Virginia Craft Brewers Fest is a soggy success


Soggy craft beer enthusiasts braved the rain at Devil's Backbone this weekend to celebrate the first annual Virginia Craft Brewer's Fest. Photo: Hunter Smith. Soggy craft beer enthusiasts braved the rain at Devil's Backbone this weekend to celebrate the first annual Virginia Craft Brewer's Fest. Photo: Hunter Smith.

Saturday, August 25th, was the inaugural Virginia Craft Brewers Fest, held on the grounds of Devils Backbone Brewing Company in nearby Nelson County. With over 22 participating breweries, Virginia’s craft beer surge has certainly earned itself its own day in the sun. Alas, that was not to be the literal case. After moving back into my remodeled home in the rain for six hours, I decided to clean up, dust off the rain gear, and head out to Roseland. Nearly halfway there, I remembered that there was a rainout date, so I called both Levi Duncan (Starr Hill) and Jason Oliver (Devils Backbone) to confirm it was on, heard that it was, and kept plugging.

We arrived to a busy scene of mud, trucks, tents, and happy people in ponchos. A tasting package got an attendee 10 tasting tickets, each redeemable for a 4 0z. sample. Having exhausted most of the offerings from local breweries on my own time, I tried to get around to other VA beers I haven’t had before. Some of the ones I sampled (alongside a fantastic Rock Barn Bratwurst) included the River Brewing Company’s ‘Peachicot‘ (sweet, syrupy and irresistable,) Hardywood Park‘s ‘Bourbon DIPA‘ (double IPA aged in Bowman’s whiskey barrels,) Port City Brewing‘s ‘Porter‘ (robust and fitting for the drizzle,) and O’Connor Brewing‘s ‘El Guapo‘ IPA (brewed with Agave.) I used my last ticket for a safe play, and went with one of my personal favorites, Blue Mountain Brewery‘s Dark Hollow (Bourbon barrel-aged stout.)

I also encountered a few folks from the world of wine, including Nick Dovel of Pollak Vineyards, and Jim Corcoran of  Corcoran Vineyards, and recently of Corcoran Brewing, Jim’s vineyard co-located nanobrewery.

Saturday’s hosts, Devils Backbone, took home the 2012 Brewer’s Cup (Best Overall) for their ‘Schwarzbier‘ (black lager.)

It was refreshing to see so many fans of Virginia Craft Beer enduring the rain, undaunted, and on a mission for more local goodness. Seeing this much enthusiasm behind a festival that only serves craft beers made in the Commonwealth makes me very excited to man my own booth next year.

  • hornjock

    It was great to try some beers and support local brewers, but I was dissapointed with the festival. There were no signs to direct foot traffic from the campground to the fest, hearing the poor ticket sellers explain how the ticket system worked time and time again was trying to even *listen* to, and the continuing monetary drain of buying a car pass, two camping passes, two entrance fees (without any tickets included) and a confusing, expensive ticket system for the food and drink drained our bank accounts and our spirits more than the rain. However, going to this festival made me appreciate my local beer fests so much more! Thanks!

    • Justin Billcheck

      Hornjock….There was a tasting package that included (10) 4 oz. Tasting Tickets so there was a package that included those tickets. Our prices are comparable to many other beer festivals (that don’t offer camping) and the camping prices are on par with what the State Parks charge and is a much cheaper option than the Wintergreen and many of the bed and breakfast rooms in the area. The ticket system for beer is done like this at many other events including Fridays after Five and we’ve found that most people see a benefit on using the $6 tickets for food. It takes a lot of staff and expenses to put together an outdoor camping event, but as always we take feedback like this to heart and always try to get better. We do hear you on the signs to direct foot traffic. It was an oversight/mistake on our end in the run up to the festival and we do apologize for that inconvenience. Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss or if you have anything else to pass on and I do appreciate you taking the time to post. Justin Billcheck – Cerberus Productions.

  • Chris

    You missed an awesome Oktoberfest when you bypassed St. George from Hampton! Was a great festival even with the rain.

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