks frequent the brewery or find delicious Norfolk restaurants such as Orapax and the Bakehouse at Chelsea only steps away.
Located in an old bank building in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Ocean View, this veteran-owned craft brewery will have you feeling like a local in no time, as their welcoming demeanor is contagious! Housed inside Bold Mariner is BBQ favorite, Bar-Q, a local favorite barbecue spot that specializes in beef brisket and craft scratch sausages. Don’t stress, their revolving draft selections are equally as flavorful as the food. Frogman Lager is their fan favorite and rightfully so, the lager has won numerous Virginia Craft Beer awards.
COVA is nestled in the heart of East Ocean View, also known as East Beach, and is owned by two local families whose passions brought this project to life. COVA’s building was formerly an auto repair shop but has been beautifully transformed into a coastal influenced brew-house, offering both craft beers and coffee. Cedar slatted counters imitate beachy dune fencing and the color schemes throughout reflect the palette and sheen of sea glass. While they’ve kept the classic garage door look, you would have never guessed the building's previous life.
Their slogan, “there’s always something brewing at COVA…” not only refers to the frothy liquids that fill their fermenters, but also their tasty craft coffees. Coffeehouse by day and brewery at night, COVA has mastered quenching our thirst no matter the time of day, and their ingredients are often combined in both aspects - sip a mocha latte or enjoy the same flavor palette in their Mocha Madness Porter. What's truly unique is that you can pour your own beer with their self serve taps from copper handles, chosen for their antibacterial properties.
Located in the Chelsea District, Benchtop offers some of the most unique beer combinations you may ever sip on. The owner, Eric, started his career as a food scientist but left his role to further his creativity in the form of beer. Benchtop uses Norwegian yeast which ferments at a much higher temperature allowing them to produce beer faster -- they’re one of the only breweries in the country to do so and it allows them to try new recipes more frequently. Just how unique are their beer creations? We suggest visiting the brewery for yourself to find out but to tease your taste buds, their Chapulin Exchange is a beer made with grasshoppers (inspired by grasshopper street tacos), and Quick Pickle beer is a goze beer that uses pickles and carrots. So be sure to stop by to try something new while geeking out with Eric over these culinary experiences via beer!
Enjoy local brews and Emerson cigars at Maker’s Craft Brewery at their onsite cigar lounge. Set in a historic 1906 burlap bag factory, this brewery incorporates the old with the new. The bar is made from reclaimed wood while brick walls line the interior and old cobblestones (found during construction) decorate their outdoor patio. Their beers take “local ingredients” to the next level by using a ghost pepper plant from a customer’s backyard in their ghost pepper stout. All the grains from production are repurposed and sent to a local Virginia Beach farm to provide feed for the cows. Maker’s also has food trucks Thursday through Saturday, coffee, a popcorn machine and pool tables for you to enjoy.
A Richmond favorite opened its doors to their second establishment, this time in the heart of Norfolk’s up-and-coming Railroad District. This new three-story brewery features taps on all floors, a rooftop balcony overlooking the city, and the minimalistic and modern interior plays well the neon art displayed and garage doors that open up into the community. Their rotating selection of favorite IPAs, like the Crucial Taunt - a beloved house Citra double IPA, or Never Recover3 - a fruity gose with triple boysenberry and fresh peach purée will quench any beer lover's palate.
Serving highly sought after beers without the long lines that normally come with it, this spacious and energetic brewery welcomes guests to experience handcrafted beers with unique flavor profiles on draft or to grab them canned or bottled to-go. With a full kitchen by Codex Chef, Ian Hock, you’ll find mouth-watering double stacked burgers and delicious tacos to go alongside the beer of your choice.
Before we dive into their unique Sours and award-winning IPAs, the historic building Reaver is housed in holds stories which make this brewery more of a destination tied to American history instead of a place to slug brews. The building was formerly a post office that dates back to 1945. While inside you will notice an upstairs portion to the brewery which is also classified as a catwalk - original to the layout of the post office. Today, this catwalk is enlisted as an adults-only area with tables and chairs, but back in the day inspectors used these catwalks to prevent crime. Their purpose was to monitor for high profile coach and carrier robberies, but mainly focused their spying on the sorting and delivery activity of the postal staff. Inspectors would use secluded back doors to sneak into the post office, and today, that hidden stairwell is now a mini museum to showcase Reaver Beach’s evolution as a brewery.
Now let's talk beer. They are known for their unmatched IPAs like Hoptopus and their incomparable Sours like the Red Messenger. Their Hoptopus collection is a crowd pleaser and they offer six variants of this hoppy IPA year-round. Another staple is their Tidal Wave, an American Wild Ale that is brewed using a Coolship and fermented spontaneously by microflora native to our coastal Virginia home. Similar to other breweries, Reaver Beach is dog friendly (inside and out), hosts live music and rotates a line up of food trucks outside on their patio.
For more information about Norfolk's breweries check out Brew Norfolk!