This week marks the 2nd Anniversary of Virginia Brew Review and we’re marking the occasion once more with our yearly awards. New to the site or forgot how we did this last year? Well, we get the stockholders of VBR together, chant the sacred word to Bacchus, and then we give out some hardware.
First off, 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 for the title. It could be year round or seasonals, just started or old standards. Anything that caught our fancy throughout our writing process. They could also be some beers we loved and didn’t get a chance to write about.
Secondly, and most importantly, later this week we will announce our 2016 for the Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame. These beers have not only exhibited consistent quality over several years, but also had an impact within the Virginia Beer community as well providing centerpieces for the Virginia Beer industry. They will have their own permanent spot on our website and undying adoration from all of us.
So without delay, here are our winners for the 20115-16 Beers of the Year (in alphabetical order by brewery):
All. The. Hops. With four well-integrated varities (Amarillo, Simcoe, Citra, and Columbus) the Ghost effectively balances citrus and bitters for a beer which is at once pleasant to the eyes and on the nose but swarms the palate with big flavors. One of the most surprising beers we had this year, because while Whita IPAs were a thing for a little bit, they have not persisted as well as some styles because it’s a horrendously difficult beer to execute. What makes the Ghost so successful is the Hop selection. Simcoe certainly has its share of devotees, and that Amarillo-Citra combo by itself is enough to win our hearts.
How do you follow up Hops of Fame member Bitter Valentine’s success? By releasing a complementary West Coast DIPA six months later. The geniuses at Alewerks started serving up Secret Admirer last August and it was not just to get another DIPA in the rotation. The completely new West Coast version was super green and was an instant hit everywhere in The Commonwealth.
It was hard to pick just one in this series that was better than the other, because each was some of the best in the state last year for a Session IPA, an IPA, and a DIPA, respectively. Larceny capped the series with Virginia Craft Brewers Cup for the “Best In Show” win at the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival last August. We are hoping that this series becomes a yearly thing, cause it will shoot up the national rankings quickly just as sister establishment and brewpub Mekong has.
While we would like to give a shout out to the Earl Grey Brown Ale, which won our hearts in Williamsburg a few months ago, but it was our trip last May to Richmond where we found this gem. After tasting it we were able to talk with the brewers and they told us this beer was the first one they made in their driveways before Ardent was up and running. Great story and a better beer.
Pocahoptas, Center of the Universe (Ashland, VA)
A very early entrant in this year’s list as it came out right after last year’s cut off. But we have not forgotten about this beauty. A 4-hop West Coast IPA with some great pine and citrus notes, this made the transition from the bombers to the gorgeous purple can 6-pack with ease.
If you’re been living under a rock for the past 500 years, the Reinheitsgebot both killed historic craft beer in Germany and made the surviving brewers some of the most innovative, well-honed beer craftsmen in the world. You may not agree with its continued prevalence today, but many of the styles we enjoy were born out of necessity in adhering to the Purity Law, including the Hefeweizen. It’s an astonishingly difficult beer style to pull off, and that Lost Rhino has all but perfected it is nothing short of amazing. One increasingly finds the Final Glide throughout NoVA at bars these days, and for good reason.
This spot could easily have been shared with predecessor Kristin’s Passion, a Mexican Hot Chocolate with quite the kick that just missed the cut-off date for this year. Right in the midst of the craze for a new kind of APA (in this case, an Atomic Pale Ale) came the second in what is now a crazy successful line of spiced beers for Old Ox. This Jalapeno Pale Ale, originally based off a recipe for a margarita, packs quite the heat but a cool trick is to buy several bottles and try one per month to see how the beer mellows out over time. The Temper was a staple in our fridges and at our tailgates all year long.
One of the themes this past year in Virginia, and across the nation, has been variants. And one of the best one we had all last year was the Orange Get Bent IPA. The strong use of orange peel accentuated a solid IPA, but more importantly, the series of Get Bent, Grapefruit Get Bent, and Orange Get Bent, allowed the consumer to taste a brewer working through the beer making process and honing his craft (beer).
Of course you could make a case for Hoptopus, but we wanted to showcase the talents that lie in their sour line. Bring Out Your Dead was a great late Autumn/Winter sour loaded with gourd goodness, but it was over all flavor profile that showed that the 757 could become a sour haven very soon.
Bless their evil little hearts at Three Notch’d. We’ve enjoyed the many varieties of this beer for a while now, and the “we” in this case extends beyond the VBR crew to some of our friends and better halves. These are folks who don’t normally get into hoppy beers, but a good keg find allowed us to do some extended sharing. What won the day were subtle fruit notes consistent with grapefruit and tangerine. The Ghost of the 43rd ended up as one of our favorite sixtels not just of the past year, but the past several years.