Hop’in Around — On the road: Black Narrows Brewing

By on September 5, 2018

Fennel and oysters and corn– oh my!

Looking for one last road trip adventure before the summer is officially over? Go check out one of my regular haunts, Chincoteague Island, Va. — now with beer!

Located at 4522 Chicken City Road* on the island famous for herding wild ponies, Black Narrows Brewing opened in January. The dream of Josh and Jenna Chapman filled a spot vacated by Little Bay Seafood’s oyster shucking house and is a respite for beer fans looking for something better than 30-packs of megabrewery cans. For the record, Black Narrows is the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s first brewery, but more important is the fact they are creating great, high-quality beer sourced with as many local and natural ingredients as they can.

Due diligence must be done, so a flight was ordered! The standout brew had to be Salts, a Gose-inspired brew rich with briny flavor seasoned with two gallons of oyster flesh, and 15 gallons of oyster liquor in each batch. Salts is fermented with a naturally occurring yeast strain found in the oysters. You won’t get a beer like this anywhere else.

Filling out our flight was Cockle Creek Scottish Ale; Mosquito Magnet IPA; and How Bout It, a lager made using a variety of heirloom corn. The corn for How Bout It has been grown on Virginia’s Eastern Shore since the 1870s. Gritty and earthy, this beer is for a specific palate and may not be adored by everyone who tries it.

Lishe, a black fennel stout, contains wild fennel fronds from Chincoteague Island. “This beer should be winning awards!” says beer-rater Michael Upton.

During our inaugural visit to Black Narrows, we learned the next day marked the release of Lishe, a wild fennel stout. We were back early the next day. Lishe is brewed with locally grown English Pale malt and a blend of roasted malts, but the star is the addition of 20 pounds of Island View Farm’s wild fennel fronds during the last 10 minutes of the brewing boil. This addition gives the beer serious black licorice notes, but it is not overpowering. This beer should be winning awards! It is a solid, malty stout with a moderate alcohol content-somewhere between a standard stout and an imperial. The addition of wild fennel is brilliant.

Black Narrows may be the most family friendly brewery I have ever visited. Their motto is “welcome home,” and it fits perfectly. Long, wooden tables encourage camaraderie where people can chat over take-in BBQ from Woody’s and play a board game from the brewery’s large collection. Cheers and thanks for reading!

*Yes, you read that correctly, the thoroughfare is called Chicken City Road. The road received its whacky moniker from an island tale that tells the story of a woman who a long time ago brought a few chickens to her home to raise. Well, the chickens had a bit of a wild streak and decided to break their barriers and soon became plentiful in the wild, roaming the area where they were once confined. Today, there are no gangs of wild chickens making travel treacherous. Insider tip: the best chicken deal on the island is Cheap Chicken Tuesdays at the local Great Valu grocery; get there early for fried chicken or you’ll have to take a number and wait.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

Cockle Creek Scottish Ale

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