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January is always a strange time in the beer world.
You have a sizable portion of clientele who are participating in a Dry January (or at least taking a few weeks off) but we also see two of the years mostly anticipated releases in Troegs Nugget Nectar and Bell’s Hopslam (at least in years when the national supply chain issues don’t hold up its arrival in Virginia.) In years past this is a typical time to see many folks in the industry changing jobs and this year that’s meant seeing a few familiar friendly faces stopping in representing some of the bigger craft breweries in the market.
When we start back up our tastings you’ll be sure to see some veterans repping new brands. January is also a great time to take a look back at the previous year and make a few guesses as to what the upcoming year may hold.
Starting off, it was absolutely no surprise to me to see that no matter which way I sorted the numbers, our number one beer of 2021 was Bingo’s Classic Lager. Dollars, units sold, cans crushed by our cheesemongers — this one led them all. Was it the clean, refreshing, quaff ability of this beer that propelled it to the top spot? The fact that you get a six-pack of 16oz cans of craft lager at what has quickly become the starting price point for many 4 packs? Maybe it is just the understated beauty of the blue and white cans.
I’m not one to complain whatever the cause was, this beer was one of my favorites. In fact, a couple of cans were among the first beers to go in the fridge at the new house when I moved this past week. A perfect beverage to sip on while unpacking. While I don’t think that craft beer prices are going to come back down, I do think that a number of brands with the ability to produce solid options at this price point will take hold.
Recently Asheville, North Carolina’s Hi-Wire brewing announced plans to move all of its core beers into the six pack 16oz format and their Hi-Pitch IPA is quickly staking its claim to a top spot for 2022’s numbers here.
In the world of IPAs the talk might be all about the Hazies, but whether it is the never ending quest for the new or maybe a shift in overall preferences the top spot belonged to a newcomer for 2021 — Vibrissa’s Gracious Living.
The dream of the nineties is alive in Front Royal with this flagship West Coast styled IPA nestled alongside a series of delicious lagers, English bitters, milds and *gasp* more West Coast IPAs. Many see West Coast IPAs making a clear comeback in 2022 and I’m already hearing from brewers and sales reps that there are going to be some of the same types of innovations coming to the style that helped drive the Haze Craze of the past few years.
Hops in all their forms and citrus additions have already played a big part in the West Coast style’s history but look for talk of thiols and terpenes to join the conversation. We probably won’t be seeing any Frankenberry Milkshake 100 IBU DIPAs quite yet though.
Rounding out our top three for the year and certainly the one that caused the most excitement in its immediate arrival was 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust. We had our phones ringing off the hook when this first came into the shop, of course that was one of the only ways to reach us at the time since we had yet to re-open our doors at the time. The excitement of a long storied brand arriving really lit a fire for many of you. That excitement continued throughout the year as well and we were consistently moving through cases of the one time top rated brewery in the world.
What will be the next brewery to make its way to Virginia’s shelves?
There’s some STRONG contenders in the New England area that I know many of you are clamoring for and a number of California breweries that make the occasional appearance when some of the major beer festivals in the area are happening. If I had my druthers though we would finally see the return of some of my favorite Belgian breweries that have had their distribution rights in limbo for a few years.
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