BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — Over the course of the summer, more than 60 judges at the 2022 Australian International Beer Awards got a taste of the Hokie spirit and, according to Virginia Tech, they were impressed!

The university says Fightin’ Hokies Lager, a Virginia Tech and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery collaboration, earned a silver medal in its Munich-style helles category in this prestigious contest, which is now the largest annual beer competition of its kind.

This news comes shortly after an announcement that the official beer of Hokie Nation was also Virginia’s bestselling new craft beer in 2021, its first year on the market, according to Nielsen. 

“Receiving this award is really exciting for our program and our partnership with Hardywood,” said Brian Wiersema, the pilot plant manager who oversees Virginia Tech’s on-campus brewery. “This competition focuses on style criteria, and it’s great to see that we were headed in the right direction, especially when you see the list of other international beers that medaled for this style.”

(Photo courtesy: Hardywood Park Craft Brewery via Virginia Tech)

“We note that one of the gold medal brewers in this category has been brewing since 1040 A.D. — we gave them a head start,” said Professor Sean O’Keefe with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Fightin’ Hokies Lager, the first beer to come out of Virginia Tech’s partnership with Hardywood, was created through nearly a decade of research, inspiration, and collaboration, the university says.

According to school officials, what began as a conversation between Wiersema, O’Keefe, and Herbert Bruce — faculty members in the Department of Food Science and Technology and the eventual co-creators of Fightin’ Hokies Lager — after one of the department’s annual student brewing exchanges in Munich about their fondness for the helles style turned into a partnership that has launched two original beers.

In addition, the sales of those beers reportedly support food science scholarships, research, lab renovations, and the very brewing exchange on which Fightin’ Hokies Lager was first crafted. 

“While Fightin’ Hokies Lager has broken sales records, what we find most special about Hardywood’s partnership with Virginia Tech is the opportunity to collaborate with food science faculty and leverage their decades of knowledge and experience to create a beer of exceptional quality, to which this prestigious award is certainly a testament,” said Hardywood’s co-founder and CEO, Eric McKay.

Virginia Tech tells WFXR News that Hardywood, the Commonwealth’s largest craft brewer, has previously earned major international awards for several of its beers, including Richmond Lager and Hardywood Pils.  

Meanwhile, the team’s newest brew — dubbed All Hail to Thee — is “a limited edition dry-hopped amber ale that hit the market in May in celebration of Virginia Tech’s sesquicentennial,” according to the university, adding that the “hoppy, full-bodied ale” is available for in select Virginia Krogers, Giants, Wegmans, Total Wines, and independent bottle shops for a limited time.

The Australian International Beer Awards — hosted by the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria — was initially established as a national competition in 1987 and has since grown into the world’s largest yearly beer competition that assesses both draught and packaged beer, receiving over 2,500 entries from more than 420 breweries in 21 countries each year, according to the contest’s website.

Brewers, beer journalists, retailers, and beer experts from across the globe are reportedly tapped as judges to conduct blind tastings of the entries and award points based on appearance, aroma, flavor and body, technical quality, and style. 

If you want to find Fightin’ Hokies Lager and All Hail to Thee, check out Hardywood’s beer finder