You don’t need to hold out your pinkie while holding a stemmed tulip glass filled with a high-gravity barleywine. You’re not compelled to isolate yourself in a quiet corner of the bar, dissecting your drink. You needn’t look down your nose at those who proclaim their loyalty to the beer they’ve drunk for decades. You don’t even have to like hops.
But you might want to swirl and sniff. After all, the best way to celebrate anything is to milk it for all it’s worth. And May 11-17, that means honoring American Craft Beer Week, a nationwide observance promoted by the Brewers Association, a nonprofit group representing small and independent brewers. In Richmond, distributors, restaurants, retailers, local breweries and other brewery reps are providing plenty of opportunities to celebrate.
The styles: Even after repeal, Prohibition affected the American beer scene. Palates had lost their taste for the richest of beer styles; most small, independent breweries didn’t survive the 13-year drought; and post-Prohibition laws unwittingly encouraged use of cheap adjuncts.
Decades of mass-produced, standard American lagers ensued.
Choices now, however, range from mild lagers that rest easy on the palate to rich ales bursting with flavor, alcohol and bitterness. Brewers’ creativity introduces variations on existing styles and a diversity of added ingredients — fruits, spices, honey, herbs and much more.
To celebrate American Craft Beer Week, look for some of today’s more popular styles:
Lagers: The lower-temperature fermentation results in a clean, crisp beer.
Wheat beers: light, low in bitterness and easy-drinking, often with added fruit
Brown ales: nutty and malty, medium bitterness
Coffee-infused stouts: perfect for the coffee drinker
Saisons and other Belgian-style ales: filled with pleasant spices
Sours: With a similar acidity to wine, these often appeal to a wine drinker. Look for American beers with allusions to gose, brett, Berliner weisse, Flanders, lambic, wild, tart, sour and wine-barrel aging.
IPAs and imperial IPAs: pleasant bitter beers with essences of pine, citrus and other fruits, herbs, flowers, spices and other natural aromatics
Cider or mead: beer’s apple- and honey-based cousins
Food pairings: Today’s best restaurants know that beer pairs quite well with food. The wide range of flavors and aromas complements cuisines from mild to spicy, from rustic to haute, from white fish to Vietnamese.
Stop the presses! I’d nearly finished my First Drafts column when I got news of the Copper F…
If you’re unfamiliar with the pairing power of beer, check out a beer dinner. The courses are designed to ensure that the food and beer not only stand on their own but also make each other shine. Brewers and chefs in attendance describe their creations and why they complement each other. Sip, sup and learn.
Also on tap are tap takeovers, aka tap invasions, highlighting multiple products from one brewery and often paired with steal-the-glass events — purchase the featured brewery’s beers and take home the glass.
Tastings: Want to try some beers without committing? Retailers offer tastings, choosing a brewery or sometimes a theme to highlight.
Festivals and special events: Bringing many breweries together, festivals offer the opportunity to explore a variety of styles and breweries, frequently with bands and other entertainment, food and vendors.
This year’s American Craft Beer Week in Richmond brings a learning experience as well. Participants in the New Belgium Sour Symposium have the chance to learn from experts from America’s fourth-largest brewery.
Brewery experiences: Today’s breweries are more than just production facilities. They provide places to hang out, relaxing in the tasting room, chatting with friends, playing cornhole or catching live music. And, of course, you get beer straight from the source, as fresh as it comes, as well as the occasional brewery-only release.
Savor: To best appreciate the aromas and flavors of a fine craft beer, you might want to embrace the ways of the beer geek. Avoid serving beer too cold — chill will dampen the aromas and flavors. Drink from a glass to allow the beer’s aromas to meet your nose. Note the color, from light gold to a deep brown. Gently swirl the beverage in your glass and take in the smell. Sip, savor and note what strikes your senses: bready, toasty, roasty, raisiny, fruity, piney, spicy, flowery, buttery — the possibilities are practically endless.
And always know this: Only one opinion matters. Explore, but find what you like. That’s when the celebration becomes yours.
EVENTS FOR AMERICAN CRAFT BEER WEEK
May 12, 6 p.m.: Brew Bellgrade hosts an Ardent Craft Ales beer dinner. 11400 W Huguenot Road, Midlothian. www.brewgastropub.com
May 14: Sedona Taphouse hosts a Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery beer dinner. 15732 WC Main St., Westchester Commons, Midlothian. www.sedonataphouse.com
May 12: Blue Goat presents Hardywood beers, including some 2014 GBS, and steal-the-glass. 5710 Grove Ave., Richmond. www.bluegoatva.com
May 12: Heritage presents Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery beers, including Nugget, Tripel, Sunset, Quad, Beaver, Short Pump. 1627 W. Main St., Richmond. www.heritagerva.com
May 12, 5 p.m.: Sedona Taphouse presents small-batch Samuel Adams beers, The Sphinx, Pigs in a Blanket, Verloren, Grumpy Monk, Thirteenth Hour, Honey Queen, Porch Rocker, Rebel Rouser, Rebel IPA, Rebel Rider, Summer Ale, and a mystery beer. 15732 WC Main St., Westchester Commons, Midlothian. www.sedonataphouse.com
May 13, 5 p.m.: American Taproom presents Samuel Adams tap invasion and food pairing, featuring The Sphinx, Honey Queen, Pigs in a Blanket, Thirteenth Hour and Boston Lager. 1601 Willow Lawn Drive, Richmond. www.americantaproom.com
May 13: Tarrant’s West presents Strangeways beers and a patio party. 11129 Three Chopt Road, Richmond. www.tarrantswestrva.com
May 13: Joe’s Inn presents a Sierra Nevada event. 205 N. Shields Ave., Richmond. www.joesinnrva.com
May 14, 6 p.m.: F.W. Sullivan’s presents Samuel Adams Pigs in a Blanket, Grumpy Monk, Rebel Rouser and Boston Lager. 2401 W. Main St., Richmond. www.sullysrva.com
May 14, 4 p.m.: Commercial Taphouse & Grill presents Heavy Seas beers. 111 N. Robinson St., Richmond. http://theanswerbrewpub.com/commercial-taphouse-beer-list/
May 14 5 p.m.: Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint presents Green Flash, with five beers on tap, including Silva Stout, a special Ristretto Cosmic Black Lager pin and steal-the-glass. 5810 Grove Ave., Richmond. www.jackbrownsjoint.com
May 14, 6 p.m.: Lady Nawlins presents Samuel Adams' Thirteenth Hour, Verloren, Honey Queen, Rebel Rouser and Summer Ale. 2329 W. Main St., Richmond. www.ladynawlins.com
May 14: Sedona Taphouse presents RVA craft beers from Lickinghole Creek, Hardywood, Ardent, Triple Crossing, Strangeways, Midnight, Center of the Universe and Legend. 15732 WC Main St., Westchester Commons, Midlothian. www.sedonataphouse.com
May 14: Sine patio tap takeover with Devils Backbone. 1327 E. Cary St., Richmond. www.sineirishpub.com
May 14: The Pig and Pearl presents Lickinghole’s Supreme Leader, Goochland Quad, Nuclear Nugget and Magic Beaver. 2053 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.thepigandpearl.com
May 15: Burger Bach Short Pump presents a mini tap takeover and beer and burger pairing with beers from Ardent Craft Ales. 2225 Old Brick Rd., Short Pump. www.burgerbach.com
May 15: Southern Railways Taphouse presents Lickinghole’s Magic Beaver, Virginia Black Bear, Nuclear Nugget, ’Til Sunset, Short Pump Saison and Three Chopt Tripel. 111 Virginia St., Richmond. www.srtaphouse.com
May 11, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Westland presents Ace Cider. 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 11: Total Wine Robious presents New Belgium Brewing. 10036 Robious Road, Bon Air. www.totalwine.com
May 12, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Westland presents New Belgium Brewing. 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 13, 3-5 p.m.: Kroger Carytown presents Sierra Nevada Brewing. 3507 W. Cary St.
May 13: Shield’s Market presents Hardywood. 206 N. Shields Ave., Richmond. www.shieldsmarketonline.com
May 13, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Westland presents Bold Rock. 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 14, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Westland presents Terrapin & Foothills Brewing (featuring the new Foothills summer seasonal, Hop Job session IPA). 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 15, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Westland presents Abita & Three Notch’d. 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 15, 4:30-7:30 p.m.: De Fles Winkel presents Hardywood beer tastings and tap takeover. 11355 Nuckols Road, Glen Allen.
May 15: Shield’s Market presents Lickinghole’s Magic beaver, ’Til Sunset, Nuclear Nugget, Rosemary Saison. 206 N. Shields Ave., Richmond. www.shieldsmarketonline.com
May 15: Kroger Carytown presents Foothills, including the newly released Hop Job session IPA. 3507 W. Cary St.
May 15, 4-7 p.m.: Total Wine Robious presents Heritage Brewing. 10036 Robious Road, Bon Air. www.totalwine.com
May 16: Total Wine Westland presents Sierra Nevada (1-4 p.m.) & Heritage Brewing (2-5 p.m.). 8099 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.totalwine.com
May 9, noon-6 p.m.: Virginia Hops & Barley Festival at state Route 288 and Huguenot Trail features more than 30 Virginia craft beers for sampling, plus live music, food and more. $20 in advance, $25 at the gate. $50 VIP ticket. www.vabeerfest.com
May 14, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Total Wine Robious hosts Mike Hinkley, CEO and co-founder of Green Flash Brewing, which is building its second location in Virginia Beach. $5. 10036 Robious Road, Bon Air. www.totalwine.com
May 14, 6-9 p.m.: Graffiato RVA hosts the Pre Funk Happy Hour with Lauren Woods Salazar and Eric Salazar, New Belgium’s wood beer specialists. Sip New Belgium sours, including the popular La Folie. 123 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.graffiatorva.com
May 15, 5-7 p.m.: The Answer Brewpub hosts the New Belgium Sour Symposium. Beer blending experts Eric and Lauren Salazar teach attendees the art of blending sour beers, with hands-on opportunities to taste and blend and to sip on La Folie and nibble on charcuterie. $45. (8-10 p.m. session is sold out.) 6008 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.theanswerbrewpub.com
May 15, 10 p.m.: Mekong: Sour After Hours, post-symposium gathering. All invited to mingle and enjoy Mekong’s selection of sour beers. 6004 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.mekongisforbeerlovers.com
May 16, noon-5 p.m.: Capital Ale House in Midlothian hosts the Copper Fox Brewfest & Mesquite Challenge, presenting beers from Virginia breweries, all with their own beers using Virginia’s Copper Fox Distillery Mesquite Smoked barley malt. Live music and barbecue. $20. 13831 Village Place Drive, Midlothian. www.capitalalehouse.com
May 16, noon-6 p.m.: Lake Anna Brewfest offers more than 40 local and regional breweries with more than 80 beers, plus food vendors, music, kids' activities and more. The Cutalong at Lake Anna, Mineral. https://www.facebook.com/lakeannabrewfest
May 11, 4 p.m.: The Answer Brewpub pays tribute to ACBW all week, kicking the celebration off with RVA Appreciation Night, including draft specials and live music by the Mekong Express at 9 p.m. 6008 W. Broad St., Richmond. www.theanswerbrewpub.com
May 11: Center of the Universe taps Orange Is the New Stout to kick off ACBW. 11293 Air Park Road, Ashland. www.cotubrewing.com
May 12: Strangeways presents Craft Beer Trivia Night for ACBW – The Pot Thickens. 2277-A Dabney Road, Richmond. www.strangewaysbrewing.com
May 11, 3 p.m.: Legend Brewing features a vertical Tripel tasting with vintage Tripels. 321 W. Seventh St., Richmond. www.legendbrewing.com
May 14: Center of the Universe taps a special SAVOR-edition pin of El Duderino. 11293 Air Park Road, Ashland. www.cotubrewing.com
May 15: Legend’s limited-releases party offers small-batch, bourbon-barrel and hard-to-find beers for on-site consumption. 321 W. Seventh St., Richmond. www.legendbrewing.com
May 16, noon-10 p.m.: Midnight’s third anniversary party, with special beer release, bands and food trucks. 2410 Granite Ridge Road, Rockville. www.midnight-brewery.com
May 16: Triple Crossing’s Hops to a Cure collaboration beer release and benefit for Massey Cancer Center, a mild ale in recognition of May as Mild Month. 113 S. Foushee St., Richmond. www.triplecrossingbeer.com
May 16: Ardent IPA Day, with at least seven IPAs on tap. 3200 W. Leigh St., Richmond. www.ardentcraftales.com
May 16: Hardywood Evelyn release, featuring a session pale ale from brewer Kevin Storm, part of the Brewer & Artist Series. 2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond. www.hardywood.com