COTU's Updated Taproom

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

A Tasty New Space

COTU_new_taproom_1_smSame tasty beer – redesigned digs – more of everything. At Center of the Universe Brewing in Ashland, Virginia. 

For those who've had the pleasure of experiencing COTU's taproom, picture the original tasting room: knock down the wall between the main room and the hallway, put the service bar in the space where the hallway used to be, and you've got the expanded main area. Remove the drop ceiling and imagine the industrial ceiling in a soft matte black with subtle pendant lighting. Now add a splash of colors, blending turquoise and a rich twilight blue, accented in an astro-inspired mural at one end of the room and in the drop lights over the tables. The horseshoe booths upholstered in red add to the retro touch, while the high tables in the middle invite more communal imbibing. (I challenge you to view the Isoceles trapezoid tables without puzzling over the shapes you could create.)

Another mural will be gracing the long wall above the bar (absent the windows behind the bar, which overlook the canning line), once the new paint cures sufficiently.

Now all of this looks pretty cool, but you should also know that the taps have expanded from eight to twelve.

You might also want to know that – as of Monday, Aug. 1, co-owner Phil Ray tells me – one of the taps will be equipped to pour soda water to be mixed with one of several syrups, accommodating kids, designated drivers, and wise imbibers who know they have had enough. The crafted sodas also accommodate COTU's radlers, like the current Summer Moon imperial wheat beer blended with lemon-lime soda: lower your alcohol intake without sacrificing taste.

Next, recall entering the old taproom – public spaces were to your left, but some nebulous, closed-off area was to the right. Those were offices. Now, the space has been converted to more taproom space, accommodating the pinball machines as well as plenty of seating. COTU also added decorative pocket doors and taps, so the overflow space can easily host private events.

In all, the COTU interior now has seating for 115 total, plus standing room (final official fire marshall number still TBD), including 60 comfortably accommodated in the overflow room. And, of course, the outside beer garden is still open for business.


If you can't make it out to Center of the Universe for the Grand Re-Opening Party on Saturday, July 30, check out the Gose Fest on Aug. 6 or the Bloody Beer Bingo Brunch on Aug. 7 (featuring Texas Beach Bloody Mary mix plus games and brunch-inspired burritos). 


Summer Refreshment

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Breckenridge Mango Mosaic Pale Ale

Mango Mosaic 6 PackGreet the warm summer weather with beers that are light and refreshing. When you can’t make it to the beach (or you’re there and want to embrace the sand, surf and spray to the fullest), pop open an ale that will bring to mind the rhythm of the waves.

Breckenridge Mango Mosaic Pale Ale – now year round – can transport you, using Mosaic hops and generous amounts of mango for exotic tropical notes. Though light and refreshing, the body of the beer satisfies. As a pale ale, Mango Mosaic achieves balance: malt flavors on the mid-palate and tropic hops singing “Don’t worry, be happy” on the end.

At 5.5 percent ABV, the brew borders on sessionable, perfect for warm summer days. Or, now that the beer is available year-round, you can enjoy its bright notes après ski – or simply après work – paired with foods like chicken, fish or an easy-eating cheese plate. At only 29 IBUs, its bitterness won’t spoil your palate for other flavors.

In talking about the beer’s creation, Colorado’s Breckenridge Brewery president Todd Usry says, “We’ve used Mosaic hops for several years in other beers, and we love the floral, tropical fruit, earthy characteristics that it gives - great aroma and a sweetness unlike other hops we’ve experimented with. We thought it would pair naturally with a tropical fruit like mango, so we got busy in our pilot brewery up in Breck to find the right balance of hops to fruit.” 

Mango Mosaic is available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles and on draft. 

Beer cocktail: Mosaic Mango Mania

Though this beer doesn’t need any flavor enhancements, I couldn’t resist experimenting with spirits that complement the pale ale. For additional summertime flavors and extra kick, pour 1 ½ ounces of your favorite tequila into a tulip glass, then top it with Breckenridge Mango Mosaic. The tequila adds a touch of dry alcohol bite and more essence of summer without overpowering the beauty of the pale ale.


Virginia's New Beer Trail: Drink in the Valley

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail

Beerwerks logoVirginia’s newest beer trail invites visitors to explore the commonwealth’s great outdoors and enjoy great beer, too. As of May 16, 2016, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail is official, incorporating 12 breweries in the Shenandoah Valley, reaching from Harrisonburg in the north down through Staunton and Waynesboro to Lexington.

For a short time, this will be both America’s and Virginia’s newest craft beer trail.

“Come tap into that authenticity you crave,” invites the trail’s promotional materials. “Real fields and farms. Pristine waters. Endless mountain views. Hiking trails. Farmers’ markets. Mountain biking. Music festivals. Fascinating small cities. And local characters. We’re all that and more. Wherever your adventures take you, we’ve got a brewery nearby to quench your thirst. Refresh yourself on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.”

Breweries are friendly places to visit, providing opportunities to enjoy the beer as well as to relax and chat with friends and new acquaintances. Taprooms often host food trucks or other food options, and a few offer a full menu or local snacks or encourage guests to bring food in. Many host live music events, offer growler fills, and are kid- and dog-friendly.

The twelve Shenandoah Beerwerks breweries as of the trail’s beginning are:

Brothers Brewing, Harrisonburg

Pale Fire, Harrisonburg

Three Notch’d, Harrisonburg

Wolfe Street, Harrisonburg

Queen City Brewing, Staunton

Redbeard Brewing, Staunton

Shenandoah Valley Brewing, Staunton

Basic City Beer, Waynesboro

Seven Arrows Brewing, Waynesboro

Stable Craft Brewing, Waynesboro (the newest brewery on the list)

Blue Lab Brewing, Lexington

Devils Backbone Outpost, Lexington

Stable CraftBesides providing a convenient way for locals and tourists to explore an area’s breweries, beer trails provide efficient and effective tourism hooks, attracting visitors, who spend their money not just on the breweries’ products but on lodging, food and recreation. This trail in Virginia’s mountains is a cooperative effort of Staunton, Augusta, and Waynesboro Tourism; Harrisonburg Tourism; and Lexington & The Rockbridge Area Tourism.

To learn more and follow the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail on social media:

Twitter: @beerwerkstrail

Facebook: Shenandoah Beerwerks

Instagram: @shenandoahbeerwerks



Two New Summer Beers

Tickle the Tastebuds - Beers & Breweries

Just in time for the warm weather...

That will allegedly be here soon...

Virginia's Starr Hill Brewery has released two new seasonals that pair perfectly with warm weather, The Hook Grapefruit Session IPA and Sublime Citrus Wit.

The Hook begins with a carefully chosen malt bill of 2-row, crystal and honey plus golden oats, and uses four hops: Apollo, Citra, Mosaic and Sorachi Ace. The sessionable 4.9% ABV and the light but pleasing taste makes this perfect for a warm day - even when fishing with your hook by the river (or, like me, watching someone else fish). The Hook is hoppy yet with malty notes. It's a medium amber color, with a gentle, light head and hoppy IPA on the nose. The flavor is mild but generous. The Hook sips smooth on the palate. At 38 IBUs, it's not off-putting to those who are turned off by hop bombs.

Starr Hill's Sublime Citrus Wit pour a golden yellow, with a light white head and spicy nose. The recipe is simple and the beer reflects the clean simplicity: 2-row malted barley and wheat, with Saaz hops plus lime and lemon zest. The flavor on my palate was dominated by the malt, with the spices and wheat quickly making their gleeful appearance. The limey-citrus flavor is also apparent and is complementary and quite pleasant, like a lightly squeezed fresh wedge has been added to the glass. The beer is light in flavor and of a sessionable ABV (4.7%) and would be perfect with grilled herbed chicken on a warm summer evening. Actually, it went marvelously with the herbed lime chicken I prepared in my slow cooker!



Pickled & Fermented #RVA @COTUbrew

Tickle the Tastebuds - Cuisine & Restaurants

Pickle_Poster_smPickle Lovers Unite! The Artisan Pickle Club is hosting Pickled & Fermented - a celebration of all things pickled and fermented! We're talking more than pickled cucumbers here - they don't discriminate when it comes to pickled things. Pickled fruit, pickled veggies, hot sauce, kimchi, beer, Kombucha – if it's pickled or fermented, we're celebrating it!

Join them at Center of the Universe Brewing Company for a day of pickle tastings, live music from Ashland's Buckeville Hootenany, a pickle themed beer and loads of pickle shenanigans! They will also be hosting the very first Best Pickle Competition and are taking entries from Richmond Restaurants and home picklers.

Categories include:

Sweet Pickles- fruits, vegetables, bread & butter

Savory Pickle-fruits, vegetables & dill pickled savory edibles

Relishes - Chow-Chow, Pickle Relish, Chutney, Picalilli

Cabbage-kimchi & sauerkraut

Drinkable Ferments- kombucha, shrubs & kefir (sorry no alcohol allowed)

Sourdough bread

The pickle panel of judges for includes: Ashley Ray and Larkin Garbee of Artisan Pickle Club, Abbie Toner of Eat Smart, Karen Grisevich of GrowRVA, Stephanie Ganz of RVA News, and Brandon Fox of Style Weekly.

Anyone interested in attending and/or entering the pickle competitions can find out more at


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