What's the hops? A look at Smartmouth Brewing Co.

Co-written by James Finney & Lindsey Lanham

All photos by Maggie Giordano

Back in a small corner of Norfolk, Va. sits a tiny brewery. Only a short drive from ODU’s campus, Smartmouth Brewing may lack in size but makes up for it in taste. With only 12 beers on tap, Smartmouth has established itself as a tasty and formidable force to be reckoned with in the craft brewery industry.

Smartmouth Brewing Co. was established in 2012. Their beers are experimental but are always bold in flavors. They cater to a wide variety of beer drinkers, people who may not even like beer and their laid-back attitude welcomes people who may not even be old enough to drink. Wherever you fit on the beer drinking spectrum, Smartmouth has a place for you.

While there is the main location in Norfolk, Smartmouth also has a pilot location in Virginia Beach. Their pilot brewery hosts more beers on tap and a bigger sitting area for guests.

Like most breweries, Smartmouth does have a rotation going on some of their beers, but their more notable ones are the beers that stay on year-round.

Alter Ego: Typically a saison’s tartness is a major turnoff for some people, but this Belgian style saison is a great combination of sweet and spicy. The color is a great shade of yellow, and it’s scent perfectly reflects it’s taste. It’s a must for Smartmouth first-timers, but also remains a reason why people keep coming back.

Murphy’s Law: This amber ale starts off with a sweet taste, and leaves with a smooth, tangy, floral finish. The pour is a beautiful, amber red color, making it not only easy to drink but also easy to look at. This beer is better for people who aren’t looking for something hoppy like an IPA but need something with more of a kick than a pilsner.

Game On: A citrus IPA, countered by the bitterness of the hops, this drink is the perfect IPA for IPA drinkers. For those who want something tamer, Game On is not the drink for you. It pours as a golden wheat color and smells like citrus. Exploding with flavor and good looks, there’s a reason this drink is a mainstay.

Safety Dance: This super drinkable pilsner is perfect for anyone trying to break into beer drinking. It’s fruity and wheaty, the perfect balance for optimal tastefulness. Its straw color makes it not only tasty but also an attractive looking beer. Topped off with a citrus-sweet scent makes this year-rounder a great go-to.

While the mainstays are all flavorful and diverse, Smartmouth does offer a wide variety of beers that are on tap until they run out. These include seasonal beers, and also experimental lines. Smartmouth’s Tinamatua, an oatmeal cream pie beer, a test beer that may lead to a future line of grandma’s baking flavors.

Princess Oktoberfest Lager: is a bronze tinted beer with a heart of gold. The roasted, malt flavor hits you first. It anchors the taste before the caramel sneaks up on you. Toffee is the second half of this princess’ one-two punch, and it’s a sweet surprise. This beer is the perfect companion through the autumn season and a great choice for the casual drinker.

X-pert Commander Golden Ale: The scent is pure fruit, fresh and sweet. At first sip, raspberry and golden ale might seem like an odd pairing. However, this beer will quickly prove you wrong. Xpert Commander is crisp, clean, a little wheaty and a little sour. The flavors are light and definitely drinkable. Xpert is a good entry-level beer for those trying to broaden their horizons.

Ice Ice Vanilla Porter: It’s hard not to love a well-made porter. A strong coffee flavor is guaranteed, and no college student needs to be told that vanilla pairs well with coffee. Ice Ice Vanilla is almost dangerously easy to drink. It won’t be here forever so grab it while you can.

Exit Stage Left Pineapple Cherry Sour Gose: If beer isn’t your drink of choice, a gose might help change your mind. The cherry takes center stage, the pineapple and more typical beer flavors follow suit. The taste is light but sweet, and the sourness is definitely there.

Two parts technique and one part mad genius, the brewmasters at Smartmouth have devised a impressive line up of 12 beers on tap. Five of the beers are mainstays, one seasonal alongside a six-drink rotation of experimental and sometimes maverick beverages.

The atmosphere isn’t exactly snug, but Smartmouth is welcoming for sure. Everyone’s friends here. Don’t feel afraid to take a seat at one of the benches, or play a couple of rounds on the Gamecube or arcade consoles sitting in the back.

Smartmouth Brewing Co. is a great place for people who already love beer or are looking to start learning about beer. With a friendly, knowledgeable staff, a great selection and multiple locations, this craft brewery is one of those places that makes Hampton Roads so enjoyable.