This year in Virginia we endured snowstorms that continued almost into April, so Memorial Day and the start of summer are especially welcome. For me, summer has always meant grilling, late night stargazing, lake beaches, ocean beaches, the smell of freshly cut grass, the hum of a ceiling fan, the intermittent glow of fireflies and more. In celebration of all things summer, I hit up the grocery store in search of some new Virginia craft beers to try, and here is what I found:
Monumental IPA (6.3 percent)
Port City Brewing Company, Alexandria
Part of the beauty of a create-your-own six-pack is stumbling across new beers. IPAs tend to be my favorite brews, and the Monumental IPA packed a lot of juniper flavor of hops with a sweetness that rounded it out more nicely than most of the IPAs I’ve tried. This one has almost a cinnamon-sweet finish, which is unusual in an IPA.
Lager (4.8 percent)
Legend Brewing Company, Richmond
I normally prefer hoppy beers, but I really enjoyed this Lager. With a pumpkin aroma and notes of coffee and chocolate, it was unexpectedly reminiscent of Guinness. The complex depth of flavor is the result of the barley malt the beer is brewed from. (If a beer is malted, that means that the barley was allowed to sprout slightly, then dried before brewing.) Although not be my pick for a refreshing summer beer, this would be perfect for a cozy fall evening.
Rhino Chasers Pilsner (5.6 percent)
Lost Rhino Brewing Company, Ashburn
This pilsner is described as “uncluttered and hoppy” on the can, and I would agree with that description. It’s a very classic pilsner, with a light amber color and a head that falls quickly after pouring. Because the pilsner offers the straightforward flavor of sharp, spicy hops, I think this beer would benefit from a food pairing—check out these suggestions from the folks at Serious Eats for some ideas.
Washington’s Porter (6.5 percent)
AleWerks Brewing Company, Williamsburg
Don’t let the dark color fool you: porters (and equally dark stouts) are rarely the bitterest beers around despite the distrust many of my friends view them with. Washington’s Porter is no exception—it’s refreshing and light, but with a dark, smoky flavor and a dark chocolate finish. I immediately thought that it would pair perfectly with s’mores.
Soul Shine Belgian Style Pale Ale (5.2 percent)
Starr Hill Brewery, Crozet
Starr Hill is close to my heart because it’s brewed minutes away from my house. It’s my beer of choice for pitchers at trivia night in the summer, and Soul Shine delivers a smooth brew that’s easy to drink. This one has some bite that’s complimented by floral notes of citrus and according to their website, tropical fruit. It has what I thought was a nice honey finish (in contrast to the spicy hops in the Rhino Chaser Pilsner, for example). It’s a seasonal beer, so grab some while it lasts!
Virginia Apple Hard Cider (4.7 percent)
Bold Rock, Wintergreen
Okay, hard cider isn’t exactly beer, but hear me out. Bold Rock offers what is, in my opinion, the perfect summer drink. Their hard cider is refreshing and light, with a crisp apple flavor that doesn’t taste artificial or overly sweet the way some do. Bold Rock really captures the bright, sweet flavors of summer fruit picking. Plus, it’s gluten-free!