On Saturday, September 12, my husband and I attended the Virginia Craft Beer and Wine Festival at NTelos Wireless Pavilion in downtown Portsmouth. We are home brewers and serious craft beer lovers, and have been several times to beer and wine festivals at Town Point Park in Norfolk. Gathering tastes and badges on the app Untappd is big for us- we’re always looking for new favorites.
The Pavilion is a perfect place for a tasting festival at this time of year. Parking was convenient and free. Both heat and humidity have been a problem, and rain was threatening, but the Festival was moved into the orchestra pit under the roof, where things were dry and there was a cool breeze blowing through. We arrived about 2:30 for the festival (held 12-5) and while things were busy, it was easy to move around and there were no lines for the tastings.
Music was provided by Mike Profitt and Dana Silvercloud, local musicians playing songs from the 1960s all the way through current hits. The volume was good and the music fit the occasion- mellow and easygoing. Festival guests circulated through the orchestra pit and kicked back in Pavilion seats. It was a setting more intimate than Town Point Park, and definitely more weather-proof, but would not have handled a Town Point Park-sized crowd.
Breweries represented included Hampton Roads local powerhouses–Smartmouth, O’Connor, St. George, Alewerks, and Back Bay–as well as others from across Virginia: Devil’s Backbone, Legend, Center of the Universe, and Starr Hill. Wineries included Williamsburg Winery, Trump, Barboursville, and Prince Michel. We sampled the wines and were impressed with the selection, and even more with their unified effort to publicize Virginia wineries.
However, beer is more up our alley. Everything offered was great, but for a local beer lover, there wasn’t anything particularly new. My husband awarded his personal “Best In Show” (again) to Smartmouth’s Notch 9 (which is due out in cans this fall alongside Cow Catcher), and I gave mine to Starr Hill’s Boxcarr Pumpkin Porter; but these were beers we’d had before. If you’re just beginning your exploration of Virginia beers, this festival would be a perfect place to start, but if you’re more like us and have spent some time visiting local breweries and rooting around bottle shops, you won’t find much that’s new. A similarly-priced ticket to one of the Norfolk festivals gets you a much wider selection due to the size of the event, albeit with a much larger crowd.
Overall, though, I’m glad we went. Despite the somewhat limited selection, the atmosphere and convenience made it a perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon, and it was great to know we were supporting Virginia businesses.