The most recent version of the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest (VCBF) moved from its previous confines at Devils Backbone Basecamp to Ix Art Park in downtown Charlottesville, also the site for gracious host Three Notch’d Brewing’s new taproom/crazy basement out of a grindhouse flick. It was a tightly knit affair, with vendors and special booths spread throughout a winding series of lots. You could listen to guest speakers talk about the brewing culture and industry, jam out to country and bluegrass, or try (and fail miserably) to make your way to each of the 100 or so brewers in park. More than 200 beers were featured! It would take days to get to all those, and we won’t claim to have tried.
For our festival recaps, we have a few rules that we may or may not adhere to. Typically, we’re only trying beers we haven’t had before. That’s not to say older beers/breweries aren’t the best at the festival, but we already know what they taste like. A varietal, one-off, or rare(ish) seasonal can coax us back, though. Even if we imbibe an old favorite, it’s verboten to hand out virtualware to beers we’ve reviewed or honored in the past. For this year’s awards, we’re also honoring comedy troupe Broken Lizard. As if “zie festival” being around the corner weren’t reason enough, Super Troopers 2 has finished filming and was just announced to be hitting theaters in April 2018. Here are some of our favorite quotes from their past movies, which (somewhat) reminded us of some of our favorite beers at VCBF 2017!
Recap: 2017 Virginia Craft Brewers Festival (Charlottesville, VA)
Beers Sampled: 61
Awards Theme: Broken Lizard
“Ohhh, not again…”
It’s never a good thing to wake up next to a deer you just stalked naked through the woods and mauled with your bare teeth. Doing it a second time? There’s something primal but also terrifying at losing control like that. Legend Bourbon Barrel Brown Ale is that sort of terrifying. Sure, you think you know what you’re getting into. “It’s only 6.3%!” you say. “I don’t need to pace myself like if it were 11% like other barrel-aged beers!” you retort. But yeah, you do. It’s so silky, and it teases the nostrils just so. So pace yourself…otherwise you may end up a NSFW clip on some dude’s iPhone.
“Your black magic only works on the rookie.”
“That’s brown magic.”
Whatever the color, Bald Top Maury’s Magic was one of the best surprises of the day. It’s as if they’re hidden by cloaking spell up in Madison, but they assure me they’re right off US-29 Business. It’s a Basil RyePA, and it turned me into a newt! …I got better, and I won’t mix up ridiculous quotes going forward. I also promise not all of the references will be such deep cuts that clips can’t be found…
“So then why didn’t he brew it?”
We’re going to stretch a few references just to fit in some great lines. It’s a joke about recipes, and a joke about well, brewing. You know what else is brewed apart from beer? Fine, coffee too, but we really meant tea. Fine Creek Thai Tea Milk Stout brought the flavor and then some. It’d have been a great night cap, a dessert beer in any sense of the word but the milkiness allows it to transcend what can sometimes be a gimmicky beer. Like the Beerfest Jewish jokes, which were admittedly gimmicky, but still worked without being insulting to your palate.
“SAY CAR RAMROD!”
Sometimes you overthink the name of your beer trying to be clever, and then really insist that it’s clever. Not Big Ugly. When they say Jumping Through Hoops, it’s them flipping the bird at all the red tape one has to go through to get a new brewery opened. It’s also a darn good IPA, light, smooth, and juicy, that’ll have you smiling like Farva after he pumps extra gas to get a “free” hot dog. And like Big Ugly, you just want to flip Farva off throughout most of the movie.
“I think you mean Pina Coladaburg.”
I’ve got a tropical treat, sucked straight from the coconut’s teat… There were a lot of flavored Goses this year at VCBF. A lot of them were very good. One even tasted like key lime pie. I really wanted to give this one to the margarita version because I immediately thought of one of the better moments from Club Dread, but really, Coelacanth Passionfruit Gose did a great job of putting out a mainstream tart beer that’s not too salty with just the right amount of fruit. It’s sure to have Coconut Pete cussing at revelers for years to come.
“I wish it were winter so we could make it into iceblocks and skate on it, then melt it in springtime and drink it!”
To Mad Fox Orange Whip IPA, one of the GOATs (whether here or in zie Deutschland) but ineligible for top prize due to, you know, already having been retired in our Hops of Fame. Loved seeing it at VCBF out of its normal season and couldn’t resist grabbing some.
“Ah, the old Trojan keg!”
So we didn’t have to sneak in, but it did require tickets. I was really impressed with the cask garden overall. This is a shout out to Port City Porter w/Orange Peel, Stone Ruination 2.0 w/Blackberry, Strawberry, and Lemon Peel, and Three Notch’d Ghost of the 43rd w/Minute Man Hops. They all took standout beers in a new direction that arguably would not have worked as well in a CO2 or Nitro presentation. Bless the souls who kept those mini-kegs cold. They’re the real heroes here. I’m not, because here’s another deep cut. Still, E=MCHammered.
“This says ‘Meatdrapes.'”
Yeah, we watched Slammin’ Salmon. And yeah, we’re looking forward to Super Troopers 2, if only cuz Broken Lizard got that whole odd-numbered movie out of their system. They’re kinda like Star Trek in that regard. But Michael Clarke Duncan repeatedly butchering foreign words is a decent running gag. And then the whole “in your pocket” bit. Since I somehow need to tie beer into a movie that takes place entirely in a restaurant, maybe we should go with Virginia Beer Co. Green’s View, an “experimental” IPA that shouldn’t be. Our runner-up for Best in Show combines wild yeast and three pounds of added hops. Just put the dang thing on the menu already!
“Mother of God.”
You were having a great time, and just like that, things got serious. Whether you’re freaking out because they can smell your fear, or rocking out on some snozzberries, life has a way of speeding by you. And all you can do is stop, put your game face on, and say it: “Mother of God.” That was my reaction to Pro Re Nata Go Johnny Gose: Mango, our 2017 Best in Show. They said they’re fans of Witbiers but wanted something lighter, which is why you can detect a good balance of brine, orange peel, and coriander. That splash of mango is beyond refreshing without dominating the Gose profile the way a lot of fruity adjuncts can. I tried this beer near the end of the first hour, and immediately said it was the one to beat the rest of the day. Nothing came close, and I found myself talking it up to other brewers when they saw my media badge and asked what I’d liked so far. To do that to me, a snob of the sorts who in other reviews all but swore off this entire category of beers?!?! I never would have thought I’d give top billing to a sour/tart beer, but I just did. Mother of God.
Overall, I liked having VCBF in a more urban setting. It was a lot easier to plan when not having to factor in driving – being blocks away from several hotels and just a few miles from 20+ more put walking, taxis, and whatever app you care for at your fingertips. Three Notch’d’s new taproom was also a nice respite from the heat, and that space is going to bring plenty of crowds for future events. It’s almost like they planned it that way… While I may have some nits to pick with some of the staff coordination, the event went off with nigh a hitch while I was there. That has me hopeful that VCBF will remain at Ix Art Park for many years to come. Not that three UVa grads need another reason to go to Charlottesville for a weekend…