Devils Backbone repeats as Virginia breweries make strong showing at Great American Beer Festival

For the second year in a row, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. in Nelson County won top honors in its category at the Great American Beer Festival.

The brewery’s Basecamp operation was named Small Brewing Company of the Year, and head brewer Jason Oliver was again named Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year. (Devils Backbone also has an “outpost” brewery in Lexington.)

In judging results announced Saturday at the festival in Denver, Devils Backbone led the way in a record showing among Virginia breweries with six medals, including two golds — for Old Virginia Dark (an American-style dark lager) and Azreal (in the Belgian- and French-style ale category). Breweries in the Old Dominion brought home 14 medals, with Lost Rhino in Ashburn and Port City in Alexandria each winning gold.

Another moment in the spotlight came to Richmond’s Mekong Restaurant, voted America’s top beer bar for the second year in online voting. An Bui, the restaurant’s chief beer officer, was on hand to accept the award.

The 14 medals tops last year’s showing of 12 in 2012 and shows steady increase over the eight medals won in 2011 and seven in 2010. In addition to Devils Backbone, Lost Rhino and Port City, breweries that medaled include Three Brothers in Harrisonburg, Smartmouth in Norfolk and Great American Restaurants in Northern Virginia.

The Great American Beer Festival represents the nation’s most vigorous beer event and most prestigious competition. More than 4,800 beers from 745 breweries in 49 states, plus Washington, D.C., were judged in 84 style categories. The number submitted for judging represents a 12 percent increase over 2012.

For many, the festival in Denver represents the pinnacle of beer destinations in the United States. About 49,000 people turned out to sample more than 3,100 beers served by 624 breweries in the festival hall.

The record number of medals won by Virginia breweries coincides with robust growth in the state’s craft brewing sector, which now has at least 64 licensed breweries. At the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest in August, Devils Backbone also made a strong showing by capturing Best of Show for its Smokehaus Lager.

Breweries and their award-winning beers include:

Devils Backbone

Gold, Old Virginia Dark, American-style dark lager category

Gold, Azreal, Belgian- and French-style ale

Silver, Gold Leaf Lager, American-style or international-style pilsener

Silver, Berliner Metro Weiss, German-style sour ale

Bronze, Danzig, Baltic-style porter

Bronze, Ale of Fergus, English-style mild ale

Port City

Gold, Optimal Wit, Belgian-style witbier

Silver, Oktoberfest, Vienna-style lager

Bronze, Colossal One, aged beer

Bronze, Colossal Two, smoke beer

Lost Rhino

Gold, Rhinofest, German-Style Marzen

Great American Restaurants

Silver, Octoberfest, German-style Marzen


Bronze, Notch 9 Double IPA, Imperial India Pale Ale

Three Brothers

Bronze, Rum Barrel Belgian Dubbel-Style Ale, wood- and barrel-aged beer

About admin

I am a writer. And a musician/songwriter. And a husband/father. I love good beer, the outdoors, the embrace of family, the company of true friends, the telling of a good story and the inner peace derived from quiet reflection in solitude. Recently I have specialized in beer writing. My most recent adventure is "Virginia Beer: A Guide from Colonial Days to Craft's Golden Age" published fall 2018 by University of Virginia Press. In October 2014, "Richmond Beer: A History of Brewing in the River City" was published by History Press. "Charlottesville Beer: Brewing in Jefferson's Shadow," followed in January 2017. Send me an email at As you can see from this site, however, my interests are broader than beer. Spend time, leave a comment or just enjoy. Lee
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