August 22nd, 2009 was the date of the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival, and I wasn’t quite sure if I was going. Clouds and rain were all over the weather maps, and there was some sideways rain hitting my house making me rethink a day outside with music and beer.
Despite common sense, I packed up the family and drove down to the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival which was being hosted by the Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Nelson County, Va. Central Virginia is wine country, but the brewers are quickly catching up. The “Brew Ridge Trail” refers a group of breweries, and now a cider maker, that are mostly west and south of Charlottesville that could be toured in one day. (a map of the trail) The Devil’s Backbone physically hosted the festival behind their brewpub and Starr Hill, South Street, Blue Mountain and Albemarle Ciderworks brought their brews and ciders along, too.
Despite some ugly rain during most of the trip out to DB, it cleared up and slowly turned into a pretty day.
The admission tickets was pretty reasonable with the cost being $15 in advance, or $20 at the gate, for adults, $10 for kids 3-14, and kids under 3 were free. Where the cost of the gig could have really piled up was the $5 per ticket price for beers. But, for some reason, the cider was cash only.
The breweries rolled out their year-round brews, and there weren’t any surprises in their line-ups. Since I was familiar with all of the great beers by Starr Hill and South Street, I mostly concentrated on the beers I had not tried from the others. Stand outs, for me, were Blue Mountain’s ÜberPils Imperial Pilsener (smooth and slightly grainy) and the Devil’s Backbone’s Fresh Hop ale (which I could only get by going inside the actual brewpub, but it gave me the hop fix that I wasn’t going to get anywhere else that day.)
I wish I could tell you a little bit about Albemarle Ciderworks, I only had a sip of my wife’s cider and I’m not well versed in that beverage. It seemed dry and refreshing, and there was definitely still some apple lingering in the taste.
I can tell you the line for beers was barely existent and the beers were cool and poured to order.
The bands, mostly of the alt-country and nouveau bluegrass variety, were great and the Infamous Stringdusters put on a long and high energy set.
The Sons of Bill began to rock the crowd as night fell and taps were turned off.
All and all it was a fun gig, but it definitely felt more focused on the music than the beers. There were families in attendance (I brought mine), and there was nice tent set up for kid crafts, but the focus was the stage and the bands planning.
I will be really interested to see how this gig evolves next year. The bands were great, but it there was a lot of space for more adult and kid activities, and perhaps even more vendors. I imagine this is typical for first year festivals.
I’d also love to see some of the breweries bring there more unusual and seasonal beers to the gig. Starr Hill brought their Festie Oktoberfest beer, but it would have been cool to see some more seasonal, one-offs or pilot batches on tap. It might be a great place to test these beers outside the madness of larger brewfests with the actual brewers on hand for feedback and praise.
It was a fun first year gig, and I’m glad the weather cooperated. I am looking forward to the Brew Ridge Trail Music Festival becoming bigger and better.