Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 in Review

It's feels cliché to say it, but, where did the year go? As we wind down 2008, I thought it would be fun to recollect some of the beer highlights of the year. 2008 was the first full year of Musings Over a Pint and readers of the Musings have played a part in these highlights in many ways, so I hope you'll find this interesting too.

Festivals and Travel
I was fortunate enough to attend six beer festivals in 2008. We had the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest in June and the Northern Virginia Brewfest in September. Both of these events organized by Bill Madden and are poised to become Virginia's premier outdoor beer events. Very close to home, the Blue & Gray Brewing St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest celebrations offered opportunities to enjoy more than a few pints with good friends. Traveling south, I attended two events put on by All About Beer Magazine. In April it was the World Beer Fest in Raleigh, followed in October by the World Beer Fest Durham. The best thing about attending the festivals is running into old friends and making new ones. My day job also took me to Denver three times this year so I got to enjoy that great beer town on several occasions.

The occasion of my 50th birthday in March was marked with a couple of exciting events as well. Early in the month I attended a dinner with Lucy Saunders at Tuscarora Mill in Leesburg, VA. The dinner was based on recipes from Lucy's The Best of American Beer & Food and featured Clipper City beers. Later in the month, the celebration continued at home with a fun party with close friends. 

Pubs and Breweries
On the Fredericksburg area beer scene, we saw the opening of the Capital Ale House in Fredericksburg. I do believe that the extensive beer list at Capital Ale House will have a positive affect on existing, and upcoming, pubs in the area. Regionally, beer fans celebrated the opening of Devil's Backbone brewpub in Nelson County. 2008 brought the news that Old Dominion Brewing would be leaving Virginia and moving to Delaware. They've not left yet, but December saw what was probably the last public event at the patriarchal Virginia brewery. However, as if to counteract this loss, Starr Hill Brewery in Crozet, Virginia, saw increased distribution and recognition in 2008.

Of course, there was the beer. I don't track every beer I drink, but I do try to keep an list of new-to-me beers. (If for no other reason than this end of the year accounting.) According to my list I tried 162 new beers in 2008. That's not including tasting samples had at festivals and other tastings. Most of those new beers were purchased in bottles or cans (113) while 49 were found on draft or brought home in growlers. Not surprisingly, 12 of the drafts were had at the new Capital Ale House.

The new beers comprised approximately 54 different styles, depending on how one views beers stylistically. Interestingly the top three were hop-forward beers; American IPA (12), American Pale Ale (12), and Double IPA (9). Obviously hops continue to hold my attention.

U.S. brewers, as expected provided the bulk of my new beers in 2008, with 139 American beers added. Eight other countries contributed. Besides the U.S. the top three included Belgium (9) and England (4). In the U.S., California (23), Colorado (21), and Virginia (18) led the field. I tried to devote extra attention to Virginia breweries this year. Virginia beers enjoyed for the first time in 2008 were:
  • Blue and Gray Brewing Minor Dementia Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout
  • Blue Mountain Brewery Full Nelson Pale Ale
  • Blue Mountain Brewery Lights Out Holiday Ale
  • Legend Brewing Barleywine (2007)
  • Legend Brewing Chocolate Porter
  • Legend Brewing Oktoberfest
  • Old Dominion Brewing Beach House Golden Pilsner
  • Old Dominion Brewing Dominion Baltic Porter
  • Old Dominion Brewing Millenium
  • Old Dominion Brewing Pale Ale
  • Old Dominion Brewing Spring Buck
  • Starr Hill Festie
  • Starr Hill Jomo Lager
  • Starr Hill Pale Ale
  • Starr Hill Smoke Out
  • Starr Hill The Gift 2008 WinterBock
  • Starr Hill The Love Hefeweizen
  • Williamsburg AleWerks Drake Tail India Pale Ale

Without a doubt, the best memories of 2008 are the people. Many of the aforementioned beers were enjoyed in the company of loved ones and good friends. Of all the things I enjoy about my involvement in craft beer, the real pleasure comes back to the people. The most rewarding part of doing this blog is the many friendships I've made because of it, both readers and fellow bloggers. The internet social media also played a big part. Many new friends were made via Facebook and Twitter. It's been very rewarding to meet so many of those folks in person and enjoy a pint or two.

I enjoyed sitting down and reading over the past year's posts while preparing this retrospective. It was fun to reminisce about all the good times we had in 2008. I do appreciate that so many of you take the time to read these Musings. I hope to raise a pint with even more of you in 2009!


  1. I guess Blue Mountain doesn't count as a new brewery for me this year as they've been open 15 months or so, but they have put out some phenomenal new beers this year. My favorites have been the Wintergreen Hibernator Doppelbock, Humpbock Oktoberfest and the Dark Russian. Let's just say good times were had in that brewery during the fall and winter. Yum.

    I got to know South Street for better and worse this year. Their pilsener and saison were particular hits. I also got to know Beer Run in Charlottesville very well.

    Devil's Backbone's opening was a fine end to the year. Incredibly solid beers, the best Vienna lager I have ever had and the best Scottish ales I've ever had not made by AleSmith.

    I attended both World Beer Festivals and had some epic "beer days" all across the state with old and new friends. I discovered a love for sour beers this year and discovered a new favorite brewery (New Glarus).

    It has been an amazing beer year for me, and I can't imagine the surprises that wait for me next year.

  2. Thanks for sharing Dan. Maybe I'll run into you at one of these places in 2009.


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