Hoppy Anniversary to, well, us! Three years and hundreds of beer tastings, reviews, happy hours, and festivals later, we have always striven towards our goal: to find the best craft beer Virginia has to offer and let others know about it.
And y’all have helped. We are still getting tens of thousands of visitors to our site every year and more and more regular visits throughout our social media platforms. This is something that we are very humble about and we thank every single person who reads (and shares) our work. You know how it works: first you tell a friend, then they tell two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on, and so on…
But before we get all mushy and close out this yearly chapter of Virginia Brew Review, we want to acknowledge the very best in The Commonwealth the only way 3 sports fans (whose teams can’t find any wins) can, by enshrining beers into our Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame.
The 2017 class is four strong this year, which while not the 5 we have done in the past is not a slight on the Virginia Craft Beer scene at all. One of the two rules we established was that we would have a maximum of 5 each year, but we were not wedding to having to pick five. We all realize that the scene is still very young comparatively, and the national and world exposure of our great brews are still developing. We also want to keep this award special, because not everyone gets a participation trophy in the craft beer world. That said, there are a bunch more beers we’re watching (and sipping) closely for the future. There will be no slow down and the future is bright for The Commonwealth.
Thank y’all again for the past year and here is the Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame, Class of 2017:
Larceny, The Answer Brewpub (Richmond, VA)
A long overdue tribute to one of the most unique places in Virginia. While every brewery had their own IPAs, it was as if The Answer was trying to be a clever question to “who makes the best ones in Virginia?” We’ve always been fans of sister establishment Mekong, but Petty Larceny told us the brewing operation was for real. As other variants in the series started clogging up our “Best of…” space, so too did their popularity make them hard-to-find beers who just fly out the door. The 2015 Governor’s Cup for The Answer put all eyes on Richmond, and two years later they’re still driving the RVA IPA revolution.
Danzig, Devils Backbone Brewing Company (Roseland, VA)
It is not uncommon for breweries to have more than one outstanding beer. But it is another when you have a star that shines so bright that you might forget another quality beer. Danzig might be playing the Scottie Pippen to Vienna Lager‘s Michael Jordan (and Gold Leaf the Toni Kukoc, Horace Grant, or take your pick for third wheel), but this Baltic Porter deserves a place in the HOF as well. 4 GABF medals in 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2016, with the later a nice shade of gold. We talk about quality and consistency and whatever your thoughts on Devils Backbone at this point, this beer is one that’s still on the rise and an example for everyone in the Commonwealth to follow.
RhinO’fest, Lost Rhino Brewing Company (Ashburn, VA)
We are so spoiled by great Oktoberfest-style beers in the Commonwealth. You’d almost be remiss by forgetting that Lost Rhino not only won gold at the 2013 GABF but then also silver at the 2016 World Beer Cup with RhinO’fest. When we brought it to one of our themed tailgates a few years ago, it scored the best of all Virginia beers with the little crowd who helped us score the bottles we shared. The malts are rich and delicious, reminding you of caramel without being cloyingly sweet. Lost Rhino has a habit of taking up space in our kegerators, and this beer is just one more superb example for why.
Salad Days, Pale Fire Brewing Co. (Harrisonburg, VA)
Sometimes it takes a while to find that one special beer. And sometimes you hit a home run right out of the gate. The latter is how we would describe this beer, as from the first time we had it we were extremely impressed. It’s difficult to judge a Saison or Farmhouse Ales as the styles are more fluid than IPAs. That allows someone like Pale Fire to think outside the box, and they made a very earthy/vegetable farmhouse that broke the mold in what others were doing around the Commonwealth. They have been rewarded with a Bronze Medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival and recently a Bronze at the 2016 World Beer Cup (the latter bit of news arriving just as we sat down to review it!) It now sits here as the first Saison in the HOF.