Happy Anniversary to Virginia Brew Review. A late night conversation 1 year ago this week turned into a homegrown website with one mission: to find the best craft beer Virginia had to offer and let others know about it. It never was (and never will be) our intention to criticize, lambast, or tear down the efforts of others, and the reviews/features we bring you are those we honestly believe are worth your attention. We are now a community around 700 strong that shares the same vision and we thank each and every one of you for your comments and support.
We would like to celebrate today by acknowledging the best in The Commonwealth the only way a bunch of sports fans can, by establishing a Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame and installing our first class, the Class of 2015. These beers not only distinguish themselves by taste and popularity, they also stand out as ambassadors to Virginia and our industry as well. These beers will be enshrined on our website soon under the Hops of Fame and will be considered ‘retired’ from further awards.
Just like the first Baseball Hall of Fame class of 1936, this first run should not be a very surprising list. In addition, we decided to take a maximum of 5 beers each year, so some there were a few that were not included this time around. Shoot, Lou Gehrig missed the cut year 1, but they all got in. So again, thank you to everyone who helped us along in year #1 and we hope to expand this website a ton in year #2.
Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame, Class of 2015
Double IPAs are hard to make. It take time, money, and talent to create this unique stlye of beer that for decades was a west coast invention. Alewerks took the challenge very early on in their business to set out and not only make the best DIPA in the state, but one of the best beers in Virginia. Hopheads from around the US flock to Williamsburg around Valentines day to savor this beer consistently rated the best in the Commonwealth, with most recent awards from MSN, to Business Insider, to Paste Magazine. It’s seasonal release cause a frenzy every year with local media staked out for that first taste of NW hops. In addition, it really started the craft beer trend in Hampton Roads, which has sprouted nicely over the past 15 years.
There would not have been such a push in the popularity of Virginia Craft Beer over the past decade without Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. From following up their 2013 GABF Small Brewery of the year award with a 2014 Mid-Sized Brewery of the year award, it is only fitting that Vienna Lager, their main flagship beer, is on this list. From its first medal in 2009, Vienna Lager has been consistently pushing the macros off beer taps for 6 years now. And while it is the gold standard in the US for Vienna Lagers, its versatility cannot be matched by most other Virginia beers. A true inspiration beyond just the pint glass, more and more home brewers are starting to use this beer as a basis of design, and cooks around the state are even using it in their dishes. We can only imagine where DB will be in 5 years, but you can rest assured that Vienna Lager will be leading that charge.
On a freezing early November Saturday, hundreds and hundreds of people drive to downtown Richmond and stand in line for hours (and in some insane cases, days) to be one of the first people to enjoy the almighty GBS. Multiple awards and a perfect score from Beer Advocate lead to the rock show that you see annually in Central Virginia. But it is not just the hoopla – there is a lot of quality that backs this beer up. Every (and we mean EVERY) ingredient is scrutinized and handpicked for this stout, and it shows in every sip. It is the hot ticket item for the holiday season (with special and reserve releases even carrying a “one per customer” restriction), and if you were given a bottle in December, you must have meant a lot to that person for them to give up this treasure
As the craft beer scene in Northern Virginia begins to expand to no end, Port City and their award winning Optimal Wit is at the forefront. Highlighted by a gold at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, it has been a benchmark of Belgian White Ales for several years now. The only beer to receive a perfect score on Virginia Brew Review, its reach has started to expand throughout the state, and around summertime it becomes a hard tap to leave off your draught list (the VBR crew almost always has it one of our kegerators). That’s only the tip of the iceberg for PCBC, a frequent destination and source of suds for the VBR crew, but this beer in many ways brought us into the Virginia beer scene.
What a long, strange trip it’s been. Living most of my college/single life in Charlottesville, I watched the evolution of Starr Hill from a microbrewery/art gallery/upstairs music hall to one of the giants in The Commonwealth. With all The Dead references not lost on us, Dark Starr was more than an inside joke – it’s one of the best craft beers around, period. The most decorated GABF winner still being produced in Virginia, Dark Starr is the definition of consistency. Its storied history resonates on the national level, too, with its domination spanning GABF gold wins in 1999, 2005, and 2009. And to be around as long as this beer has and still be at the top of the heap nationally says a lot about the beer and the brewery.