Reborn could not have landed on a better vertical – beers with every meeting? In unique, beer-centric cities? Saving the planet has never been better. Last weekend, I traveled to Roanoke, VA, an up-and-coming city located in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge, thanks to our new Beer to Bags initiative.
My good friend, Dianna, and I packed our bags for the weekend and drove to Roanoke primarily to get the first batch of grain bags from well-known and respected Big Lick Brewing. Big Lick is the most recent brewery (and our first outside of NC) to join the Beer to Bags program. They’d been collecting their spent bags for a few weeks and had enough ready for their first run of upcycled totes. I don’t always volunteer to make the trip to a new brewery to collect the bags; sometimes they simply have one of their trucks drop them off at our manufacturer or ship them, but this was a perfect excuse to check out a new, vibrant city known for its outdoor recreation, craft breweries, and downtown area.
While this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything to do in Roanoke (not by a long shot) it served us well.
Explore Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway
A few miles outside of Roanoke, and we quickly searched for a good stopping spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drove from Raleigh, NC, so wanted to kick off the weekend in an outdoor spot with time to stretch our legs. As we were leaving an overlook, we rounded a bend in the highway and suddenly found Explore Park – an awesome outdoor area complete with hiking trails and no surprise – a brewery ready to quench our thirst after exploring.
Twin Creeks Brewing has their brewpub, one of two locations in Roanoke, on a shaded hill in the park. We grabbed a picnic table and tried our first brew in the new city. The blood orange gose was as delightful as expected. There’s something about citrus in beer that tingles your tastebuds, and blended with the tartness of a gose worked exactly as I wanted with my fried pickle order. Another fun note, get the curry ranch! It goes great with any of their sides.
After a fun intro to Roanoke via Explore Park, we headed to our Airbnb with super host Carol! If it’s available when you plan your trip to Roanoke, I can’t recommend it enough. Not only did Carol cook us breakfast the next morning, which was needed after a full day before of breweries, but also helped us find even more places to visit, which leads us to…
We found our way to Twisted Track, located near a railroad track on the outskirts of the downtown Roanoke area. Locals told us this place has changed hands over the past several years, but the current owners have made it a welcoming and lively place for your Roanoke brews. The outdoor area has been completely redone for a fun patio experience and there’s a stage that lent itself to awesome tunes that Saturday night. Most importantly, the refreshing drinks on tap are a welcome reprieve from the dog days of summer.
We tried the Hefeweizen and Pilsner and were met with the clean and crisp brews I personally like best. I’m no beer connoisseur, but as far as preferences go, give me a wheat beer with a dry finish and I’m a happy Roanoke visitor. As far as food goes, the flat track pizza didn’t disappoint. I liked that Twisted Track wasn’t right in the middle of downtown and had plenty of space to sprawl out on a Saturday afternoon. Bring your friends for a corn hole game or take a spot out on the patio, listen to the live band, and you’ll be ready to come back soon just like me.
Three Notch’d Brewing Company
Next up, we drove to the heart of downtown Roanoke to visit Three Notch’d Brewing Company. Based out of Charlottesville, VA, Three Notch’d has four taprooms aside from its main production brewery in C-ville: Roanoke, Richmond, VA Beach and Harrisburg. The Roanoke location is set up with three levels; we climbed to the top floor for an awesome view and enjoyed exceptional service. After sifting through the menu, we ordered a veggie and regular burger with a generous side of fries for our main meal for the night.
We both tried a few different IPAs and they were all incredible. I’m excited to take some packs home soon on my next trip to Virginia – from the 40 Mile to Minute Man to West Coast IPAs, they know what they’re doing, and I’m excited to follow along for their future creations!
Big Lick Brewing Company
Big Lick is an easy ten-minute walk from Three Notch’d, so we ambled over to our next destination. The downtown area in Roanoke is a great place to spend time regardless of age. Vibrant restaurants and friendly faces sprawl across the easily walkable streets. At Big Lick, the staff kindly welcomes you in, and they’ve created an atmosphere that is intoxicating without a single drink. There’s a huge, open outdoor space complete with corn hole boards and plenty of picnic tables, all with a great view of their regularly planned live music and an eye-catching mural. Inside, after a wide bar, you’ll see into their brewing production area, where we were picked up all kinds of grain bags for upcycling.
Big Lick already has a leg up when it comes to atmosphere, but we haven’t even started on the beer yet! Their Burn Out Bright Saison is the kind of soft and light that feels like drinking – liquid gold? That’s how I would describe it. Extra light, liquid gold. I’ll also recommend their Lime in the Coconut – a fruited gose boiled with coriander and himalayan salt and infused with extra lime and coconut puree. It’s a perfect, tart summer drink on your next trip!
We finished out a great Saturday night, and looked forward to spending time on the river the next day.
Tubing on the Roanoke River
I feel like you can’t go to Roanoke in the summertime and skip the river. It’s big, beautiful, and invites you in to rest and play. Our Airbnb host was kind enough to drop us off at a spot just off the Roanoke River Greenway, which if you like running like me, is a great way to get in a run and see more of the city.
We got into the river at the 581 bridge overpass and floated down to a section that sits right beside Starr Hill Pilot Brewery. There are easily recognizable concrete stairs that you walk up to get out of the river. When we were there a couple weekends ago, the river was pretty low after a few weeks without a good rain, so we floated comfortably along.
Just when you think there can’t possibly be another brewery we visited, trust me when I say we still couldn’t make it to every spot in Roanoke – which is why I’m definitely going back soon.
Starr Hill Pilot Brewery is one of Starr Hill’s many (and growing) locations. The Roanoke taproom is a fun, easy way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Right beside a Starbucks and Moe’s, it’s simple and serves great brews. Order yourself a flight and settle in.
If you haven’t frequented Roanoke yet, know that it very well may be one of America’s most underrated cities. With great people, a huge variety of quality craft breweries and outdoor spaces, Roanoke is the perfect place to get away, and one you aren’t likely to want to leave.