Clydesdales in the Blue Ridge? Well, sort of, with the news that Anheuser-Busch is acquiring Devil’s Backbone Brewery, one of Virginia’s most popular craft beer makers located in Nelson County and Lexington. This is the latest addition to a growing list of craft breweries that Anheuser-Bush had added to its business portfolio.
Devil’s Backbone has been in business only eight years but has won dozens of awards at various competitions. It remains highly popular even as numerous competitors have cropped up around it on the Nelson 151 Trail in Nelson County. Its facility just a few miles from Wintergreen Resort is a rustic-designed building that fits into the surrounding natural beauty and offers a well-known restaurant and Brew Pub at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Over the mountain to the west is Devil’s Backbone Outpost Brewery and Tap Room in Lexington where the bottling process turns out the wholesale packaging of DB beers for retail outlets. From the website we learn the Lexington facility was “originally projected to produce 10,000 barrels of beer in its first ten years, the Outpost produced almost 45,000 barrels in its first three, bringing world-class beer to people in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.”
The website also shared the background to the name Devil’s Backbone:
The name “Devils Backbone” was selected to incorporate this region’s history into modern culture. On September 25, 1746, eight years before the French and Indian War, a party of forty set out from Bear Fence Mountain in the Blue Ridge on one of the most legendary land surveys in American history. They had already spent two-weeks charting various wild rivers to find the true “Headspring of the Rappahannock,” its point-of-beginning as decreed by King George. Among the party were axmen, chainmen, compass-men, note keepers, mathematicians, astronomers, hunters, cooks, and gentleman commissioners whose job it was to make lawyerly decisions as needed and to purchase provisions (somehow) along the way, keeping the party supplied.
These hardy Virginians’ descendants are part of our core patrons to this day, according to our latest market analysis. They were hand-picked – the best men and minds in Virginia. Perhaps the most notable member of the party was Thomas Jefferson’s father, a colonel, reputably the strongest man in Rockingham County. Their task was to carve and measure a straight line, eighty-miles long through the wilderness, connecting the sources of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. This line was known as “The Fairfax Line.”
They did it all with compass and chain—and fortitude untold—in 50 days. Consider the following entry from the journal of Thomas Lewis, surveyor and mathematician, who left behind one of the two sets of surviving field notes from this survey:
“Friday, October 3rd … Thence 604 poles to the top of Devils Backbone to a Chestnut Oak we marked 31 miles. This day several of the horses had like to been killed, tumbling over rocks and precipices, and we ourselves were often in utmost danger. This terrible place we called Purgatory …”
If you’re looking for an opportunity to visit Virginia’s mountains and the brewery, Devil’s Backbone has one of its many events coming up. The third annual Oyster Roast will be held May 14 from noon until 5:00pm at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows in Nelson County. The event will feature entertainment and oysters from Rappahannock Oyster Company that will, they say, “pair perfectly with the official Oyster Roast Brew: Pearl Wit.” Sounds like just the right getaway.
The acquisition by Anheuser-Busch is expected to take place in the second quarter.