Banner Year for Virginia Breweries at the GABF

Posted by  Hamilton Riley   in  Events     2 years ago     908 Views     Comments Off on Banner Year for Virginia Breweries at the GABF  

You can slice it up any way, shape, or form, but there is no denying that the Commonwealth of Virginia had an excellent showing at the Great American Beer Festival. Virginia won 14 different medals in 13 categories, 4 Gold, 7 Silver, and 3 Bronze. The 14 total medals ties the all-time medal count from 2013, when Virginia also won 14 medals (4 Gold, 6 Silver, 4 Bronze). A total of 200 beers were entered from the Commonwealth and the 7% win rate is the 3rd highest among all states, only bested by Wyoming and Hawaii, who each entered less than 45 each. And like every year, there were mainstays and some shockers, so lets get to them all.

Devils Backbone Brewing Co. (Roseland, VA)
Gold Danzig  (Baltic-Style Porter)
Gold Vienna Lager  (Vienna-Style Lager)

Most of y’all have opinions about Devils Backbone, but one thing that is constant is their ability to make world class beer. Vienna Lager has entered Scrooge McDuck territory, where they are just throwing the Gold medals into their giant vault. This is also Danzig’s 4 GABF medal, but first Gold (2 silvers in 2009 and 2012, bronze in 2013). One is already in the VBR Hops of Fame, and it looks like one more will join them next year. 

South Street Brewery (Charlottesville, VA)
Silver Twisted Gourd  (Pumpkin Spice Beer)
Bronze Slippery When Wit  (Session Beer)

Two of the first medals awarded Saturday were from South Street, announcing their presence with authority in Colorado. We had Twisted Gourd at the Wahoo Cup a few weeks ago and enjoyed it even in the summer/fall heat. Slippery When Wit has been a summer mainstay for Charlottesville fans this past year and is now getting some due recognition. 

Ornery Beer Co. (Woodbridge, VA)
Gold Light of Cologne  (German-Style Koelsch)

It’s not just breweries that get the recognition at GABF, but the brewpubs as well, and a perfect example is Prince William County’s Ornery Beer Company. I have always enjoyed Kolshes and finding them are few and far between at the craft level, but to have your first GABF medal be gold in this category really says a lot about patience and quality.

Ocelot Brewing (Sterling, VA)
Gold Sunnyside Dweller  (Kellerbier or Zwickelbier)

It was just a matter of time before these guys got on the board. At least one VBR writer has (or had) a keg in his kegerator at home, a testament to their beer. Sunnyside Dweller is another German style brew from Northern Virginia to win gold this year, starting a very tasty trend in the area.

Great American Restaurants – Sweetwater Tavern (Centreville, VA)
Silver Wit’s End Ale  (Belgian-Style Witbier)

Again, you will have your own thoughts about this one. Sweetwater Tavern is a national franchise that brews beer locally and sells it in their themed restaurants. The Wit’s End Ale was made in Virginia, but I can honestly say I have never been to one before. What is more surprising is that the medal winners weren’t any of the usual mainstays in this category.

Lost Rhino Brewing Co. (Ashburn, VA)
Silver Face Plant  (English-Style India Pale Ale)

We have been extremely high on Face Plant and this brewery for a while, and Lost Rhino has always been one of our favorite destinations ever since Rhinofest took gold in 2013. Backing that medal up for one in the IPA family is a huge deal.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Richmond, VA)
Silver Grosse Teufel  (Historical Beer)

The soon-to-be-expanding Richmond brewers took home their 2nd GABF medal with a Historical Beer, or a beer that doesn’t quite fit into any existing category, but can be traced back to a production era. From Hardywood, this is “a take on the once nearly extinct Lichtenhainer – an Eastern German ale that strikes an exceptional balance between its smoked barley base and lactic acid tartness”.

Port City Brewing Co. (Alexandria, VA)
Silver COLOSSAL FIVE  (Old Ale or Strong Ale)

These guys are not only accustomed to winning medals at the GABF, but they are also accustomed to their COLOSSAL Anniversary beers winning as well. FIVE joins fellow winners ONE (Bronze Aged Beer 2013) and TWO (Bronze Smoke Beer 2013).

Blue Mountain Barrel House and Organic Brewery (Arrington, VA)
Silver 13.FIVE Ofest  (Vienna-Style Lager)

The Nelson 151 Trail is now home to not one, but two, of the USA’s best Vienna Lagers. It’s hard not to talk anyone else’s Vienna Lager with mentioning the 800-barrel gorilla in the room, but it is awesome to know that if you are going to go ‘full craft’, that 13.FIVE Ofest is right up the road. 

Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA)
Silver Vernal Equinox (PRO-AM Competition); AHA Member: Gary Layton

When we first put out the total medal count, we were at 13. While technically breweries and brewpubs from Virginia did win 13 medals in the Competition Categories, there was a Pro-Am competition that did award medals as well. And we would be remiss if we forget our good friends at Starr Hill for their silver medal. We look forward to what this English IPA has in store for us next. 

Spencer Devon Brewing (Fredericksburg VA)
Bronze Sunken Road  (Belgian-Style Blonde Ale or Pale Ale)

I think that the only person that was more excited for Spencer Devon to win a GABF medal than them would be us. So many twisted roads lead us to them for the first time, and we see them at VCBF every year and have a blast talking with them. Sunken Road is a great beer and when it was announced, I think I screamed so loud that my wife thought I’d been shot.

Ardent Craft Ales (Richmond VA)
Bronze Brett Saison  (Brett Beer)

Another first time GABF winner was Ardent. This is one of the breweries that is spearheading the Scott’s Addition brewing renascence in Richmond, and their Saisons have been on point since they opened. Very due win. 


Former founder and writer for, now Co-Founder and writer for Virginia Brew Review. Life is too short to drink bad beer, but just long enough to write about it.