I’m sorry to report that there were no West Virginia breweries pouring beer at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF 2016) this year. Though several did enter beers in the medal competition, none received a medal.
The good news is that numerous breweries from near-by sections of surrounding states and from Southern Appalachia did pour beer at GABF 2016. Breweries from these areas did well in the medal competition too..
In the summary below, some of those participating breweries from our region are highlighted. They are all places that would make good stops during a craft beer road trip.
Foothills Brewing • Winston-Salem, NC
Who said it: Ray Goodrich, director of marketing.
“GABF is a lot of fun because first of all it’s sort of the annual high school reunion of craft beer. You see people you haven’t seen in a year.”
About their 2016 Medal: Torch Pilsner takes bronze
“Our brewmaster T. L. Adkisson really loves this pilsner because it’s probably the most traditional beer we make. It’s real strict to a traditional Bohemian Pilsner recipe. It’s got those nice soft Czech Saaz hops in it.”
A signature beer: “Hoppyum IPA is our flagship IPA. It’s the top-selling North Carolina-made IPA. It’s got a real strong malt backbone. It’s not so bitter, but still has a ton of hop flavor.”
Why visit their brewery: They pride themselves on having awesome food in the downtown brewpub, to go along with 15 taps. If you have more time, head to the downtown brewpub and its try out its signature, out-of-the-ordinary sandwich menu. For a quicker stop, the production brewery is only a mile and a half off I-40. The 46,000 sq. ft. production brewery offers tours and a 28-tap tasting room.
Swamp Rabbit Brewery • Travelers Rest, SC
Who said it: Ben Pierson, owner, a.k.a. Godfather of Beer
“The pressure’s off,” he said about the brewery winning its second GABF medal. The first was a bronze in 2011 for Brown Porter.
About the medal winner: “Numbskull is a beautiful Maibock. It had about 90 days of age on it when it got judged. It’s very clear, clean and malty.”
“Our brewer Andrew Myers did a great job. He’s been with us for a year now, and he’s first-rate all the way.”
Why visit the brewery: Beautiful Appalachian Mountain foothills. Cozy taproom. Always something new on tap.
Flying Dog Brewing • Frederick, MD
Who said it: Nate Eckert, director of field marketing
“This is a great event that we want to be a part of. It’s awesome to see how our brewery evolves along with consumer preferences. Flying Dog is a regular attendee at all major Brewers Association events since its founding 26 year ago.”
A beloved beer: Most popular beer for them at GABF was Bloodline, a blood orange ale. Originally brewed for the Craft Brewers Conference in 2013.
“To think that we were working on a product like Bloodline three years ago, pushing the envelope.That’s what our brew team likes to do everyday is pushing the boundaries.”
Why visit the brewery: Their taproom offers all the core brands plus some special single-hopped rarities, the taproom-only Subrosa series (only 15-barrels of each produced), and the House Rules Pale Ale.
Frederick is ranked one of the best beer towns in the region. Flying Dog successfully pushed state legislation to allow breweries to operate taprooms selling pints and growlers.
Mad Tree Brewing • Cincinnati, OH
Who said it: Kenny McNutt, co-founder
“This is the world’s largest beerfest, so you get in front of a lot of people. It gives us a good excuse to get out here and explore other beers too. This year we brought a total of nine people out.”
A beloved beer: “One of our beers I’m most excited about is Joon. Joon is a kolsch-style ale aged in gin barrels with juniper and ginger. Very effervescent, very clean. It’s a great porch-drinking beer.”.
Why visit the brewery: “We always have 17 beers on tap. And pizza too.”
They have a great , fun space. It’s a very open environment with people of all ages, Folks bring their children and their dogs in.
Olde Hickory Brewery • Hickory, NC
Who said it: Matt Smith, head brewer
“What brings us here is the opportunity to let people know what were doing over in little Hickory. North Carolina is rapidly growing as a beer state, and we want to be recognized as a part of that growth and a part of something good that is North Carolina beer.
A signature beer: “Lindley Park (BA Imperial Stout) is the second barrel-aged beer that we’ve started doing. We use second-use Event Horizon barrels. Our barrel-aged beers do an excellent job of showing what we’re good at.”
Anotherreason for Lindley Park’s popularity is the addition of honey and raspberries.
About their 2016 GABF medal winners: “We were very happy to get a silver for The Event Horizon (BB Imperial Stout). It’s been a long time coming.”
Smith says it was also great to win another medal for Irish Walker English-style Barleywine — a gold this time.
Why visit the brewery: Smith said he knows West Virginians love a good time, and he promises that’s what they will find at Olde Hickory. They have three outlets in Hickory. Visitors will find all the core brands and some brewery-only specialties. Their next beer release is The Event Horizon on November 12, 2016.
Ocelot Brewing • Dulles, VA
Who said it: Adrien Widman, owner/brewer; Mike McCarthy, head brewer
AW — “What we get out of GABF is that it’s a whole lot of fun ,and we get to interact with all the other breweries, all of our friends, and celebrate this craft beer movement.”.
A signature beer: Double IPA.. “We’re known for our IPAs. They’re our backbone style. From 30 to 50 percent of all of our beers taps at any one time are IPAs.” — AW
The medal-winning beer: Ocelot received a gold medal for Sunnyside Dweller, an unfiltered, dry-hopped pilsner (kellerbier) with Magnum and Spalter Select hops. They’ve probably brewed it more times than any other beer in the 18 months they have been open.
“The dry hopping added a bit of lemony tart finish to the beer. It’s one of our staff’s favorite, even though we’re kind of known for IPAs.” — MM
Why visit the brewery: “We’re all Mountaineers, and we play every Mountaineer game. We’re owned and brewed by Mountaineers, and we love West Virginia. We just like to have a good time, drink beer and listen to music. Our logo is a guitar pick. And we have live music all the time. ” — AW
“We don’t have any flagships. We change up beers all the time. We’re having a lot of fun, and we’re getting to brew the beer we want to brew and that we’re passionate about.” — MM
Millersburg Brewing • Millersburg, OH
Who said it: Marty Lindon, brewmaster
About the medal winning beer: Lindon said he is ecstatic to win a GABF gold medal for his Barrel-Aged Doc’s Scotch Ale. It’s no ordinary Scotch Ale either. Lindon says that while it starts out as the regular recipe Doc’s Wee-Heavy-style Scotch ale, that is only the beginning.
“We age it for about eight weeks on applewood from a distillery in Virginia,” he explains. “Then we move it to Heaven Hill bourbon barrels and Jack Daniels barrels for about nine months. Then it goes into kegs and sits for three years.
“It’s a fantastic beer if I do say so myself. Everybody that’s tasted it was just blown away. There is so much complexity going on. The aging process just mellowed everything out.”
Why visit the brewery: For anyone planning a visit to Ohio’s Amish country, a stop at Millersburg Brewing is a no-brainer. Founded in 2012, Millersburg Brewing’s brewpub-restaurant is located in historic downtown Millersburg.
West Sixth Brewing • Lexington, KY
Who said it: Brady Barlow, co-founder
“First, you get a little bit of exposure, but that’s not the only reason. We bring a different group of people from the brewery every year, which makes it a fun trip. It’s really eye-opening to get to see all the other breweries out here. It expands your horizon on the overall craft beer society.”
“We want to stick a flag in the ground and say: Don’t forget Kentucky.”
A signature beer: “We bought Snake Cake out this time. It’s a beer we produce every year for our birthday. It’s Snake Eyes Imperial Stout aged in bourbon barrels with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans.
“It’s fun to come out here and show off a really special beer that shows that we’re doing more bourbon-barrel stuff.”
Why visit their brewery: “We have a new experimental beer every Wednesday. We have a new firkin every Thursday. Things are always changing.”
It does seem they always have something different going on, such as an event like their recent Oktoberfest. They keep 17 beers on tap and special releases from their Barrel Room.
Highland Brewing • Asheville, NC
Who said it: Holly Stephenson, brewmaster
“This is the ultimate beer tourism gig. It’s awesome to be out amongst our industry, but it’s also good to be in front of of all the attendees, because these are the people who are going to come and visit your brewery.”
At their booth they featured a new West Coast IPA and a new German-style Pilsner,
“We brought the fun new stuff.”
A signature beer: “Our Gaelic Ale is still our flagship. It’s our classic amber ale. It’s still our top seller.”
Why visit the brewery: “We have a small batch list with beers you can only find at the brewery. It’s just a great family-friendly brewery with tons and tons of space for entertainment.”
You’ll want to see their Meadow event space and a new rooftop bar. Tours, big tasting room, and food trucks.
North Country Brewing • Slippery Rock, PA
Who said it: Donnie Knight, sales manager
“I’ll travel anywhere for good beer. We want to share what we believe is a quality product with the rest of the world. Small breweries are what makes the industry.
A signature beer: “What represents us best is our Firehouse Red that we’re pouring today. It’s been our top seller for almost 12 years. We give 5% out of the draft sales to the volunteer fire department in our town. We’ve raised over $100,000 for them so far.”
Why visit their brewery: “We’re in the beautiful small town of Slippery Rock. Beautiful country. A lot of hiking. Great fishing. We’re ranked one of the top 25 brewpubs in the country.”
Their brewpub sits in a building built in 1805. It’s a nice family atmosphere. The bars and tables are all hand-carved reclaimed wood. Their kitchen serves farm-to-table cuisine. They have a very active sour and barrel-aged beer program.
“We have our own farm so we grow our own items on the menu. A lot of stuff we do in the beer, we grow on our own farm.”
Pro Re Nata Farm Brewery • Crozet, VA
Who said it: Brian Combs, general manager
“As a new brewery, we are here to get some feedback on what people like and don’t like about our beer.
A signature beer: Claudius Crozet Cream Ale.
“It was the very first beer that we brewed. It’s a very good stepping stone beer for people looking to get into the craft beer scene.”
Their brewing philosophy coming from the owner: Give me a beer my friends and I can drink, and you can do anything else you want.
Why visit their brewery: ‘”Right now, you can only buy our beer in our tasting room. You can also get a growler to go and a bottle to go.”
“We have a very nice patio out front with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There’s a nice fire pit and a large tasting room with 12 beers on tap all the time.”
You will normally find six flagships and six rotating seasonal beers Weekends feature live music.
Thomas Creek Brewery • Greenville, SC
Who said it: Tom Davis, owner and brewmaster
“It’s the Great American Beer Festival, so it deserves everybody from across the country to go to it. Its just another chance to get our name out there and do a little marketing.”
While Davis says they don’t brew for medals, they have had their share of success here winning medals in 2008 and 2010.
A signature beer: “Our Red Ale is probably our top seller. It is an all-round good beer for just about anything you’re doing. Our philosophy is drinkability. If you’re drinking one beer and you don’t want another, then I haven’t done my job.”
Why visit their brewery: Davis said Greenville has a rapidly growing craft beer scene.
“We becoming more and more of a tourist attraction. You can do eleven beers on regular taps and also some special brews including on-cask beer.”
Weasel Boy Brewing • Zanesville, OH
Who said it: Lori Wince, co-owner and assistant brewer
Lori and her husband Jay have been attending GABF since 1999, first as patrons, then as a pouring brewery. This year they poured Scot’s Dog Wee Heavy Ale, Brown Stoat Stout, Anastasia RIS, American Maid Pre-Pro Pilsner, and Mango Wheat.
A signature beer: Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout is a two-time GABF medal winner, in past years taking both a bronze and a gold. An English-style RIS, Anastasia is a little bit on the lower end of the alcohol spectrum at 8% ABV.
“It’s a really good, easy drinking. smooth. nice beer with lots of flavor.”
Why visit the brewery: “It’s a great experience at our place. We’re right on the Muskingum River. We have a patio, so there’s outdoor seating.”
They keep four year-round beers on tap plus 2 to 6 seasonals on at any one time. Their beer flights include a sample of every beer on tap and they sell them at a very reasonable price. You’ll always find a lot of variety.
“We do everything from a Blond to a Russian Imperial Stout. We have a great Wee Heavy too.”
Wicked Weed Brewing • Asheville, NC
Who said it: Walt Dickinson, co-owner and head blender
“We’re really excited. We’ve won a medal at every GABF we’ve been at. We like to show that we’re able to win in multiple categories. (In the past, they medaled with a sour beer, an IPA, and an experimental beer.)
“This was really exciting because this was our first Belgian-style beer to win. It’s so competitive; anybody has an opportunity. To win a medal, you’ve got to be super gracious.”
About the medal winning beer: Lunatic Blonde, a Belgian-style single.
“We try to make it a very authentic style Belgian single. To me that’s a beer that is very dry. It’s open fermented, which I think drives a better yeast character, which is kind of the heart and soul of beer, and also lets it dry out very well.
“We also make it a little hop forward using Mandarina Bavaria and Huell Melon, which makes the beer a little more right for the American palate. We’re a hoppy brewery so it reflects our approach to making beer.”
Why visit the brewery: Excellent restaurant and beer variety at the brewpub; great sours at the Funkatorium. In the middle of the Asheville’s South Slope brewery district.
Hi-Wire Brewing • Asheville, NC
Who said it: Luke Holgate, Head Brewer
Hi-Wire Brewing earned a gold medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) competition for its Zirkusfest Oktoberfest in the German-Style Maerzen style category. Zirkusfest is a traditional Maerzen that boasts all the flavors one wants in a rich Oktoberfest lager without the heavy finish (6% ABV),
“It’s amazing to know our crew made a beer on par with the top brewers in the country. It shows our internal drive to constantly improve, and when we execute, there is world class beer coming out of our facility.”
Why visit the brewery: With two locations in Asheville, visiting is most convenient. Both locations feature over 10 taps. Their South Slope taproom specializes in new releases from their sour program. The Biltmore Village production brewery taproom is spacious and open, and a great place to taste the fruits of Hi-Wire’s successful lager program.
Yee Haw Brewing Company • Johnson City, TN
Who said it: Jeremy Walker, on-premise director of sales.
“We just wanted to come out and showcase our beer with the rest of the beer loving world. We want to show them that very good beer is made in Appalachia and East Tennessee.
A signature beer: “Our Dunkel won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup this year. It represents a style of beer that Brandon the brewmaster really enjoys making — classic old-world-style lagers.
Why visit the brewery: Mountain scenery. Outdoor sports in the Smoky Mountains area. Ten taps of some really good lagers and ales in the large, comfortable brewery taproom.
North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild • Raleigh, NC
Who said it: Margo Metzger, executive director
“We want to be here to show our support for the Brewers Association.
“We make it a point every year to come out here and pour beers from North Carolina that aren’t available otherwise at the festival. We include 10 breweries over the course of the three days that wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to be here otherwise. Sometimes they are very small or very new and wouldn’t have a place here if they weren’t in the guild booth.
“There’s some beautiful, beautiful beers here behind this table.”