I'm just back from spending two weeks in the US. It was a bit of a flying visit to a number of states. My first port of call was Virginia where I spent a few days with my good mate VelkyAl from Fuggled. One of the first places we visited was Devil's Backbone. We really went there for lunch and some beers. I didn't go exploring the brewery, although I did meet up with the head brewer on the way back to the car. UK and Ireland readers might be familiar with Devil's Backbone American IPA which is available at Wetherspoons pubs. We know that it's not brewed in Virginia of course. It's contract brewed at Banks' in the UK. I was curious to see how it compared to what you get in Virginia though.
As you can see, they don't have anything similar, or didn't at the time anyway. The closest would be 8 point IPA but this is a higher ABV and higher IBU beer than the UK beer. All of the beer was excellent and in particular, the Vienna and Schwarzbier. Al explained that Jason has a lot of experience brewing lagers. apart from time spent in Europe, he spent over 6 years brewing a Gordon Biersch who specialise in German style lagers in the US.
We also popped in to South Street in Charlottesville for a few beers. It's a handy location in downtown Charlottesville.
Apologies for the image quality, my phone didn't quite focus correctly for some reason. The beer was good, although if I remember correctly, one of the beers in the flight was a shandy. That's just wrong because in Ireland, a shandy is half a pint of cheap lager and then lemonade. In the UK, it tends to be half a bitter and lemonade but the result is the same. Having a 5% beer with added lemonade after fermentation is just wrong. This practice should be discouraged at the highest level as the result as an alcopop.
Starr Hill is the brewery where Al spent over 5 years working in the tap room. It's also a brewery that did the recent collaboration with the Carlow Brewing Company when they released Foreign Affair. I believe that Starr Hill is Virginia's largest craft brewery.
I actually brought a bottle of Foreign Affair over for Al to try. He might share it with some of the Starr Hill people who have yet to taste the finished product. I also managed to get a further 18 bottles of Irish beer in my luggage for Al to try.
Starr Hill had a great tap lineup when we arrived. Dark Starr was immediately ordered as it's a beer that Al has banged on about for years on his blog and you know what? It's a fantastic beer on tap and I enjoyed it immensely. It may be the best American brewed stout I have ever had. Perhaps I should clarify, this is an Irish style dry stout and it's the closest to this most beloved of beer styles that I have had in the US.
Of course, no brewery visit would be complete without a flight of beer to try so that's what I did next.
Out of the beers presented on the flight, all were excellent but Jomo, their Vienna style lager stood out above the rest. I went back to Dark Starr, my favourite of the beers I tried there. Another favourite was King of Hop so I bought a 6 pack of that before leaving.
The lighting in the tap room was excellent so I had fun with my DSLR and took some nice images.
I did get a look at the brewery itself. It's rather expansive and spans a number of rooms. While the brewkit itself isn't all that impressive, there is lots of fermenting space. I did notice that the ceiling is pretty low so there's little room to put in larger fermenters. They do have a lot of space though.
|Starr Hill Taps|
Apparently this is a thing, people taking pictures of the light and trying to match it in size to the starr hill sign in the background. Looks like I was a little off. More time was needed but unfortunately we arrived an hour or so before closing. I could have spent all day here actually, I really loved the tap room.
One of Al's favourite breweries is Three Notch'd. Al actually did a brew with them called Session 42, a recipe he designed using a lot of inspiration from the iconic Timothy Taylor Landlord.
Inside is a basic rectangular shaped tap room. We were lucky in that it was pretty early so the place was pretty quiet but I suspect it fills up at weekends and later in the evening.
I had my picture taken, a rare occasion as I'm generally the one taking the pictures. Of course I rarely get a serious picture taken so I pretended to be as 'Murican as fuck. I actually made this in to a meme on Friday as I was bored in work.
The obligatory tasting tray was tried after a pint of Session 42. All were excellent but I was particularly impressed by Session 42. Such a drinkable beer and that's quite rare in the US.
40 Mile was an excellent IPA
That's it for Virginia. We did visit a cidery called Bold Rock but the cider wasn't worth mentioning. The place itself is stunning though. If you like sweet cider, it's worth a visit. We also visited a couple of wineries and bought wine and mead but that's not worth mentioning here as this a beer blog. I would have liked the spend more time in Devil's Backbone, Starr Hill and Three Notch'd. Perhaps on another visit some day.
Asheville, North Carolina was next so that will be the topic of the next article.