By Jeremy Bender

Who is the best brewery in Hampton Roads this year? 

What are the finest IPAs, stouts, lagers, sours and pilsners?

On Tuesday, December 5, VEER Magazine will present its 2023 Golden Tap Awards at Elation Brewing in Norfolk beginning at 6 PM.  

The City of Norfolk’s Department of Economic Development and Spacemakers General Contractors are the presenting sponsors. Additional support comes from sponsors Southern Bank, Kaufman & Canoles, and Freedom Boat Club. 

Gold, silver and bronze medals will be ceremoniously presented in 38 categories as well as the overall points tally determining the Golden Tap Award winner.  

As has become tradition at the end of the awards ceremony, the brewers from across the region will present an award of their own — The Key To Lager Town. 

In October, Elation Brewing hosted its annual collaboration brew with some past Key to Lager Town recipients, including John O’Reilly of Bold Mariner Brewing Company, Eric Tennant of Benchtop Brewing Co., Team Billsburg, and Jimmy Loughran, formerly of Smartmouth Brewing Company. 

(Key To Lager Town brewers)


The Key to Lager Town beer style each year is a German-style Dortmunder Export Lager, a crisp, 6-7% ABV well-rounded lager. 

“After our first year of opening,” explained Bob Sweeney, Elation’s head brewer, “we won The Key To Lager Town. I had the idea to collaborate with Adam from Gordon Biersch and John O’Reilly from Bold Mariner on a beer to celebrate The Key To Lager Town.”

The new batch of Key To Lager Town debuts each year during VEER’s Golden Tap Awards ceremony, and is a highly anticipated release amongst brewers in the 757 region. 

The physical Key To Lager Town award is an oversized golden  skeleton key. It is considered a great honor to win the prestigious award. 

“It started as a gag when Adam was declared the Mayor of Lager Town seven years ago,” said Sweeney. “We decided to present the Key To Lager Town to the Mayor of Lager Town.”

Former Key To Lager Town winners get together as a group to decide the next winner each year. The determining factor boils down to who embodies the spirit of craft beer.

“It’s an ethos, a mentality,” said Sweeney.