Featured Image: Current VWU senior Hayley Sutton and her VWU alumna friend enjoying drinks at Commonwealth, outdoors. Hayley Sutton | Courtesy
If your Friday night is normally spent too close to strangers at a bar and sipping an overpriced drink, then Commonwealth Brewery can elevate your experience. Located 13 minutes away from Virginia Wesleyan’s campus and only a few blocks from Chic’s Beach, its location is central to students’ social hotspots.
According to their website, Commonwealth is a small business, founded in 2015 by Natalie and Jeramy Biggie as a passion project. The restaurant resides in a historic fire and rescue station, which allowed its owners to take advantage of an unconventional space. Where firetrucks once parked is now home to the clink of beer glasses and the happy chatter of customers.
The very open eating area is outfitted with lived-in wooden picnic tables and cafe tables to accommodate smaller parties. Glass garage doors serve as temporary walls, allowing sunlight to filter through and patrons to explore outdoor seating. “There’s a lot of outdoor seating with a couple fire pits–really sets the tone to relax after a long week at work,” patron CJ Hall said.
“Commonwealth is located blocks from the beach with indoor and outdoor seating, incredible food, live music, games, friendly staff and great beer. It’s family friendly, dog friendly, a great place to go with friends and a great pit stop before or after a beach day,” graduate student Abby Mahoney said.
Since the establishment opens at 8 a.m. every day, they feature a simplistic breakfast menu with grab-and-go, handheld options convenient for surfers and commuters alike. The brewery closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday and 9 p.m. on Sundays, which gives their more prolific evening food and beverage menus time to shine.
Virginia Wesleyan senior Haley Sutton frequents Commonwealth with her friends. “The IPAs at Commonwealth are always stellar, especially my favorite the Wapatoolie! And if you don’t like IPAs they have great options for lagers, goses, sours, and slushes for those who don’t enjoy just beer,” Sutton said.
Because Commonwealth creates their own craft beers, they serve a wide variety of brewed libations to satisfy every connoisseur, even gluten-free and vegan Foamies–fruity hard seltzers.
According to Weekender editor and VWU junior Mikayla Moscatelli, the Oni One wood fired pizza is a family hit with cups of charred pepperoni, gooey mozzarella, parmesan and fresh basil. Their pizza menu has a decent range, from the bright Bianca pie with whipped ricotta, confit garlic and lemon to the rich Appolonia featuring caramelized onions and olives. “The pizzas are amazing, and I never leave there without getting one of their giant pretzels,” Sutton said.
However, since dishes like their Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich struck out, lacking the spice its name promised, patrons might be best off purchasing their popular pizzas, or appetizers and drinks.
“The two drinks I had were both smooth and true to the flavors they said. I got the Mimosahhh which was a great seltzer, probably one of the best I’ve had on tap,” first time patron Emily Davis, an acquaintance of Moscatelli, said.
Unfortunately, every small business has its struggles maintaining boundaries. “The staff maintain a toxic relationship largely due to the unreasonably long hours they are scheduled to work, unfair pay, and the negative environment created by the leadership within the company,” Mahoney said.
Customers have had different experiences with the staff. “The workers are super laid back and good people. They always have good suggestions when looking for a new beer to try. One of the cooks is my roommate and always talks about how he enjoys the people at work too,” Sutton said.
While Commonwealth Brewery might have to improve their working standards, the quality of their products does not seem to be affected nor does their culture or ambience.
In fact, they contribute heavily to their neighborhood community by offering programs such as a local running club, Common Grounds–an annual camping and craft beer festival–and many weekly events at the restaurant or even off-site locations.
Altogether, this affordable local dining option offers students another establishment in which to enjoy food and drinks.
By Mikayla Moscatelli & Sasha Saxon
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