The oozlefinch is a mythical bird resembling a duck with a long neck and large, bulging eyes. It has served as the unofficial mascot of the Air Defense Artillery through two World Wars and several other conflicts. But according to legend, the lovable beast was born right here in Coastal Virginia.
History has it that the goofy looking, flight-challenged bird was first spotted in 1905 by Captain H. M. Merriam as he stumbled out of the officers’ club at Fort Monroe, presumably after having a few beers. Additional sightings followed, and sketches were made. The legend grew to the point where a statue was erected in the officers’ club in its honor.
Today, the oozlefinch is alive and well again on Fort Monroe as the Oozlefinch Brewery resurrects its story. What name could possibly better suit the first brewery on the fort?
“When we started this idea about four years ago, my wife and I just really fell in love with Fort Monroe,” says Russel Tinsley, founder and co-owner of the brewery with Dr. Anthony Carter. “There’s not too much going on out here, which is really the feel we wanted. It’s a destination place to get away from the city life and craziness.”
And it’s paid off so far. On their Sept. 3 opening date, they had more than 2,000 people come through the door, despite the fact that Tropical Storm Hermine was drenching Coastal Virginia at the time.
All of their craft beers created by Brewmaster Austin Shawinsky are named after something historical about Fort Monroe. Here are their beers currently on tap:
Sergeant Patches—a grapefruit, pineapple IPA named after a fearless dog that troops would tether to a gun. When given the command, the dog would walk forward to trigger the weapon.
Moat Monster—a chocolate stout named for a distant cousin of the Loch Ness Monster who allegedly lurks in the moats surrounding the fort.
Racing Submarines—an American brown ale that is a tribute to young couples growing up on Fort Monroe who would say they were going to watch the submarines race when they wanted to spend some alone time together.
Lady in White—a hefeweizen name after a ghost who has been repeatedly sighted on the base. Accounts differ as to who she represents.
Short Fuse—a session IPA named after a sailor who had a temper and got into fights after getting drunk on whiskey.
Ox Cart—an imperial porter named for a former slave who became a successful entrepreneur running a business from her ox cart as she made the rounds on base.
Missing Ordnance—an apricot saison on which we’re still waiting for the backstory.
The brewery is planning to release a pecan pumpkin pie version of Ox Cart on Nov. 19 in honor of Thanksgiving. They don’t offer traditional “flights” of their beers, but you can order a 5-ounce glass of one or more beers to create your own. You’re simply charged by the glass.
At press time, they were sold out of growlers (more have been ordered), but those who want to take home selections can order a 32-ounce “crowler” in a can.
Oozlefinch Brewery is located at 81 Patch Rd., Fort Monroe. Their hours are Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 1–9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 1–11 p.m. Food trucks are on site during business hours, so food is always available. Learn more by calling 757-224-7042 or visiting OozlefinchBeers.com.