Wild Wolf Brewing Company
2461 Rockfish Valley Hwy
Visited on November 23, 2013
Nearly a year ago I took a half-day off of work to head up to Charlottesville for a concert. But first, I had to stop at the recently named best small brewery in the country by the Great American Beer Festival. On my way to Devil’s Backbone, I suddenly passed a sign for another brewpub just a few miles away from my destination. I was new to Virginia, so I hadn’t heard of Wild Wolf before, and didn’t plan enough time to make a stop there as well.
Fast forward to this past weekend when my awesomely supportive wife agreed to make the drive for pretty much no other reason than to fix the oversight. So was it worth the hotel room in Lynchburg and the two-hour drive home on a Saturday afternoon? Just for the sake of having done it? Yes. For the amazing views while driving? Yes. For the experience at the brewpub? Meh.
We settled in around 2:00 pm on a November Saturday to watch a bit of football and enjoy some of the wares. It took a little while to get the server to talk to us, but once she did, we had a flight of 11 beers on the way to the table for a reasonable $10.
The experience went downhill from there.
The beers were so-so in my opinion. Everything tasted clean and very likely how the brewmaster intended, but the flavor profile of pretty much each style has one note – bitter. Instead of Wild Wolf, I think this spot should have something about “alpha” in its name, because it over-hops every single style it makes. Without enough malt or a complex enough grain bill, each beer features only hops, and only one aspect of them at that. It might be a great lesson in hop varieties and their flavors, but it severely limits my enjoyment.
A couple of hours later – more on that in a bit – my wife and I decided on two pints, both of which just happen to be their lowest hopped varieties available. I went with a Belgian honey blond (Blond Hunny) that was cloudly, unfiltered, and pretty refreshing on a unseasonable warm November day. She went with a peach-touched Belgian style by the name of Area 151. Cloyingly high in alcohol, this was probably the best option on the list.
Between the flight and the pints, we looked at a food menu. And then we waited. For probably an hour. Finally, a manager asked if we needed anything. We said yes, how about some food and some water (which hadn’t come with the sampler as we had asked)? Sure, he said, let me go find a waitress.
Say what? Are you too good to take our order and get it into the kitchen ASAP? The reason for the wait wasn’t so much that the waitresses were bad, it’s just that they were slammed. Between 20 people constantly begging for their attention at the bar, pouring drinks for the rest of the busy restaurant, and cleaning their own glassware, the two bartenders simply didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the tables around the edges of the barroom.
Not necessarily their fault, but extremely aggravating nonetheless. Maybe they could have done a better job, or maybe management could have had more than two bartenders on staff for a beautiful Saturday afternoon during football season. Or maybe they could have at least pitched in and helped the poor girls once they saw how frantic things were getting. But no, instead we waited another 10 minutes or so until a different bartender found time to take our order.
Basement marks for service.
Once we finally got our orders in, the food came out surprisingly fast. Apparently the kitchen wasn’t very busy at all. The barbecue and sandwich menu here contains a host of delicious-sounding options. We went with a pulled pork sandwich and a tri-tip steak sandwich, with sides of sweet potato fries and battered fries, respectively.
The fries were absolutely fantastic. Both varieties seem hand-cut, hand-battered, hand-seasoned, and perfectly-cooked. The sandwiches themselves were good, but not outstanding. The pork had a nice smoky flavor which says they know what they’re doing with their barbecue at least. The tri-tip was a little bland other than the sauce. Both could have used better bread.
The one point that Wild Wolf hit all the marks on is the location. You can’t pick a prettier setting for any type of business, and they’ve created a sort of mini-mall type area with a ton of stores. It’s pretty impressive.
In all, if you happen to find yourself in the area whether for skiing, hiking, camping, or just to have some brews, do yourself a favor and focus on Devil’s Backbone and Blue Mountain. Both are superior in every respect.