By Jeff Maisey

Williamsburg-based Alewerks won Veer Magazine’s 2017 Golden Tap Award, unseating 3-time champ O’Connor Brewing Company.

The competition this year was extremely close among the top four points-earning local breweries. While Alewerks took top honor with a score of 23 total points, O’Connor and Benchtop Brewing tied for second place with 22 points each, and Smartmouth Brewing Company was hot on their heels with 21 points.

Below you’ll see the categories with medal winners listed followed by runners-up. Medalists were determined by 50% of the vote coming from an online poll (the popular vote) and the other 50% from a group of judges, who each picked a first, second and third place beer in each category.

After all categories medalists were determined, the Golden Tap Award was calculated whereas gold was given 3 points, followed by 2 points for silver and one for bronze.

With 33 craft breweries now operating in Hampton Roads – and more to open in 2018 – the level of quality competition is evident.

Looking for the best beers in the region? Here’s a great place to start.



OVERALL  2017 Best Brewery

1: Alewerks Brewing Company (23 Points)

2 (Tie): O’Connor Brewing Company (22 Points)

Benchtop Brewing Company (22 Points)

4: Smartmouth Brewing Company (21 Points)

5: Big Ugly Brewing Company (13 Points)


Light Lager

GOLD: Green Flash, Sea to Sea Lager

SILVER: Alewerks Brewing Company, Weekend Lager

BRONZE: O’Connor Brewing, R&R Lager

Runners-up: The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Pancho Villa Mexican Lager; Deadline Brewing Project Pacer Blonde; The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery, Creekside Lager; Gordon Biersch, Golden Export



GOLD: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Safety Dance

SILVER: Wasserhund Brewing Company, Purebred Pilsner

BRONZE: Pleasure House Brewing, Rain Barrel Bohemian Pilsner

Runners-up: Commonwealth Brewing Co, Aureole; St George, Pilsner; Young Veterans Brewing Co, G.I. Pilsner


Amber and Dark Lager

GOLD: Alewerks Brewing Company, Oktoberfest

SILVER: The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Frogman Lager, Vienna Lager

BRONZE: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Sir Vesa Mexican Vienna Lager

Runners-up: Gordon Biersch, Marzen; Wasserhund Brewing Company, Oktoberfest; Coelacanth Brewing Company, Enefkay


Light American Ale

GOLD: O’Connor Brewing, Green Can Golden Ale

SILVER: Pleasure House Brewing, Glo

BRONZE: Big Ugly, Sunbeam Blonde

Runners-up: The Virginia Beer Company, Saving Daylight Citrus Wheat; Coelacanth Brewing Company, Hippocampus; Rip Rap Brewing Co., Breakwater Cream Ale


Kolsch and Altbier

GOLD: O’Connor Brewing, Walk-Off Kolsch

SILVER: Benchtop Brewing, Harmonious Kolsch

BRONZE: Young Veterans Brewing Co., K-Ration Kolsch

Runners-up: Wasserhund Brewing Company, Atta Boy Altbier; Bull Island Brewing Company, King Street Kolsch


British Bitter

GOLD: Alewerks Brewing Company, Maizie’s ESB

SILVER: St George, Summer Ale

BRONZE: Coelacanth Brewing Company, CBPB

Runners-up: Smartmouth Brewing Company, The Standard; Rip Rap Brewing Co., Bitter End ESB; The Virginia Beer Company, Purley’s ESB


Scottish and Irish Amber Ale

GOLD: The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Red Maiden

SILVER: O’Connor Brewing, Red Nun

BRONZE: St George, Winter Scotch

Runners-up: Pleasure House Brewing, O’Brien Clan; Tradition Brewing, Red Willie


American Amber and Brown Ale

GOLD: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Murphy’s Law

SILVER: Alewerks Brewing Company, Tavern Brown Ale

BRONZE: Big Ugly, Coopers Ditch Brown

Runners-up: The Virginia Beer Company, Wrenish Rye Dry-Hopped Amber Ale; The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Noser Vanilla Bean & Pecan Brown; Coelacanth Brewing Company, Phonics


English Mild and Brown Ale

GOLD: The Virginia Beer Company, Bob’s Your Uncle Pale Mild

SILVER: Home Republic, Cup of Joe Coffee Brown Ale

BRONZE: Coelacanth Brewing Company, Nunya

Runners-up: St George Brewing Company, Black Forest Ale; Rip Rap, Middle Ground


American Pale Ale

GOLD: Benchtop, Hazing Face Pale Ale

SILVER: O’Connor Brewing, Norfolk Canyon Pale Ale

BRONZE: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Free Thought

Runners-up: Big Ugly, Mods Pale Ale; The Virginia Beer Company, Citra Pale Ale; Young Veterans Brewing Co, Pride Pale Ale; Reaver Beach, Ghost Ship Citra Pale



GOLD: O’Connor Brewing, El Guapo Agave IPA

SILVER: Benchtop Brewing, Proven Theory IPA

BRONZE: Big Ugly, Rockers IPA

Runners-up: Alewerks Brewing Company, Superb IPA; Reaver Beach, Bridge of Bones IPA; The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Tropic Thunder New England IPA; Green Flash, West Coast IPA


Imperial IPA

GOLD: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Notch 9

SILVER: Reaver Beach, Hoptopus Double IPA

BRONZE: Commonwealth Brewing Co, Big Papi

Runners-up: Big Ugly, Imperial Leaf Peepers; Alewerks Brewing Company, Bitter Valentine



GOLD: Benchtop Brewing, Wicked Lobstrosity Porter

SILVER: Big Ugly, Ghost Rider

BRONZE: Alewerks Brewing Company, Paycheck Porter

Runners-up: O’Connor Brewing, Pecan Porter, Smartmouth Brewing Company, IV Chocolate Porter; St George, Porter



GOLD: O’Connor Brewing, ODIS

SILVER: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Cowcatcher

BRONZE: Commonwealth Brewing Co, Marvolo

Runners-up: The Virginia Beer Company, Elbow Patches Oatmeal Stout, Rip Rap Brewing Co., Bilgewater Coffee Stout; The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Shellback Coconut Stout


Russian Imperial Stout

GOLD: O’Connor Brewing, Ibrik Imperial Turkish Coffee Stout

SILVER: Reaver Beach, SeaDevil

BRONZE: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Giddy Up

Runners-up: Big Ugly, Ape Hanger stout; St George, Russian Imperial Stout; Coelacanth Brewing Company, Quiet Storm; Back Bay Brewing, Queen Anne’s Revenge


Strong Ale

GOLD: Reaver Beach, Cthulhu the Dread Barrel Aged Imperial Milk Porter

SILVER: The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery, Ox Cart Imperial Porter

BRONZE: Commonwealth Brewing Co, Cheval De Noir

Runners-up: Big Ugly Barnfind Barleywine; Smartmouth Brewing Company, Holiday Helper; The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Nighthawk Dark Saision


German Wheat Beer

GOLD: Wasserhund Brewing Company, German Shepheweizen

SILVER: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Sommer Fling

BRONZE: Gordon Biersch, Hefeweizen

Runners-up: Coelacanth Brewing Company, Passion Fruit Gose; Big Ugly, Wasserweizen; Young Veterans Brewing Co, Pineapple Grenade; O’Connor Brewing, Zephyrweisse Hefeweizen


Belgian Session Ales

GOLD: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Alter Ego

SILVER: Benchtop Brewing, Chelsea Grisette

BRONZE: Alewerks Brewing Company, White Ale

Runners-up: Big Ugly, Sidecar saison; Commonwealth Brewing Co, Cheval Au Soleil; The Virginia Beer Company, Saison Tournante


Belgian Strong Ales

GOLD: Alewerks Brewing Company, Jubilee XI

SILVER: Big Ugly, Zeppelins Hellish Belgian

BRONZE: Smartmouth Brewing Company, The Golden Standard

Runners-up: The Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Scurvy Dog; Oozlefinch, Spurious Calm Belgian Brown; O’Connor Brewing, Jamestown Island Old Ale; Commonwealth Brewing Co, Fugue State


Sour Ale

GOLD: Benchtop Brewing, Mermaid’s Scorn Oyster Gose with Lemon Zest

SILVER: Alewerks Brewing Company, Lover’s Greed

BRONZE: Reaver Beach, The Reaver

Runners-up: Big Ugly Brewing, You Just Got Jam’d Gose; Coelacanth Brewing Company, Passion Fruit Gose; Commonwealth Brewing Co, Penthesilia


Smoked and Wood Aged Beer

GOLD: Alewerks Brewing Company, Cafe Royale

SILVER: O’Connor Brewing, Backyard Bonfire Smoked IPA

BRONZE: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Ursa Major Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Runners-up: Big Ugly, Keelhauling; Commonwealth Brewing Co, Marvoloso; Benchtop Brewing, Chocolate Smokehouse Porter; MoMac Brewing, Bourbon Barrel Aged Peanut Butter Porter


Herb, Spice, and Vegetable Beer

GOLD: Alewerks Brewing Company, Pumpkin Ale

SILVER: Big Ugly, Hot Pursuit

BRONZE: Benchtop Brewing, Quick Pickle Carrot Cucumber Gose

Runners-up: Coelacanth Brewing Company, Coelia; Back Bay Brewing, Witch of Pungo Pumpkin Ale; Bearded Bird Brewing, Sweet 16 Sweet Potato Ale


Fruit Beer

GOLD: Benchtop Brewing, Jam Pact Blackberry Gose

SILVER: The Oozlefinch Craft Brewery, 20 Pounder Boysenberry Lemon Wheat

BRONZE: Big Ugly Mango Rockers

Runners-up: Smartmouth Brewing Company, Alter(ed) Ego w/ Raspberries, Commonwealth Brewing Co, Swizzle Gose, Rip Rap Brewing Co., Screwpile Raspberry Pale Ale



GOLD: Benchtop Brewing, Trial of Dmitri Beet Kvass

SILVER: Young Veterans Brewing Co., Goat Locker Breakfast Stout

BRONZE: Big Ugly, No Joy Porter

Runners-up: Bull Island Brewing Company, Oyster Jalapeno Porter; Home Republic, Salted Caramel Ale; Smartmouth Brewing Company, Bandwagon VIII: Double Dry-Hopped Hazy Double IPA w/ Mango 9.9%



GOLD: The Virginia Beer Company/Stone Brewing, Citra Hop Honey Drop Experimental IPA

SILVER: Big Ugly/ Gordon Biersch Red White and Blueberry Saison

BRONZE: Pleasure House/Brock Environmental Center, Rain Barrel Bohemian Pilsner

Runners-up: Coelacanth/Bold Rock/Parkway, Caramel Apple Pie Porter, Reaver Beach/Green Flash, Late Addition, The Bold Mariner Brewing Company/Gordon Biersch, Fat $tackz


Brew Pub

GOLD: Wasserhund

SILVER: Gordon Biersch

BRONZE: Legend Brewing Depot

Runners-up: Home Republic


Brewery Tasting Room

GOLD: Big Ugly

SILVER: O’Connor

BRONZE: Commonwealth

Runners-up: Ooozlefinch, MoMAC, Benchtop





Best Food Truck

GOLD: Redwood Smoke Shack

SILVER: Bros Fish Tacos

BRONZE: Taste of Maine

Runners-up: Capt’n Crabby, Taste of Asia


Best Selection of Local 757 Beer

GOLD: Tap It Local

SILVER: Brick Anchor

BRONZE: Starr Hill Bar at Waterside District

Runners-up: DoG Street Pub, Whiskey Kitchen


Best Overall Draft Beer Selection (Number of taps/quality) – 20+ Taps

GOLD: The Birch Bar

SILVER: Brick Anchor

BRONZE: Esoteric

Runners-up: Grain, Yard House, Green Leafe Café, Cogans North


Best Overall Draft Beer Selection (Number of taps/quality) – Under 20 Taps

GOLD: The Bier Garden

SILVER: DoG Street Pub

BRONZE: 80/20 Burger Bar

Runners-up: Tap It Local, 1608 Craft House, Lynnhaven Pub


Best Overall Bottle & Can Beer Selection

GOLD: Bier Garden

SILVER: The Birch Bar

BRONZE: Esoteric

Runners-up: DoG Street Pub, 80/20 Burger Bar, Lynnhaven Pub


Best European Selection

GOLD: The Bier Garden

SILVER: The Birch Bar

BRONZE: DoG Street Pub

Runners-up: Cogans North, Taphouse Ghent, Park Lane Tavern


Best Draft Beer Presentation of Taps

GOLD: Yard House

SILVER: Cogans Ghent

BRONZE: Supper

Runners-up: Cogans North, Jack Brown’s, Starr Hill Bar at Waterside District


Best Virginia Craft Beer Selection

GOLD: Tap It Local

SILVER: Brick Anchor

BRONZE: 80/20 Burger Bar

Runners-up: Starr Hill Bar at Waterside, Public House, Grain, Norfolk Tap Room


Best Beer with Outdoor Patio

GOLD: Grain

SILVER: Bier Garden

BRONZE: DoG Street Pub

Runners-up: Torch, Supper, The Back Deck


Best Beer with an Atmosphere

GOLD: Bier Garden

SILVER: DoG Street Pub

BRONZE: Norfolk Taproom

Runners-up: Grain, Supper


Best Beer and Pizza

GOLD: Wasserhund Brewing Company

SILVER: Cogans North

BRONZE: Cogans Ghent

Runners-up: Hearth, YNOT Pizza, Mellow Mushroom


Best Beer and Live Music

GOLD: HK on the Bay

SILVER: Taphouse (Ghent)

BRONZE: Tapped Gastropub

Runners-up: Taphouse (Hampton), The Barrel Room, Norfolk Tap Room


Best Sports Bar Beer Selection

GOLD: Cogans North

SILVER: Dirty Buffalo

BRONZE: Shorebreak Pizza & Taphouse

Runners-up: Red Dog Saloon


Bottle Shop/Growler Fill

GOLD: bottleBOX

SILVER: Grape & Gourmet

BRONZE: Hair of the DoG

Runners-up: ExceptionAle, Mix It Up


Major Retail

GOLD: Total Wine & More Ghent

SILVER: Total Wine & More Hilltop

BRONZE: Whole Foods

Runners-up: Total Wine & More Greenbrier


Home Brew Supplies

GOLD: Home Brew USA Janaf

SILVER: Brew & Bottle

BRONZE: Wine & Cake Hobbies

Runners-up: Home Brew USA Hampton


Best Brewery Event

GOLD: Treasure Chest at Green Flash

SILVER: O’Connoroo at O’Connor

BRONZE: Smartmouth Spring Street Fair

Runners-up: The Virginia Beer Company’s Lunatic Luau Party, Supper Doppler Release Party at Bold Mariner


Best Outdoor Beer Festival

GOLD: 757 Battle of the Beers @ Hunt Club Farm

SILVER: Whistle Belly Festival

BRONZE: Virginia Beer Festival (Town Point Park

Runners-up: Common Grounds – A Collaborative Brewer’s Festival, Mariners Museum Craft Beer Festival


Best Beer Event (Non-festival, non-brewery)

GOLD: 43 Hours of Sour @ The Birch

SILVER: The Bier Garden’s Oktoberfest

BRONZE: Shamrockin’ in Ghent

Runners-up: 43 Hours of Dark @ The Birch