Virginia is for (craft beer) lovers. The Port City Optimal Wit took home gold.
Virginia breweries cleaned up over the weekend with 14 medals at the country's most well-respected beer competition. Only three states — California, Colorado, Oregon — were better represented.
The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo., brings together more than 50,000 craft brewers and enthusiasts from around the country every year. At the heart of the festival is the beer competition, where professional judges identify the three beers that best represent each beer-style category.
The Commonwealth took home four gold medals, four silver, and six bronzes in the competition. Alexandria's Port City Brewing Co. was one of the big winners, taking the gold for their Optimal Wit in the Belgian-Style Witbier category.
Port City Founder Bill Butcher says it was especially amazing to be recognized for Optimal Wit, the brewery's best-selling beer since they opened two and a half years ago.
"It was amazing to get the gold medal for that one," Butcher says. "We had a brief meeting with the brewers already and talked about kicking up production to meet the demand for Optimal Wit."
In addition to the gold, Port City won a silver for their Oktoberfest Vienna-style lager, and two bronzes for Colossal One and Colossal Two, both small-batch beers that Butcher says reflect the brewery's commitment to pushing their abilities.
"We brew experimental beers and then try them out in our taproom," says Butcher. "We are always experimenting to come up with new beers that we haven't done before."
In Nelson County, Devils Backbone Brewery also pulled in the awards, taking the Small Brewery of the Year award, two golds, a silver and two bronzes. Rounding out Virginia wins were a gold for Lost Rhino of Ashburn, Va., a silver for Great American Restaurants, a bronze for Three Brothers Brewing, and a bronze for Smartmouth Brewing Co.
Butcher says it's not a big surprise to see Virginia breweries do so well, since they came in fourth in medal count at last year's Great American Beer Festival.
"It felt like Virginia breweries were up on stage for most of the competition," Butcher says. "The state took in 14 medals in the competition, that's way up there as far as states go. I believe the quality of beer in Virginia has been getting better, and I think the standard has been set pretty high.
Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Md., also took home a bronze for their Dogtoberfest. No D.C. breweries were represented this year.
The full list of winners can be seen on the GABF website (pdf).