This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the 2nd annual Virginia Craft Brewers Fest (VCBF) in Charlottesville, VA. The VCBF was held once again at Devils Backbone Brewing Outpost and featured over 30 Virginia breweries. The weather this year was perfect. The sky was a clear blue allowing you to take in Devils Backbone’s amazing scenery. The brewery is surrounded by rolling mountains of green trees that tumble into one another. The natural beauty of Charlottesville is such that whenever I visit I end up contemplating what I am doing with my life. Thoughts of selling everything I own packing the family up and moving down begin to tickle my ear like the banjo from Bryan Elijah Smith & The Wildhearts that was playing on the stage as the festival began.
I’m a sucker for VIP and free shwag but purchasing the VIP package was the way to go for more reasons than the complementary glassware it bought me.
Not only did I get the 4oz tasting glass (above) and a commemorative VCBF beer glass I was also able to use the tented area to get out of the sun or skip the lines for the restroom. By far the best bonus of the VIP package was being able to enter the festival one hour earlier than the general public. Imagine a line of booths cutting across an open field with each booth containing an eager brewery waiting for you to walk up and ask them about their beer. This artery of craft beer provided an unique opportunity to talk to the owners/brewers/employees of many of my favorite breweries. Being able to meet in less crowded setting allowed you to chat without feeling like you were holding them or anyone behind you up.
I was also very impressed with the efficiency of the VCBF staff and organizers. Everything from parking, Eventbrite mobile tickets and free water station seeming perfectly organized to allow craft beer lovers to have an amazing time. The free water was a much appreciated smart touch. While the weather was beautiful standing in the sun for hours drinking is going to take a toll on anyone. It was refreshing being able to grab a cup of cool water and definitely prolonged everyone’s day. Also I was impressed that the festival offered a VIP package for designated drivers. My wife, who does not drink, was SUPER AWESOME to offer to be our DD for the day. She was thrilled to be able to drink as much of her preferred beverage (Coke) as she wanted for free. It was little touches like that as well as the friendly staff that will make me return to this festival every year.
People have asked me what beers were my favorite. For me that is an almost impossible question to answer for a couple of reasons. I don’t want to come off like an unsophisticated homer but I truly enjoyed 98% of the beers I tasted. Perhaps I don’t have the properly trained palette yet but these breweries were being judged on the beers they were pouring so they weren’t going to bring anything that they didn’t know was great so that 2% of beers I didn’t care for were more because of I’m not a fan of that style of beer (Sour beers, yowza!).
The ones for me that did stand out (in no particular order):
The Admiral (Three Brothers Brewing): Winner of Gold in the Strong Ales category and was my favorite IPA of the day. Three Brothers Brewing is out of Harrisonburg, VA and are also the winners of my new favorite new brewery category.
Pear Lager (Devils Backbone Brewing Outpost): Winner of Silver in the category of Fruit/Spice/Herb/Vegetable. This was a nicely crisp and refreshing lager that was exactly what I was looking for on this hot day after tasting many many IPAs.
Kolsch 151 (Blue Mountain Brewery): Winner of Gold in the Light & Amber Hybrid category. This is a beer I can have anytime of the year.
Here are some pictures of our day:
(all of this came out of my pockets at the end of the day)
My only suggestion for an even better festival next year would be to double (or triple) the number of food trucks. 2200 people bought tickets this year and only 3 trucks. Each truck was amazing but they were slammed and the waits were long.