The Shenandoah Valley’s craft beer renaissance continues with the opening of Pale Fire, a new brewery located in the Ice House complex in downtown Harrisonburg.
Upon entering Pale Fire, perhaps the first thing that catches your eye is the gigantic u-shaped bar that fills a third of the establishment. Crafted of light pine, the warm wood invites you to sit with your friends and talk, chat with the bartenders, or even meet new people. Its shape lends itself to community. Instead of staring at yourself in the mirror, here there are people looking back at you, and raising a glass.
Or perhaps the first thing you see are the enormous stainless-steel vats looming behind the glass wall at the rear of the brewery. The realm of brewer Jamie Long, this is where the liquid that flows from the tap is crafted, brews such as the Deadly Rhythm Pale Ale, and the golden Salad Days American Saison, which boasts notes of “grapefruit, peach, and bubblegum.” In addition the brewery has begun to make the Smoking Scottish, a local favorite originated by Calhoun’s, Harrisonburg’s first, and now defunct, brewery.
Maybe when you first walk in your eye shoots to the back wall, which is covered with shelves of books. Books? But aren’t people watching the TV’s? Pale Fire claims not a single television on its premises. Instead they host a Little Free Library, books patrons are free to take home. Additions to the library are welcome, though limit donations to one or two books, warns owner Tim Brady, as shelf space is limited. It’s a fitting addition to an establishment that takes its name from a novel penned by one the greatest writers to have walked among us, Vladimir Nabokov.
Or if books aren’t your thing, perhaps your gaze drifts to the far corner, where shelves of vinyl LPs surround a turntable. You flip through the stacks, pull out Zeppelin’s III, drop the needle into the groove . . . Nothing happens. The turntable’s not hooked up. You’re disappointed, but thrilled at the possibilities. Maybe someday. Maybe soon.
You order a Double IPA and wander out to the patio. It’s a summer night, the garage doors that divide inside from out are flung open. There is no in or out, the boundaries blurred, above you the stars throb to the beat of the music, all the seats are taken so you lean against the railing and look back across the clusters of folk gathered to share a beer and each other’s company, and here come your friends and you toast the summer, you toast anything and everything. To us. Here amongst our people. Not a seat left in the house and we couldn’t be happier about it.
(Corrections: Jamie Long is the head brewer. Also, there is a T.V. on the premises, but it is hidden most days.)