I spent Saturday drinking homebrew. No shock there you might think, but it wasn't my own brews I was imbibing, I was judging at a competition.
The competition was a very small affair, just six entrants, but the winner is to have their beer brewed on the big system at Three Notch'd. I have to admit I was somewhat worried about the judging as the chosen style for the competition was IPA, a style that I rarely brew myself, and then it is usually so I can dodge the style at other competitions I am judging. I am also not a huge fan of drinking IPAs, though I think our local breweries in Central Virginia actually make some damn good ones, especially Devils Backbone's 8 Point, Three Notch'd 40 Mile, and Starr Hill Northern Lights - maybe I just prefer the East Coast way of doing the style...
Anyway, the winner of the competition brewed a beer which was simply delightful. Boatloads of malt complexity and a real balance from the hops, this was no tooth enamel stripper and it was all the better for it. To add some creativity to the brew, she added honey and orange peel, that actually had me thinking she had used Goldings hops at first. The drinkability of the beer, and it was bloody delicious, belied its 7.88% heft. The beer was called Raucous IPA and I am very much looking forward to it being available around Charlottesville. From my experience with Session 42, it is such a great feeling seeing your beer in restaurants and bars.
The standard of the entrants got me thinking about how this part of Virginia seems to have a real wealth of brewing talent, whether doing it for a living or as a hobby - I love Levi Duncan's, formerly of Starr Hill and now at Champion, thoughts on brewers, whether you are a pro or a homebrewer is irrelevant, we are all brewers. One of the members of the homebrew club I go to, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale, recently won a gold and two bronzes in round one of the NHC, and our club regularly does well in competitions like the Dominion Cup and Virginia Beer Blitz.
Brewing in such a well stocked area for talent definitely makes a brewer have to strive to improve all the time, which can only be good the brewing community as a whole. Not only is it a good time for the beer industry, it's a good time for brewing your own as well.