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.
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.