Toasting American Craft Beer Week, Virginia Style. Today’s Pick.

(As promised on Wednesday, I’m picking a few beers that we all might toast American Craft Beer Week with, and giving the choices a little homefield advantage – they’re all from my state of Virginia.  Take a look at Wednesday’s post for that day’s choice, Blue Mountain Brewery’s delicious Kolsch 151, and yesterday’s St. George Pilsner.)  As I also mentioned on Wednesday, I’ve tried to make these “picks” with an eye toward beers that might be good for folks who are somewhat new to craft beer.  Not that these aren’t outstanding brews, because they are.  Both of the beers so far are personal favorites, and from reviews I’ve read online, also held in high regard on sites such as and  But let’s face it, if you’re just getting into flavorful, craft beer, you may not be ready for a screamingly bitter, rip your face off “hop bomb”, as some beers are affectionately called by all the hop heads out there.  That kind of beer may be a little further down your own beer road.  They’re definitely worth a try when ready.  But these picks are good beers to see what quality, American made craft beer is all about – delicious, without having to take the equivalent of a beer cliff dive if you’ve never jumped off the diving board at your local Y before.

As I was considering this, I remembered some of the first craft beers I tasted.  Always curious of darker beers, my diving board leap was into the vast pool of Brown Ales.  I tried numerous Browns over a couple months, finding ones I liked, and others not so much, figuring out what I cared for in each.  I found some favorites that I still go back to today.  Brown Ales are, of course, usually dark brown with occasional reddish tinges, are usually somewhat “malty” sweet, and often can have nut like flavors.  The sweetness is often described in the context of a caramel or toffee like flavor, and since these are ‘ales’, there may be an ale like “fruitiness” that shows up as well.  The best of these beers are inhibited by several of these characteristics instead of being one dimensional.  There are two defined versions as well – English, and an American one, born of the latter.  The English versions supposedly, if you go strictly by the definition, have little hop flavor or bitterness, while American ones can feature hops quite a bit.  Either way, the caramel like sweetness, toasted malt flavor, and (usually) a fairly low alcohol level make these perfect for an afternoon or evening hanging out with friends.  They also seem to fit just right into colder, chillier times of the year – in other words, these are great beers to warm up by the fire with.

We are lucky to have a very good Brown Ale in our midst here in Virginia, courtesy of Legend Brewing in Richmond.  If you happen to be living in Roanoke, as I do, it seems to be popping up at most outdoor events lately too, a nice advantage for those craft minded people who find themselves at them, but sometimes with the typical selection of beer.  Legend’s Brown Ale has a nice level of caramel like flavor and accompanying sweetness, has a medium to full body to it, with a distinct nut like flavor as well.  Expect a little ale-like fruitiness to it, but in case you don’t think of yourself as an ale person, don’t let that hold you back.  Legend’s Brown Ale is the brewery’s most popular beer.  That last event I found myself at?  I answered questions about the dark beer in my cup from at least three people, to later see them trying – and liking – this very good Brown Ale.  Perhaps you’re next?  Cheers to American Craft Beer Week, and to Virginia brewers like Legend!

Legend Brewing Company, Richmond Va


~ by thebeerroad on May 21, 2011.

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