2016-2017 Beer In Review: Beers of the Year

Posted by  Hamilton Riley   in  Other     1 year ago     1410 Views     Comments Off on 2016-2017 Beer In Review: Beers of the Year  

I had mentioned in casual conversation the other day to my wife that we’ve been putting articles together for our 3rd Anniversary of Virginia Brew Review, and she looked at me like “Y’all been doing this for how long?”

Yep, it has been that long.  Three years ago this week, three dudes set out to talk about the craft beer scene in the Commonwealth.  And while we continue to all balance real lives from fun lives, we are still able to push forward and begin to celebrate as we always do:  by giving out some hardware (or is it software?)

If you are a loyal reader of our site, you will recognize this framework.  We will start today by putting out our Beers of the Year Awards.  These were the best Virginia craft beers that we have had over the last year, based on our own sampling.  Most went on to become articles, some we had out in the wild and talked about a lot, and a few we had to be reminded about after the haze of a long festival day.  Either way, these were the beers that defined our year and we like to mention them again.

Later this week, on our actual anniversary, we will announce our 2017 Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame.  These are the beers that are far and away the epitome of craft brewing in Virginia due not only to their quality but also their impact within the community as well.  As always, they will have a permanent spot on our website and will be retired from future awards and reviews.

So without further ado, here are our winners for the 2016-2017 Beers of the Year (in alphabetical order by brewery):

Pumpkin Ale, Alewerks Brewing Company (Williamsburg, VA)

It is hard to argue with this beer, but we did.  What was an amazing 2014 version that saw some national notoriety, the 2015 run introduced heavy dark fruit into the mix and, while it was still quality, not our favorite.  Well in the fall of 2016, we felt that this beer came back to what made it great.  A perfect spice mix balanced with a solid base of gourds easily put this at the top of the seasonal beer category.  -HR

Teufelhunde, Beer Hound Brewery (Culpeper, VA)

I’ve been out in the Kansas wilderness studying and training with the Army for almost the past year.  When I left, I brought along a few cases of Virginia beer both to hoard and share.  It just so happens that in my Army staff group we have a Marine on loan, so around Veterans Day we popped this one out.  As a Belgian Tripel it’s a very apt beer, since the Marines did fight there 100 years ago.  Lots of apricot on the nose and in the body, with a crisp, buttery bite in the finish that will remind you of a Chardonnay.  Big and complex, but just a joy to drink.  -AH

Half-Wit, Caboose Brewing Company (Vienna, VA)

While I tend to rate a lot of Witbiers highly, they do have to earn it.  As the story goes, I was days away from hosting a going-away party when I learned that Caboose had just released a new Wit.  Pull my leg to come down and try it, why don’t you?  One sip and I ordered a sixtel for the party, where it dominated the other keg on hand in short order.  Let’s trust the guests on this one, mmk?  Bright orange, luscious oils, and sweet nougat set this one apart.  -AH

Choosy Mother, Isley Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)

This is not a secret to people in the RVA.  We continue to enjoy this beer ever since our trip to Isley in the summer of 2016.  The peanut butter plays amazingly with the oatmeal without it being overly dry.  The variant Boozy Mother was stellar as well, making this a no brainer and the best stout I tried all year.  -HR

Orange Dream, Kindred Spirit Brewing (Richmond, VA)

Many people toss around the orange cream ale recipes to find the one that gets right to the classic Dreamcicle flavor.  But Kindred Spirit is by far the front runner in this category.  I dig cream ales, especially in the summer, but to find one during March Madness in the Fan this year was unexpected, and thoroughly enjoyable.  -HR

Pony Pasture Pilsner, Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)

It is a Pilsner on steroids.  At almost 6%, it is more of an Imperial Pilsner than anything else, and that’s what made it great.  The body holds up past the normal summer months, and when we had it in the cold months of 2017 and it was a great change of pace from the roasted malt alternatives.  -HR

Oaked Wee Heavy, Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, VA)

Mad Fox’s Wee Heavy is already one of my favorites there.  The news that they were not only barrel-aging it, but bottling it as well, did all sorts of uncomfortable things to my anatomy.  The little tidbit that they were releasing it during my sojourn out in Kansas was just details.  A few calls later and a mule was acquired, with the bottle arriving…some time later.  It’s a beer that evolves both on your tongue and in the glass, ranging from steamed milk to raisins, oak to vanilla.  Luckily, right at the time of posting Mad Fox confirmed they were ordering up more malts and barrels for another batch!  -AH

Profits of Pride, Ocelot Brewing Company (Dulles, VA)

Ocelot makes lots of beers, and very few of them are ever repeats.  This has changed over the last year or so, but by the time I’d finished my sixtel of Profits of Pride (which was also the very first ever kegged of it, mind you) its run had already finished.  Such news was a total bummer, as this IPA encompasses everything they do right with them – big hops, big flavor.  The Citra and Cascades Hops are total all-stars.  Here’s hoping we spot this one in the tasting room again.  -AH

Firefall Blood Orange Lambic, Seven Arrows Brewing Company (Waynesboro, VA)

You are the beer that I’ve always dreamed of…I knew it from the start…I tasted your flavor and that’s the last I’ve seen of my heart… No, Seven Arrows didn’t sing to us while introducing us to this fantastic lambic at the 2016 Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, but its duet of red wine (Virginia Meritage and Chambourcin barrel-aged) and blood orange notes produces a melodious flavor worthy of a song.  -BS

Element 79, Triple Crossing Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)

Super simple.  Super clean.  Super enjoyable.  The beauty of this beer is in its simplicity, which is refreshing in both taste and philosophy.  While beer starts going further into the ether, this one takes a step back and finds the great harmony in keeping this golden ale down to earth.  I was looking for super hoppy beers on Memorial Day weekend in 2016 to bring back home, and brought this one with my haul.  Outstanding.  -HR

Crucial Taunt, The Veil Brewing Co. (Richmond, VA)

These guys wail!  I wouldn’t label this as ‘the beer that started the revolution’, but it was one of the first ones.  While Veil’s stock continues to soar, we look back on our first beer there from 2016 that cemented the RVA IPA revolution.  As it is now a year-round beer, it should be the ‘toe in the water’ for your expectations on Richmond IPAs.  -HR


Former founder and writer for LambethField.com, 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.