Being from The Commonwealth, it is hard to escape history. It’s all around us. All of the Virginia Brew Review Crew either lives and/or are from the most historic areas of Virginia: from Williamsburg, Yorktown, or Richmond. Shoot, even our new mascot, who has yet to be named, wears a tricorn hat. We are proud of our history here in Virginia, and it’s also great to review beer that has historical impact.
Take for example our first beer from our ‘Richmond Roundup’ tailgate, the Cream Ale from Hardywood Park. In 1935, Virginia made history by becoming the first city in the country to sell beer in cans. Before that, it was all kegs and casks and transported to individual private consumers in bottles. It was a bold move, but it paid off. One of those beers was a cream ale from Krueger’s Brewing Company, which was sold in what was playfully called an ‘oil can’, which came with instructions on how to get the beer out of the can. Hardywood’s version of the original cream ale is a tribute to this momentous point in beer history, right down to instructions on how to operate the tab on the can. And, boy, did we enjoy what came out of it.
Cream Ale, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Richmond, VA)
Cream Ale, ABV: 4.4%
Presentation: Can with tasting notes from clear solo cup (we got a lot of looks as we scrounged for a clear cup but it’s all for science)
Appearance: Bright golden rod with very white head which sat up nicely.
Smell: Faint slightly sweet smell with some bread notes, but very clean.
Taste: Cream Ales are very, very smooth and are usually just a little sweet, as compared to a 110 calorie A&W Cream Ale, which is all sugar. This one was top to bottom the smoothest beer I have ever had. Granted, I have not had a ton of Cream Ales, but usually others are either (1) sweeter than I would have liked or (2) breadier than what would really put it in a Cream Ale designation.
ABV/IBU Feel: Here is where this beer stands out. You basically have a full fledged beer with a lower ABV in what would be close to a ‘Light Beer’ range. It just feels smooth and just the right amount of carbonation and creaminess to not be a burden later on in that beer or the next.
Overall: You can tell a lot of history went into this beer, and that was not overlooked by us. It has everything you want from a Cream Ale to be craft, but light enough to convert some of the macro fans. At our tailgate this past weekend, one was offered to a group of Bud Light drinkers, with the reaction “what is this, and where can I get it.” And as someone who tastes craft beer for a hobby, I was asking the same thing. If you read my/our reviews, we don’t throw around scores above 9 often, as we reserve them for beers that not only are the best examples from the Commonwealth, but from around the country. And again we note that we rate on style score, meaning ‘compared to others of this style’, but in this range, you can start sizing this beer up as one of the top beers you can enjoy any time, any occasion, with any group of people. This one is up there, and Hardywood should jump to move this product to the corners of Virginia with the same fervor we are seeing with their Singel.