In partnership with Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Wednesday 12 February 2020
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Nestled midway down the east coast of the US, Virginia is a wonderfully varied state, with beautiful beaches, pristine woodland and majestic mountains (oh, and the heart of the Federal government, in Washington DC). According to Caitlin Clark, an international marketing specialist at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, it’s this diversity that gives the state’s mature craft beer scene such a strong sense of creativity and dynamism.
“Our geography is really unique, we have mountains, beaches, rolling hills, as well as really vibrant urban centres,” she says. “These different landscapes lend themselves to very different frames of mind and, from a craft beer perspective, to breweries taking very different approaches to suit their local market. And that’s not only our home-grown breweries; other breweries from around the states have identified Virginia as their second home.”
Visitors to this year’s Brew//LDN will get a taste of this creativity and diversity, at Virginia’s own stand, where it’s hosting five fantastic breweries. Regular attendees will already know to make a beeline for Virginia’s stand, which never fails to impress.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Some brewery stories are just meant to be, and that of childhood friends Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh definitely falls into this category. Meeting up as adults at a sheep station in Australia,
the pair had their first glass of full-flavoured home-brewed beer, an experience that shaped their ambitions so profoundly that, a decade later, they named their new brewery after the place.
Hardywood Park’s meticulous approach has earned it a superb reputation, not to mention a trove of awards. It’s particularly well known for its creative use of locally sourced ingredients and plays an active role in the life of the local community.
Port City Brewing
The oldest packaging brewery in metropolitan Washington, DC, Port City Brewing offers all visitors a very warm welcome. Founded back in 2011, Port City set out to honour the proud history of brewing that existed in the port city of Alexandria, until prohibition in 1915 saw the industry collapse.
O’Connor Brewing of Norfolk, Virginia, has over the past decade become a real hub of the beach community it calls home. It’s an idea that started 20 years ago, when founder Kevin O’Connor wrote his first college paper on starting a brewery, and finally came to fruition on St Patick’s Day 2010, with Kevin’s first batch brewed in his small garage warehouse. O’Connor has gone on to become a World Beer Cup Award winning brewery, with more than 40 employees, dozens of styles and a legion of fans.
Virginia Beer Company
It’s a bold move to put the name of the state on your label, but Virginia Beer Company has the brewing chops to pull it off. Based in Williamsburg and founded in 2012, the brewery has invested a huge amount of energy in its export business from day one, flying the flag for Virginian craft beer across the states and around the world.
Again, Virginia Brewing Company is very much a community-based and philanthropy-focused force for good. It’s the brainchild of a former financial analyst, a former consultant, and a former high school teacher turned professional brewer. Four year-round beers are complemented by a boundary-pushing rotation of limited edition beers including experimental IPAs, barrel-fermented brett saisons, and barrel-aged imperial itouts, among many other diverse styles.
With some of the wildest branding on the Virginia stand (and possibly the whole festival) Adroit Theory has a wild occult/dark metal vibe that’s truly one-of-a-kind. Its motto – Consume Life + Drink Art – is an oddly fitting reflection of its esoteric and style-challenging beers, with an emphasis on hazy IPAs, fruited sours, pastry stouts, and barrel ageing projects. Ferment is heading to Virginia in a couple of months, and we’re looking forward to visiting Adroit Theory’s taproom, which is by all accounts quite the experience.
“There’s real excitement among the breweries at getting beer out into the world beyond Virginia and surrounding states,” continues Caitlin. “It’s easy to ship beers from Virginia to the UK; we’ve been trading since the founding of the US, so we have that history. We’re also bringing some of our craft distilleries to some events in the UK this year, so the breweries are really part of a wider story of great craft produce coming out of the state.”
Read much, much more about Virginia’s amazing craft beer scene in issue 51 of Ferment, coming April 2020.
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