I travel full time for Dine Wine & Stein. I travel across the Commonwealth of Virginia and the East Coast visiting breweries, vineyards and all types of craft beverage tasting rooms. Recently, a friend asked me, “With so many options, how do you pick your favorites? What makes a good story?”
It’s the experience. It’s the welcoming tasting room team, the lively conversation, the story behind the taste, the local food expertly paired and the overall vibe. It is more than just the liquid in the pint glass. Later, when I taste the beer or craft beverage, a memory of the visit floods back to me.
Keep reading, and I will tie this into a recent conversation with Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.
During the week before the annual Virginia Craft Beer Festival, I had an afternoon call with Brett Vassey, President, and CEO of the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild. I had a few questions about the upcoming festival and the marketplace. I learned a lot, and I want to share with you.
The Virginia Craft Brewers Guild was founded in 2010 with only eleven members. In 2017, the roster held 232 members. In the early years, the Virginia craft beer industry grew at a staggering annual rate of up to 17%. In 2018, the projected growth is in the 5% range. An entrepreneur, in any market, still smiles over a 5% growth rate. The Virginia craft beer industry is alive and well.
For the past few years, beer lovers across the Commonwealth have been captivated with stories with a national reach. Which national brand is establishing a brewery in our fine state? Which city wins the honor? Who is buying who? Are they still even a craft beer?
I skipped those subjects and asked Brett about his vision for the next five years. And I was thrilled to hear his response. Brett predicts that the next trend in Virginia Craft Beer will be the hyper-local brand experience. Visitors to the taproom will be introduced to a selection of beer styled to the neighborhood. Brew Masters will tell their story. Local food will be expertly paired to tasting flights. We will all enjoy our favorite musicians and artists while ordering a pint. Some may even play games or watch a movie on the brewery’s lawn. Not all of the beer will make it into distribution beyond the tap room. And that’s okay. We will be back to this tap room and this brewery.
As we push our grocery cart through the stores, we will spy a can or bottle of that beer. The memory of that fun time at the tap room will flood back to us, and we will put a six-pack into our cart.
Welcome to the age of the Nano-Brand-Fan. The age of the Virginia Beer Experience. The age of the well-curated experience that tells the brand’s story. (See, I told you that I would tie my call with Brett to my travel adventures) I promised Brett that in 2019, I will write a story about the Virginia Nano-Brand-Fan.
I also asked Brett about this week’s Virginia Craft Beer Festival. It’s the seventh annual festival and will be held in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 18. I asked him to give ticket holders some tips to thoroughly enjoy the day. Here are a few of his suggestions:
- The festival is a Rain-or-Shine Event. Bring your hat and your sunscreen.
- There will be plenty of shade at this year’s event—including full- size circus tents.
- Your ticket/pass covers a full day of fun.
- You can use your pass to obtain discounts at area restaurants or enjoy the festival food trucks.
- Enjoy live music throughout the day.
- There is a Virginia 2018 Beer Cup Winners Village
- Nearly 100 breweries, pouring over 300 beers in one location—be sure to check out the maps available.
Dine Wine & Stein Magazine hopes to see you in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 18th.
Have Fun DW&S Fans!
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – The 7th Annual Virginia Craft Brewers Fest has a new home, a new vibe and more brews than ever before. On Saturday, August 18 from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., craft beer lovers will experience tastings poured by award-winning brew masters, food pairings and more from nearly 100 of the Commonwealth’s craft brewers and vendors. VIP access begins at 1:00 p.m.
This year’s Fest, held during Virginia Craft Beer Month, is hosted by Three Notch’d Brewing Company at their new Craft Kitchen & Brewery located at IX Art Park in Charlottesville, VA. Situated on 17 acres, IX Art Park is only four blocks from the Charlottesville Downtown Mall area and within walking distance to hotels. Three local bus transit routes serve the site, which is easily accessible and offers plenty of free parking.
General Admission Tasting packages are $50 in advance and $60 at the door and include a 4-ounce tasting glass. Visit www.vacraftbrewersfest.com to purchase tickets.