"Virginia is for Beer Lovers" isn't exactly the state’s official mantra…but it might as well be. After all, Virginia is now producing some of the best brews in the south.
One man who can speak to the quality coming out of the great state of Virginia is Jason Oliver, Brewmaster for Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Lexington, VA. Having first cut his teeth at an Alexandria brewpub and spending the last eight years with DB, Oliver has managed to compile a most excellent list of favorite beers you need to drink when you visit the state (or a bottle shop!). However you may get a hold of them, here are some essential Virginia beers to add to your beer bucket list:
Czech-Style Pils, 4.5% ABV
Oliver says: “Classic, award-winning Czech-style pilsner. Crisp, refreshing, and with a subtle hop snap.”
Fun fact: Award-winning, indeed: Shower Beer won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in the Bohemian-style pilsner category! That’s a big deal. Champion's "shower beer" is also well-suited as a hair-of-the-dog treatment for the morning after a rough night. Hot shower + cold beer = ahhhhhh.
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IPA, 7.5% ABV
Oliver says: “El Guapo is an innovative American IPA brewed with agave nectar. It’s a unique take on IPA.”
Fun fact: El Guapo means “the handsome one” in Spanish, and is super fun to say. Similarly, O’Connor is based in Norfolk, a name that's also fun to say if you pronounce it like the locals do…. (Hint: it sounds like you’re cursing!)
Red IPA, 6.2% ABV
Oliver says: “This red IPA has a big, bright hop character with some nice malty notes. Juicy, hoppy, and malty: the best of all worlds.”
Fun fact: This spring seasonal is available on a nitro tap, which lends a deliciously creamy dimension to the beer. Keep an eye out for that if you find yourself in a Virginia bar! Starr Hill is based in Crozet -- which, unfortunately, doesn’t sound like any curse word in the English language.
Vienna-Style Lager, 5.2% ABV
Oliver says: “This best-selling Virginia-made craft beer is a multi-award winning classic European style amber lager. Mild caramel notes, medium body; approachable and super smooth.”
Fun fact: There’s a reason this beer won gold medal at GABF in 2016 (one of many it’s won since ‘09): DB's unofficial flagship is a perfectly executed take on a classic style. And if you’re a fan of beers with caramel notes, Vienna Lager has plenty to spare.
IPA, 6% ABV
Oliver says: “A classic American IPA with a solid American hop character of citrus and resin. An easy-drinking and rewarding beer.”
Fun fact: This beer from Three Notch'd might be from Virginia, but its six different hops (including standards like Centennial and Cascade, and more obscure ones like Falconer’s Flight) make this a West Coast-style IPA worth seeking out on the East Coast.
Baltic Porter, 7.1% ABV
Oliver says: “Hints of cocoa and coffee, plus full flavor. [Has] a nice drinkability.”
Fun fact: Two of Parkway’s brews are named in honor of… books? Turns out there's quite the literary scene in southwestern Virginia; thus, Parkway has also named its beers Factory Girl and The Remedy after books by local authors.
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Imperial Stout, 13.5% ABV
Oliver says: “This is a must-try if you can get your hands on it. It’s released once a year to great fanfare. A complex sipper with a cult following.”
Fun fact: Who doesn’t love a bold Russian imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels? To give you an idea of what’s involved in this brew, the vintage from 2015 was aged for nine months in Heaven Hill and A. Smith Bowman barrels. Each year, the release of the beer is quite the event…
Imperial Stout, 11.3% ABV
Oliver says: “A rare limited release, and another with a cult following.”
Fun fact: Enlightened Despot and a host of variants (i.e. one with coffee added; one with vanilla; and one with apple and cinnamon) have inspired an entire day of celebration at Lickinghole Creek called Despot Day. Hilariously, they also honor Day After Despot Day. Located on a huge farm, the brewery is worth a visit whether or not a Despot is present.
Note: Devils Backbone is a member of The High End, owned by Anheuser-Busch.