10 Reasons to Drink Craft Beer

It’s pretty obvious that in an argument over craft breweries vs. “big beer” companies, I’d side with the former. With Beer Week going on and the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival coming up this Saturday, April 26th, I felt that it was necessary to give you a few solid reasons to drink craft beer.

Downtown Harrisonburb Celebrates Beer Week


1. Craft beer tastes better! The number one reason why you should reach for a craft beer instead of the watery swill we’re used to is because craft beer just tastes better. The master brewers behind craft breweries aren’t concerned with reducing calories, keeping costs and ingredient inputs low, or huge marketing and advertising campaigns. Their focus is on flavor, quality, and innovation.

2. More alcohol! I’m not promoting getting hammered, but I will say that craft beers typically pack a bigger punch than “big beers” like Coors and Budweiser (and Natty and PBR…). Compare this: Miller Genuine Draft Light is 2.5% alcohol, while most craft beers range from 5%-10% and even up to 20%! It’ll take several Millers to get the same effect as one or two craft beers. When you’re drinking stronger, more flavorful craft beer you won’t feel the need to drink beer after beer, which will keep your tab and number of bathroom trips low.

3. Health benefits! Wine isn’t the only alcoholic drink to offer health benefits! Craft beer contains antioxidants which may help to prevent heart disease. The major ingredient in beer, hops, contains polyphenols which help to lower cholesterol and fight certain types of cancer, and kill viruses. Craft beers typically contain about 30 times more hops than mass produced beer!

4. Choices! You don’t have to subject yourself to just Coors, Bud, and Natty! You have options! There are thousands of craft breweries in the country and several are based here in Virginia. There is a world of different flavors and experiences beyond the beer aisle at Food Lion. Each craft brewery makes their beers in their own way with their own unique recipes and many release special seasonal brews, which means that you have thousands of craft beers to taste ahead of you!

5. Craft beer and good food! Like wine pairings, craft beer and cuisine pairings is becoming increasingly more popular within the food industry. With the many flavor options that craft breweries provide, you can match a beer to your food to create the best consumption experience! For example, an IPA goes great with strong, spicy foods like curry, while an amber lager goes better with hamburgers and barbecue. Check out this list of craft beer and food pairings.


I hope this short list persuades you to try a craft beer! If you’re ready to join the movement, take advantage of Harrisonburg’s Beer Week going on NOW and head to the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival this Saturday!


Starr Hill Review

Last night I took a study break and decided to review some of Starr Hill Brewery’s current collection. I had bought one of each of the five Starr Hill brews available at Martin’s a few weeks back, but completely forgot about it until last night when I had about 10 chapters to read for class…

Anyway, Starr Hill is a great local craft brewery that started in Charlottesville, VA but has since moved a few miles west to Crozet. Mark A. Thompson is the master brewer/mastermind at Starr Hill. Here’s my review of Grateful Pale Ale, Northern Lights, JOMO,  Love, and Snowblind.

Starr Hill Review

Grateful Pale Ale

“The name springs from our brand’s humbleness and our love of the music culture.” -Mark A. Thompson

This beer pours clear and gold, and creates a one-finger head with light lacing (the foam that sticks to glass when you set it down). The flavor and aroma has the bitterness that is typical of hop-heavy beers with a dose of citrus and floral elements. There’s a mild, sweet maltyness that helps to balance out the bitterness. This beer also leaves a slight puckered or astringent feeling in the mouth. At 4.7% alcohol content, this is considered a good “session beer” because you can throw a few back in a period of time and not get too rowdy!

Starr Hill Grateful

Northern Lights India Pale Ale

“Northern Lights is a beer that used to be called Stinky; it has a lot of hops.” -Mark A. Thompson

This one’s clear with an amber hue, one-finger head, and light lacing. Definitely has a a distinct hoppy flavor and aroma, but not as strong as most IPAs. This beer finishes smooth and leaves a little tingle on the tongue. Alcohol content is 6.5%.

Starr Hill Northern Lights


JOMO Vienna Lager

A crowd favorite. Session beer.” -Mark A. Thompson

This beer is a little hazy with an amber hue. Like most lagers, it has a bready, malty flavor and medium body. At 4.6%, it’s considered a session beer.

Starr Hill Jomo


The Love Wheat Beer

A friend of mine would smuggle wheat-beer yeast back from a brewery in Germany, and he won the National Home Brewers’ Competition one year with this yeast that he’d smuggled. I asked him if he would ‘share the love’ and let us borrow the yeast, and 10 years later he finally did.” -Mark A. Thompson

This is considered a hefeweizen, a German style wheat beer that is light an unfiltered. It pours as a hazy, light gold color. The flavor is wheaty and yeasty with a hint of citrus, banana, and spice. It’s crisp and light, and would make a great summer beer.

Starr Hill The Love


Snowblind Doppelbock (Winter season brew)

“Winter’s ice, it soon will spread… Fill my dreams with flakes of snow, Soon I’ll feel the chilling glow…” – Mark A. Thompson

Snowblind is a dark, translucent beer with one-finger head and light lacing. As a doppelbock, it has a good body with a rich, toasted malt flavor and hint of sweet caramel. 7.4% alcohol content.

Starr Hill Snowblind



All a little different, all great examples of a good Virginia craft beer. Next time you find yourself in the beer aisle, I encourage you to try Starr Hill and support this great local brewery!

Find Your Beer!

CraftBeer.com has a cool online application that allows you to find the style of beer that best suits your taste buds. Slide up and down the scales for color, bitterness and alcohol content and select flavors that you like, from “floral” to “malty,” to see the varieties of beer change with each selection. Read up on the descriptions of each beer style!

My style? Not surprisingly, I was paired wit the Belgian Tripel style.

Check out the Style Finder and see what beer style best suits you!



The Controversy Behind Contract Brewing

There is a debate among craft brewing circles regarding the practice of contract brewing. Contract brewing is just what it sounds like: a small brewing company that doesn’t have the resources (manpower, space, equipment) contracts another beer company to do it for them. Many beer enthusiasts and brewers consider this cheating, and in some sense it is.  When we consider the creativity, innovation, and soul that goes into craft brewing, how can we credit a brewing company who doesn’t actually make their own beer? It’s this mentality that has created the negative stigma surrounding contract brewing. But is contract brewing all that bad?

Contract Brewing and Craft Beer

Contract Brewing Controversy

There are varying degrees of brewer involvement than can occur in contract brewing situations:

a. Brands contract the whole product from recipe creation to packaging. Private label beer brands that brew for large retail chains often do this to skip distribution expenses.

b. Brewers only contract the labor and equipment, but handle the recipe development and ingredient sourcing themselves. This is an attractive option for small breweries who are in a position to expand but do not have the funding for it.

c.  Hands-on brewers only lease the equipment and facilities of another brewery, but do the actual brewing themselves. In these cases the brewery providing the work space and equipment will also provide beer packaging services. This is commonly known as “tenant brewing.”

If you think about it, contract brewing actually makes a lot of business sense. While breweries who contract other companies for their resources often have to contribute some of their profits and overhead fees to the host brewery, they benefit by being able to  bypass the expenses associated with owning and running a business (loans on brewing and moving equipment, payroll for a large staff, rent, etc.). Instead, they can use their capital toward enhance their marketing and brand building to yield a higher return on investment.

So, is contract brewing bad for craft beer? I don’t think so. At the end of the day, contract brewers can be just as passionate, creative, and innovative as breweries who produce in-house. A good beer is a good beer, regardless of how it is produced.

4 Reasons Why it is Imperative to Support Local

You’ve probably seen the “Buy Local” bumper stickers or seen other campaigns to support local businesses, but you probably don’t know why it’s so important to purchase from businesses in our community (unless you’ve already read my “Why Support Local Breweries” page).

Jenna Weiser summed up 4 Reasons Why it is Imperative to Support Local in her post to Business 2 Community.com. Here are those 4 reasons:

“1.) Keep your money where it belongs. By supporting local businesses you are keeping your money close to home, and reinvesting it into your community. Just the thought of paying someone local for something as simple as dry cleaning sounds great to me. It’s a comforting feeling knowing exactly where your money goes.

2.) Large corporations do not have the same respect and appreciation for their customers as small local businesses do. Local businesses build lasting relationships with their customers and almost always offer discounts to loyal customers. For example, I live right near a corner convenience store. I walk into this place at least three days out of the week to pick up a quick lunch, pack of gum or even some eggs when need be. I am considered a “loyal customer” and I didn’t have to be told this (although I have been multiple times). Often I walk in quickly in a rush and they won’t even let me pay. Why would they do this and potentially lose money? Well, they know I will be back. Just because they did that, I will not go to another convenience store. They know that they have my business all the time. After having an experience like this, what would ever make me go to a large chain store for a pack of gum?

3.) Local businesses offer more diverse products. Imagine life without local businesses. Where would you go pick up that beautiful, homemade custom birthday card you ordered the other day? You wouldn’t have many options besides ordering online. The more local businesses there are, the more diverse and unique the products surrounding you will be. There will always be Kraft peanut butter, but where can you find handcrafted peanut brittle wrapped in pretty tissue paper except in your own neighborhood?

4.) Local businesses create an inviting community. The entire well-being of your community is improved by having successful local businesses in the area. These local businesses can partner with each other and can also sponsor local events, helping to enrich the community. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get a large corporation such as Pepsi to donate to your local elementary school raffle.”




When you support local small businesses and buy a locally brewed craft beer, you do so much more than just treating yourself to excellent taste. You support innovation and growth in your local community and contribute to the craftsmanship that goes into creating a great beer.


Don’t You Dare Order a Bud Light

If there’s one thing Katie Lucca can’t stand, it’s seeing customers at the Capital Ale House order a Bud Light.

Katie, a Senior Marketing major and HDR minor at JMU, was recently appointed as the restaurant/bar’s PR and Marketing Coordinator and is a self proclaimed “beer snob.” After going through basic training on the ins and outs of brewing, visiting the Three Brothers Brewery, and trying several of Capital Ale’s 100 beers on tap (many of which are locally brewed in Virginia), Katie became a large endorser of Virginia craft beers to customers and friends alike. In fact, one of her peeves is when customers come to the restaurant and order a typical domestic draft, such as Bud Light, with dinner.

We have 100 different beers on tap, where else can you find that? I hate seeing people order one of those [mainstream] beers when they come here because they’re missing an opportunity to try something new, they’re not taking advantage of the very thing we specialize in – beer variety.” 

According to Katie, Virginia is becoming one of the best known brewing states, next to Colorado, due to the geography. I’m not sure how true that is but I’ll believe it. What she loves about the craft brew scene is the originality involved in the beer creation process. The brew master has a very hands-on role in the flavor and quality of each batch, and he or she has the ability to incorporate a variety of different flavors into the beer to create something unique. A great example of this is happening at Three Brothers Brewery, where the brew masters are experimenting wit brewing a Belgian ale in old champagne barrels.

There’s a lot of new and exciting things happening in the world of craft beer, and Capital Ale House is a great place to taste it as it happens. The beer selection on tap is constantly changing as seasonal varieties get switched out and new flavors are invented.

Before you go running to the bar, here’s one last tip from Katie:
“Get a few smaller beers [rather than one large glass] to taste, and you should always want to try something new. You don’t usually get the opportunity to try 100 different kinds of beer. If you usually like Belgian ales, try a lager.”