By Diane Catanzaro and Chris Jones
Practically every weekend there is a beer festival somewhere in Virginia. Yes, life is good. Back in the day when the craft beer scene was nascent we would go to every beer festival. Of course, there were only about two per year. These days it would be a full time job to attend every beer festival and we’d need to be time travelers as there could be more than one festival on the same day! So, with this embarrassment of riches, busy schedules, and limited liver cells, we have to be choosy about which beer festivals to attend. One of the things we most desire in a beer festival is the opportunity to sample beers we have not had previously, or that are rare or hard-to-find in our area. This is getting harder and harder, as most of the beers at our local festivals are beers that we can find at our local beer bar. Because beer distributors want to expose customers to the beers available in our market, this makes jolly good sense. But, for the beer aficionado who is, like the peanut butter shopper of yore, a “choosy mother,” there may be very few beers at a typical beer festival that are not already familiar friends. Well, for those of us seeking some strange (beers) we have a solution to sate your craving. And that, my thirsty friend, is the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival!
The fourth Virginia Craft Brewers Fest (VCBF) will be held Saturday, August 22 at the Devils Backbone Brewing Company Basecamp Brewpub, about 35 miles from Charlottesville in rural Nelson County. The festival is a celebration of Virginia breweries. ONLY Virginia beers are allowed. The brewers and brewery owners attend and are happy to chat with you about their beers. You may be thinking “I always buy local beer, so I know Virginia beer.” Au contraire mon frere! This year there will be 60 craft breweries from Virginia represented. A total of 300 beers will be available for tasting. This festival is one-stop shopping to try a bumper crop of brews.
Another reason to go to the VCBF is that breweries will bring several of their best beers to the festival…it is definitely “fest to impress.” Each brewer and brewery owner knows their beers will be sampled by their peers in the craft beer world, so they bring their best game knowing it will be tasted by the Virginia beer-telligencia.
Another aspect of the VCBF that is special is that there is a beer competition for the top beers in each style category. For example, Best Pale Ale (Reaver Beach Brewing’s Ghost Ship scored the gold here in 2014), Best Belgian and French style Ale, Best Stout, etc. There will be an awards ceremony at the festival to announce the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners in each category, and then the Top Three overall for Best in Show. Devils Backbone earned ALL THREE Best of Show spots in 2014, for their Turbo Cougar Helles Bock, Smokehaus Lager, and Berliner Metro Weiss. Before you mutter “home job” we can assure you that these beers won fair and square. The judging protocols are very strict, all beers are judged blind, and the judging process was done according to the Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines. Diane participated in the style judging as well as Best of Show, and was as surprised as anyone when it was announced that DB brewed all three Best of Show winners. Although, she should not have been surprised, considering that Devils Backbone, under the leadership of Brewmaster Jason Oliver, has won 43 awards for their beers over the past several years at major national and international competitions like the Great American Beer Festival, the World Beer Cup, and the Australian International Beer Awards. As far as other breweries are concerned, Devils Backbone is the team to beat…okay, every year they are the team to beat. But, the quality of Virginia’s craft breweries has been growing by leaps and bounds and this might be the year the Brewer’s Cup goes home with someone else, you never know! When the awards ceremony begins, usually about 5 pm, it will be all hands on deck as winners in each category are announced and they strut to the stage to receive their award!
The festival is outdoors in a beautiful setting; we suggest you bring lawn chairs and/or picnic blankets. There will be live music and food available for purchase. Cornhole and lawn games are allowed and encouraged! This is a family-friendly festival. Youth and designated driver tickets are available.
Where to stay?
You can purchase a pass to tent camp or “glamp” (glam-camping, they provide bed, linens, lighting, decor) right on the site…no driving! Or park your RV on site.
Overnight accommodation options include the many B&Bs in the area and Wintergreen. Charlottesville hotels are about 35 miles away. Wintergreen has single and multiple-bedroom condos that can be a good deal, and is only 4.5 miles from the festival.
The Virginia Craft Brewer’s Fest
When: Saturday, August 22, 1 pm (VIP) 2 pm (Regular)
Where: Devils Backbone Brewing Company – Basecamp Brewing & Meadows
200 Mosby’s Run, Roseland, VA
Cost: Tasting package $35
VIP Package $65
Camping, Glamping, and RV passes available $20 – $250
Tickets may sell out, advance purchase is wise, particularly for VIP tickets.