Who better than outdoor-store owners to recommend not only the best in new outside gear and new local beers, but also where to walk or ride with a brewery or winery stop built in? Hardly anybody, is our view.
With summer upon us, we checked in with a few outdoor outfitters to get the skinny on the hottest 2015 gear. While we were at it, in the spirit of kicking back, relaxing and soaking up summer rays (not to mention using your new gear), we asked these local outdoor gurus to turn us onto the Blue Ridge’s best microbreweries, as well as a number of thirst-inspiring hike/bike-to-brew trails.
Matt Hagan Outdoors
7327 Peppers Ferry Blvd., Radford.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Merrell Capra Sport for Men and Women. These shoes feature a stabilizing, hoof-shaped outsole, are lightweight, waterproof, and engineered for “rapid ascents and confident descents.” Additionally, they look super-sharp, and come in lots of fun colors.
Best Area Brewery: Bull and Bones Brewhaus and Grill in Blacksburg. B&B has seven high-end, ‘Diamond’ billiards tables – one of them a championship nine-footer. Felted with 860 simonis cloth, these are some of the nicest tables you’ll find anywhere. What to Try: Seasonal Summer Hefe – Classic German unfiltered wheat. Special yeast producing clove and banana flavors.
Best Bike to Brew/Wine Trail: The Radford Riverway to Sharkey’s downtown.
The Details: Park at the Riverway Trail lot by Radford University’s Dresden Center. Hit the trail for a quiet, scenic bike or walk alongside the New River. Follow the trail until it intersects with Main Street, and head east. Sharkey’s will be on your left. For a longer trek, follow the trail into Wildwood Park, loop around the park, and head back into town.
1113 Piedmont St SE, Roanoke.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Scott Genius LT 710. An every-trail kind of bike. With 170 mm of travel you can take on the burliest trails. Then, with the flip of a switch, you can engage the climb and lockout modes for front and rear suspension. Climbs amazingly well and descends even better. Weighs in at just under 30 lbs.
Best Local Brewery: Parkway Brewing in Salem. Parkway offers tastings paired with fantastic live music and their brews are among the best in the region. What to Try: Get Bent Mountain IPA – a light-bodied, west coast-styled IPA with a delightful bready character balanced by lots of citrusy hops. Around 7.2 % ABV.
Best Bike to Brew Trail: Roanoke River Greenway to Wasena City Tap Room.
The Details: The Roanoke River Greenway is a paved bike/running path that flows through and around Roanoke following the Roanoke River. There are parking lots at Vic Thomas Park, Rivers Edge Sports Complex, Vinton and elsewhere. Hop on the Greenway anywhere from Vinton, downtown or Grandin and cruise to the Wasena City Tap Room at mile marker 22.3. (31 beers on tap!)
15 West Washington Street, Lexington.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Osprey Aura and Atmos AG™ 50. With its anti-gravity suspension system, this pack hugs your hips better than any other waist-belt system on the market – you set it on your shoulders and it seriously just sticks to you.
Best Local Brewery: Blue Lab Brewing Company. It’s an English-style brewery and serves its pints at room temperature. It’s extremely small, and has an invitingly homey, hole-in-wall atmosphere. What to Try: Green Chile Ale, a not-so-pale ale with a kick on the finish. This beer starts as a lightly hopped pale ale, but the addition of roasted New Mexico green chiles at the end of the boil gives a touch of color and a nice spicy finish. It’s a great answer to summer heat and can be enhanced with a slice of lime.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Walk Chessie Trail from Buena Vista to Lexington and Blue Lab Brewery.
The Details: Starting at the intersection of route 608 and U.S. 60 just outside of Buena Vista, the Chessie Nature Trail follows the Maury River for seven miles into Lexington. Winding alongside the river through alternating fields and forested habitats, the trail provides hikers with ample opportunities to spot wildlife. Upon reaching 60 in Lexington, make a left, heading eastward until you reach S. Randolph Street. Take a right to find Blue Lab Brewery.
Back Country Ski & Sport
1931 Apperson Drive, Salem.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Salewa Alp Flow Mid GTX Boot. Featuring Gore-Tex Surround technology, these are the most breathable waterproof boots we’ve seen. Perfect to keep your feet cool, dry and happy on summer hikes or climbing approaches, the Salewa Alp Flow’s perforated foot bed and mesh outer-wall allow the foot to breathe from all angles.
Best Local Brewery: Roanoke Railhouse Taproom. This relatively young brewery is a small operation that stocks great beers. What to Try: Broken Knuckle IPA, a wonderful hop aroma and flavor, subdued malt with balanced bitterness, with a stunning copper color.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Mason Creek Greenway – aka Hanging Rock Battlefield Trail – to Parkway Brewing.
The Details: Park at the Hanging Rock Battlefield Trailhead in Salem, just off Va. 311. Follow the trail along Salem’s Mason Creek for nearly two miles, passing through a civil war battlefield in the process. Once you cross Garst Street, be on the lookout for Parkway Brewing, on the opposite side of trail, abutting Kessler Mill Rd.
Blue Ridge Mountain Sports
1560 South Main Street, Suite 100, Blacksburg.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket.The Helium II is a 100 percent waterproof rain jacket weighing in at a mere 6.4 ounces. It can be compressed down to the size of a candy bar, making it incredibly portable.
Best Local Brewery: The River Company. The River Company is a great place to wind down after a day of outdoor adventuring. Their menu has an awesome selection of locally sourced options, and the beer is excellent. The view of the New River only adds to the experience. What to Try: Traveler’s Pale Ale – characterized by a mildly assertive bitterness. Made from 2 Row Brewer’s Malt, Caramel malt and Car-Pils malt. The big hop presence comes from Magnum and Amarillo hops.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Take the Huckleberry Trail from Christiansburg into Blacksburg.
The Details: Park at the New River Valley Mall and hit the trail. Follow for 5.75 rolling miles through Christiansburg, along the Slate Branch on into Blacksburg for lovely, scenic views of the New River Valley. Once in Blacksburg, cross U.S. 460, then Research Center Drive, veer right toward Margaret Beeks Elementary, and take a right onto Hubbard Street. Follow Hubbard to South Main, where you’ll take a left and keep a look out for the acclaimed Bull and Bones Brewhaus.
Black Dog Bikes
121 S Lewis St., Staunton.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: The Specialized Epic. This mountain bike is hard-tail firm for climbs and full-suspension cushion for rocky descents. With the Epic, you get a great climbing cross-country bike with 4 inches of suspension for the descents you earn after a big climb.
Best Local Brewery: Shenandoah Valley Brewing Company. Located a quick 100 yards from the store, SVBC has a beautiful tasting room and great beer. For a hopaholic, their menu offers a premium selection of IPAs. What to Try: 1st Brigade Red IPA. Assaults your senses with the aroma of fresh hops and caramelized grains. Dry and crisp, yet exploding with all the flavors you expect from an IPA. Around 7.2% ABV.
Best Bike to Brew Trail: Hit the trails in and around the not-too-far-away Sherando / Big Levels area and pop over the mountain to Devil’s Backbone. The trails in Sherando are burly, rocky, backcountry-sweet. They’ll beat you up a little bit and make you wish you had a bit more travel in your mountain bike suspension, but throw in just enough smooth, fast trail to keep the fun rolling.
50 Middlebrook Ave., Staunton.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Eno JungleNest™ Hammock by Eagles Nest Outfitters. A hammock and bug-net combination that defends against pesky insects while providing maximum comfort. The “210D Nylon Taffeta Ripstop base and mesh cover” features “internal hanging loops, organizer pocket and height adjustment,” and has an ultra-convenient full-length side zipper for ease of access. Simple. Quick. And efficient.
Best Local Brewery: Redbeard Brewing Company. The owner brews his specialty small-batch beers Monday through Thursday, then opens the tasting room on weekends, so the menu features new selections each week. What to Try: Batch #42 Strong Ale – experimental strong ale. 10.63% ABV, 100 IBU, and very malty. (You’ll have to ask for this one, as it’s not on the taps.)
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Gypsy Hill Park to downtown Staunton.
The Details: Park off of Churchville Avenue at the entrance to Gypsy Hill Park. Tour one of Virginia’s most gorgeous parks, noting the fish and duck pond, a concert bandstands for the nation’s oldest continually running band, and much more. Once you’ve walked the park’s 1.3-mile inner loop, hit Churchville Avenue and head for downtown Staunton. Take a right onto S. Lewis Street, and, in less than a mile you’ll encounter Redbeard on your right.
Outdoor Trails, Lynchburg
Boonsboro Shopping Center, 4925 Boonsboro Road
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Mountain Hardwear Elkommando Kilt. Ultra durable and sheds water like a champ. Allows for maximum airflow, and makes for a surprisingly comfortable hike. Like the advertising claims: “This is the new short.”
Best Local Brewery: Apocalypse Ale Works. Features outdoor performances galore. Awesome to be able to sit and enjoy great beer while basking in a sweet outdoor performance. What to Try: Red Hoppocalypse – aroma explodes with citrus hops and does not stop. Hops in the beginning, middle and end. Hopped as much as a double IPA but perfectly balanced with Munich malt to give both hopheads and malt lovers the best of both worlds.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Blackwater Creek Trail to Jefferson Street Brewery.
The Details: The trail starts off on 5th Street by the Amtrak Station and, after offering both paved and rugged dirt trails that wind through hilly forests alongside Blackwater Creek, will spit you out on Lynchburg’s historic downtown waterfront, just a few blocks from Jefferson Street Brewery.
Outdoor Trails, Daleville
28 Kingston Drive, Daleville.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: Big Agnes Q-Core SL. This sleeping pad is crazy light and extremely comfortable – most comfort for the weight.
Best Local Brewery: Flying Mouse Brewery. Awesome welcome. You can come in off the trail stinky and dirty and they’ll greet you with open arms. What to Try: Flying Mouse #8 – dark and moody, this smoky, full-flavored ale has a creamy head and modest hop bitterness.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Andy Lane Trail to the AT to U.S. 220 (13.3 miles); then head to Flying Mouse Brewery.
The Details: From Va. 311 drive Va. 779 (Catawba Creek Rd) to the trailhead at the Andy Lane Trail. Hike for 3.3 miles to the AT, then head north until you reach U.S. 220 (10 miles) and, in another 1.1 miles, walk left on Va. 779 (here called Valley Road) to Precast Way, the driveway to Flying Mouse Brewery.
Rockfish Gap Outfitters
1461 East Main Street, Waynesboro.
Hottest Piece of Summer Gear: MPowerd, Luci Light. Compact, inflatable, solar-powered L.E.D. lantern. It’s waterproof, lightweight and space-saving.
Best Local Brewery: Blue Mountain Brewery in nearby Afton. What to Try: Hopwork Orange IPA – light crystal malt with a heavy hand of Simcoe, Cascade, and Centennial hops complimented by natural orange flavoring. 7% ABV, 65 IBUs.
Best Hike to Brew Trail: Three Ridges/Mau-Har loop then hit Devils Backbone for post-hike brews and grub.
The Details: For some of the most rugged terrain and best views in the area, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to Reed’s Gap (milepost 13.6), park, and proceed southward on the AT. 1.8 miles in, pick up the Mau-Har. Follow Mau-Har until reconnecting with the AT just south of the Harper’s Creek shelter, where you’ll head north, returning to the Reed’s Gap parking lot. Take Va. 664 down the east side of the mountain to Devils Backbone.