14th Annual Virginia Beer Festival
The sun shone bright on the Elizabeth River, the pretzel necklaces were proudly adorned around necks, and folks sure were thirsty. It was the perfect day for a beer festival.
Just a few weeks ago, my ale-adoring husband Patrick joined my side at Festevents’ Town Point Virginia Wine Festival (read more about that here), so in return, I treated him to tickets for the Virginia Beer Festival held May 16–17, hosted by Festevents and the Virginia Arts Festival. It was our anniversary weekend, and we spent a lovely afternoon sipping cold beers on the Norfolk waterfront, noshing on yummy eats from a local food truck, meeting up with friends and perusing the vendor tents.
Pitchers are available for those who don’t feel like waiting in line or want to stick to just one type of brew. However, with more than 70 breweries pouring samples of over 125 beers, we were anxious to get our samples on.
We started out at Wild Wolf Brewing Company, from Nellysford, Virginia. Their refreshing Ginger Lager was just what we needed to ease into the day. The ginger was present but not overpowering and lightened up with a crisp, citrusy punch.
On a completely opposite end of the spectrum, next we hit Flying Dog Brewery for a taste of Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout. It’s brewed with local Rappahanock River oysters and would be the perfect accompaniment to oysters as well.
At Green Flash Brewing Company, we parted ways with tastes as I indulged in the Double Stout Black Ale—with hints of bittersweet chocolate and coffee—and he chose Le Freak, a hybrid ale that blends a Belgian-style Trippel with an American Imperial IPA. Certainly freaky but in a good way. This San Diego-based brewery will be planting roots in Virginia Beach in 2016, and we’re sure excited to get on board their beer train.
Next up, 21st Amendment Brewery, out of San Francisco, offered a seasonal summer wheat beer, Hell or High Watermelon. It’s literally like drinking a watermelon, with its fresh and invigorating flavor—the ideal summer sip.
Another sip that I found to be especially refreshing was Farmhouse Dry Cider from Potter’s Craft Cider in Free Union, Virginia. Don’t let the word “cider” fool you. This isn’t an overly sweet beverage that’s akin to drinking fermented sparkling apple juice. This one’s crisp, a little tart and deliciously dry.
The festival wouldn’t be complete without sampling some local brews. At Virginia Beach’s Reaver Beach Brewing we tried the Oceanus Aurum Honey Rye Saison, an easygoing farmhouse ale with a mild honey hint and a touch of fruit. (Read about their Diablo Rojo Imperial Red Rye here.)
Norfolk’s Smartmouth Brewing Company poured an equally satisfying farmhouse ale, their Alter Ego Saison. It’s got some fruity notes and a dry finish and goes with just about anything. It’s one of Patrick’s favorites to keep on hand for sipping during yard work, or just sipping in general. My favorite, however, is their Cowcatcher Milk Stout.
We finished strong with O’Connor’s Great Dismal Black IPA, a full, bold ale with lots ‘o hops that’s named after the wildlife refuge that was once part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
After all those samples, we were famished and trotted over to the line of food trucks, deciding to partake in some fabulous fare from Bro’s Fish Tacos. Patrick chose the beer battered flounder and I went with the grilled blackened tuna tacos, each spritzed with fresh lime juice and topped with cabbage, house-made pico de gallo and signature white sauce.
After the afternoon’s festivities Patrick and I decided that the milestone anniversary gift for four years of marriage should officially be changed to tacos and Virginia craft beer.
Don’t fret if you didn’t make it to the beer festival. Here’s a guide to more summer festivals in Coastal Virginia.