Beale’s Brewery, Bedford, Virginia

After my lunch at Ace Biscuit and Barbecue, I headed south for a second lunch or early dinner at Beale’s Brewery in Bedford, Virginia. I’d been to Bedford once before with Nancy to see the National D-Day Memorial there. Bedford lost more local citizens per capita on D-Day than any other town or city in the United States. It’s an evocative memorial. Water spurts up to simulate bullets hitting the water around the statues of soldiers moving toward the beach. And it very effectively evokes the impact on the many small communities around the country where everyone, everyone knew someone who died that day. It’s very touching.

My mission was more mundane. The redoubtable Joe Haynes, author of Virginia Barbecue: A History, had alerted me to Beale’s as a place where they cook barbecue the traditional way, with wood and nothing else, no gas, no electrical heat. I worked my way down to Bedford and found Beale’s in an old factory building – a textile mill I would presume — and got there at about 4:00 in the afternoon, a nice slow time.

Beale’s occupies a huge space with what, 20-foot ceilings

and also a large outdoor area.

In I strode, looked about, and grabbed an outside table.

Beale’s Brewery is a brewery, first of all. Their focus is on beer, as indeed was mine at an earlier stage in my life. Or at least a big part of my focus. And it’s a grand place to drink beer. There’s a large, roomy indoor space, as you saw, sort of industrial sleek. And the 10 picnic tables outside are ready for any weather with umbrellas and heaters.

I sat down at an outside table, and ordered.

The pork had good flavor, and I could taste the smoke from the white oak with which it’s cooked. The meat was just on the edge of drying a bit, but there were two very good sauces to help it out. The Traditional Virginia sauce had a nice vinegar bite to balance the richness of the pork, and with some sweetness, but nothing to overwhelm or smother the meat. There also was a sauce based on green chiles that I really liked.

The macaroni and cheese had been made the traditional way — baked.  It was very flavorful and had that comfort quality that sets macaroni and cheese apart.h The slaw also was good, nice and fresh and not overdressed.  

I also ordered a beer, just to be polite.

My choice was a hazy Rainbow Connection IPA. I chose it despite the name, which made me think of Kermit the Frog. I don’t have anything in particular against Kermit, but Sesame Street and beer don’t really go together in my possibly parochial view. But order it I did. The Rainbow Connection had a very fruity and smooth flavor, especially for an IPA, without any of that pine or grapefruit bite. I would have loved to work my way through the beer menu, but I had a lot of driving to do, so one was enough.

Beale’s is such a pleasant place. The food is good — as is the beer — and the service is unexceptionable. And I really have to hand it to Beale’s for having craft barbecue on hand. The have big smokers

and a large supply of white oak, carefully aged for six months. I was happy to certify them on behalf of the Campaign for Real Barbecue. Most places that specialize in barbecue don’t take the time and care to make real, wood-cooked barbecue, and the result really pays off in quality. But Beale’s does it right even though the barbecue isn’t their main focus. Beale’s is about to open a seafood place in Yorktown, and I’ll make a point of going there when I make my Hampton Roads barbecue survey.

Bedford is a bit off the beaten path to familiar and busy destinations, but the countryside is lovely and there’s much to do in the area. You can pay tribute to the veterans of D-Day, and have some good barbecue and equally good beer in a welcoming setting. What more do you want?


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