No District brewpubs earned awards this year, but eight local and regional brewers were recognized at the 2010 Brewers Association World Beer Cup in Chicago last week. That’s no small feat given this year’s competition: 642 breweries from 44 countries and 47 U.S. states entered over 3,000 beers for only three awards in each of 90 beer style categories.
Devils Backbone Brewing Company, in Roseland, Virginia, won an impressive four awards for beer entries as well as Champion Brewery and Brewmaster in the Small Brewpub category. Brewery founder Jason Oliver took a gold for Danzig, his Baltic-style porter, and bronzes for his Schwartz Bier a German-style black lager, Morning Bear, a coffee-flavored beer, and Kollaborator, his German-style bock.
You may remember the former Gordon Biersch brewer’s strong showing at the Great American Beer Festival this year, where Danzig won a silver and three of his other beers, Gold Leaf Lager, Vienna Lager, and Natural Born Keller won a gold and two silvers, respectively.
The Lagerheads are embarrassed to say that we have only tasted two Devils Backbone brews, both at Brickskeller tastings. At one of them we actually sat at the same table with Oliver, but didn’t take the opportunity to strike up much of a conversation. We hope to visit Nelson County soon to see how this talented young brewer has managed to win eight major awards less than two years after announcing plans to open his own brewpub.
Baltimore brewery Heavy Seas (formerly Clipper City) was another big winner with a gold for their Gold Ale and bronzes for the Pale Ale and Marzen. Although our big-beer-loving palates prefer their Mutiny Fleet series, the Marzen was the first Clipper City beer we ever had and the reason we initially took note of the brewery.
Closer to home, both of the D.C. area’s Rock Bottom Brewery locations brought back serious bling. Rock Bottom Arlington won two gold medals, which is impressive in itself, but also noteworthy since the highest number of gold medals awarded to the same brewery was three (to Baird Brewing Company in Japan and Ballast Point Brewing Company in San Diego). Rock Bottom Arlington brewmaster Dave Warwick won golds for Harvest Moon Rye and a coffee-flavored beer called Dude, Where’s my Vespa?, which sounds like a name inspired by the same cultural phenomena that provoked this witty little ditty. Also taking a gold was Rock Bottom Bethesda with Highland Courage, a Scottish-style ale.
The year 2007 must have been a good one at Flying Dog because they took a silver at the World Beer Cup in the aged beer category with their Gonzo Imperial Porter Vintage 2007. This came after winning a gold at GABF for a Horn Dog vintage from the same year, one of four awards that helped Flying Dog earn Mid-Size Brewing Company of the Year. Or perhaps it’s the Frederick water because Flying Dog’s neighbors at Brewer’s Alley took a silver this weekend for the Brewer’s Alley IPA.
Speaking of good water, Blue Mountain Brewery, which is located not far from Devils Backbone in Afton, Virginia, won a silver for their American-style wheat beer, Rockfish Wheat. And last but not least, Nick Funnell of Sweet Water Tavern (or Great American Restaurants as folks in Atlanta prefer to call it) in Centreville, Virginia, won a silver for his Sidewinder Bock. We have been lucky to have tried a handful of beers from both of these Virginia breweries at special tastings and beer festivals but have never head any of this year’s award winners.
Which brings us to the point. It’s human nature to be drawn to the exotic, but we Lagerheads should probably spend a little less time hunting down beer in other countries and a bit more time exploring some of the great Virginia and Maryland breweries like the ones above. International beer trips are loads of fun (in fact, we just got back from one), but this year’s World Beer Cup proves there’s world-class beer right in our own back yard.