Pints, Peaks & Paddles : A Beer Geek’s Guide to the Great Outdoors
By: Nolan Shigley
Appropriately, a heavy gray blanket of fog covered the desolate Petersburg Battlefield as I trudged through the muddy trails softened by the constant mist. As a distance trail-runner, I commonly have vast tracts of forests and mountains to myself. Today, I had an historic national park and sacred ground where over 70,000 casualties occurred during the American Civil War.
I ran along pine-forested trails that would suddenly exit the towering trees and enter immense open battlefields while cutting through “no man’s land,” a vast area dividing the Blue and the Gray, once strewn with corpses of teenage soldiers. Deep trenches, still visible today, flank both sides of the boundless grassland.
As I ran the sliver of single-track that snakes through, I could not even fathom the bloodshed that occurred on the land where my footsteps fell. Long stretches of wide forest trails connected me to each major site within the park system. The same areas where Grant’s army fought Lee’s, my Montrails and I visited. From canons and forts to the infamous Crater, made even more infamous by the film Cold Mountain, I jogged in reflection. I ran along trenches dug by soldiers that marked the fortifications of the Confederate and the Union militaries. I ran through American history on the most decisive battlefield of the war, while the steel wheels of trains provided an idyllic soundtrack.
Petersburg Battlefield National Park is a sobering reminder of our country’s conflict that preserved the nation and ended the despicable institution of slavery. However, it is now also a sanctuary for wildlife amidst the Tri-Cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg. Each day, the forests and fields come alive with the sound of songbirds, while countless runners and mountain bikers visit an impressive trail system. Each year, protected bald eagles nest in the Loblolly Pines and make the park their home. Life thrives each day within the park, very different from the era of 1861-1865, when they destroyed habitat to make way for violent conflict.
In order to collect my thoughts on my solitary run through history, a visit to Trapezium Brewing Company was well suited. Keeping with the style of Old Town Petersburg and the theme of the day, Trapezium Brewing Company is situated in a beautifully restored brick building, built a mere decade after the Civil War. Complete with rustic brick walls and repurposed wood, it is the perfect venue to contemplate the importance of the city during the war. Behind the bar, the brick oven is lit up like a band on the main stage, while cooks toss dough through the air like performing musicians. Obviously, artisanal pizza shares the spotlight with craft brews.
I quenched my thirst with a tropical New England IPA and replenished my calories with the epic White Horse pizza, complete with a sunny-side-up egg on top. The tropical citrus flavors were delightful for a post-run dryness, but that pizza may have stolen all the thunder. Deliciously salty from capers and the egg, stacked with a full savor and perfect thin, smoky crust, I had to close my eyes while eating at the risk of others seeing them roll back into my head. It was an intense experience, to say the least. I then reached for a Lucky 25 American Brown and enjoyed the traditional flavors of a tavern ale, a cozy ale with hints of nuts, caramel and roasted coffee, symbolic of my day and perfect for post meal.
In the age of the craft brewery, it is difficult to believe the Tri-Cities area lacked a single one until Trapezium hit the scene. Named after the “quirky” Trapezium house nearby (apparently built lacking 90 degree angles), the brewery became the first in a heavily populated and thirsty region of Virginia. Thankfully, Trapezium continues the way for a revitalized downtown in Petersburg that is witnessing a renaissance of their architecture and businesses. Will Petersburg replicate the beer scene of her older Civil War sister Richmond? That remains to be seen, but there is ample history, good eats, outdoor adventure and craft brews for more than a one-day trip.