Made in Virginia 2018 Awards: Drink Winners

22 quality products created with pride, passion, and a commitment to craftsmanship. 

Ballad Brewing

Home Double IPA, Danville

Grains, hops, yeast, and water. Ballad’s head brewer John Andorfer swears by simplicity. Yet within these four simple ingredients, Andorfer has unlocked a near limitless amount of flavors, as evidenced in the Danville craft brewery’s award-winning Home Double IPA. Brewed with a blend of eight bold hops, each 750-ml bottle is aggressively hoppy from the first sip, rounded out with a subtle fruity sweetness. For a double IPA, Home is noticeably well balanced and full-bodied, with a smooth, creamy texture that helps to counteract the hop bite. After the hop flavors subside a little, there’s an earthy aftertaste that sticks with you. The beer’s name is a nod to Danville, where Ballad Brewing found a home in a renovated 19th-century tobacco warehouse—now a 20-barrel, modern facility capable of brewing 10,000 barrels of beer each year. And no matter where you drink their beer, you’ll feel right at home, too. 

$13.80 per bottle. BalladBrewing.com

Blue Bee Cider

Hewe’s Crab, Richmond

The Hewe’s Crab was once the most famous apple in North America. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin all raved about the golden cider it produced. However, the apple was thought lost forever after Prohibition’s dry spell. Now, after a single surviving plant was found in the late 1990s, Virginia cideries like Richmond’s Blue Bee have revived this American tradition. Blue Bee produced its first bottling of Hewe’s Crab in 2015, and even though this year’s harvest is the largest ever, it’s still only enough to produce about 2,000 bottles. 

“This is an American cider apple from Virginia, one of just a handful in the world that can stand alone as a single varietal—that almost never happens,” says Blue Bee founder Courtney Mailey. Buttery, floral, and with a touch of tannic fruitiness, the complex taste of Hewe’s Crab even has savory notes that evoke spices like cumin. It pairs well with roast turkey or chicken—perfect for a Thanksgiving gathering. 

$19.95 per bottle. BlueBeeCider.com

Falls Church Distillery

Great Falls Gin, Falls Church

There are seven botanicals in Great Falls Gin, but they all come from a single inspiration: family. “Growing up in a big Italian family, I was taught to savor food and drink, and to respect the experience of sharing a meal,” says Falls Church Distillery founder Michael Paluzzi, who operates the distillery with his son, Lorenzo.

Their gin has a soft juniper and citrus nose, and then a floral flavor imparted by chamomile and elderflower, with a hint of anise at the finish. Angelica root and coriander seed bind everything together. They designed the subtle flavor to adapt well to a wide range of home mixologists’ creations. “This is not a gin that will leave you feeling like you’ve been hit in the face with a Christmas tree,” he says, referring to drink’s historical calling card, juniper. His recommendation? A Tart Cherry Mule: Mix Great Falls Gin, pomegranate juice, dark cherry juice, and a squeeze of lime, top with ginger beer, and serve in a collins glass over ice. 

$34.99 per 750-milliliter bottle. FCDistillers.com

Fine Creek Brewing Company

Faire des Réserves Bottle Series, Powhatan

Good beers come to those who wait. In the case of Fine Creek Brewing’s Faire des Réserves bottle series, that wait can be as long as 14 months. Each of the seven different beers is aged in whiskey or wine barrels before being released in batches of no more than 300 bottles. Notable brews include the Imperial Thai Tea Milk Stout, infused with sweet vanilla black tea; the Imperial Peatus, full of the rich peat-smoked taste of Scotch; and the Oud Bruin, a Flanders-style sour brown beer aged in red wine barrels.

Founder Mark Benusa says his favorite is the Sour Red—a funky, fruity, and oaky red ale aged more than a year. He and brewmaster Gabe Slagel immediately began aging beer (while also offering a core set of more available pours) upon opening in May 2017. “I love to surprise people who aren’t familiar with all the styles we make,” says Benusa. “People who only drink wine or only drink Miller Lite come to our tasting room and are amazed. They’ll say, ‘I don’t even believe that this is beer!’” 

$16 to $20 per bottle. FineCreekBrewing.com

Old Dominion Spirits

Belle Vodka, Warrenton

When Townsend Lunsford set out to create a vodka, he knew how he wanted drinkers to feel, so he named his vodka Belle, which is French for beauty. “We wanted to be the belle of the bar,” says the Old Dominion Spirits founder, “with a bottle that evokes class and elegance, and a taste that’s smooth and sleek.” 

The Warrenton native and VMI alumnus says that “vodka is a chameleon—it goes with everything. I want Belle to be the best of all chameleons—pretty enough to sit on the top shelf, practical enough to be the house pour at certain restaurants.” In July 2018, Belle was named the official vodka of America’s Best Racing, an initiative from The Jockey Club designed to promote thoroughbred racing events in North America. Lunsford has big plans for his vodka in 2019; he hopes to develop flavored expressions of Belle and to begin producing an Old Dominion Spirits whiskey. 

$22.99 per 1-liter bottle. BelleVodka.com

Pearmund Cellars

Virginia’s Heritage Red Wine, Broad Run

Every bottle of Virginia’s Heritage red wine has 400 years of history inside. In 1619, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed Acte 12, a law that required colonists to plant vineyards in support of a New World wine industry. Pearmund Cellars founder Chris Pearmund conceived of Virginia’s Heritage as a tribute to this history and as a collaboration among the state’s wine producers.

Pearmund coordinated with 16 Virginia vineyards, each of which crafted their own wine and sent him the results. He blended them together and aged the wine for 22 months in Virginia oak barrels to create 10,000 bottles of this special vintage (in honor of the original 10,000 vines originally brought from French vineyards to Virginia).

Pearmund says Virginia’s Heritage is designed as a collectible to be aged. If you can’t wait, opening a bottle now will yield a wine similar to a Spanish Rioja, with flavors of dark fruits, vanilla, and a mellow smokiness. 

$59 per bottle. VirginiasHeritage.com

Reservoir Distillery

Bourbon Whiskey, Richmond

When Richmonders Jay Carpenter and David Cuttino launched Reservoir Distillery in 2008, they decided to go all in. Their Wheat Whiskey is 100 percent wheat. Their Rye Whiskey is 100 percent rye. And their award-winning Bourbon Whiskey—you guessed it—is 100 percent corn. The latter is also 100 proof. And unlike other distillers, they do not follow a set schedule for aging. Instead, they personally taste every barrel to determine when it is ready. The difference a year can make is evident in their very smooth bourbon, which has a nice palate of coffee and finishes with mild tobacco leaf intensity that downplays its youthful side and balances its overall sweetness. Carpenter and Cuttino recommend trying their Bourbon Whiskey neat to establish a baseline, and then adding a touch of water or a single ice cube to temper the proof. That’s it. 

$43 per 375-milliliter bottle. ReservoirDistillery.com

Steam Bell Beer Works

Extra Plenty Hibiscus Cucumber Gose, Midlothian

Steam Bell Beer Works has always had an independent streak. When Brad Cooper launched the business in 2016, it was Chesterfield’s first craft brewery, and Cooper’s origin story became famous—he had been fired from his previous job for storing a growler of homebrew he had brought in as a gift for a colleague in the company fridge.

Steam Bell made its name with beers built around unexpected tastes, both sweet (the popular Tiramisu Stout) and slightly spicy (Grisette, a saison). The release of Extra Plenty Hibiscus Cucumber Gose marks another flavor conquest: sour. 

Extra Plenty pours a bright ruby red, with a fizzy pink head. The first sip tastes of sweet watermelon and cranberry, and is followed by a sharp, tart acidity that’s more herbal than the citrus one might expect from a traditional gose. The addition of pink Himalayan salt helps keep all the flavors in balance: sweet, sour, and pleasantly surprising. 

$10.99 per 12-pack. SteamBell.beer


Meet the other winners of our 2018 Made in Virginia Awards:

Overall

Food

Home + Style


Click here to meet the 2017 winners.

Click here to meet the 2016 winners.

Click here to meet the 2015 winners.

Click here to meet the 2014 winners.

Click here to meet the 2013 winners.

Click here to meet the 2012 winners.


The Made in Virginia 2018 Awards were selected by the Virginia Living editors and originally appeared in our December 2018 issue.

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