Thursday, March 24, 2016

#VABreweryChallenge - Bristol Virginia

I've been attending the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion annually for the past few years and have always wondered when the Virginia craft beer movement (#VABreweryChallenge) would hit that city. Two years ago I saw signs of an awakening and it looks like there are now two breweries operating within the festival's parameter.  On Piedmont Street adjacent to the festival's Piedmont stage, Bristol Brewery (#33) operates a 10 barrel brewing system.  On this visit there were 12 beers on tap, eight standard and four seasonal. My sampler included the Piedmont Pilsner, Barefoot Blonde, Helle Raiser Lager, Double Loco IPA, and Holiday Porter. The last was a little too holiday spicy for me, but the remainder were solid beers. The pilsner, blonde, and lager were all fresh and clean with a nice balance of hops and when appropriate salty minerals. The Double IPA was smooth - not overbearing with hops. My companion preferred the Sunset IPA (clean and citrus hoppy) and that's what we chose to fill the brewery's jug-like growler. Looking forward to hanging out at the brewery's outdoor patio during BRRR performances.

In recent festivals the organizers have expanded the festival grounds to include Cumberland Square Park where Studio Brew (#34) is now located. Their motto is "Beer is an Art" and is filled with an art - photo studio theme.  The beer styles are more aggressive and experimental but I started with a basic - the Das Pils. This is a nicely made beer - one of my favorites - with balanced minerals, salt, and hops. My sampler also included the Mexican Backfire, a lager augmented with agave, but the agave is very subtle - wishing there was a little more. The King's Porter is a standard light toffee porter and the IRA Hop Bomb a clean hoppy IPA. The most aggressive beer was the Dancing Monk Barrel, a Belgium Specialty Ale aged in used bourbon barrels. The bourbon's presence is noticeable throughout from the aroma to the burn at the finish. This is easily the most bourbon infused beer I've tasted - drink last because all other beers will taste weak and dull afterwards. Cheers to Beer as Art.

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