Virginia is brewing some really tasty craft beer and the nation is noticing. The craft beer industry in Virginia has boomed very quickly from just a handful of breweries a couple of years ago to more than 80 as of this writing. It appears that Virginians and visitors passing through our beautiful Commonwealth are enjoying the liquid love on tap.
If 80+ breweries seems overwhelming, let this be a quick-start guide. Go where the big awards are (World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival, for starters) and then launch your flight tastings from there. Here are 11 award-winning craft breweries you should try now in Virginia.
1. Devils Backbone Craft Brewery in Roseland is a solid craft beer starter experience. DBB has certainly made a mark for itself in the world of craft beer since its 2008 opening. In 2013 alone DBB brought home six Great American Beer Festival (GABF) medals, plus two World Beer Cup (WBC) medals this year! Such acclaim boosts you to statuses like Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year (2012 and 2013 Great American Beer Festival) and Champion Brewery and Brewmaster (2010 World Beer Cup).
- Old Virginia Dark American-Style Dark Lager – 2014 WBC Gold Medal, 2013 GABF Gold Medal
- Vienna Lager – 2014 WBC Silver Medal (Outpost in Lexington)
- Danzig Baltic-Style Porter – 2010 WBC Gold Medal and 2013 GABF Bronze Medal
- Morning Bear Coffee Flavored Beer – 2010 WBC Bronze Medal
- Schwartz Bier German-Style Schwarzbier – 2010 WBC Bronze Medal
- Kollaborator Traditional German-Style Bock – 2010 WBC Bronze Medal
- Azreal Belgian- and French-Style Ale – 2013 GABF Gold Medal (Outpost)
- Gold Leaf Lager American-Style or International-Style Pilsener – 2013 GABF Silver Medal
- Berliner Metro Weiss German-Style Sour Ale – 2013 GABF Silver Medal
- Ale of Fergus English-Style Mid Ale – 2013 GABF Bronze Medal
- See More Awards
2. Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet near Charlottesville is one of Virginia’s oldest craft breweries (1999). Starr Hill’s eight core brews, four seasonal brews and select limited edition brews have together garnered 21 medals from the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup over the years. Here are the most recent accolades:
- Whiter Shade of Pale White IPA – 2014 WBC Gold Medal
- Dark Starr Stout Classic Irish-Style Dry Stout – 2008 WBC Silver Medal
- Amber Ale Irish Red Ale – 2002 WBC Bronze Medal
- Soul Shine Belgian-Style Pale Ale – 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship Bronze Medal
- See the Complete List
3. Apocalypse Ale Works in Forest proclaims, “the end of bad beer is here!” and they invite you to try what championship judges have loved.
- Heavy Red Horseman Scottish-Style Ale – 2014 WBC Gold Medal
- Red Hoppocalypse Imperial Red Ale – 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship Silver Medal
- Lustful Maiden Belgian Abbey Ale – Dubbel – 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship Gold Medal
4. Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton is Virginia’s first countryside brewery, hop farm and tasting room, not to mention, they have a farm-to-table restaurant on-site. Ten brews are on tap daily. Here are their latest accolades:
- Blue Reserve American- Belgian-Style Ale – 2012 WBC Silver Medal
- Rockfish Wheat American-Style Wheat – 2010 WBC Silver Medal
5. Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond operates a sustainable operation, with their energy being charged by wind and other renewable sources. If that doesn’t make you feel good about a visit, maybe a World Beer Cup acknowledgement will. Hardywood Gingerbread Stout won a 2012 WBC Bronze Medal in the Herb and Spice category.
6. Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria is just a hop, skip and a jump from Washington, DC, making it a favorite reprieve from Capital life. Their recent acclaims include …
- Optimal Wit Belgian-Style Witbier – 2013 GABF Gold Medal
- Oktoberfest Vienna-Style Lager – 2013 GABF Silver Medal
- Colossal One Aged Beer – 2013 GABF Bronze Medal
- Colossal Two Smoke Beer – 2013 GABF Bronze Medal
7. Lost Rhino Brewing Co. in Ashburn pairs locally-sourced eats with their gently handcrafted brews. Try the Rhino’fest Märzen, just released for the season today! It was awarded a gold medal in the German-Style Märzen category at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival.
8. Smartmouth Brewing Co. in Norfolk claims to “geek out to the science of brewing,” which is becoming evident when the judges of the Great American Beer Festival award them a bronze medal in 2013 for their Notch 9 Double IPA. Great effort sometimes equals great reward.
9. Three Brothers Brewing in Harrisonburg is actually comprised of three brothers a’brewin’. The brothers and their brewery are homegrown and loyal to their local roots, which makes a bronze medal for their Rum Barrel Belgium Dubbel Style IPA all the sweeter (2013 Great American Beer Festival).
10. Wolf Hills Brewing Co. in Abingdon only distributes locally to ensure optimum freshness and flavor. That being said, more than the region is taking notice of their brews.
- White IPA Out of Bounds IPA – 2014 U. S. Open Beer Championship Gold Medal
- White Blaze Honey Cream Ale American Cream Ale – 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship Silver Medal
- Ordinary Bitter – 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championship Bronze Medal
11. South Street Brewery in Charlottesville was founded in 1998, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the grand re-opening of this local brewpub. Here’s to hoping their award-winning beverages are still on tap!
- South Street Tripel Belgian Abbey Ale – 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship Gold Medal and 2011 Bronze Medal
- Anastasia’s Chocolate Stout – 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championship Silver Medal
- Satan’s Pony Scottish Ale – 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championship Bronze Medal and Judges’ Award for one of the Most Creative Names
- South Street Dubbel – 2011 U.S. Open Beer Championship Bronze Medal
Without a doubt there are tons more medals hanging around bottles in Virginia’s brewpubs. Explore and taste for yourself, especially during August Virginia Craft Beer Month, and let us know via the comments section about your favorite award-winning Virginia craft beer.
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© Casey for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2014