The Basescamp Brewpub is the heart of the brand. It is also the heart of the community.
When Devils Backbone opened in 2008, I was a local to the small Blue Ridge community of Beech Grove, Virginia. My family has been “locals” since the 1700s. My great-grandfather walked back to his log cabin after the battle of Gettysburg. During the Depression, my grandfather was paid ten cents a day to tend and mend the dirt road that is now Beech Grove Road (RT 664), running beside Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows. I bet both of them would have enjoyed a cold Devils Backbone beer. I would have liked to share a plate of the crafted dry rub wings and smoked deviled eggs with them. I often wonder what they would think of today’s Nelson County, RT 151 and Beech Grove.
The mountains of Virginia’s Blue Ridge are thick with heritage cuisine. Smoked meats, cornbread, and deviled eggs have long been on the table. Including my family’s mountain table. So have greens, herbs, beets and sweet potatoes from the valley gardens. This mountain culture is alive within the Devils Backbone menu—along with a few chef- inspired spins on vintage recipes.
I recently sat down with family and friends around a large wooden table, next to a stacked stone fireplace in the brewpub. We ordered an array of smoked meats, including ribs, sausages and pulled pork. We added plates of the chef’s popular dry-rubbed Mountain Wings and those delicious deviled eggs. The seasonal salad was tossed with red beets grown in the on-site hoop houses, and we passed around a side of french fries. A farm table of food paired with pints and a few tasting flights.
In 2019, Virginia craft beverage makers are striving to provide a “total experience” to brewpub visitors. And a paired menu of food is the cornerstone to that visitor experience. (You can read more about trends in Craft Beer for 2019 here)
Let’s go Behind the Taste at Devils Backbone Brewpub & Meadows. Everyone knows about the award-winning beer. I want to tell you about the food. For this Behind the Taste, I want to tell you about the Farm-To-Food Menu at the Devils Backbone Basecamp in Nelson County. Agricultural farming has been the fabric of the community for generations. Devils Backbone’s Basecamp Brewpub’s menu is a hat-tip to this community.
As you enter Basecamp, from crossroads of Rt 664 and Rt. 151, you first see the hoop houses and gardens. That is just a glimpse into the fresh food menu. To really learn about the creation of the Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub’s menu, I reached out to Heidi Crandall (Co-Founder), Antonio Jorge (Director of Hospitality) and Frank Debons (Head Chef). The menu is a blend of local favorites, seasonings, and Devils Backbone’s own beer. You visit the Devils Backbone Basecamp to enjoy the vibrant beer collection, and then you fall in love with the whole experience.
To go Behind the Taste, I ask Devils Backbone a few questions….
DW&S/Kim: Your menu changes with the seasons and is a reflection of local southern favorites, Devils Backbone beer and farm ingredients. The menu has a rhythm and a Virginia vibe. Tell us about the inspiration that the Devils Backbone beer brings to your recipe collection.
Devils Backbone/ Heidi: Beer is first and foremost. It is the compass of Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows . Everything else surrounds the beer in a partnership. The entire brewpub team works together with the agricultural tourism manager from the brewers, distillers, and the kitchen to implement the finest fresh and local ingredients into beer, spirits, and foods. In addition, we source local farmers for product from bread, eggs, greens, and meats based on the seasonality of their products.
Devils Backbone/Frank: It is a lot of fun working with Devils Backbone beers, to cook with them and combine food pairings. Beer and BBA go hand in hand, but sometimes, it is nice to go into a bit more creative direction and create innovative dishes that are inspired by classical southern food like tomato pie. I created a savory tomato cheesecake using our hoop house tomatoes (summer) and paired it with one of our newest beers, Hibiscus Hard Lemonade.
DW&S/Kim: You are smoking your BBQ on-site in Beech Grove. I imagine a pit-master tending the smoker as the sun sets behind Three Ridges… and still tending the smoker as the sun comes back up over the East ridge. On an average week, how much pork, chicken, and beef are you smoking in your custom wood smoker?
Devils Backbone/ Frank: Can I say tons and tons. We have the art of smoking down to a science with the smoking of our meats. With enough team members, we are not smoking into the wee hours as we have multiple smokers. With our house made BBQ sauce, we also mopped the meat to perfection!
DW&S/Kim: Your dry rub has been the subject of many family discussions. We are passionate about that dry rub. We enjoy it on your Mountain Wings….on fries… Are there any future plans for the rub? Perhaps, A new menu item that includes the rub?
Devils Backbone/ Heidi: The Mountain Dry Rubber wings, Dry Rub French Fries and our house made Chickaronnes. A little dash here and there in other recipes is always a must! While we can’t tell you exactly what is in the crafted dry rub, we are soon packaging it to sell in our Devils Backbone Shop. The consumer has been purchasing this crafted dry rub for years and it time we put it in a shaker spice bottle with a label.
DW&S/Kim: Your Agritourism Manager and team grow produce and herbs used in your kitchen. Tell us about what is grown on-site.
Devils Backbone/ Heidi:. Being active in the community is important to us here at Devils Backbone, as it is taking care of the land and resources we sit on. We use local ingredients and source as much as we can from local farms in the Blue Ridge that we do not have the capacity to grow ourselves to keep up with the demands of the restaurant operation we have.
In addition, Jessica Carter, our Agritourism Manager grows herbs and different botanicals like juniper and lemongrass for our brewery and distillery along with various foods used in the restaurant. The gardens provide fresh flowers for our tables.
DW&S/Kim: What other menu items are locally sourced?
Devils Backbone/ Tony: grains from flour to grits, additional supplemental fresh produce to supply our demand in the brewpub, local beef from Rive Oak Farms for our burgers along with grass-fed chickens, and local eggs when available.
DW&S/Kim: That’s impressive. Not only are some kitchen items grown on-site, but many are also gathered from local farms across the mountains and valleys of the Blue Ridge.
“The Basecamp Brewpub is the heart of the brand.” Last year, I first wrote that when discussing the craft beer industry in Virginia. The same can be said for the atmosphere at Devils Backbone Basecamp & Meadows. This brewpub is the heart of the Devils Backbone brand. Walk through the Devils Backbone Basecamp & Meadows, and you feel the heartbeat. The outdoor fire kettle and seating, The Outdoor Bar, The Shanty, the new Devils Backbone Distillery, the Summit serving breakfast and local coffee, the original brewpub, and the Oak Grill. The Basecamp & Meadows open at 11:30AM, seven days a week. It is a team effort to provide the branded experience. Give us a peek behind the scenes. How many local employees work at the Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows?
Devils Backbone/ Heidi: It depends on what you mean by “local.” You would have to be born in Nelson County to be considered a local. Otherwise, you are a “come here.” Currently being rural as we are, hiring can prove to be difficult when filling positions. We extend our reach to meet our recruitment. We have a few local employees, but most of our staff lives nearby in Amherst, Lynchburg, Waynesboro, Stuarts Draft, Staunton, Charlottesville, and Crozet. With a rare benefits package provided for hospitality and our culture, we have a terrific workforce.
If I owned a time machine, I would share a Devils Backbone dinner and a beer with my Nelson County ancestors—especially a plate of those Mountain Dry Rubbed Wings! Instead, our family meets at the new Devils Backbone Camp with primitive camping & RV sites, and we enjoy a weekend with amazing views, breakfast at The Summit, a dinner in the brewpub and the day in The Meadows.