The Backstory: Every town loves a good ghost story, and Virginia Beach is no different. For years, locals believed the Chesapeake Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Station -- now the home of Commonwealth Brewing -- to be haunted by the ghost of Benjamin Bishop, one of the station’s firefighters who died in the ’70s. He would act like a practical joker, setting off sirens and alarms, slamming truck doors; because of that, the town hosted their annual Halloween haunted house at the Chic’s Beach firehouse until 2013. That year, the squad moved to a new station, and the building became Commonwealth Brewing two years later. Bishop didn’t stick around for the beer, though: Local newspapers say similar occurrences now happen at the new fire station, while the brewery has been poltergeist-free.
The Brewery: The old fire station was known as a community gathering spot, so Commonwealth built their taproom around the same concept. It’s designed to feel like a European beer hall, so those American bar standards (free wifi, walls of big-screen TVs) are scratched in favor of long communal tables, outdoor seating, food trucks, and cornhole. In addition to 28 taps in the main tasting room, the brewery also hosts everything from a book club to yoga classes in their space.
The Beer You Need To Try: Don’t be overwhelmed by the gigantic beer list (but do be sure to appreciate each can’s label -- they’re practically art). To avoid paralysis of choice, try the Sophrosyne Aged Saison: It’s brewed with American malt, wheat, and spelt; aged for six months; and blended with a bit of their house Solera to make it slightly tart. The best part? The Sophrosyne’s creation was a happy accident -- it’s fermented with an airborne wild yeast strain that was unintentionally captured at the brewery.