By Templar & Guest Blogger Josh Hall of www.swillandswineva.com
If someone would have told me five years ago that I would be writing a blog about Virginia Craft beer, I would have said I hate writing and what the hell is Virginia Craft Beer? Yet here I am. Back then I’m pretty sure Blue Moon and Shock Top were the closest thing to “craft” beer that I drank. I even hated Sam Adams.
Now Virginia has grown to one of the top 20 growing craft beer states. I live in the central part of the state and have access to about 15 or so breweries within a 45 minute drive. You make it an hour and a half it more than triples that amount. Virginia has gotten so popular Stone Brewing Company has built a brewery in Richmond and Deschutes, Ballast Point, and Green Flash are all slated to open breweries here. Devils Backbone was even bought out by AB InBev. That’s a good sign of a growing craft beer culture.
Starr Hill Brewery, the start of Craft in Virginia?
The craft beer boom here started from what I can tell in Charlottesville, VA, home of Starr Hill Brewing Company and has been around for over 16 years, though that is not the oldest. Legend Brewing in Richmond was opened in 1994 and still operates today. The other Charlottesville breweries have been around for more than three years and have become the leaders in style and distribution. Champion Brewing and Three Notch’d are two of the most popular with multiple locations throughout the state.
Richmond, VA, the capital has also become an amazing craft beer city. Already boasting the oldest in Legend, Stone Brewing company, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery(which has expanded to Charlottesville) plus another 13-15 breweries.
Northern Virginia which is considered the Washington D.C. metro area has also grown to be a hot bed for craft beer. Loudoun County Virginia is the leader of the state with last count of 21 craft breweries. That more than doubles the surrounding NoVA counties. Not that they are not trying to catch up. A lot of counties are changing their laws to make it easier to open and operate a brewery in their locale.
As far as styles, no one region has a specific style. Some breweries do though, Veil Brewing in Richmond is known for their super juicy, cloudy NE style IPA’s and has lines out the doors and around the block for when they release their cans. They don’t do growler fills. One of my favorite locations is Pen Druid Brewing in a tiny town called Sperryville, if you blink you would miss it. They do wild fermentation, wood fired, spontaneous beers and age pretty much everything in wine barrels with all local yeast. It is some of the best beers I’ve had. Hardywood Park in Richmond, Licking Hole Creek in Goochland and Blue Mountain in Nelson County have become the leaders in Bourbon Barrel aged beers. All the others have their own good and bad qualities. There are just too many to even go through.
To date I have visited 54 of the state’s breweries. I haven’t even scratched the surface. Luckily we have a lot of beer festivals and I can try the locations that I haven’t been to, but with new ones popping up every month it’s getting harder to keep up. I am also trying to open a brewery in the small town where I live, which already has two. It’s another one of those things that if you said I would be doing five years ago, I would have laughed at you.
What’s great about each area though is that everyone is drinking craft beer, from the hipster to the millennial to my generation (40’s) to retirees. I’ve met so many people from different areas and of different ages that all just enjoy great beer.
So if you ever happen to be in the great state of Virginia, look me up on my blog at www.swillandswineva.com. I love helping people enjoy what this great state has to offer.
Until then like I always say Drink Up and Eat Well.