Hoppy Anniversary to, well, us! Four years, hundreds of beer tastings/reviews, and 1 big Oktoberfest 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 2018 class is back to its capacity of 5 members this year, but it didn’t mean we compromised our selection process. While being an exceptional beer is one thing, and while we have usually justified our beers with the awards they have won, it is (and has been) about the influence and marketability. We get into a lull sometimes with great beer, cause we want something new and better. But at the end of the day, there is a reason beers get put on tap. We recognize those this year.
Thank y’all again for the past year and here is the Virginia Brew Review Hops of Fame, Class of 2018:
Dark Hollow, Blue Mountain Barrel House (Arrington, VA)
For most of us, it was our introduction into barrel aged beer. Twenty years ago in Virginia, barrels were made for bourbon and wine only. Enter Blue Mount Barrel House and their flagship Dark Hollow. It is a simple formula: fine stout, fine bourbon barrels, and time. Yet so much can go wrong to dilute the beer’s profile, or the smokiness, or that velvety booziness which defines the barrel-aged style. In a process with a ton of variables and inconsistencies, this beer has stood the test of time and still shines as one of the oldest, consistent beers in the Commonwealth. With seasonal styles and one-offs defining many tap lists these days, this is one beer you can still find year-round.
Siren’s Lure, Fair Winds Brewing Company (Lorton, VA)
We’ve had a few young breweries bring home the GABF Gold here in the Commonwealth, but not many can then lay claim to be one of the 50 fastest growing breweries in America shortly after the fact. On every visit we make to Fair Winds anymore, when somebody new asks for a recommendation, it’s always “Siren’s Lure…err, what types of beer do you usually like?” In a time when everybody is going full Belgian, Fair Winds Americanized the heck out of this hoppy Saison, and they have the accolades and the obscene growth numbers to show for it.
Choosy Mother, Isley Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)
To us, it started as a clever name. But it has become an entity all to its own. At first sip, you aren’t qualifying if it is a great beer, you are trying to come up with a list of better Peanut Butter Porters out there, and the list is short at best. And many aren’t even in a 200-miles radius of the Commonwealth. In a similar stroke of genius, we are seeing the variants Boozy Mother and PB&J Union start to make the rounds as well. Just no chunky Porters, mmk guys? Isley is the champ of Oatmeal Porters, and this is the one at the top of the list.
Brown Ale, Legend Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)
It may look like an 8-bit cartridge of a Super Mario game, because it kinda sorta is almost as old. And if you called it “The Legend of Brown Ale” we’d forgive you. One of the most iconic beers in Central Virginia and the Commonwealth has somehow been left off of this list and we never could put our finger on it. But it was this year in talking to one particular pub owner and distributor on why they always have Brown Ale on tap: it sells. It plays all year and it plays all over the state (even showing up in neighboring states, too!) Legend Brown Ale is one of the undersung heroes of Virginia craft brewing.
Crucial Taunt, Veil Brewing (Richmond, VA)
They may not have started the revolution, but they are certainly carrying the banner for it. We’ve preached that RVA and Scott’s Addition are leading the way in brewing throughout The Commonwealth, and the Veil is still the hottest name out there. And while their every rotating tap selection keeps even the hipsters on their toes, it is Crucial Taunt that gets out in the wild and goes ‘Gotcha!’ You want more of this and you want to find where it originated. From there, complete submission is advisable. These guys wail!!