That Moment I Changed My Mind on a Brewery

Starr Hill was the butt of many jokes of mine the past couple of years. To me they made so-so beer. I had no problem with them; I just knew I wouldn’t be ordering it out at a bar or buying it at Harris Teeter. You go do you, Starr Hill. I’ll be over here enjoying my “good beer.”

Yeah, I was a jerk. And it made me miss out on Starr Hill’s transformation over the past year or so. I have officially flip-flopped my opinion on them. Hey, if politicians can do this all the time and still get elected then why can’t I? Instead of being this local-ish brewery that I didn’t care for, Starr Hill is quickly becoming a regular contributor to my fridge and bar tabs. This post will cover why and I’ll go into detail on a couple of their newer beers.

Starr Hill and Me: A Brief History

Starr Hill is located in Crozet, VA outside of Charlottesville some 2+ hours southwest of where I am in Northern Virginia. They have been distributed up here for as long as I can remember. I remember working at Buffalo Wing Factory and seeing their tap handles when I was 16 (and probably before then).

When I “got into craft beer” I somehow had this pre-disposed prejudice to the Starr Hill just from customers talking about it while I was hustling chicken. So when I started to drink Starr Hill and didn’t love their beer it only heightened my distain for them and I was able to feel like I fit into the craft beer culture.

This winter I noticed Starr Hill being sold in bombers at Costco. They had a White IPA and figured what the hell. I like the style so I gave it a shot and wow. I was seriously impressed. I bought it again and had it out for Christmas and others agreed with me. I brought it to a bottleshare and people didn’t believe it was Starr Hill. It’s one of the best White IPAs I’ve had. Period. Side note: I recently had Adroit Theory’s White IPA and that is pretty on point as well.

Cue Jack.

Jack works at Starr Hill and reached out to me. Yes, Jack sent me some free beer. I want complete disclosure on this. I also told Jack I would be writing a 100% honest review, regardless of if the beer was free or not.

I had heard through secret beer blogger-only sources (no, not really) that Starr Hill had made some changes recently. This was my chance to get some information. Jack told me, “Starr Hill has definitely made some big improvements over the last few years which have had a major impact on our beer. We invested heavily in some new process equipment that ensured our ability to consistently and efficiently make high quality, fresh beers. We also implemented a policy where no beer is shipped over 30 days after packaging without wholesaler approval. 89% of our beer shipped in under 15 days last year – now that’s fresh beer!

Our new Brewmaster, Robbie O’Cain, has been leading our brand and recipe development in recent years and since then we’ve gotten 11 medals for new beers, including a gold medal at the World Beer Cup last year. He’s also been working hard to obtain long-term contracts with our specialty hops and malt vendors, which will be a huge issue for the industry going forward. We also built a tremendous QA lab run by Jason Porter, who comes out of the UC Davis Food-Science program.”

Starr Hill sent me three of their beers, which I will be discussing below: Reviver Red IPA, Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout and Bandstand Barleywine.

Reviver Red IPA

Reviver Red IPA is Starr Hill’s spring seasonal. It’ll only be available until the end of the month so get on it! I brought this beer to a bottleshare and it received mixed reviews. It was stacked up against some tough competition (Sip of Sunshine, Second Fiddle, Hopslam, Heady…) but held it’s own. A couple friends of mine, both who work in the industry, both love this beer and privately disclosed that they feel Starr Hill has really ramped up their game recently. They also praised the people at Starr Hill, which I take into great consideration when buying beer. I like to say that people buy beer from people they like and respect.

Facts about Reviver (provided by brewery):

  • Style: Red IPA
  • Malt: Pilsner, Wheat, Crystal and Chocolate
  • Hops: Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe and Columbus
  • Flavor: Bright citrus and tropical aroma balanced by firm maltiness
  • IBUs: 45
  • ABV: 6.2%

Serving Suggestions (provided by brewery):

  • Nonic pint glass between 50-55 degrees
  • Cheese Pairing: Sharp Cheddar or Gorgonzola
  • Food Pairing: Thai drunken noodles
  • Dessert Pairing: Carrot cake

Little Red RooStarr Coffee Cream Stout

Y’all should know how much I like Stouts, especially Milk Stouts. I always keep a 6-pack of Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout on hand and a 6-pack of another Stout that I rotate. I’m officially adding Little Red RooStarr to that rotating list.

Facts about Little Red RooStarr (provided by brewery):

  • Style: Milk Stout
  • Malt: Two Row, Carafa, Caramel and Wheat
  • Hops: Willamette
  • Flavor: Malt sweetness, chocolate and caramel, balanced by roasted coffee
  • IBUs: 19
  • ABV: 5.8%

Serving Suggestions (provided by brewery):

  • Nonic pint glass between 50-55 degrees
  • Cheese Pairing: Very buttery Brie or well-aged Cheddar
  • Food Pairing: Barbecue brisket, espresso-crusted filet mignon or Oaxacan mole
  • Dessert Pairing: Chocolate espresso cake or cream puffs

Bandstand Barleywine

Barleywines are in that segment of beer that I want to like but can’t quite enjoy just yet. Kinda like how Sours were to me a year ago. With that being said, I was able to nurse 4oz of Bandstand Barleywine with a smile at a bottleshare while my friends tasted critically and analyzed the beer. They were shocked when I told them it’s by Starr Hill.

Facts about Bandstand (provided by brewery):

  • Style: Barrel-aged American Barleywine
  • Malt: Two Row and Caramel
  • Hops: Columbus, Cascade and Apollo
  • Flavor: Dominated by caramelly, burnt-sugar malt and notes of bourbon, vanilla and toasted coconut
  • IBUs: 90
  • ABV: 13.5%
  • Suggested to serve in a Snifter glass between 50-55 degrees

Starr Hill and Me: The Future

Thank you Starr Hill for sending me these samples. This is something I can cross off of my impossible list. And my apologizes for writing this nearly six weeks after I said I would. I thoroughly enjoy your White IPA and Little Red RooStarr. It took me a couple times of having Reviver to get comfortable with it. Now I’m going to stock up before you’re done selling it for the year. I look forward to next spring with excitement because as I watch the snow melt I know Reviver is returning.

I have officially changed my mind of Starr Hill. They make darn good beer. I love that they are a Virginia brewery. I can’t wait to explore and re-explore more Starr Hill beers.

What do you think? Have you changed your mind on a brewery before? Have you had Starr Hill or any of their beers recently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

2 thoughts on “That Moment I Changed My Mind on a Brewery

  1. I had Star Hill on a business trip to DC a few years ago and remember thinking it was good, but not great. I’ll have to try it again next time I’m in town. Assuming I ever leave BlueJacket…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s