Thursday, August 7, 2008

Whither Local Beer?

The Annual Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair is the oldest continuous running agricultural fair in the Nation. After 270 years the fair added a "beer garden" to the venue this year. The Free Lance-Star reported that fairgoers could "choose from a selection of five beers: Blue Moon, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Coors Light and Leinenkugel." My schedule didn't permit me to visit the fair, and based on the beer list I wasn't compelled to make a special effort just to see the beer garden.

The question that immediately comes to mind is "where are the local beers?" Local home brewer and FABTS founder, Lyle Brown asks this question in a letter to the editor in today's Free Lance-Star:
Plant some local suds in fair's beer garden

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Fredericksburg Agricultural Fair had a beer garden this year ["Beer garden is popular fare," July 31].

I hope it went well enough to continue in future years.

What was a little disappointing is that the Fredericksburg Fair did not feature a Virginia beer in its beer garden.

No, I am not referring to Anheuser-Busch, which is now headquartered in Belgium. I am referring to any of the outstanding Virginia-owned and -operated breweries there are to choose from.

Virginia has a rich heritage of beer making, all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, who brewed his own beer at Monticello. Why can't our local fair feature beers that give a nod back to that tradition?

There are currently at least six breweries brewing and bottling their own beer in Virginia. It would be very nice to go to the local fair and be able to enjoy a local beer.

Even better, wouldn't it be a novel idea if the Fredericksburg Fair offered at least one beer from Fredericksburg's own Blue and Gray Brewing Co?

Blue and Gray has been brewing beer here in Fredericksburg for seven years now, and they make four excellent beers, plus several seasonals.

Surely it would be possible to offer at least one local Virginia beer at our fair!

The Fredericksburg Fair is a popular local attraction and draws visitors from around the state. With the growing interest in Virginia agri-tourism, especially related to Virginia breweries, this oversight by the fair organizers is disappointing. I agree with Lyle in the hope that this event did well enough to become a regular feature. However, there seems to be little to attract craft beer fans. And I doubt even fans of macro-beers would make a special trip to the fair grounds simply to have a $3.00 cup of Miller Lite. I am sure however that this beer fan would make a special effort visit the fair in support of local breweries. Perhaps next year.

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