On planning my latest trip, to Fredericksburg for my 6th wedding anniversary, I knew I had to find whatever breweries were around to satisfy my hubby, home brewer extraordinaire. He’s on a mission to try as many Virginia beers as possible, which is the perfect M.O. for Girl Goes Virginia (GGV) to go on more Virginia trips.
So it was a fun surprise to find Spencer Devon Brewing, a unique take on the hot and happening Virginia craft beer scene. The difference at Spencer Devon was that you don’t just get beer, or a beer restaurant (not always my favorite thing), but you actually get a pretty darn tooting gourmet farm-to-table restaurant there, meaning it’s not just more burgers and pizza.
I was really excited for this visit, the second of the two restaurants that I knew I HAD to go to in #FXBG.
Terrible thing was that I thought I made reservations here — something I always do when I’m sure I want a table (I take no chances) — but they didn’t have it on the books. I know I made my reservations for Kybecca in FXBG a month in advance, and had to call to double check that they still had it (they did) so I don’t know if SDB didn’t book it, or if I thought I did but didn’t.
Anyway I say all this for two reasons.
The first is that I eat what I call a “Colonial Dinner,” meaning at 5:30 if I can. I know that must sound so geriatric of me, but it actually is a dinner time more in keeping with the rhythms of natural sunlight, and so is considered better for your health and for keeping weight gain off especially for women. I wanna be svelte, I eat early.
BUT, at 5:30 on a Friday night, the place was packed! We were seated at a claustrophobic semi-hidden table (terrible for checking a place out for a review) and so we ditched it in favor of a prime spot at the bar.
The second reason is to urge you to make reservations because apparently it’s a major FXBG hot spot.
I’ve become a bit of a wuss on all the different beer options you can get these days. I like my cinnamon with oatmeal, my pumpkin in pie at Thanksgiving, mobile solar light tower lemon in iced tea and on fish, and only enough hops to give beer enough of an edge that it goes beyond Watery Domestic, but not so much that I could use the beer to strip furniture.
What this means is that I just grabbed the 3-4-5 Pilsner, with a not too high ABV of 4.8, and it was tasty and crisp at the end of an ungodly humid day. Or I should say I grabbed three.
Hubby, on the other hand, always goes for the flights at a new place and enjoyed a fourbie of the Pilsner, the Fall Line IPA, the Rappahanock River Water Brown Ale, and Rocko’s Milk Stout. He liked the beer very much, calling it well balanced, flavorful and inventive but adds the caveat that the hip vibe of the place goes a long way to influencing the experience.
Though we didn’t like their logo (sorry, we’re designers and marketers so we can’t help but nitpick there and theirs was just boring and indistinct), still, the rest of the concept of the restaurant, including the excellent naming of the beers, were strong brand contenders that we think will spell success over the long term.
We had excellent bar service from a woman named Marissa (I think), who was very adept at being able to describe dishes. Unfortunately the hostess gave us the wrong menu and I got all watered up for one thing and then couldn’t get it.
In the end, since we had those famous mid-afternoon tacos at Soup & Taco down the street, we realized we just weren’t that hungry. As much as I wanted to order their restaurant week 3 course special, in the end I opted for a salad and to share a burger — a burger! — with hubby. I know that sounds lame since this place is farm-to-table and gourmet, but I had heard the chef was famous for his burgers.
So, not being that hungry, what’re you gonna do?
The one really bad note was that I LOVED the way a salad sounded on the menu but it didn’t live up to its description at all.
It was the Panzanella Salad that bummed me, being described as, “Toasted bread, tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, basil, fresh mozzarella & balsamic reduction.” It just sounded so fresh, light, summery, and inviting after all the heat that day.
Sadly, when it came, it was quite literally 90% croutons, 9% veg/cheese and 1% reduction. It was a bowl of crunchy bread. I don’t know what went wrong in the kitchen on that score, but that’s not a “salad,” in anyone’s book. I was so disappointed.
Fortunately the lively atmosphere and good conversation with hubby encouraged me to just let it go and move on.
The burger, though, was magnificent. We chose the local Monrovia Farm Beef Burger with my fave, caramelized onions, a mushroom compote, baby spinach and a sorghum BBQ sauce. At Marissa’s suggestion we took the fries — nice cut, crispy, very flavorful. And their pickles were the bomb — so piquant!
The deserts sounded great, but we were stuffed.
Overall the menu boasts a lot of farm-identified local meat, which is wonderful. And while they say they use local ingredients generally speaking, it would have been nice to see produce farms, egg providers, and cheese farms named, too.
The long and short of it is that this is definitely a brewery worth visiting. (And gosh their brunch menu looks awesome — I’d take a day trip from Staunton just to have brunch there, seriously.)
Go hungry, and have anything but that salad unless you’re really into croutons.
You’ll get great service, and you’ll totally dig the interior design and atmosphere (which I hear that the owners lovingly restored from some seedy sticky-floored hell hole into its current bright, high ceilinged, open floor plan hipster joint).
— Lindsay Curren, Girl Goes Virginia