A Versatile Space Offering Craft Beer, Cocktails and Killer Live Music
I arrive at The Vanguard shortly after opening on a Sunday afternoon. The laidback vibe lures me in along with a steady stream of other thirsty customers arriving ready for a sudsy beverage to wash down hearty brunch plates. Musicians set up on stage and casually get ready to pair blues with brews. The scene is relaxed for now, but I can’t help but wonder how hopping this place must be in the evenings—not to mention hoppy. I discover 12 tempting craft beers on tap at the bar and make plans to head upstairs to the distillery tasting room later for a sample of spirits. Mental note: make sure to order substantial sustenance before I hop on for the ride.
Brewery Mood: Vanguard is housed in a historic former National Guard Armory near downtown Hampton. The inside is expansive, with floor-to-ceiling exposed brick, trendy copper lighting and an extra-long, U-shaped bar as the centerpiece. A nice mix of cushy leather couches and high-top tables provide ample space for relaxing with a drink or ordering dishes like fish tacos, fish and chips or fried Brussels sprouts off the full restaurant menu. Beyond the bar, a spacious inside stage as well as an outdoor entertainment set-up show that this spot is much more than a pub—it’s often a full-scale concert venue.
Tasting Notes: Both beer and spirits are produced in-house under the Caiseal label. I typically opt for variety and begin with a flight of six beer tasters for $12 (fittingly served in a guitar-shaped glass holder). We Came to Dance, a double dry-hopped IPA, stands out, but the clear favorite is my subsequent half pint of the special Carrot Cake Ale, flavored with warm and seasonal hints of nutmeg and vanilla. Not ready to stop enjoying all Vanguard has to offer, I journey upstairs to the distillery tasting room to try the small-batch spirits. After enjoying the vodka and gin, I deem the showstopper the Caiseal Single Malt, mashed and distilled like a whiskey with no barrel aging in order to more fully highlight the fruity and floral notes.
Favorite Finds: There is plenty to love about Vanguard—the first floor can be a large-scale event space and has the potential to satisfy many moods, whether you crave a lazy weekend brunch or night out on the town. The biggest appeal for me is being able to escape the hub bub and visit the upstairs bar with a speakeasy feel. Besides spirits tastings, don’t miss the ultra-creative craft cocktail menu with scrumptious sippers like the Cactus Blossom—Caiseal Single Malt, Grand Marnier, lemon, lime, orange juice and agave.
Hours and Events: The Brewpub is open Sunday from 11 a.m.–9 p.m., Monday–Thursday 11 a.m.–10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.–close. The Distillery Store and Tasting room hours are Tuesday–Thursday 4–8 p.m., Friday 4–9 p.m., Saturday 2–9 p.m. and Sunday noon–5 p.m. Happy hour occurs on weekdays from 4–7 p.m. Check online for a full schedule of live performances, including both free shows and ticketed events featuring more well-known artists.
504 North King St., Hampton, 757-224-1216, TheVanguard757.com