One of the many things I didn’t quite realize before moving west was that there are many, many craft breweries that don’t quite reach all the from coast-to-coast, or at least aren’t as prevalent in Los Angeles as they are in, say, New York. So, these days, I try to coordinate all east coast excursions with both a focused indulgence  in some of my favorite hard-to-finds—Avery, Founders, Captain Lawrence—and some exploration into new (to me) breweries. This past trip back to Virginia in December, I came across one local beer at Richmond’s reigning health food/veg-friendly champ, Ellwood Thompson’s—the Virginia Black Bear Russian Imperial Stout from Lickinghole Creek Brewery.

Now, admittedly, I mostly bought the beer because of the very cool illustrated label, but I’m also a fan of imperial stouts—dark, heavy, boozy beers that balance malty sweetness with an earthy bitterness. This one, it turns out, won the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild gold medal in the imperial stout category, and the win was well-deserved. Ten specialty grains comprise the backbone of the beer and high alpha American hops lend a slightly floral bitterness characteristic notes of dark chocolate and coffee. So this, yet again, is an instance of actually being able to judge a book by it’s cover: cool label; excellent beer. We’ve written to this effect many times before, but it just goes to show that, when you believe in a product, it’s worth it to follow through and show that in every aspect of that product. Did you go to all the trouble to make an awesome beer? Don’t phone it in and give it a shitty label, man.

Getting past just the great beer though, Lickinghole seems like a pretty fucking cool brewery that I totally want to check out next time I’m back. As they tell it:

“Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery is a water-conscious, biologically friendly farm brewery carefully crafting unique and innovative beers. Set on a 290 acre farm in the heart of Virginia. LCCB grows hops, barley, herbs and spices for use in our Estate Series of beers. Lickinghole Creek is a water-conscious brewery. We brew with well water drawn from the deep. Our wastewater is purified on site and returned to the Lickinghole Creek watershed.”

And they give $1 for every barrel sold wholesale and $10 for every barrel sold for on-premise retail to hyper-local non-profits of the month in the realms of historical preservation, sustainable agricultural, cancer research, and the like. Brewery founder Sean-Thomas Humphrey let us know that all of Lickinghole Creek’s beer are vegan-friendly too, thus the bear’s peace sign, I guess.

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