A Fredericksburg Field Guide to Local Libations

Our new occasional Sunday feature clues you into the expanding adult beverage scene in the region.

Editor’s Note: The Advance is pleased to welcome Ned Flemming to our writers’ family. A life-long educator, Ned and his family (which includes his wife, daughters, and dog) have recently relocated to Stafford from Richmond. Movies and reading are his escape from the day-to-day, but beers and breweries are his passion. It shows in this review of the Red Dragon. Watch for more from Ned in the weeks and months ahead, as we launch our new occasional Sunday feature – A Fredericksburg Field Guide to Local Libations. Want to recommend a spot to review? Send an email to the editor at [email protected].

THE RED DRAGON BREWERY

1419 Princess Anne St. 
Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401
Web Address: Red Dragon Brewery

Reviewed by Ned Flemming

There is no such thing as a bad beer. Or a perfect one. Same is true for breweries. There is only the one in front of you, and the experience makes it. 

The Red Dragon Brewery was the one before me when my new coworkers invited me to the local establishment at 1419 Princess Anne Street. Having just moved to Stafford from Richmond, it proved an ideal place to start.

An unassuming black brick building with beautiful, large windows facing the street, the brewery’s inside is open and features an alcove with a foosball table and board games. Collectively, it’s an enticing local take on an English pub. Everything is clean and cozy, and there are plenty of tables with room to move around. 

The brewery’s name comes from the passant red dragon on the Welsh flag, and like its name, the brewery itself has quite a history. 

Three Friends Want to Start a Brewery …

A trio of beer lovers – homebrewer Tom Evans, with Dan Baker and Mark Perry – conceived the idea in 2011. Evans’ family is from Wales, and that heritage stirred their vision for the brewery. As the first brewery within the city limits of Fredericksburg, according to the owners, it faced some obstacles. These were overcome, and Red Dragon opened to the public in 2016. They have been doing a steady business ever since. 

After eight years of producing quality beer, the Red Dragon is undergoing some changes.

Co-founder Perry assumed sole ownership of Red Dragon in August, and the biggest changes he has brought have been to the company’s brewing philosophy. 

Red Dragon has focused on brewing mostly English style beers, and longtime Head Brewer Cody Natale does them exceptionally well. But with a limited brewing capacity, beers were constantly coming and going. “Running out of beer was seen as a good thing,” Perry said. The focus was on having a selection of styles of beers on tap, rather than keeping particular styles available at all times. 

But as times and tastes evolve, so, too, must the Red Dragon. 

Perry says, there will be a move to having flagship beers, which will always be available. Having a lager, stout, and IPA available at all times would bring some consistency to the tap menu but still leave room for experimentation. The idea is to have a familiar beer to sip on while pondering what new offering to try. 

This is a philosophy I can get behind. I love trying new beers, but when I find a particularly choice one, I tend to revisit it often. 

The Stars of the Pub

Obviously, the first beer to try needed to be a lager. A place this Anglo-centric needs to do a solid lager. 

The Pound Sterling ESB is their British version and is usually available. It’s an amber-colored pour that drinks smoothly with a nice balance between the malts and the bitterness. 

The Fredericksburg Lager is their version of an American lager, and it is light and crisp and very refreshing. 

Then there are the stouts. 

I highly recommend you try whatever stout is available, even if it’s not your favorite style of beer; There were two on tap when I visited last: the Dark Heart and the Dark Heart Brew. 

Heavy-bodied and rich, these stouts revealed the brewmaster’s expertise. Their color is dark enough to be almost black, and they pour out thick with a beautiful head. So good. 

But, I was blown away by the coffee stout Dark Heart Brew. Not only did it taste amazing, the super fragrant and inviting smell was even better! If you like coffee in your beer, this is a brew, and brewery, for you. 

With some trepidation (as I am not a sour beer fan), I stepped up and ordered the two goses they had on tap. The Here Be Dragons tasted exactly like what I expected from a gose. Fruity and sour. Not bad, just not my thing. But the Vanilla Passionfruit Pineapple? Sublime. First gose I’ve ever liked. Smelled amazing and had a perfect balance of fruity sweetness and tartness with the hint of vanilla right at the end. Knocked it right through the uprights! Now I have to radically reevaluate my gose position. Tip of the hat to Mr. Natale for that. 

Due to the space and set up of the brewery, beers aren’t put into kegs attached to the taps. Instead, the beer is poured directly from the refrigerated conditioning tanks right behind the bar. This means you are always getting fresh beer directly from the source. I have seen this before in other places and always thought it gave the beer a better flavor. 

All the Rest …

While sipping and contemplating the delightful revelations that can be had in a brewery, I noticed several things. The taproom is dog friendly, which I find awesome. Outside food was allowed as well. In fact, my co-workers brought an assortment of snacks, but the Red Dragon also sells some food as well. Nothing fancy (corn dogs, empanadas, and giant pretzels) but a tasty compliment to the beer. 

The pub also has a dedicated spot in the parking lot for food trucks, and if none of that suits you, there are several restaurants nearby you can order from and have your food delivered. 

Lastly, there are also board games available to play, which is always a nice touch. And, if you do go to grab a board game, peer carefully into the brewing area, and see if you can spot the watchful Red Dragon lurking in the ceiling. 

All in all, the Red Dragon is an enjoyable place to go for a pint. Whether it’s an old favorite that just came back, an intriguing new option, or perhaps a go-to lager or stout, the beer is cold and fresh and the atmosphere friendly. It’s not Wales, but the Red Dragon lets us pretend that it could be.