I am a big supporter of Virginia-based breweries. But, friends, all beers are not created equal.
Here’s the deal: if I want you to trust me about what’s good to eat and drink in Virginia, I’ve got to give you the truth. And, the truth is that not everything is great. So I’ll tell you my honest opinion about all the Virginia-based stuff I’m trying, and hope you don’t hold it against me.
In that spirit, I’ll tell you about a couple of Virginia brews I recently tried that just weren’t able to separate themselves from the multitude of run-of-the-mill beers that are out there.
The Roanoke Railhouse (RR) brewery is based, fittingly enough, in Roanoke. But while Roanoke is the "Magic City,” there was precious little magic in the RR beers I tried. To be clear, they were not bad—but they weren’t especially good either.
The first RR beer I tried was Track 1 amber lager, which comes in at 4.8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV). As I poured it, I had high hopes. It really is a beautiful beer, a lustrous copper with a nice head. I leaned in to see how it smelled and…nothing. There was virtually no odor at all. Not a good sign. On tasting, it had a nice, smooth mouthfeel. Not too fizzy, but not flat either, which was a good sign.
However, the flavor, like the aroma, was virtually nonexistent. It just tasted like, well, beer. Not especially malty or hoppy, just plain beery. Not bad—I certainly enjoy beer—but completely unremarkable. So unremarkable, in fact, that I couldn’t think of single thing to write down about it. Looking at the “flavor” section of my notes, I just wrote: “boring.”
Next up was RR’s (unfortunately named) Loose Caboose, an imperial lager with a whopping 7.8 percent ABV. This was another very pretty beer, strawberry blonde with a weak head (though that might be blamed on my pouring). Bringing it up for a sip I was struck, again, by the distinct lack of aroma. There was a strong hop flavor, which made the lack of aroma particularly surprising. The beer also had a nice, satiny mouthfeel. But that was followed by a sweet, medicinal aftertaste that lingered in the back of my mouth. “Sweet” and “medicinal” are not words I want to associate with beer. I found myself thinking, “This is nice and everything, but it’s just not doing it for me.”
In short, I wouldn’t turn these beers down if someone gave them to me at a party, but I’d never recommend them.