Monthly Archives: April 2012

Thoughts for Next Year’s VA Cask Festival

I attended the first Virginia Cask Festival this past Saturday, April 21st.  Arriving a bit late, the crowd was noticeably thin but buzzing excitement.  Everyone in the room was there for beer. I started out light with Devils Backbone’s Wit Bier then dived head first into Hardywood’s Bourbon Cru.  By all accounts, Hardywood’s Cru was a crowd favorite.  In addition to the Cru, Mad Fox’s Wee Heavy and Williamsburg Alewerk’s Choca-Latte were a malt lovers dream in a room of IPAs. I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Madden of Mad Fox for the first time and thanked him for bringing one of my personal favorites from the Falls Church brewery.  I will say the only beer I was disappointed with was O’Connor’s Great Dismal Black IPA.  Normally, a favorite of mine, something about the addition of coffee did not work for me.  On the other hand, I found Starr Hill’s Double Platinum quite enjoyable and balanced as it is normally too hoppy for me.

Turning thoughts to next year’s festival, there are a couple items that I think would make next year’s festival even better.

More Breweries

With only eleven breweries in attendance, it may have been difficult for people to justify the price of admission.  The festival was a fundraiser for the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild; breweries who were not guild members were rightfully not allowed to participate. So in order to grow the festival, more Virginia breweries need to join the guild.  VCBG has done a great job promoting craft beer in Virginia, most notably the passing of SB 604 which will allow breweries(member or not) to sell pints without having to server  food.


If we are able to increase the number of breweries at the festival, it would most likely necessitate a larger venue. Capital Ale House’s Music Hall was the perfect size for this years festival but add another five or ten breweries in the mix and the room could feel cramped.  I think Kanawha Plaza would be a nice step up from the Music Hall plus Richmond loves an outdoor festival.

How can you help? Next time you visit a Virginia brewery ask if they are VCBG members.  If they say no, ask them why not.  If they say yes, thank them for making great beer here at home.

Hardywood Grows Ringer Farms Kickstarter

You may have seen this photo from Hardywood about the arrival of their new fermenters that will double their capacity. What you may not know is that they have been supplying their spent grain to Russell Bell (@FarmerRussell) of Ringer Farms LLC (@RingerFarmsLLC).  Russell, a fellow beer nut,  has been using the grains as compost material for his crops.  Through Ringer Farms, Russell provides local produce to local chefs. In order utilize the additional spent grains produced by Hardywood, Russell has started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a new trailer, shade cloths, and rain barrels.  If you love local beer and local food, consider donating to the campaign here.  If I could swing it, I’d love the personal garden consultation. 

Turning Restaurant Week into Beer Dinner Week

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that this week is the spring edition of Richmond Restaurant Week benefiting Feedmore.  Restaurant Week is the perfect format for testing out your beer pairing skills.  Of course, this works best at places with beer on draft.  Group participation would be required if using bottles.

Note: No restaurants have agreed to the pricing laid out below.  It’s just my wild imaginings.

Draft scenario

Pretty straight forward. Let’s say the restaurant’s highest draft beer is $6. You could request three four ounce pours of different beers with each course and agree to pay $7.

Let’s take Six Burner’s Menu for instance. Here’s what I would try to do. The beers I chose are only from the memory of my last visit there.

Course 1

P.E.I. Mussels, gruyere cheese caramelized onion beer broth with Hardywood Singel

Course 2

Skirt Steak and Frites, spicy cilantro tomatillo avocado salsa with Legend Brown Ale

Course 3

Chocolate Brownie, hazelnut gelato with Heavy Seas Black Canon

Bottle Scenario

With bottles, you will want at least two people to split 12 ounce bottles into 6 ounce pours.  Of course, this is the more costly method as you have to pair for each bottle.

Here are the places doing restaurant week that I know either have beer on tap or in bottles.

Six Burner

Bistro 27

Secco Wine Bar

Tastebuds American Bistro

Tarrant’s Cafe

Tobacco Company

Acacia Mid-Town (bottles only)

Once again, none of the places above have agreed to anything but I hope they think it sounds like fun if asked.

Welcome to My Birthday Week

Hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I started this little blog.  I’ve had a lot of fun meeting the multifaceted people  who are responsible for bringing craft beer to the River City. These people range from distribution reps, brewery owners and staff, and restaurants. I especially love when I meet readers of the site.  Here are just a few things that caught my eye this week.

Tuesday April 24th

Goose Island Steal the Glass Night at Capital Ale House

I’ve enjoyed every Goose Island beer I’ve had since it first hit town at Weezie’s Kitchen.  I’m not going to miss my chance to get a glass. I suggest you don’t either.

Friday April 27th

This being my actual birth day will make deciding what to do especially difficult because it’s not as if there isn’t just one choice.  Restaurant Week has had me going back and forth on where to dine this night.  Right now, I’m thinking Bistro 27. I know you’re thinking that’s perfect.  I was reading over Bobby Kruger’s Libation Nation today and thought it’d be awesome to have him make me a signature beer cocktail for the night.

After dinner, I will be seeing the Blue Man group for the first time. I really hope they’re worth the hype.

An after show drink location is still to be determined. I’m open to suggestions.

Saturday April 28th

Hardywood’s timing could not be more perfect.  They are throwing a Spring Frolics party to celebrate the release of their first Barrel Series beer, Bourbon Grand Cru.  This will also mark their sixth month anniversary.  I will definitely be there to get my allotment.  Get more  info at the Facebook event here.

Oh before I forget, there will be cake. I’m still working out all the details but I will be bringing my birthday cake to the party. Right now it is going to be a Beeramisu cake using Hardywood Mocha Belgique.

Virginia Cask Ale Festival Picks

Heading out to the inaugural Tap into Virginia Cask Festival today, Saturday, April 21st, at the Downtown Capital Ale House Music Hall. Here are my personal first six picks:

  • Hardywood Park Craft BreweryBourbon Barrel Quad Yes you could wait to get it next weekend but why wait?!
  • Mad Fox Brewing  — Wee Heavy Scotch AleNot available in Richmond; you’d have to drive up to NoVA to have anymore of their great beers.
  • Devils Backbone Brewing — 1)Wit Bier – 4.5% ABV, 15 IBU  Belgian-style witbier that is hazy straw in color, light in body, with a refreshing fruity spicy finish. Spiced with coriander, orange peel, szechuan peppercorn, and brewed with an aromatic Belgian yeast strain to create a complex yet delicate wheat ale.  2) White Stag IPA – 7.0% ABV, 50 IBU’s.  A wheat IPA that blends aspects of American IPA’s, British IPA’s, and wheat ales . Brewed with 4 types of malted & un-malted wheat, kettle hopped with both American and English hops, and dry hopped with East Kent Goldings to create a beer that’s uniquely its own. Choose between two Devils Backbone beers? Not going to happen.
  • O’Connor BrewingGreat Dismal Black IPA –  infused with “Old Havana Cuban Coffee Blend” from Virginia Espresso in Norfolk, chocolate and vanilla bean.  ABV- 8%. A personal favorite so of course it’s here.
  • Wild Wolf BrewingTom Tom Founders Festival Ale — White IPA with extreme citrus and tropical hop notes added to the flavor of a traditional belgian wit, dry hopped with a pound of cascade. The brew used more than 60 pounds of local VA wildflower honey.  70IBU 5.5% ABV White IPAs are a very new style so I’m looking forward to trying this one from another Nelson county brewery. 

Have fun out there!