Tomorrow marks the 1st Anniversary of Virginia Brew Review and we’re having a two day celebration of Virginia Beer to mark the occasion. How are we going to party down? Well after our super secret bunker meeting of the stockholders of VBR, we decided that we will start an annual tradition of giving out some hardware.
First off, every year we are going to announce our VBR Beers of the Year list. We looked at all the beers we (remembered) trying this past year and found the 10 most worthy to be the best of the year. It could be year round or seasonals, just started or old standards. Anything that caught our fancy throughout our writing process.
Secondly, and most importantly, tomorrow, on our birthday, we will announce our inaugural class for the Virginia Brew Review Hop of Fame. These beers have not only exhibited consistent quality over several years, but also an impact on the Virginia Beer community as well centerpieces for the Virginia Beer industry. They will have their own spot permanent spot on our website and undying adoration from all of us.
So without delay, here are our winners for the 2014-15 Beers of the Year (in alphabetical order by brewery):
Pumpkin Ale, Alewerks Brewing Company (Williamsburg, VA)
A July tasting of this Halloween beer was deemed way to early at the time, but extremely tasty. The key was the both the balance between pumpkin and spice and how it complimented the base beer. Whether or not it was a new twist on the classic or not, it was not only one of the best in the state, but in the entire country. It even made Men’s Journal list of 101 Best Beers in America (and the only Pumpkin on the list). This is one to keep an eye on come this Fall cause this beer might get real huge.
Dark Hollow, Blue Mountain Barrel House (Arrington, VA)
It’s been around a while, but we haven’t. It’s a great transition into fall/winter brew and that’s when we all usually get a bottle or two. As far as the ‘imperial stout’ lineup goes, this one is at the top so far with us faring well both individually and in one of our Tailgate Throwdowns. As the weather gets colder, this one warms us up
Stripped Bass, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company (Lexington, VA)
To pick a best beer of the year from a GABF winning brewery is hard, so we went off the trail a little. The APA is clean and refreshing and was one of the first we’d seen in cans being served in restaurants not named Lite. It caught our attention over the summer and became a tailgate staple. But the real cool thing is that proceeds went to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. With the popularity of the beer throughout VA, I would say that was a nice chunk of change.
The Seaward, Forge Brewing Works (Lorton, VA)
The list of quality DIPAs in the state can be counted on one hand. In a world where states are trying to tackle the California Kings, Forge put forward a worthy East Coast applicant. Pine, citrus, and quality malts made this a winner among our Northern Virginia writers.
Cream Ale, Hardywood Park Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)
Yes, Raspberry Stout took gold at GABF. Yes, Christmas Morning put an exclamation mark on a classic. Yes, Pils is one of, if not the, best Pilsners in the state. All superb, but the Cream Ale was set apart for so many reasons. First the quality is top notch. Secondly, the homage to the original ‘first canned beer’ and the packaging is clever and very well done. It’s also a rare style in a market more focused on hop, malt, and wheat flavors. Lastly, we didn’t even make a planned tasting with any left as all of our friends wanted to try it ahead of one of our Tailgate Throwdowns.
Gentlemen Farmer, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)
A plethora of hops grown on the farm around LCCB, with a great earthy tone to it. Lickinghole has been nailing everything down that we have tried so it was hard to come up with one that set itself apart this year. But as this one is special to them, you can taste the care that went into this bottle. It became special to us, as well, as a home grown exemplar of the wet hopped movement (pun intended).
ODIS, O’Connor Brewing Company (Norfolk, VA)
This is not a stout review site, but this one was extremely difficult to leave off the list. Unlike the other flavored stout, this was a dry Irish stout that exhibited old-world flavor that just is not seen very much in the state. I hope this one sees yearly rotation as it can become a flagship for this Hampton Roads brewery.
Kristin’s Passion, Old Ox Brewery (Ashburn, VA)
I have really grown on spicy beer this past few month, but according to our NoVa contingency this is the best around. Espresso, cinnamon, and red chile flavor are predominant and balance very well in this exciting porter. And the fact that it is coming from a company that will bring Red Bull to it’s knees* makes it that much better! *maybe not, but we side with our own!
Whiter Shade of Pale, Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA)
Again a brewery with several beers that we really enjoyed as well, we all agreed that the best of the bunch this year was Whiter Shade of Pale. This beer blends Witbier and IPA beautifully, giving the stong notes of each, but keeping it light and very drinkable, even in the summer.
Hydraulion Red, Three Notch’d Brewing Company (Charlottesville, VA)
I went out on a limb last year and said this was one of the best red IPAs I had ever had (and everyone on the site was singing its praises with a frothy mug in hand, as well). Three Notch’d went out to GABF and won bronze. The malt/hop front and citrus finish was the best transition that I had seen. It is leading the way for this style of beer in the Commonwealth, and after this year, it could be setting the trend in the US as well.