Another year, another successful trip to the mountains for the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival. While this will be a bittersweet ending to our trip out to Devil’s Backbone, it has seemed that the festival is becoming more than the venue itself, and vice versa. So while we are looking forward to what the future has in store next year, we look back onto what was a crazy Saturday in August.
While the official list of winners were presented to the breweries last week, we are here to offer our own awards for the best of what we found was great at the festival. We would just like to point out that, we are only 2 livers and we did not make it to each of the 80+ breweries and try everyone of the 180+ beers that were there. We would not be penning this right now if we did. This is just an opining of what we found to be great, interesting, fun, whatever from the festival.
…And we are doing it all to the theme of Christopher Guest films. Enjoy!
The ‘Best In Show’ Award
How can you have a list without finding the best lineups at the festival? These were the booths that had the best lineups for their patrons
Parkway Brewing Company (Salem, VA): Floyd Fest Hi Test and Save The Galaxy
Nothing like an outstanding Imperial Pale Lager that starts smooth and ends hoppy, followed up by a green and clean American IPA that was discovered by mistake.
The Answer (Richmond, VA): Larceny and Hard in the Paint
How can you not put these guys on the list. Cup winner last year and Gold Medal this year for Larceny, followed by an exceptional AIPA. It’s not fair for the competition, but great for us.
Virginia Beer Company (Williamsburg, VA): Green with Envy New England Style IPA and Elbow Patches
Their oatmeal stout was already one of their best beers, but now they threw out a great, super hoppy IPA into the mix that should make the rotations some more and you have a great 1-2 punch at the festival.
The ‘Waiting for Guffman’ Award
While this small town band of actors are waiting for their big break, we believe these breweries won’t have to wait. Here are some of the new (to us) breweries that will be making a name for themselves in the future.
AMMO Brewing (Petersburg, VA)
These guys are about as new as you get at this festival, but it doesn’t mean they were short on some great brews. The Benno’s Belgian Pale Ale was on point, and Black Racer Summer Stout wasn’t super heavy, which was great for the weather of the day.
Mustang Sally Brewing (Chantilly, VA)
It’s hard to showcase clean lagers, but this newer brewery out of Northern Virginia had an amazing Kolsch for the crowd. Couple that with a solid balanced IPA and we enjoyed our time with them.
Random Row (Charlottesville, VA)
The doors are not yet open on this Hook brewery, but if they bring it half the way they did at the festival, Central Virginia is in for a treat. The 100 Degree Hefe had a great balance of base and spice, and the Mosaic Pale Ale had a great hop middle-back.
The ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ Award
This one goes to 11. ABV that is. These were the best heavy beers at the festival.
Adroit Theory Brewing Company (Purcellville, VA) Two Headed Calf in Sauternes Barrels
Who else can take a lighter style like saison and jack it up to 9.3% like the masters at Adroit. Known for the big, bold styles, the French sweet wine barrels added that extra umph that paired well with this farmhouse ale.
Brothers Craft Brewing (Harrisonburg, VA) Resolute
The heaviest beer we had all day at 13.5% was a kick in the pants, but it was a super example of what a Russian Imperial Stout can be. Definitely a sipper.
Wild Wolf Brewing Company (Nellysford, VA) WolfINstein
This 10% Russian Imperial Stout was one of the best beers we have had from Wild Wolf, and we enjoy quite a few selections from these guys. What impressed us was a dark fruit/cherry on the back end that really finished this beer off nicely.
The ‘A Mighty Wind’ Award
These were the beers on the lighter side that were definitely a blowing us away on a hot August day.
Ardent Craft Ales (Richmond, VA) Berliner Weisse
Slightly sour, slightly bready, but fully refreshing. This is what a summer beer should taste like.
Beer Hound Brewery (Culpeper, VA) Wyte Fang
While Olde Yella won a gold this year, this Witbeir showed their brewer’s continued prowess to these lighter beers. The wheat backbone was solid and the spice note was slightly different, but very tasty.
Seven Arrow Brewing (Waynesboro, VA) Firefall Blood Orange Lambic
Blood Orange is one of the harder fruits to try to push through a beer, but this lambic had a great balance by being tart, but not too tart.
The ‘For Your Consideration’ Award
These are the different beers, but for whatever reason, find themselves on this list as a testament to the quality and variety of beer in the Commonwealth.
Chaos Mountain (Callaway, VA) Tequila Barrel Double IPA
The name says it all. While the ABV was a respectable 8%, it seemed the flavor, not the alcohol, was infused into this DIPA, which gave a great front end bite to it.
Reaver Beach Brewing Company (Virginia Beach, VA) Under the Black Brownie Stout
I could go into a long explanation about the chocolate and vanilla notes that extenuate this beer, but frankly, this is a brownie in a glass. Like, I want a glass a milk to compliment this beer.
Strangeways Brewing (Richmond, VA) Pink Lemonade and Key Lime Pie Radlers
You think I’m leaving out Strangeways in this list? Not a chance. They were a hit with both of the Mrs. VBRs in attendance, and they became a big hit with us as well. Both were tart, but not syrupy, and very refreshing.