2009 Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest

Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest

What a festival!  I spent Saturday, June 27 at the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest at at Morven Park in Leesburg, Virginia.  I was there for a total of nine hours, from 10:30 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., and enjoyed every minute of it.  The recap:

On Saturday morning, I drove straight to the Comfort Suites, where I had a room for the night.  I got a ride on the hotel shuttle bus over to Morven Park and arrived around 10:30, after a painful round-about trip that I don’t care to revisit.   I worked as a volunteer from 10:30-3:30 and was initially assigned to the Sierra Nevada booth.  The tent was already staffed by two reps from the local distributor and the local brewery rep, Chris.  Chris was friendly and knew a lot about beer, and I enjoyed talking to him about Sierra Nevada brews.  I told Chris how much I liked Celebration Ale (one of my top ten favorite beers), and he told me that Sierra Nevada had just released Kellerweiss, a hefeweizen.

Sierra Nevada Beer Tent

Sierra Nevada Beer Tent

I was thrilled with the volunteer assignment.  We had four taps:  Pale Ale, Summerfest, Big Foot barleywine, and Yuengling Bock.  That’s right, I said Yuengling – the distributor reps commandeered one of the taps to push one of their beers.  The good news was that when one of the Sierra kegs kicked, it would be replaced by Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale!

Like a good beer pourer, I was amply educated about the beers I was serving before the first customers arrived when the gates opened at 11:00.  I knew I had to pace myself, but I really liked the Big Foot even though I’ve never been a big fan of barleywines.  I will buy a six pack of Big Foot in the future.  Chris said it’s a great beer to cellar.

The Sierra tent was right beside Hook and Ladder Brewing Company, and I got a chance to chat with the President and CEO of the brewery, Matt Fleischer and his wife Sarah, who happen to be my Kensington neighbors.  Hook and Ladder is based in Silver Spring, Maryland, and they have plans to transform an old Silver Spring firehouse into a brewpub.  It didn’t sound like the brewpub would be opening anytime soon, unfortunately.

Kona Beer Tent

Boa at the Kona Beer Tent

Before long, I had been reassigned to another beer tent that only had one volunteer – the Kona Brewing Company.  My fellow volunteer and I took turns pouring samples while the other got food, drank beer, and hit the porta-potty.  Kona was offering its Longboard Island Lager and Wailua Wheat Ale, which was brewed with passion fruit.  I enjoyed plenty of both beers while working the Kona tent.

The day was flying by, and I was surprised when the second shift came on duty at 3:30 to relieve me.  I really like working the taps at festivals and talking to people about the beer I’m serving, but it was time to switch roles and become a beer sampler (as if I hadn’t sampled enough already!).

Beth and the kids showed up about that time, and I pointed Beth to the beers she liked the most.  I had made plenty of friends in the morning – fellow volunteers who were more than willing to quench the thirst of a fellow volunteer – so I had quite my fill in the afternoon.  The whole family enjoyed the fair food and live music, and there were enough kids activities to keep Emily and Benjamin happy.  The best part was a ride to the hotel was just a phone call away!

I finally called for the hotel shuttle bus after 33 beer samples from 21 breweries.  As I said, what a festival!  My list of beers sampled, along with some special notes, are included below.

Complete List of Beers Sampled

21st Amendment Brewery (CA)

Brewfest Kids Activities

Brewfest Kids Activities

  • Hell or High Watermelon Wheat Beer

Allagash Brewing Company (ME)

  • Curieux (Barrel Aged Tripel, 10.5%)
  • White

Blue and Gray Brewing Company (VA)

  • Fred Red Ale

Boulder Beer Company (CO)

  • Hazed & Infused (IPA)
  • Flashback Anniversary Ale (India Brown Ale, 6.9%)

Clipper City Brewing Company (MD)

  • Red Sky at Night (Saison, 8%)
  • Oxford Organic Raspberry Wheat

Founders Brewing Company (MI)

  • Centennial IPA (7.2 abv)

Hook & Ladder Brewing Company (MD)

  • Backdraft Brown
  • Golden Ale

Kona Brewing Company (HI)

  • Wailua Wheat Ale (brewed with passion fruit)
  • Longboard Island Lager

Legend Brewing Company (VA)

  • IPA
  • Wheat

Mountaineer Brewing Company (WV)

  • Pale Ale
  • Nut Brown

New Holland Brewing Company (MI)

  • Existential Ale (Barleywine, 10.5%)

Old Dominion Brewing Company (DE)

  • Beach House Golden Pilsner

Oskar Blues Brewing Company (CO)

  • Mama’s Little Yella Pils

Redhook Brewery (NH)

  • Sunrye Summer Ale

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (CA)

  • Bigfoot Ale (Barleywine, 9.6%)
  • Pale Ale
  • Summerfest
  • Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale (Fresh Hop IPA, 6.7%)

St. George Brewing Company (VA)

  • Olde Richmond Batch No. 11 (IPA)
  • Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale

Starr Hill Brewing Company (VA)

  • The Love (Wheat)
  • Northern Lights (IPA)

Sweetwater Tavern (VA)

  • Silverado Cream Ale

Troegs Brewing Company (PA)

  • Hopback Amber Ale

Widmer Brothers Brewing (OR)

  • Drifter Pale Ale

Yuengling (PA)

  • Bock Beer

Best Beers
Aside from the Sierra Nevada and Kona beers, which I really enjoyed because I was pouring them, a few beers stood out:

  • Curieux (10.5%)
    From the Allagash Brewery Web Site: To make the Curieux (French for “curious”), we age our Tripel Ale in Jim Beam barrels for 8 weeks in our cellar. During the aging process in bourbon barrels, the beer is totally transformed, and many new flavors and aromas develop. Most notably, the beer picks up soft coconut and vanilla characteristics…and also a hint of bourbon flavor!
  • Existential Ale (10.5%)
    From the New Holland Brewing Company Web Site:  Consider it an extremely hoppy barleywine, or a really big IPA. Either way, ten hop additions contribute to its lush and intriguing body. Aggressive dry-hopping brings a strong citrus character to the aroma. The flavor and smell of orange-blossoms pervade throughout the experience.
  • Tuppers Hop Pocket Ale
    This beer is back!  I had heard that Tupper contracted with St. George Brewing Company to make his beer, and I was thrilled to find Hop Pocket Ale at the St. George tent.

I’d also give a nod to the beers from Hook and Ladder, Boulder Beer Company, and Starr Hill Brewing Company.

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