Benjamin Franklin once said "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Returning guests to Chowning’s Tavern are going to be very happy indeed. Chowning’s opens for the season today, reimagined as an authentic 18th-century ale house with a new menu, hours and décor.
Alewerks Brewing Company has created three craft beers based upon authentic beer recipes from the 18th century. Old Stitch, Dear Old Mum and a brand new selection are served along with other beers, Virginia wines, cocktails, root beer, soft drinks and other beverages. In the arbor garden behind the tavern, a full-service bar and dining tables overlook Market Square.
The interior of the tavern has also had a makeover. “Thanks to paint research, we know more about the interior finishes of taverns and similar structures. What we’ve found is that interiors were much brighter than we previously thought,” said Matt Webster, director of the Grainger Department of Historic Architectural Preservation. “So, we have repainted the interiors to better represent these findings. Using paint from Benjamin Moore’s WILLIAMSBURG color palette, the ceilings are painted hardwood putty, mimicking whitewash, and the woodwork is now a rich cream called bracken biscuit. The dark finish has been removed from the floor, which has been treated to look as if the boards are unfinished as they would have been, even though they do have a protective coating.”
A display cabinet inside the entrance to the ale house holds archaeological fragments from the excavations of tavern sites throughout the Historic Area.
“Our Historic Trades tinsmiths at the Anderson Armoury site have created tin wall sconces which add to the authentic look of the interior,” said Webster.
Chowning’s now opens daily at 11:30 a.m. and remains open until 11 p.m., with no reservations required. Menu changes include shepherd’s pie and light fare served all day, including pork sliders, flatbreads, corn chowder, trenchers and salads. Favorites such as Welsh rarebit are still found on the menu, as are Chowning’s famous desserts.
“We’re located in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary City,” said Seth Farrell, director of Historic Area hospitality operations. “We invite guests to stop in any time all day long, whether for a full meal, a refreshing drink or a dessert. The atmosphere at Chowning’s is informal and welcoming, but the authenticity of the tavern that people have come to love remains intact.”
On April 18, Chowning’s launches a new beer tasting event, “Beers in the ’Burg,” from 4-7 p.m. in the arbor garden. The featured brewer for the event is Alewerks Brewing Company. Guests will taste 10 different beers, including Old Stitch, Dear Old Mum and a third beer Alewerks created exclusively for Colonial Williamsburg. Tickets for the event are $25. For those who want to enhance the experience, light fare to accompany the beer tasting will be available for purchase during the event.
Additional Beers in the ’Burg tastings are tentatively scheduled for May 23, June 20, Aug. 8 and Sept. 19. Tickets are available at all Colonial Williamsburg ticket locations or by calling 855-296-6627 or online at colonialwilliamsburg.com/plan/calendar/beers-burg/
Chowning’s Tavern is located at 109 E. Duke of Gloucester St. in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. Free parking is available in the tavern parking lot located on Francis Street just west of Blair Street any time, or after 5 p.m. in the employee parking lot located on Franklin Street just east of Botetourt Street, accessible via Lafayette Street.