In December of 2019, I took a few weeks off to drive to Florida, because I’ve never been to Florida before. Never — not even to Disneyland. Along the way, there was one place I wanted to visit more than any other: the Oozlefinch brewery in Fort Monroe, Virginia.
First, what is the Oozlefinch? An Oozlefinch is a cryptid (like Bigfoot or the Jersey Devil) — a featherless bird that was seen, as legend has it, by certain members of the U.S. military, perhaps during a state of intoxication, and was then embraced as a mascot. From Wikipedia:
The Oozlefinch is the unofficial historic mascot of the Air Defense Artillery – and formerly of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps. The Oozlefinch is portrayed as a featherless bird that flies backwards (at supersonic speeds)and carries weapons of the Air Defense and Coast Artillery, most often a Nike-Hercules Missile. Oozlefinch has been portrayed in many different forms and artistic interpretations through its history.
I learned about the Oozlefinch from a tour guide at the Nike Missle Radar Base at Fort Hampton in Sandy Hook, NJ. As part of the tour, the tour guide tells the tale of the Oozlefinch and its importance to the U.S. Air Defence program. If you’re ever on Sandy Hook, make sure you take the tour and visit the various abandoned military bases there. It’s rad — it’s like something from a Half-Life video game.
The tour guide (I think his name is McMahon) explained the history of the Nike Missle program and the Oozlefinch:
Old radar, now a favorite roosting place for vultures (no Oozlefinches):
As part of the history of the Oozlefinch, the tour guide mentioned the Oozlefinch brewery in Virginia. At that moment, I got it in my head to visit that brewery. Once something novel or bizarre gets lodged in my mind, there’s no getting it out.
If you’re traveling from New Jersey to Florida, no GPS will take you through Fort Monroe, Virginia — it’s going to take you on I-95S, circumventing Delmarva entirely. Even when you ask the GPS to take you to Fort Monroe, Virginia, it’s going to take you through Washington D.C. — you don’t want to do that — for many reasons. What you want to do is take US 13 South instead — through the guts of Delaware, into Maryland, and then into Virginia and across the Chesapeake Bay. Why? Because that’s the most scenic route. I’m also going to recommend crossing the Chesapeake at sunset because it’s spectacular.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is amazing. It’s 18 miles of bridges and tunnels over and under the Chesapeake bay — lit by the setting sun, illuminated by cycling rainbow-colored lights — it’s a sight to see. At this leg of my journey, Spotify was playing Lana Del Rey and Grimes — pretty good, chill music considering the flow and visuals of driving across an 18-mile expanse of water at sunset. To be honest, I don’t pay attention to the lyrics.
I rolled into Fort Monroe right when the sky turned black and rain began. Nestled in the moist darkness of the Virginia milliary base, I found a black cinderblock building, with a beer garden illuminated with large-bulb, festive Christmas lights glimmering in the rain — and there it was: the Oozefinch bird in all its featherless, long-necked glory inviting me in.
Inside, like many brewpubs, there’s massive, gleaming brew kettles, and a medium-sized bar and souvenir area. They have an extensive variety of beers, with lots of fancy different flavored beers. Not basic at all. If you’re into craft beers, you’re going to want to try them all. I tried the hefeweizen — pretty tasty.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have food — no carbs to soak up the alcohol — and with at least 4 more hours of driving ahead of me, I limited myself to one beer. [REDACTED]. And I bought some souvenir keychains and stickers — in case I ever make it back to the Nike Missle Base in New Jersey, I’m going to give one to the tour guides there.
I hope to visit the Oozlefinch again, hopefully, next time I can get a hotel or a designated driver so I can enjoy more beer.
Oh yeah, why “Oozlefinch or bust”? Well, somewhere in Delaware my windshield started to crack… severely. The whole way I was thinking “am I going to make it without my windshield caving in?” I made it. And because I’m a low-key gambler, I drove that cracked windshield all the way to Miami and back…