Local Beer Package
When faced with rows upon rows of Virginia beer, how to decide which to try? You can find most local beer in one form or another in stores as widely varying as the wine shop Once Upon a Vine and your neighborhood Kroger. Richmond isn't alone in its beer boom — small breweries are springing up all over Virginia.
We invited three Trying to sort out the categories was a herculean task that almost sunk the idea of a competition before it even got started. But with a little advice and a lot of steely resolve, we decided that just four categories were necessary: light (including pilsners, lagers and ales), dark (including porters and stouts), IPA (or India Pale Ale, the most common style produced by breweries nationally) and a seasonal variety (fall brews with wild-card ingredients like pumpkin or ginger).
In our blind tasting, the judges considered qualities such as a beer's appearance (sparkling or muddy?), aroma (bitter, fruity, wheaty?), flavor (balanced or off-putting?), body (light or heavy?), perception (what makes this beer good or bad overall?), plus a little extra credit for beers where special effort was expended or which were the result of a particularly inspired idea.
Beer aficionados will find some favorites in our list of the top 12 Virginia beers, but our judges also made a few unexpected choices — selections that surprised even them. For the rest of us, the tasting results make for a handy guideline that can help us find our way when we are confronted with dozens of taps or a multiplicity of bottles with unfamiliar names. After all, most people want to bypass the technical terms and foreign-sounding names and go straight to the first, foamy sip of what was just poured in their glass.