Trends on Tap

What to ask for at the store and your favorite bar.

Belle Isle Moonshine’s canned cocktails.

Photo courtesy of Belle Isle Moonshine

With nearly 550 craft beverage makers, Virginia has plenty of new booze offerings hitting the shelves in time for the weather’s turn toward winter. Drink up!

By the Can 

Booze is migrating from bottles to easy-to-carry cans. Often “session” drinks that boast lower alcohol volumes, canned options are entering nearly every category. 

Crozet’s King Family Vineyards started canning its dry “Crosé” this year in small batches, a chemistry experiment that more wineries are sure to take up. This summer, Williamsburg Winery released its dry rosé exclusively in a can.

The founders of Richmond’s Hardywood brewery released a Suncrush line of fruit-flavored sparkling ales—and a cranberry flavor is due out soon. Near Lynchburg, Apocalypse Ale Works added a Triad Hard Seltzer to its extensive lineup, and Devils Backbone Brewing Co. in Lexington started selling “fresh hop” gin-and-tonics by the can. 

On the distillery front, Waterbird Spirits opened this year in Charlottesville with plans to sell high-quality vodka-and-sodas and Moscow Mules in four-packs. And Richmond’s Belle Isle Moonshine recently released canned cocktails made with its moonshine and soda. Introductory flavors include Blood Orange and Ruby Grapefruit, with more due next year.

It’s Chill

The record rains of 2018 weren’t all bad news for Virginia wineries, which have turned some of those waterlogged crops into lighter-style rosés and chillable reds. Early Mountain Vineyard’s 2018 vintages—a rosé, a Five Forks white blend, and Soif, a semi-carbonic red blend—all become dangerously drinkable with a good chill. “The growing season in 2018 was a wash out with all that rain,” says EMV’s winemaker, Ben Jordan. But “chilled rosés and lighter reds have a lot of marketability, and they allow us to be flexible with what the vintage brings in.” 

Similarly, Rappahannock Cellars experimented with 2018’s harvest by making rosé in three different styles, two of which add sparkle and drink-now notes during secondary fermentation stages.

Reclaiming Lagers

Virginia’s craft brewing industry is taking back a variety that has (too) long been considered the antithesis of craft beer: lagers. Lagers got a bad rap in the ’80s, when the style was synonymous with low-flavor, low-alcohol national brands. Now, “our Vienna, VA Lager is one of our flagship beers,” say brewers John Downey and Caitlin Lawler of Northern Virginia’s Caboose Brewing Co. 

Hardywood’s Richmond Lager is a light-colored lager that won third place in its category in the Australian International Beer Awards for the last two years and is billed as a better, everyday sort of beer.

This article originally appeared in our Drink 2019 issue.

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