Devils Backbone experiences growth alongside nationwide trend in craft beer

ImageIt’s a phenomenon that is relatively new to Virginia. Craft beers are quickly shooting to the top of beer consumption charts, according to an article published by online business publication Quartz last week.

The Brewers Association classifies a craft brewer as one that is “small, independent and traditional.” Nationwide the number of craft breweries has shot from one in 1976 to almost 2,000, according to the same Quartz article.

But Virginia wasn’t as quick to catch on to the trend.

“Virginia wasn’t really a craft brew state until two or three years ago,” Devils Backbone owner Steve Crandall said. “It’s a wave that started on the west coast.”

 So what changed?

Crandall thinks it was the passage of Senate Bill 604, signed into law last May by Governor McDonnell.

In a nutshell the law allows for the sale of beer owned by a particular brewery for retail purposes. This means that breweries can exclusively provide beer without having to sell food. It also lets these same breweries offer samples to customers, as long as they’re 21.

For Devils Backbone, this meant more revenue, and it’s an increase Crandall has seen every year since the brewery opened its outpost in Lexington three years ago.

“We’re seeing huge, phenomenal growth year to year.”

As shown in the graphic below, Devils Backbone sold 10,000 barrels of beer in its first year at its Lexington outpost. That’s over 3.3 million bottles. In its second year that number more than doubled, and Crandall thinks that by the end of this year the brewery will have sold 50,000 barrels.

DB Chart

Washington and Lee Student Emily Scott says she likes Devils Backbone for more than just the taste.

“I mean it tastes a little bit better than regular beer, but I guess it’s just the idea that it’s supporting a local [business].”

Scott attributes the brewery’s success in Lexington to the events it holds, drawing in people who otherwise might not pick out the craft beer off supermarket shelves. She says that students use the Lexington outpost as a place to celebrate birthdays, where friends can honor the turning of age with a growler filled with their favorite Devils Backbone beer.

Scott admits that at parties she doesn’t pay much attention to the beer in kegs. Typically, these giant aluminum containers hold about three and a half cases of beer. For college students who are tight on cash, splurging on kegs of craft beer may not make the most economical sense.

But when enjoying a brew or two on a more casual basis, Scott says it’s worth the extra few bucks.

Her favorite?

“I get Devils Backbone. I get the Vienna Lager.”

Listen to the whole interview with Emily Scott here: Emily Scott Interview – Craft Beer


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