Virginia won 14 medals in competition at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver this year, and that put the state in some interesting company.
The Brewers Association, the non-for profit trade group that organizes the festival and represents small and independent brewers, keeps track of statistics such as how
many medals a state won compared with the number of entries by breweries in that state. Yes, it’s higher math, admittedly, but the ratio landed Virginia in third place among all states, behind Wyoming (45 entries and five medals) and Hawaii (28 entries and three medals). Virginia had 200 entries from its 150-plus breweries.
Fourteen medals is the most for Virginia since 2013, when it also won 14, but times have changed. This year’s competition was the stiffest yet, with 7,227 entries from 1,752 breweries, large and small. Judging required the talents of 264 beer experts from a dozen countries and spanned three rounds over four days.
One of the big winners nationally was Uberbrew of Billings, Montana, which carried home two golds, a silver and a bronze—plus it was named Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year.
In Virginia, three areas of the state had multiple winners, and a standout was the Brew Ridge Trail in the Charlottesville area. Starr Hill took the stage first to claim a silver medal in the Pro-Am competition. The Crozet brewery partnered with home-brewer Gary Layton to produce Vernal Equinox, an English-style IPA. It was the first of six medals for breweries in the greater Charlottesville region.
“The Brew Ridge Trail kicked butt,” said Heidi Crandall, co-founder of Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Its Vienna Lager, produced at the brewery’s Outpost facility outside Lexington, won gold in that category; Danzig, from the Basecamp brewpub in Roseland, also won gold in the Baltic-style porter category.
Three medals went to the group of breweries owned by Taylor and Mandi Smack. Blue Mountain Barrel House and Organic Brewery in Arrington took home silver in the Vienna-style lager category with FIVE Ofest. South Street Brewery in Charlottesville took a silver for Twisted Gourd (in the pumpkin spice beer category) and bronze for Slippery When Wit (in the session beer group).
“This is the most medals we’ve ever won,” said Ryan Aldridge, vice president of sales for Blue Mountain Brewery, the group’s mother ship in Afton.
The Richmond area was led by Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, which won silver among historical beers for Grosse Teufel. “Grosse Teufel is [a] take on the once nearly extinct Lichtenhainer—an Eastern German ale that strikes an exceptional balance between its smoked barley base and lactic acid tartness,” the brewery’s website says.
Ardent Craft Ales in Scott’s Addition of Richmond won bronze for its Brett Saison—brett refers to brettanomyces, traditionally a wild yeast that gives beer a funky, earthy characteristic.
Winners among Northern Virginia breweries were Ocelot of Sterling, gold for Sunnyside Dweller (in the Kellerbier or Zwickelbier
category); Ornery of Woodbridge, gold for Light of Cologne (in the German-style kolsch category); Lost Rhino of Ashburn, silver for Face Plant (in the English-style IPA group); Port City of Alexandria, silver for Colossal Five (in the old ale or strong ale category); and Great American Restaurants/Sweetwater Tavern in Centreville, silver for Wit’s End Ale (in the Belgian-style witbier category).
Spencer Devon of Fredericksburg took home a bronze for Sunken Road, a Belgian-style blonde ale in that category.