For me, it was an early birthday present. A day sampling some of the best brews from around the state and country. And while it was as perfect of a day outside in the Commonwealth that you could expect in July, it was even better in the Greater Richmond Convention Center. It was the crowning jewel in the entire week’s expo and it left some solid lasting impressions. Here are the best of the National Beer Expo.
Event: Capital Ale House National Beer Expo
Location: Greater Richmond Convention Center, Richmond, VA
Date: July 19, 2014, 1pm-6pm
Cost: $40/50 in advance, $50/60 at the door, VIP started at 1pm ($10), discount for members and designated drivers
Included: Tulep tasting glass, unlimited pours.
Food: Several booths including Gyros, Salsa & Chips, Kettle Corn
Entertainment: none, but events all week
Participating Breweries: 50+ Breweries from Virginia, National, and World
Best in Show (Breweries)
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery (Goochland, VA)
Beer: Bachelor’s Delight Belgian Quad, ABV: 12%; Three Chopt Tripel, ABV: 9.3%
A lot of Virginia Breweries brought their finest beers and still more brought heavier Belgians. The only one that stood out to me as great examples of both was Lickinghole Creek. Both the Tripel with its lighter amber color and the much maltier Quad aged in Rum Barrels were very smooth and balanced the ABV nicely.
Strangeways Brewing (Richmond, VA)
Beer: Delightfully Immoral Grisette, ABV: 5.8%; Placebo Pils, ABV: 6.3%
You never know what you are going to get with Strangeways. Even in scouting beers for this event, you might have an idea and then the something comes out of left field and changes your perception of the beer. This was the case in both entries I had. The Grisette was extremely, extremely floral and citrusy on the nose, but the mellow flavor gained by wine barrel aging left a very pleasant saison-like finish. The Placebo Pils, with seven, SEVEN, types of hops was more of an APA than a Pils, but was extremely drinkable.
Triple Crossing Brewing Company (Richmond, VA)
Beer: Kill the Lights Black IPA, ABV: 7.0%; The Proposition Saison, ABV: 6.48%
I am the first to admit that I am a sucker for really, really good Black IPAs and Farmhouse Ales, as a majority of my reviews indicate. I started out with Kill the Lights and was taken aback. You get the malt and the hops, nicely balanced and one that could be drank in a variety of seasons. The Single Row Saison was just a treat. The citrus notes were noticeable but not overwhelming as it finished with a decent yeastiness to it that is characteristic to great farmhouse ales.
Maine Beer Company (Freeport, ME)
Beer: Lunch IPA, ABV: 7.0%; Peeper American Pale Ale, ABV: 5.5%
Alright, I cheated a little bit on this one. I’ve been to the brewery. Yeah, in Maine. I’ve had ALL their beers and all of them are outstanding. Again, I don’t throw around superlatives often, if at all. But this brewery does everything right and their beer should be celebrated. Lunch and Peeper are two outstanding examples of East Coast IPAs and APAs and finding them should be must anytime. They were the best out of state brewery there, even without prior bias.
Best In Show (Beer)
Soul Shine Belgian Style Pale Ale, Starr Hill Brewery (Crozet, VA), ABV: 5.2%
Two festival reviews and two best in show beers for Starr Hill. I’ve been hunting this beer down for a while after the buzz from the US Open, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the Top 5 beers I had through out the entire day (and I tried a lot). This is another ‘hybrid’ beer that has the smooth Beligan light malt on the front end and a solid hop finish. I would imagine that most of you have had it by now, but if not, put this on your next beer shopping list.
Prizefighter American Wheat Ale, Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, VA), ABV: 7.2%
Another more than solid entry from Blue Mountain, Prizefighter was one of the last beers I tried and found it to be a great wheat beer with decent hops, finishing with a light citrus taste. It was another beer that pushed the limits of Wheat beers into the American Pale Ale category.
RVAle Summer Belgian Ale, Center of the Universe (Ashland, VA)
It was a great concept that turned into a great beer. COTU hosted a Wort Share Competition from local home-brewers and the winner’s wort would be turned into a local beer. This is it and RVAle was a lighter Belgian style, but had some good spice notes that made for a very interesting beer. Perfect for the end of summer run.
Sea Legs Bourbon Aged Russian Imperial Stout, Uinta Brewing (Salt Lake City, UT)
This was the one brewery I had the least amount of knowledge about going in, but had an enjoyable conversation with the reps which led to a great tasting experience. Sea Legs was smoother than I would have imagined for bourbon aged beer as most of the east coast varieties are slightly harsher. This is a very particular beer and is only good for one (maybe 2), but had very solid malt and chocolate tones to it.
Habanero Sculpin, Ballast Point (San Diego, CA)
I’ll finish this review with the first beer I had. I was repeatedly warned about this one from friends from California saying (1) you need to try the Sculpin cause it is tasty and (2) this one will light you up! Well for the first 2.5 seconds after I tried it, it was a very good IPA. After that….heat. Real. Heat. I don’t know how I made it to the 2nd taste, but I decided to push on. Holy No. Thankfully the burning subsided and I was able to continue on, but if you like spicy beer, this one takes the top prize.