Friday, January 2, 2009

The Session #23 - The New Year

The January edition of The Session is being coordinated by Brewmiker (a.k.a. Beerme) at the Beer and Firkins blog. The theme is The New Year: What will you miss about 2008 and what do you expect will excite you most in 2009, in the "Beer World"?

Tough topic. I already did the requisite end of year post. I prefer to look forward to what's coming up rather than lament what's gone by. However, in the Old Dominion we are witnessing a passing of sorts. One stalwart Virginia brewery prepares to relocate out of the state, while another stands poised to claim their spot as Virginia's benchmark brewery.

It's old news now that Old Dominion Brewery plans to close the Ashburn, Virginia facility and relocate to Dover, Delaware. Old Dominion was established in 1989 and after 20 years was the brewery that came to mind when one thought of Virginia breweries. It's not the beers I'll miss, it's being able to associate Old Dominion Brewery with the Old Dominion. I do expect to the quality and availability of the beers to remain, it's the Virginia connection that will be missing. I have seen signs that under the new ownership distribution might actually be improved.

But enough of the old, it's in with the new. Starr Hill Brewery was established in 1999 in Charlottesville, Virginia and is now located in nearby Crozet. That same year they won a Gold medal (for Dark Starr Stout) at the Great American Beer Festival. Despite earning recognition at festivals almost every year, the breweries beers were limited in distribution. Then, in late 2007 Mark Thompson signed a distribution agreement with Anheuser-Busch. By the Spring of this year, the beers were available in Fredericksburg, and their range continues to expand.

What does this mean looking forward to 2009? It is my belief that Starr Hill is poised to become the new patriarch of Virginia breweries. All of their year-round beers have won multiple medals. They've also won a medal at the GABF for The Love seasonal, and also medaled in the Pro-Am competition with Smoke Out. Talk about putting a shine on the star! (Oooh, sorry.) Wider distribution, award winning beers — it all bodes well for Virginia's reputation as a beer state.

In addition to Starr Hill, there are numerous breweries making their mark in Virginia, and even more are soon to open. (Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, VA is another up-and-comer worth watching.) It's a great time to be a beer fan in Virginia. I look forward to enjoying more Virginia beers in 2009 and sharing those experiences here.

Update, January 3: Brewmiker has posted the Session roundup here.

6 comments:

  1. Having been a former resident (it is also the place of birth of my father and most of his family)of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, I like to keep current in the local beer scene. Blue Mountain sounds interesting. Thanks for the update!

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  2. I look foward to the expanded distribution of Legend. I was reading they are planning a 12oz bottling line. I am also looking foward to the additions of The Fredericksburg Pub and the brewery addition to The Pub. I imagine these places and the Capital Ale House will have a ripple effect with craft beer in the area.

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  3. I went to Virginia Wine Experience in Fredericksburg tonight after dinner at the CAH. I was happy to see they had a good selection. Much improved from the last time I was in there...3 years ago. I bought Double Dead Guy, Double Bastard, New Holland Cabin Fever, Bell's Christmas Ale (not impressed with it), Dry hopped St Rogue Red Ale, and Hell Hath No Fury (Bell's). A little pricey but they do give discounts for 6 bottles (5%), six packs (10%), and 12 bottles (15%). Very friendly staff.

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  4. What amazes me is that Route 151 in Nelson County (mostly) is becoming quite the random little corridor for fine drink. Within a fifteen mile stretch, right now, you can sample 15 beers, and earlier in the day you could have thrown a bunch of excellent wines and meads in the mix as well. Pretty cool for a random road in a county that didn't get its first traffic light until a few years ago.

    There's has been lots of chatter about Virginia being the "next Napa Valley" in the past several years. But while I think North Carolina probably lays claim to biggest and best recent beer boom, by far, but Virginia along with a couple of other states are not far behind. It has been a lot of fun to watch it all unfold, and exciting that it hasn't stopped growing.

    Ryan, it seems most people were disapppointed by Bell's Christmas Ale. But, the fact that it came to a surprise to most people is a credit to that brewery, and a reminder of the overall quality that we are fortunate to receive here in Virginia, when many parts of the country are not.

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  5. Dan, your comments are spot on. The beer boom in Virginia is nothing short of amazing. And like the wine industry, growth leads to more growth, there's strength in numbers. You are especially fortunate to live so close to that "corridor" where so much is happening.

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  6. Dan, I know what you are talking about. I was excited to get Bells in NC. But I was quickly disappointed with much of their beer. I like the Third Coast Old Ale and Hopslam and have been let down by everything else I have tried. For me, my disappointment doesn't say anything about the brewery except "par for the course".

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