With 75 beers from 43 breweries on the Brewvi's blind tasting table, 16 judges crowned three winners in two categories: the new beers of 2018 and canned beers of all styles. Here are tasting notes on the champs.
1. Peter, Flemish red (6%), La Cabra Brewing. Brewer and co-owner Dan Popernack says "the whole zoo of microbes" from the barrel room below his Berwyn brewery went into the slow fermentation of this gorgeously complex and tart Flemish red, blended from several virgin oak barrels aged between 10 and 14 months. The name is a nod to his Italian ancestors, as well as to his Catholic faith, and the beautiful label of stained glass rocks from artist Matt Flail makes this "really pretty" large format bottle a complete package (available now only on draft at the brewery while another batch ages). "Lots of sherry flavors with palate-cleansing tartness," wrote one judge. Rich raisins, cherry pie, fig, and stone fruits were also noted, as it earned more points than any other beer at the competition. "Beautiful sourness balanced by malt. Yasss!"
2. Hoppin' Pils (4.9%; 25 IBU), Sterling Pig Brewery. The house pilsner called "Shoat" at this two-year-old Media brewery has won national awards. So it's no surprise another pils — this one left as an unfiltered "keller" by brewer Brian McConnell — impressed the Brewvi judges. Different editions of this beer are intended to feature specific noble hops varieties, and lemony Liberty was on display in this rendition of the straw-colored and balanced brew, whose Bohemian pilsner malts were effervescent with natural carbonation. One strong panel advocate for this subtle entry said, "This is my session beer."
3. Dear Peter (6%), Tröegs Independent Brewing. When a hailstorm damaged 7,000 pounds of nectarines at Peters Orchards in Adams County, Tröegs transformed disaster into brewing art, barrel-aging the fruit along with Belgian ale and a blend of wild yeasts in giant oak foeders for more than a year in the Hershey brewery's new "Splinter Cellar." The result is a beer that is vividly fruity, tart and funky – and too intense for some. But the lovers loved "the peachy thing," raving about its velvety mouthfeel, its potent "sour punch to the palate," a "biscuity finish post-tartness" and a ghost of orchard fruit that (with three heart emojis to accompany her comment), one judge wrote, "is like perfect peach nostalgia."
1. SeaQuench Ale (4.9%), Dogfish Head. This unconventional "session sour" is actually a blend of three different beers, a malty kölsch for body, a Berliner-Weisse for tartness, and a salty gose (with black lime and lime juice), whose salinity is calibrated to mimic the ocean off the Delmarva coast near the brewery. Even the most skeptical judges were impressed by its balance, describing "an easy drinking sour" with "tropical fruity notes and just a touch of spice" and a ping of sea salt on the tip of the tongue at the finish that made it a refreshing quaffer. "Could drink a few!"
2. Ultraviolette Grissette (4.8%; 40 IBU), St. Benjamin Brewing Co. For the second year in a row, this Kensington brewery delivered a top-three winner. This one is a Belgian-style grisette with an American touch of Citra hops that add a lemony brightness to the saison yeast's tropical fruit flavors in a winter-brewed appeal for the sunny warmth of spring. It's a hop-forward option without being an IPA, and judges noted both its "lemongrass and Belgian clove notes," a soft hint of funk and a lively fizz and hops that were "balanced without being overwhelming."