Virginia Beer Festival 2003

If you're looking for the official web site with the details of the 2004 event - click here.


17th May 2003

We've got visitors. Evelyn came back to help out with the new baby Michelle, and Beth has come for a quick visit and some sightseeing. Anne took them out in the morning while I was at the computer fair. The plan for the afternoon was that we would all go in to Norfolk. The ladies would spend time around Macarthur Mall looking at the historic houses in the area, while I spent my time at the Second Annual Virginia Beer Festival. This is part of the Virginia Arts Festival which is in full swing right now. We've been to a few shows for the Arts Festival. We did the two live Philip Glass performances, and we went to the Mark Morris Dance Group performance last weekend. The Beer Festival isn't as cultural, but it was just as much fun. It started at 2:00pm, and I arrived late at about 3:15pm. But that still left plenty of quality drinking time. [Beer Fest 2003 ticket]

[Entrance to the Virginia
Beer Festival]

I wasn't sure about the arrangements, but soon got sorted out with the tickets. $20 to get in, and you get a small beer glass, a tasting size beer glass, nicely etched with the Festival details. Once you had your glass, you lined up and it was all you could drink.

I met Doug inside. It was crowded. To the left, there were five booths with local beer. To the right, there were seven or eight booths with beers from further afield. The lines on the non-local booths were pretty big, so we started with the local beers.

[The non-local booths]

As well as beer booths, there were a few food booths and there was the obligatory cigar booth. This was the day for beer and cigars. So many people chewing on huge fat cigars.

[The cigar booth]

It was dull and overcast, with a few drops of rain, and it was cold. I was all rugged up, as I usually am even in summer, but Doug was wearing shorts. After the first ten beers, neither of us was feeling the cold or the rain. There was a band on the stage, pumping out old rock. Guitarist also played flute, but spared us old Jethro Tull numbers.

[The cigar booth]

A small crowd started to gather in front of the stage, but it wasn't from appreciation of the band. It was to get out of the drizzle.

[The cigar booth]

We went through the local breweries - Williamsberg Brewery, Hilltop Brewery, Old Dominion Brewery and the St George Brewery. We were after strong tasting beers, so we were drinking wheat beers and porters, and ale or lager or pilsener if that was all they had. The Old Dominion brewery had three beers that were all really good. We had quite a few of theirs.

Note I went looking for web sites of local breweries and found this compendium of Virginia Breweries. I'm going to have to try and sample all the beers from all these breweries.

After we got through the local breweries, we headed to the non-local side and lined up for the Abita Brewing Company. This is a Louisiana brewery and I've had their beers before - TurboDog and Purple Haze. We knew the pourers - Heidi and Lisa from work. I waited till they were busy with a barrel to get a photo of them.

[Lisa and Heidi]

I had the TurboDog and a Wefheisen from some other brewery, then a Smuttytongue Old Brown Dog. The lines were long and as soon as we got one beer we joined another line and drank while getting ready for another sample.

[Lining up for more beer]

The old band left and a new band came on stage. Take one punk band, add a few kilts and a female fiddler, call them Celtic and you have the Jeff Greer Band. They play at the White Horse Pub. Energetic and fun. I bought their cd. The only down side was the last song they played for the day. I can live quite happily if I never hear "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" again. Just becauise there's a fiddle-player in a band doesn't mean that it's obligatory to play Devil-Georgia. However, the drunken rednecks in the thinning crowd loved it.

[Jeff Greer Band]

[Jeff Greer Band]

Doug liked the band. And Doug liked taking photos. Here he is trying for an up-the-kilt photo of the band.

[Doug taking an up-the-kilt

By about 5:00, it was cold and wet. The crowd was thinning. There were no more lines. You rolled up to a booth and instantly got beer.

[The thinning crowd]

By 5:30pm, some of the breweries had run out. St George was finished. We had consumed a lot of beer. Surprisingly, we were still standing and were still reasonably lucid. Here's Doug, standing straight, with camera in hand. He took a lot of photos.

[Doug with camera]

We stayed to the bitter end, the final song of the band and then headed off.

Doug was heading home, but I had one more stop for the day. Anne drove past and we drunkenly flagged her down. I got in and the three women laughed at my ripe aroma of beer and cigar. We did a quick drive around looking at the old houses in Norfolk and laughing at the silly names of the large number of weird churches. And then we had dinner at the Greek Festival.

[Fiddler in the Jeff
  Greer Band]