Daily Archives: August 30, 2013

Breaking Down The Virginia Craft Brewers Fest

VA Craft Beer Fest 2013 034Last Saturday’s Virginia Craft  Brewers Fest at Devils Backbone could not have been on nicer day.  Following the rain soaked but fun first year  with a day of gorgeous weather was a stroke of genius.  Am I saying Virginia brewers have learned how to control the weather? Of course, not, that’d be crazy talk but it would be funny if they had.

By now you’ve probably heard about the winners in the 2013 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup.  If not here are the winners:

Best of Show Winners 2013 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup
Gold: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Smokehaus Lager
Silver: River Company Brewing – Wood Dog Porter
Bronze: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – Gingerbread Stout

Light & Amber Hybrid
Gold: Blue Mountain Brewery – Kolsch 151
Silver: Center of the Universe – Main Street Virginia Ale
Bronze: Mad Fox Brewing Company – Mad Fox Kolsch

European Malty Lagers
Gold: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Schwartzbier
Silver: Starr Hill Brewery – Jomo Lager
Bronze: Mad Fox Brewing Company – Elixer Maibock

Pilsner & Light Lager
Gold: Blue Mountain Brewery – Classic Lager
Silver: Lost Rhino Brewing Company – Rhino Chasers Pilsner
Bronze: Legend Brewing Company – Pilsner

British Session Ale
Gold: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Ale of Fergus
Silver: River Company Brewing – Timber Brown Ale
Bronze: Blue & Grey Brewing Company – Fred Red

American Ale
Gold: Wolf Hill Brewing – Creeper Trail Amber Ale
Silver: Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewing – Midlo
Bronze: Wolf Hill Brewing – Fightin’ Parsons Pale Ale

Porter & Stout
Gold: Apocalypse Ale Works – 6th Seal
Silver: Port City Brewing – Porter
Bronze: Wild Wolf Brewing Company – Dry Stout

English & American IPA
Gold: Extra Billy’s Smokehouse & Brewery – Citra Ass Down
Silver: Center of the Universe – Pocahoptus IPA
Bronze: Legend Brewing Company – Hopfest

German Wheat and Rye Beer
Gold: Strangeways Brewing – Mixolydian Rag Rye Bock
Silver: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Berliner Metro Weiss
Bronze: Lost Rhino Brewing Company – Final Glide Hefe

Belgian Sour Strong Ales
Gold: Wolf Hill Brewing – Tripel
Silver: Apocalypse Ale Works – The Lustful Maiden
Bronze: Wild Wolf Brewing Company – Blonde Hunny

Belgian & French Ale
Gold: Port City Brewing – Optimal Wit
Silver: Blue Mountain Barrel House – American Hopped Blonde Ale
Bronze: Smartmouth Brewing Company – Alter Ego

Strong Ales
Gold: Three Brothers Brewing – The Admiral
Silver: Smartmouth Brewing Company – Notch 9
Bronze: Devils Backbone Brewing Outpost – Kilt Flasher

Smoked Flavored & Wood Aged
Gold: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Smokehaus Lager
Silver: Blue Mountain Barrel House – Barrel Aged Big Blue
Bronze: Three Brothers Brewing – Bourbon Barrell Russian Imperial

Gold: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – Gingerbread Stout
Silver: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Pear Lager
Bronze: Blue Mountain Barrel House – Spooky

Gold: River Company Brewing – Wood Dog Porter
Silver: Blue Mountain Brewery – Rye Barchetta
Bronze: Strangeways Brewing – Wallonian Dawn Honey Saison

Devils Backbone stole the show with seven total medals including four gold, two silver and one bronze.  Some might think that DB had the home field advantage but if you take a closer look at the results you’ll realize that is not the case.  For instance, DB did not even place in English & American IPA category; top honors went to Extra Billy’s Citra Ass Down.  This and the silver for Midlo Pale Ale is a major accomplishment for Brandon Tolbert with only having taken the head brewer position a few months ago.  Keep an eye on this guy because I predict a bright future for this young man.

Or how about Strangeways’ gold in German Wheat & Rye Beers? Open for three months, and their Mixolydian Rag Rye Bock beats out DB’s Berliner Metro Weiss.

Let’s not forget  Three Brothers Admiral and Smartmouth Notch 9 both placing over DB Kilt Flasher.  Both of these breweries opened toward the end of 2012.

Now it sounds like I’m picking on Devils Backbone but nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact is that Virginia brewers are a strong, passionate, and talented group of individuals.  You can find many of the winning breweries on tap in the Richmond area.  Meanwhile, breweries waiting to come online are eager to get their chance to wow the public with their offerings.

I was able to spend some time in the room as beers were being judged so here are a few background points:

  • Beers were entered and judged based on BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) style guidelines. This means even though a beer may be great it may not fit the style it was entered under.  This goes beyond whether you personally like the beer.
  • Judges have no idea who makes the beers they are judging; samples are poured away from the tables and delivered by stewards
  • There were about 20 judges in the room with varying levels of experience including two non-BJCP and two grandmaster judges; there are 4 grandmaster/master  judges in Virginia.

Overall, the festival was a great time with 32 breweries in attendance over 27 from last year. Ticket sales were doubled from 2012 with over 2200 people in attendance.  The one improvement I could see for next year would be increased number of food providers.  The  four food trucks this year could not handle the high attendance; increasing this number would help decrease the wait time for food.  

Finally here are a few of my favorite beers I tasted at the festival:

  • Alewerks Jubilee — 6th Anniversary Belgian Strong Ale aged 1 year in bourbon barrels; possibly best beer I tasted that day.
  • Champion Face Eater Gose – a really well done salted wheat beer; I’m glad this was the first beer I tried from Champion.  I need to get by Charlottesville and check them out more.
  • Beer Hound Fang Oatmeal Stout – great oatmeal stout from a young brewery
  • Sunken City Dam Lager – very solid offering from Smith Mountain Lake’s only brewery

Congrats to everyone involved in putting on a successful festival.  I can’t wait to see what happens next year.  Here is to an amazing Virginia Craft Beer Month!