by Sean C. Diaz
Among farmland and sprawling open pastures, some 30 miles northwest of Richmond, a brewery has combined experimental brews with delicious farm-to-table fare in an effort to create a truly curated experience.
A single, winding road is the only way in or out of the Powhatan-based Fine Creek Brewing Company. But with isolation comes inspiration.
From its inception, Fine Creek set out to craft more than just another brewery cranking out IPAs and barrel-aged stouts. Owner Mark Benusa and head brewer Gabe Slaglewanted to create something that would compel guest to make the trip — an experience from the first view to the last sip.
“Just having a good beer isn’t enough,” Benusa says.
“Our guests could taste an amazing beer and never come back.”
Upon arriving at Fine Creek, you’re greeted by a rustic structure that unfolds with the landscape as you pull up the loose-stone driveway. Lines of hops guide you to the brewhouse where, as you step out of your vehicle, you are hit with the overwhelming smells of brewing.
Heavy wooden doors lead you to a taproom that offers a wide variety of mixed fermentation ales, barrel-aged sours, and juicy IPAs. Benusa and Slagle’s draft selection showcase’s the time and effort invested into making sure every beer at Fine Creek is an interesting spin on its style. This naturally comes with its own challenges.AdvertisementPauseUnmuteLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%Remaining Time-0:16Fullscreen
“A big part of maintaining variety is about having a strong sense of seasonality,” says Slagle.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean we have the same winter seasonal each year, but more that in the summer people are looking for crisp pilsners and lighter lagers. In the winter you want darker English styles or heavier stouts to brace the cold.
We try to make beers surrounding the seasons themselves, not the other way around.” A lot of Fine Creek’s business revolves around its sour and mixed fermentation program. Slagle is fond of experimentation, and due to the brewery’s small size, he has lots of opportunity. Fine Creek has produced offerings such as their recent Brett Saison aged in barrels on viognier skins or its Oud Bruin aged in red wine barrels.
Fine Creek also offers fresh, seasonal food, with an ever-changing weekly menu. Chef Sarah Toccohas taken great effort to ensure what she provides compliments the season and, whenever possible, she tries to include ingredients from local farms.
Each week, you can find everything from small cheese plates boasting funky aged spreads and mild cracker-hugging flavors to palm-sized beef tenderloin sandwiches topped with slaw made with vegetables harvested from Fine Creek’s own garden. While the weekly menu tends to be small, there’s no lack of variety.
And, if your visit to Fine Creek ends with a little too much indulgence, the connected family business known as The Mill has 13 cottages located down the hill from the brewery where you can rest for the night and even grab breakfast the next morning with a French pastry on the way out.
Fine Creek has crafted specific moments for their guests to experience from the second they arrive to the moment they unlock their cars to leave. All the little things — the seasonal food with new and exciting flavors, the endless expanses of picturesque wilderness, the wild and delicious beers that have you exploring new and wonderful styles — culminate in an experience that is more than worth the trip.