By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
Virginia is no slouch when it comes to festivals, however the plethora of beer festivals that have sprouted in the Birthplace of Presidents like ‘shrooms after a summer rain make us as happy as clams at high tide. As our focus is Virginia craft beer, we want to turn readers on to two upcoming festivals that have among the finest selections of Virginia craft beer you will see anywhere, paired with great music and a beautiful rural setting. These are both fairly new entrants to the festival scene. The Virginia Craft Brewers Festival is a craft beer festival with music, and the Lockn’ Festival is a music festival with craft beer. Both of these festivals are worth a road trip as they are unique and special in different ways.
First, we highly recommend the Virginia Craft Brewers Festival, on Saturday August 23 from 2 – 7 pm, in Roseland, Nelson County. This is a celebration of Virginia’s craft brewers, with a sizeable chunk of the 80+ craft breweries from all over the state participating. You think you know Virginia beer? Guess again….few Virginia craft beers have statewide distribution. You don’t know what you’ve been missing but it’s safe to say there are some Virginia beers you are going to love waiting for you to discover them! At the VBCF, you will be able to discover great beers from different regions of Virginia that are not available at your local bar or beer store. Many brewers and brewery owners attend this festival, so it is a great opportunity to learn more about the beers and meet the people who brew them. The setting is very relaxed, with green grass, fresh air, a view of the mountains, and the beer lines are pleasantly short…in general this festival is a family-friendly, hassle-free experience. Lawn chairs, small shade tents for the kids, cornhole, hacky sack, ladder ball, bring ‘em on! Drink fresh Virginia beer, settle into your lawn chair, enjoy the live music, maybe join a cornhole game. There are food vendors (no outside food permitted), and you can pop into the Devil’s Backbone brewpub on the premises for a tasty meal. At 5:05 pm, you will see many brewery owners and brewers gather by the stage for the announcement of the Virginia Beer Cup award-winners in each style category. Mark Thompson, Founder and Master Brewer at Starr Hill, describes the judging process elsewhere in this issue. Which stout will be crowned the stoutest? Whose wit will reign supreme? Taste them all and make your predictions! The culmination of the awards ceremony is the Best of Show beer, whose brewery gets to take home the coveted Virginia Cup, and major bragging rights, for 2014.
Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company Basecamp at 200 Mosby’s Run in Roseland hosts the VCBF. Admission is $35 and includes a commemorative glass and all tastings. There are VIP packages with some additional benefits and reduced prices for designated drivers and children. Want to stay on site with no driving worries? You can buy a tent camping ($10), car camping ($5), or RV ($50) pass to stay Saturday night right on the rural site. Or, stay nearby at a B&B, Wintergreen, or in Charlottesville about 35 miles away. (Consult the VCBF website for their lodging spreadsheet. Accommodations in Nelson County are likely convenient to the VCBF). Tickets and information regarding the VCBF are at http://vacraftbrewersfest.com/
Second, check out the Lockn’ Festival, a four-day music fest held from Sept 4-7 at Oak Ridge Farm, a large rural site in Arrington (near the Blue Mountain Barrelhouse). Lockn’s inaugural year, 2013, featured a stellar selection of Virginia craft beer. This year, they plan to increase the beer emphasis and have a Brewer’s Village with 18 mostly-Virginia craft breweries showcasing 2 taps each and a chance to interact in a relaxed setting with brewers and brewery representatives. They will have additional beers outside of the Brewer’s Village if you just need a fill-up. The Edible Blue Ridge Stage will feature local foods, agricultural products and beer pairings. The food at Lockn’ was also a nice surprise, with a wide range of local vendors and better-than-typical festival food. And the music? A pretty amazing selection here as well! Here is a partial list of the line-up for this year: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Phil Lesh & Friends, Furthur, Wilco, Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Hot Tuna acoustic, Widespread Panic with Steve Winwood, Del McCoury Band, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Gary Clark Band, String Cheese Incident, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band! Lockn’ features two side-by-side stages; while one band plays the other quietly sets up, so when a band strikes their last chord the next band begins almost immediately. Different artists play different days, so if you choose a one-day ticket ($109-129) check out each day’s lineup on the festival website. Four-day tickets are $285, with special under-age-25 student tickets for $180. You can bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, shade umbrellas. No outside food or beverages. The festival features a marketplace with vendors selling clothing, artwork, crystals, jewelry, etc. This festival is not just for tie-dyed-in-the-wool jam band fans, although, if you are one, you are one you are sure to find kindred spirits. Lockn’ is well organized, the vibes are positive, the music rocks, and the beer selection is outstanding.
If you are driving to the festival each day, $20 parking pass allows convenient parking adjacent to the site for all four days; it’s best to buy online in advance. Or, you can tent, car, or RV camp on the festival site; there are shuttles from Wintergreen, and several hotels in Charlottesville and Lynchburg have shuttle packages. Some packages are sold out; at press time, the Quality Inn Lynchburg had a lodging deal for 4 nights, quad room, $884 includes shuttle service. This comes to $55 per person each night (plus tax). The nearest lodging you can find on booking sites like hotels.com are in Charlottesville (41 minutes) and Lynchburg (34 minutes). However, there are many local B&Bs and cabins you won’t find on booking sites. Fortunately, the Lockn’ folks have posted dozens of these lodging options in an excel spreadsheet, with addresses and phone numbers, on their website. Go to http://www.locknfestival.com/ and click ‘info/lodging/other lodging’ to find that cozy cabin or B&B, or click ‘Tickets’ to get yours before they sell out!