2017-2018 Beer In Review: Beers of the Year

Posted by  Hamilton Riley   in  Beer Reviews     9 months ago     590 Views     Comments Off on 2017-2018 Beer In Review: Beers of the Year  

Somehow, someway, we put another candle on the cake today. Today 4 years ago, we got together on a Google chat and agreed to do something that would change our lives forever.  Now…..eh, it’s just the same.

Yep, it has been that long.  It’s been so long that most of this intro is just cut from last year’s celebration, which was cut from the year’s before.  With age come experience, and none of us want to experience another anniversary party.

Why should we?  This is way longer than I thought we would be around when we started this and the roles have indeed changed a lot since 2014.  But we are still united by a simple passion: Virginia makes great Craft Beer, and we want to talk about it.

We start the celebration as we always do:  talking about the best beer we tasted this year, then putting the very best into our Hops of Fame later this week.

The “Beers of the Year” 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 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):

EBK [open your eyes], Adroit Theory Brewing Company (Purcellville, VA)
Ben:  “All summer long I anxiously awaited each new iteration of EBK and they were all fantastic. Adroit always rocks the heavy stuff (beer and metal!), but EBK proved they could put out a top notch IPA as well.”
Alex:  “When we spoke to the Adroit staff at VCBF, they said their new releases would prove their doubters wrong.  Okay, the inaugural EBK proved it, even if one or two others in the series surpassed it.  No really, they were better than one of our top rated beers of the year!  If NE IPAs are your thing, and they kind of are having a (long) moment, then EBK should be on your wish list.”

Great Scotch, Center of the Universe (Ashland, VA)
Alex:  “Is there a way to scale barrel-aged goodness?  Places like COTU just get the concept.  This boozy AF Wee Heavy was an inspiration for my own descent into homebrewing, and my very first brew was based, in part, on this beer.  If only the inside of the cap had been labeled Calvin Klein…”
Ben:  “Your kids, Marty!  Something’s gotta be done about your kids…when you get hold of this boozy delight in its Bourbon Barrel Aged form!”

Against the Wall, Coelacanth Brewing Company (Norfolk, VA)
Hamilton:  “I have learned not to be surprised by the quality of stouts in The Commonwealth, and even less by the quality of spiced stouts.  This year’s most outstanding to me was a limited release version from Coelacanth in December, who have been doing spicy beers well. They did a oatmeal stout with chocolate and chipotle peppers. On top of it being an outstanding beer, it was an international collaboration with Cerveceria Artesanal Roberta of Mexico City and a portion of the sales went to Operation Smile in Mexico.  Win for everyone.”

Big Papi, Commonwealth Brewing (Virginia Beach, VA)
Alex:  “The first NE IPA I fell head over heels for.  A few weeks after the review I found myself down in Norfolk for actual business, and shucks, wouldn’t you know I spent both nights working my way through the gargantuan tap list at Commonwealth?  None of the 20+ beers I tried came close to this one.  Superlative in every way.”
Ben:  “Ai, Papi!  First tried this big fella out when my Spacebar buddy Tiffany slipped me a can from a visit to the 757.  Thankfully, it’s easy to find throughout Northern and Central VA now as well. Easy drinker for a lot of flavor.”
Hamilton:  “Even though this was not my review, I can attest to the popularity of this beer.  While canned NE IPAs are common in other parts of the country or even Virginia, Hampton Roads has had zip to choose from.  For Commonwealth to get out ahead of most everyone, to distribute as well as they have had, AND to make a super juicy hoppy green goodness to boot is impressive and is highly coveted in these parts.”

We got an elusive can of Big Papi before it started showing up on shelves. Bless the mules!

Grizzly Wizard, Fine Creek Brewing (Powhatan, VA)
Hamilton:  “It is rare to see Grisettes in Virginia.  It is less so that I’m gifted a growler from friends with the note, ‘Hey try this. I think you will enjoy it.’  Both were the case with this beer from last October.  Light and tart, but not overly acidic.  Worked out great for a late, late Virginia summer.”

Kentucky Christmas Morning, Hardywood Park Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)
Ben:  “I still haven’t gotten to try this one but every other GBS variation is insanely good, so…get some.  I’m sure Alex will let me try some…someday…maybe.”
Hamilton:  “Hey, someone put booze in my Christmas Morning!”
Alex:  “I stood in line for this one with nothing but a ticket, hopes, and dreams.  Ya’ll ain’t getting squat you lazy mooches!”

Zero Fox Given, Mad Fox Brewing Company (Falls Church, VA)
Alex:  “The highest I’ve ever rated an IPA, NE-style or not.  The cask version is a flat-out 10 and has a case for one of the best beers ever produced in the Commonwealth.”
Ben:  “The name is funny.  The beer is fantastic.  Mad Fox excels at IPAs and Pale Ales that taste great on draft OR cask, and this trendy NE IPA is no exception.”

Anastasia’s Chocolate Fantasy, South Street Brewing Company (Charlottesville, VA)
Alex:  “A couple of years ago a mini-keg of this made it’s way up to NoVA to Barrel & Bushel, and I got passed a taster by the bar manager.  It was immediately the highest I’d ever rated a RIS, and when I got my hands on a bottle to review this year, it was still as strong as my memory.”

Yes, this chilling technique for Anastasia’s Chocolate Fantasy worked surprisingly well!

Double Bass Chipotle, Starr Hill Brewing (Crozet, VA)
Hamilton:  “I have a soft spot for theme and variation beer box sets.  I don’t think there is a year that goes by where I can’t bring up this point. This year’s adoration fell on the Double Bass Chocolate and it’s Chipotle version.  Now i know that 20% of the BotY is made up of Chipotle Chocolate Stouts, but it doesn’t mean I have to choose.  It was my favorite out of the set and showed great range on a really solid base stout.”

DEADBOLT w/Blood Orange, Virginia Beer Company (Williamsburg, VA)
Hamilton:  “As I’m setting up for the return to VBC for DEADBOLT again this year, the blood orange variant they poured at the brewery was one of my favorite IPAs of the year.  Dangerously, the slightly tart and fruit additive made it really crushable, which in turn, made the celebration that much better.”