When we moved here in 2014, we didn’t know anything about Roanoke to speak of. When, in 2015, there was a lot of hooplah about the return of a steam engine from Spencer, North Carolina, we didn’t know why it was a big deal and didn’t know to ask. The news reported that people waited beside the tracks along the route, hoping to get a video, even though the time that it would pass was kept a secret. We did think that that was odd, but we were busy and weren’t paying attention.
Neither of us remember there being craft beer festivals back in Dallas. There had to be some. Surely, right?
Here, however, we have been to four craft beer festivals in just the past couple of years. Each one has had its pros and cons but, wow, a craft beer festival. That’s right up there with an ice cream festival.
The BallPark Beer Festival – Hooker Field, Martinsville
We went to the first (annual) BallPark Beer Festival at Hooker Field in Martinsville in May of 2015. It was great. They had several tents and multiple brewers in each tent. Instead of kegs, each brewer had vats of different brews iced down. I thought that this was great because normally each brewer only brings two to four kegs. By having the bottles, they were able to have more different kinds of beers. The glasses were the size of juice glasses and one perk to standing on grass is that you could easily pour out anything you didn’t like or didn’t want.
The Kings of Belmont played and it was a great scene. We wished that we had brought chairs to sit on the lawn and listen to the band.
We missed it this year but that’s just because it fell off of our radar. Next year, I’ll remember to keep an eye out for it in JULY.
Brewsterwalk – Uptown Martinsville
Then there was Brewsterwalk in October (also 2015) held in the old downtown area known as Uptown. Brewsterwalk is kind of a play on words because there is a huge annual multi-day concert here called Roosterwalk. It’s kind of a big deal.
Attendance was capped at 600 tickets, so it was a little bigger than the BallPark’s Beer Fest that had been capped at 400. There were food trucks and a sitting area just to the right of the stage, so that worked really well.
This was where we discovered Raven’s Roost Porter by Parkway Brewing. And look at that glass! It’s a full-sized pint glass. We love those glasses. We also still love Raven’s Roost. We believe that the local Food Lion (on Greensboro Road) is keeping it in stock just for us. So we buy it. A lot.
We heard a couple of bands, the Chris Duarte Group and Wild Ponies, but left before the finale band, Junto, came on. The bands were awesome. But we are a music area, right? I guess you have to expect greatness when it comes to the music around here.
MicroFestivus Premiere Craft Beer Festival – Roanoke
We’ve actually made it to MicroFestivus twice now and we are learning how to do this properly. For instance, this year we rented a hotel room within walking distance to the festival. How’s that for an idea?!
The first time it rained.
MicroFestivus was supposed to be held in Elmwood Park but, due to the rain, it got moved into the parking garage adjacent to Elmwood Park. We found it. We had our list of brewers and brews that we especially wanted to find and we set off. Our big discovery in 2014 was Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. We do buy that occasionally when we see it in a craft beer store but it really is a little on the dessert side for a beer.
It continued to rain. There was a band set up on a soundstage but I honestly don’t remember them playing. It was wet and kind of cruddy. The beer festival was inside the garage, so you wound around the levels and that worked out really well.
The food trucks were outside of the garage and the way to them was covered by white tents.
Fast forward to 2016. We missed 2015 MicroFestivus for some reason. This year, however, this year we were ready. There are rain clouds. The festival this year is a street festival. We have a hotel room.
We have a hotel room in Hotel Roanoke. Let me tell you, THIS is the way to “do” downtown Roanoke. Honestly, we will be staying here again. This is the prettiest hotel that I’ve ever seen and it has this wonderful “vibe”. The closest that I’ve ever experienced was the Hotel Del in San Diego. It’s old world but … almost other world.
The festival went off without a hitch. (Which is really good because the area it was in flooded two days later). Our discovery this year? South Street Brewery’s Ice Cream Porter.
Or Hardywood’s Raspberry Stout. I’m not sure. I guess it’s going to depend on who gets their bottles out to the stores. They were both stand outs.
It did not rain but it was hot. The festival entrance was on Campbell Avenue and ran two blocks up 1st Street to end at food trucks. Both Kirk Avenue and Church Avenue, which cross 1st Street, were closed and had beer tents running a block to two blocks along their sidewalks.
It was crowded but I have photos that make it look thronged and others that make it look like a Sunday afternoon church bazaar.
Roanoke is a craft beer destination even without the festival. Check out these local breweries when you can (and these probably aren’t all of them):
Roanoke is a city that is beautiful in the rain. A little under an hour north of Henry County, Roanoke is a great place to get away from rural life and take in something more “cosmopolitan”, a quick pint at a craft brewery (there are several), or just to grab lunch while letting the hustle and bustle of a real city remind you that you are still part of the human race.
Every morning, we watch news from Roanoke and we thought that it was high time to take Mother in to see Market Center. We’ve only been once before and were so impressed with Fork in the Market that we went there again. The food was predictably good but the craft beer selection was poor this time. Last time we were able to get S’mores porter (by DuClaw, I think?). This time, their only porter was Nitro Vanilla by Breckinridge which is a good porter but they were out. Still, the food was good and the sidewalk seating is great.
From the Fork in the Market sidewalk seating, you look out at a seafood restaurant, Billy’s, and the Taubman Museum. People walk by and a steady stream of traffic makes for great people-watching.
Fork in the Market is one of several restaurants in a building called The City Market. While this is a beautiful building on the outside, the inside is basically a food court with access to all (or at least some) of the restaurants that are also accessible from the outside. The perk to City Market is easy access to clean restrooms and a series of beautiful mosaics at each doorway.
I made a point to get a shot of each of the mosaics. A history of the mosaics – 2,000 pounds of ceramic tilework by artist Cheryl Foster – is available on the City Market website.
I wish that there was more information about each mosaic but even the building’s website gives only a cursory explanation of their commission. Were these real personalities connected to the building? I don’t know.
The colors are fantastic and there is so much detail.
The toothless, banjo-playing boy with his dog, in particular, could use an explanatory placard. This is an area rich in musical heritage but the mosaic, without more information, seems more like a caricature than a tribute.
Market Center is a shopping district across the street from City Market and next to Center in the Square. It is not synonymous with Center in the Square, which you will gather if you read the management responses to reviews on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor is a global outfit not based in the U.S. and it has a real problem with listing districts like Market Center that don’t have an identifiable individual address.
Market Center is a lively area that hosts a farmers’ market on Saturdays and has a long line of shops and open-air vendors along the street.
Our big “find” this trip was ChocolatePaper. My husband called it a “random stuff” store when we walked in but then smiled like a cat with a canary when he went far enough back to find the chocolate counter. I had picked up a bag of Nancy’s Candy Company’s chocolate covered cookie dough balls (Nancy’s is a Meadows of Dan outfit) until I found the counter of truffles and chocolate covered delicacies.
The sandwich board outside says that they keep the inside temperature at 66 degrees for the chocolate. I can’t recommend a better way to beat the heat this summer than ChocolatePaper.