Three Virginia Beers That Should (Quietly) Have Your Attention During American Craft Beer Week

Some beers scream for attention.  Internet hype builds around dozens if not more limited and annual releases every year, resulting in waiting lines for brewpubs to open on that special day – so much so you’d think they were giving away free beer (now that is a line I’d stand in!).  They’re on everyone’s must have lists, and the list of added ingredients to augment their flavor grows longer with each release – jasmine, hot peppers, cocoa nibs, and on and on.  The vibe around some of these releases seems to have a voice, and it’s whispering in your ear possibly right now – try this beer, you should really try this beer, until one day, there you are, and it’s in your hand, almost if it magically appeared out of nowhere.

Of course, most of these beers are deserving of at least some attention.  They provide excitement to the craft beer community at large, and at the least, provides an enjoyable reason to round up your craft beer curious friends and head out to see what the hype is all about.  But there are, obviously, plenty of beers that don’t receive such consideration.  Quietly, they sit in kegs and in bottles, at bars or perhaps in your own fridge, lacking any official PR machine to drive their reputation.  But these beers are far from accepting any supporting cast role.  Many of the more popular ones have acquired a label that when spoken by any true craft beer fan, will be sounded out no small amount of fondness in their voice – “go-to”.  As in, “oh, that’s definitely one of my ‘go-to’ IPAs”.  Years of annual availability have given the better ones a certain feel of day in, day out dependability.  But if any drop off in flavor is anticipated, think again.  Sure, they may lack the bottomless complexity of the latest bourbon barrel aged, vanilla, cocoa nib and habanero pepper infused, endlessly dry hopped, double yeast strain fermented, collaborative effort ale to hit the streets, but nevertheless, they’re darn good.  Less of an experiment in how far the boundaries can be pushed, these beers show how well brewers can make a beer that you might not ever get tired of, and please your palate with repeated servings.  They’re simply well made beers, flavorful if not extreme, typically proven over a period of time, and within these things lay their reputation.

As the buzz around American Craft Beer Week 2012 begins to wind down, and the events which most likely have been weighted towards the bigger beers begin to do so as well, some recognition should be given to these delicious, “go to”, day in, day out brews.  Not that they need any help with promotion, they probably end up in your fridge from time to time anyhow.  Nevertheless, they are certainly deserving of a little press from time to time.  Also, given that it is American Craft Beer Week, a celebration of the craft beer scene for the entire country, the beers featured below are from my own state of Virginia, each from a brewery which has recently opened or added to their operation.  Cheers!

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery (Richmond) Singel.

Opened in 2011, Hardywood Park has plenty to build upon already.  Their founders, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtough, are both experienced homebrewers and are also both BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) judges.  Eric created as well as the BeerCloud mobile app, while Patrick received formal brewing training in Germany, earning his Master Brewing Certification.  Recently, their Gingerbread Stout earned a Bronze Medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup.

Certain to become a favorite among many, the brewery’s flagship beer is their Singel, a glowing, golden, Belgian Abbey style Blonde Ale.  The website refers to it as “a feat in balance”, and nothing could be closer to the truth.  The flavors which are typically found in many Belgian ales – imparted by Belgian ale yeast strains – of banana or what the brewery specifically states in this beer as “tropical fruit” flavors, are somewhat subdued in this beer, placed very evenly alongside both a slight lemony taste and a white peppery flavor.  All of these flavors are placed so delicately within each sip as if they were three different, slow moving mists, with the sip you’ve taken originating right at the point at which they have drifted into one another and begun to intermingle.  It’s a bit like watching the sun go down after a beautiful summer day – sublime, and simply delicious.

Devils Backbone Brewery (Nelson County/Lexington) Vienna Style Lager

Begun as a brewpub in Nelson County Virginia, Devils Backbone opened their production brewery in Lexington earlier this year, enabling them to produce and bottle their flagship Vienna style Lager for distribution.  Another winner at the recent World Beer Cup, taking Gold within the Vienna category, Devils Backbone’s Vienna Lager balances a light caramel sweetness with a toasted bread crust flavor, low, barely-there bitterness, and what some perceive as a bit of nutty flavor.  It all boils down, pun intended, to one incredibly flavorful but easy to drink beer, boasting flavors that are just rich enough to please but remains exceptionally clean tasting.  Simply a beer any beer fan will want to consistently have around.

Wild Wolf Brewing (Nelson County) ‘Alpha Ale’ American Style Pale Ale

Although distribution is still growing for this brewery, fans of something a little more hoppy can only hope it reaches their area soon.  Alpha Ale is a nice blend of both pine and fresh, grapefruit like hop flavors along a mild malt sweetness and a fairly dry finish.  There is a definite amount of bitterness from the hops as well, but the hop flavor stands out, where other Pales fall short far too often.  The brewery recently opened their current location in the last year, after operating out of a home brewing shop for a few years.  It is only a few miles from the Devils Backbone brewpub location, and combined, make for a fun tasting excursion along what’s called Virginia’s “Brew Ridge Trail”.

Three distinctly different and wonderful beers from one well established and three growing, Virginia based breweries.  One has definitely arrived, and the other two are well on their way to becoming go-to beers.  All of them delicious enough to speak for themselves, with just a sip – no screaming needed – and ones that just might become your next “go to” beers.


~ by thebeerroad on May 18, 2012.

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