Today marks the official beginning of one of the greatest happenings in all of craft beer here in the United States. Every year, nearly 50,000 people head to Denver and go to the massive party that is the Great American Beer Festival. Tickets last mere minutes and over 700 breweries bring their best suds to not only show off their skills, but try to walk away with some hardware. This year there are 84 categories (seriously?) and the overall best breweries by size. In 2013, Devil’s Backbone walked away with the best Small Brewing Company of the Year and 6 individual medals, but Port City was right on their heels with 4. So that got us thinking: what are some of the best beer showings from Virginia? Therefore, in the spirit of the GABF, here are some of the best Virginia beer showings of all time.
Dominion Lager, Old Dominion Brewing Company (Ashburn, VA*)
BRONZE: Ambers/Viennas (1990)
GOLD: Dortmunder/European Style Export (1997)
Although Old Dominion Brewing Company is no longer in Virginia as of 2006, Dominion Lager won the first ever medal for a beer from the state of Virginia in 1990. From the span on 1990 to 1997, Old Dominion Brewing was responsible for 5 of the 8 medals awarded to Virginia beer, almost single-handedly putting The Commonwealth on the US map for craft beer. Other winners from Old Dominion have been their Dominion Octoberfest/Octfest (3x) and Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale (3x).
Dark Starr Stout, Starr Hill Brewing Co. (Crozet, VA)
GOLD: Classic Irish Style Dry Stout (1999)
BRONZE: Classic Irish Style Dry Stout (2000)
BRONZE: Classic Irish Style Dry Stout (2001)
GOLD: Classic Irish Style Dry Stout (2005)
GOLD: Classic Irish Style Dry Stout (2009)
The current reigning champion of ‘Most Decorated GABF Beer’ from Virginia, Dark Starr Stout was one of their flagship beers back when I remember them in downtown Charlottesville. A not-so-subtle nod to the Grateful Dead, this stout has been a staple of restaurants and bars for nearly 2 decades. Several other beers from Starr Hill have been awarded medals like their Mojo (3x), Pale (2x) and Amber Ale (2x).
Gold Leaf Lager, Devil’s Backbone Brewing Co. (Lexington, VA)
GOLD: International-Style Pilsener (2009)
GOLD: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener (2010)
BRONZE: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener (2012)
SILVER: American-Style or International-Style Pilsener (2013)
If there is an heir-apparent to the overall crown, it would be the Gold Leaf Lager. Winner of 4 medals in the past 5 competitions, this Pilsener has been one of the best around and recently rated a 9/10 by one of our contributors, putting it in the elite category of world class beers. Now there hasn’t been much Devil’s Backbone has brought that didn’t win a medal, but other winners include Azreal (1x in Belgian Ales), Berliner Metro Weiss (2x in German-Style Sour Ale), and Danzig (3x winner in Baltic-Style Porter).
Other Great Showings
Capital City Brewing Co. (Washington, DC): From 2001 to 2007 this DC brewery could do little wrong, taking home 9 medals, including golds in 2006 for their Coffee Flavored Beer ‘Fuel’ and 2005 for Amber Waves Ale, which also won a silver in 2006.
Blue Mountain Brewery (Afton, VA): One of our personal favorite places to visit, this brewery has 5 medals from 2011 & 2012, 4 from their main shop and 1, in 2012, from their Barrel House, which has been putting out some nice (and strong) Barrel-Aged Beers.
Port City Brewing Co. (Alexandria, VA): One of the hottest breweries last year at the 2013 GABF, the boys from the burbs brought their heavy hitters last year with COLOSSAL ONE (Bronze) and COLOSSAL TWO (Bronze) as well as their Optimal Wit (Gold) and Oktoberfest (Silver).