As has become common around these parts, Virginia’s local breweries racked up a bunch of Great American Beer Festival medals this year, while DC and Maryland… did not. The Commonwealth won 10 medals at this year’s competition, and we define 6 of those as local.

Port City’s Optimal Wit took gold in the Belgian-Style Witbier category, beating out luminaries like Allagash White (silver). This isn’t the first time Optimal Wit has medalled, and it won’t be the last.

Perhaps 2 hours before the GABF winners were announced, our podcaster and Instagrammer extraordinaire Brandy told me how excited she was to try Caboose’s Flanders-style Red Ale, which she picked up at the brewery on Thursday. Well, judges agreed, and it took gold in the Belgian-style Sour Ale category.

Further out on I-66, Bear Chase boasts one of the best brewery views in the area. They also have a gold medal winning German-style Marzen for their Oktoberfest. It won gold two years ago, too. Clearly we need to take a day trip out there.

Keep heading west and you’ll hit Vibrissa Brewing, which was Front Royal Brewing until earlier this year. Under Mike McCarthy (ex-Capital City, -Ocelot, and others) they’ve got their first medal, a silver for Park Pass Helles Lager. It’s in cans and easy to find in NoVa, and we suggest you do.


fairwinds-final-04 750.png

On the way back, consider a stop in Centerville. Sweetwater Tavern doesn’t can, but they do win gold, in back to back years, even, in the Rye Beer category with Crazy Jackass Ale.

Also in cans and medaling, again!, is Fair Winds Siren’s Lure in the American-Belgo-Style Ale category. The hoppy saison is an underrated gem in the area.

What about DC and Maryland? Well, you have to be in it to win it, and we don’t know how many area breweries sent beer to be judged. No doubt the pandemic continues to add a bit more complexity to breweries’ plans, and even before COVID-19, many DC-area breweries declined to participate in the judging. Participating breweries shell out $160 (or $385 if not a member of the Brewers’ Association) to submit a beer.

The GABF website lists the winners, and we extend a hearty congrats to all of them.