Beautiful Day For Beer At The 2015 Virginia Craft Brewers Fest

VCBF2015 - Crowd, Mountains

Craft Beer in the Blue Ridge Mountains – Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

Saturday August 22nd was a beautiful day to celebrate the craft brewing industry in the Old Dominion as breweries poured their finest during the 2015 Virginia Craft Brewers Fest. The event was once again held at the Devils Backbone Basecamp in Roseland, Virginia, and over 3,000 craft beer lovers attended the Fest.

For me, the highlight of the day was sampling the variety of Virginia beers that extended past the flagship IPAs. From smoked porters aged on Serrano peppers, to a cranberry gose, to a pilsner infused with coffee, there was something to stretch the palate of anyone open to the creativity of the local beer scene.

Blue Mountain Brewery - Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

Blue Mountain Brewery Hops

And when you needed a break before taking another spin around the brewery tents, there was a corral of food trucks serving tasty hand food, and an arcade to relive your misspent youth.

Arcade - Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

Arcade

While the breweries shared their beers with spectacular mountain views surrounding them, there were eight limited edition beers being served in the air-conditioned VIP area, too. These ran the gamut from double IPAs from Champion and Triple Crossing, to a lemongrass tripel from Center of the Universe, and a wild ale from Three Notch’d Brewing named “Brettadocious.”

The exponential growth of new breweries in Virginia over the last year is mirrored in the growth of the Fest, too. In 2014, 32 breweries attended the event and this year the number of breweries almost doubled to just over 60.

Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers - Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

Virginia is for Craft Beer Lovers

Some of this huge growth is credited to SB604, which passed into law in 2012. This allowed breweries to sell their own products to customers for on-premise consumption. These taproom sales lessen some of the start-up barriers for new breweries since they can begin with less capital and become profitable much faster than they could through standard distribution. This has led to a gold rush of new breweries in the state, and Virginia surpassed the 100 craft brewery mark in January of this year.

The Fest also serves as the awards ceremony for the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup competition. That judging happened during the previous weekend at Port City Brewing in Alexandria, where over 302 entries were judged against 24 categories. The Best of Show gold medal went to The Answer Brewpub for their Larceny IPA, the silver went to O’Connor Brewing for their Backyard Bonfire Smoked IPA and the bronze went to Devils Backbone Brewing for their Schwartz Bier. The full list of awards can be found at the bottom of this post.

Virginia Craft Brewers Cup Awards 2015

Virginia Craft Brewers Cup Awards 2015

The top breweries by awards were Devils Backbone Brewing Company, Licking Hole Creek Craft Brewery and O’Connor Brewing Company which each took home 4 medals. By region, Richmond breweries won a total of 18 medals, Charlottesville breweries scored 12 medals, Virginia Beach breweries won 11 medals and the Northern Virginia breweries were not far behind with 10 medals.

These are the halcyon days of craft brewing in the state of Virginia. The number of new breweries opening in the state shows no signs of slowing, and recognition of Virginia breweries continues to grow through awards at the GABF (Great American Beer Festival) and increased distribution outside of the state.

But the question of how many breweries can a state support is slowly becoming a topic of discussion on both state and national levels around the country. In the end, it all comes back to the quality of the beer. Although many associate “craft” as synonymous with “quality”, these new breweries need time and feedback to dial-in their beers and processes. Which, in the end, might be just as difficult as running a small business.

When it comes to the business of beer, the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild, who puts on the Fest and Cup, supports the membered Virginia breweries on economic and business development, as well as supply chain management, tourism and government affairs.

After a long day of sampling Virginia beers, I feel we are very lucky to have such a growing and blossoming beer scene. Although much more competition between breweries for tap handles and shelf space looms in the distance, it is exhilarating to know that Virginia is producing world-class beers and the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest has once again demonstrated that the skill and imagination of our local breweries is not in question.

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2015

The 2015 Virginia Craft Brewers Cup winners are as follows:

Best of Show

  • Gold – The Answer – Larceny
  • Silver – O’Connor Brewing Company – Backyard Bonfire Smoked IPA
  • Bronze – Devils Backbone Brewing Company Outpost – Schwartz Bier

Light Lager

  • Gold – Seven Arrows Brewing Company – Skyline Lager
  • Silver – Bull and Bones Brewhaus – All Night Light
  • Bronze – Devils Backbone Brewing Company Outpost – Turbo Cougar

Pilsner

  • Gold – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – Pils
  • Silver – Port City Brewing Company – Downright Pilsner
  • Bronze – Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewery – ForeCzech

Amber and Dark Lager

  • Gold – Devils Backbone Brewing Company Outpost – Schwartz Bier
  • Silver – Devils Backbone Brewing Company Outpost – Vienna Lager
  • Bronze – Starr Hill Brewery – Jomo

Light American Ale

  • Gold – Beer Hound Brewery – Olde Yella
  • Silver – Sunken City Brewing Company – Crooked Road Cream
  • Bronze – Old 690 Brewing Company – Old 690 Blonde Ale

Kolsch and Altbier

  • Gold – Midnight Brewery – New Beginning
  • Silver – Wolf Hills Brewing – Altbier
  • Bronze – Blue Mountain Barrel House – Kolsch 151

British Bitter

  • Gold – Brothers Craft Brewing – Ordinary Bitter
  • Silver – Capitol City Brewing Company – English Summer Ale
  • Bronze – Triple Crossing Brewing Co. – Element 79

Scottish and Irish Amber Ale

  • Gold – Midnight Brewery – Rockville Red
  • Silver – Three Notch’d Brewing – Hydraulion Red
  • Bronze – Capitol City Brewing Company – Canny Lass

American Amber and Brown Ale

  • Gold – Rusty Beaver Brewery – Roy’s Big Bad Brown Ale
  • Silver – Wolf Hills Brewing – Creeper Trail Amber ale
  • Bronze – O’Connor Brewing Company – Red Nun Red Ale

English Mild and Brown Ale

  • Gold – Three Notch’d Brewing – No Veto Brown
  • Silver – Midnight Brewery – Not My Job
  • Bronze – Garden Grove Brewing Company – Broke Down Soldier

American Pale Ale

  • Gold – Redbeard Brewing Company – Pennyroyal Pale Ale
  • Silver – Alewerks Brewing Company – Shorty Time
  • Bronze – Three Notch’d Brewing – Ghost of the 43rd

IPA

  • Gold – The Answer – Larceny
  • Silver – Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewery – Citra Ass Down
  • Bronze – Young Veterans Brewing Company – Semper Fi. PA

Imperial IPA

  • Gold – Parkway Brewing Company – 4 Damn Fights to a Pint
  • Silver – O’Connor Brewing Company – Heavy Footer DIPA
  • Bronze – The Answer – Hard In The Paint

Porter

  • Gold – Devils Backbone Brewing Company Basecamp – Danzig
  • Silver – Big Ugly Brewing – Ghost Rider Porter
  • Bronze – Parkway Brewing Company – Raven’s Roost Baltic Porter

Stout

  • Gold – Apocalypse Ale Works – 6th Seal
  • Silver – O’Connor Brewing Company – ODIS
  • Bronze – Spencer Devon Brewing – Rocko’s Milk Stout

Russian Imperial Stout

  • Gold – Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery – Virginia Black Bear
  • Silver – Extra Billy’s Smokehouse and Brewery – Sin Bin
  • Bronze – St George Brewing Company – Imperial Stout

Strong Ale

  • Gold – Heritage Brewing Company – Kings Mountain
  • Silver – Mad Fox Brewing Company – Wee Heavy Ale
  • Bronze – Lickinghole Creek Brewery – Nuclear Nugget

German Wheat Beer

  • Gold – James River Brewery – Fluvanna Fluss
  • Silver – Sunken City Brewing Company – Nachthexen
  • Bronze – Lost Rhino Brewing – Final Glide HefeWeizen

Belgian Session Ales

  • Gold – Smartmouth Brewing Company – Alter Ego
  • Silver – Brothers Craft Brewing – Grisette
  • Bronze – Strangeways Brewing – Martian Spring

Belgian Strong Ales

  • Gold – Chaos Mountain Brewing – Agents of Chaos
  • Silver – Pleasure House Brewing – Glo
  • Bronze – James River Brewery – Green Eyed Lady

Sour Ale

  • Gold – Alewerks Brewing Company – Lover’s Greed
  • Silver – Reaver Beach Brewing – Jolie Rogue
  • Bronze – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – Berliner Weisse

Smoked and Wood Aged Beer

  • Gold – O’Connor Brewing Company – Backyard Bonfire Smoked IPA
  • Silver – Adroit Theory Brewing Company – Devil Made Me – Bourbon Aged
  • Bronze – Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery – Li

Herb, Spice, and Vegetable Beer

  • Gold – St George Brewing Company – Pumpkinfest
  • Silver – Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery – Heir Apparent
  • Bronze – Blue Mountain Barrel House – Spooky

Fruit Beer

  • Gold – River Company Brewery – Peachicot Blonde Ale
  • Silver – Hardywood Park Craft Brewery – Raspberry Stout
  • Bronze – Alewerks Brewing Company – Pumpkin Ale

Specialty

  • Gold – Port City Brewing Company – Ways & Means IPA
  • Silver – Parkway Brewing Company – Gose Both Ways
  • Bronze – Lost Rhino Brewing – Tmavy
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