Crap. Where did the year go?
All I have done is taken several hiatuses in between some fairly mediocre blog posts. I would like to tell you 2015 will be different, but why lie? It won’t. I’ll be a sporadic blogger as it seems to be my ultimate destiny. So, you’ll forgive my momentary lapse in judgement when I thought a PhD was a good idea. You won’t mind when I prioritize my job and career over my hobbies. And you’ll give me a pass for being a parent of two who rarely gets a full night’s sleep.
That said, I still found a way to consume and as you well know, consuming indie rock records and craft beer are what I do best when I’m not parenting or working. I didn’t listen to nearly as much music as year’s past, but I did drink a shit-ton of beer as my waist will attest. So, I have something to say about both topics.
The format will be a bit different than years past. Usually, I write a list of records and/or beers. Last year I opted not to rank my choices for the year. This year I will simply name some arbitrary categories to fill with some sort of commentary. Do with this list what you will. However, I hope you can find the time to comment and even throw some money at the good people I’m about to praise.
The 2014 Beer and Pavement Recognitions and Such – Craft Beer Division
“My New Favorite Series of Special Release Beers”
A year and a quarter ago, I made my the voyage to Mikkeller’s home base(s) in Copenhagen. While there, I discovered that my favorite brewer can do lambics. And they don’t just do your ordinary lambic. Nope. The “Spontaneous Series” from Mikkeller features tart beers flavored with not your average additives like the evasive species such as buckthorn or the elderflower which comes from the potentially toxic elder plant. There are more typical fruits such as peach and raspberries, but you shouldn’t forget your root vegetables like beets(!). Mikkeller is known for pushing boundaries and styles, but with this series the boundaries are both stretched and strengthened like few brewers can do. I am not a completist, so I have yet to try all of these beers as they are pretty expensive and hard to find in this part of the country, but I buy one when I can and have enjoyed each immensely.
Close second: Stone’s Enjoy By Series is the freshest DIPA’s you’ll find as long as you enjoy them by the date on the bottle. 4/20 was particularly good this year. Rumor has it there’s an Enjoy After Series on the way which should be fun.
“Beer Style I Was Almost Over. Almost.”
Bourbon barrel imperial stouts are a bit played out. I mean, bourbon is great. Imperial stouts are great. So, you can’t possibly mix the two too often, can you? Guess again.
I grew so tired of anything bourbon-barrel aged and I like bourbon. A lot. However, aging every imperial stout in bourbon barrels gets old. The flavor is rich and often too sweet. It’s an easy way to make a beer everybody wants, but I’m moving on.
Well, sort of. Tonight with roast beef, I cracked open Avery’s Tweak. This is the bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts of bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts at 17% ABV and actual chunks of bourbon barrels in every bottle. Still, I don’t know how much more bourbon barrel imperial stouts I can take.
“The Beer I Like With Food”
I once discovered the wonders of a Dogfish Head India Brown Ale and a Booches burger. Oh, the wonders of hops and malts with a greasy burger… Well, I found my new favorite beer with comfort food: Broadway Brewery‘s Backyard BBQPA. Yes, a smoked pale ale is not everyone’s favorite, but Broadway brewed a beer that works with most of their menu, particularly anything smoked or meaty. I’ve had it with their burgers, pulled pork, and meatloaf sandwich. The mixture of malty sweetness and the bitterness of hops and smoke make for a nice beer to pair with fatty meats. I honestly don’t know that I’d like this beer on its own, but it is fantastic with Broadway’s excellent menu of locally-grown comfort foods.
“That Said, This Is My New Favorite Food-Beer Pairing”
Imperial stouts should be the only beer you ever serve with pie, especially a pie filled with berries. And don’t even bother with the a la mode bullshit. An imp stout has your creamy sweetness covered. I recently rediscovered the wonders of this pairing when a friend baked us some pie with blackberries and I showed up with a 2013 Deschutes Abyss nine months past its best after date. Whoa. What a brilliant pairing if I do say so myself. The glorious things going on in my mouth that night were enhanced by some killer Spiegelau Stout glasses.
A close second: The curried chicken pot pie we had before this pie was paired with Against the Grain’s Citra Ass Down DIPA and/or Stone’s Best By 12/26/14 DIPA. It’s hard to beat a perfectly balanced DIPA and spicy food. This isn’t a case of I got really drunk recently and wanted to include the experience in my blog. No. It’s an instance when perfect foods get matched with perfect beers and you all should know about it.
“2014’s Mikkeller – I.E. My New Favorite Brewery”
I nearly chose Texas’ Jester King Brewery, but I’ve followed them for a while and have always felt they were kindred spirits with the likes of Mikkeller, Evil Twin, Stillwater, The Bruery, etc. I was lucky enough to try quite a few of their beers at the SECraft Beer festival here in town where I sampled Snörkel, Detritivore, and Atrial Rubicite to name just a few of their excellent brews. They are now one of my top 3-4 breweries to gather while traveling to other beer markets.
That said, my new favorite brewery for this year goes to Prairie Artisan Ales, Sure, they are know for their various versions of Bomb!, yet another barrel-aged imperial stout, but I love their take on the saison as if it’s the new “ale.” Yes, I realize a saison is an ale by definition, but they like Stillwater treat the saison like it’s a centerpiece yeast strain and not just a side-project. There’s the Cherry Funk which is, well, funky. And there’s the Birra Farmhouse Ale, Prairie Standard, Prairie Hop, Prairie Ale, Puncheon, and a silly number of other saisons. All of these beers are grassy and pair well with any white meat or salad.
“Best Session Beer”
We got ourselves a brand-new spanking brewery this year by the name of Logboat. They do some nice beers and throw some good parties. However, they do provide the parenting/driving beer enthusiast some nice options such as their (GABF silver-medal winner) Mamoot Mild Ale and Bear Hair Belgian Blonde. These beers come in just under 5% ABV, but the beer that I love is just over that mark. It’s a wheat beer which are not always my favorite (except when they are hopped to hell). This beer features loads of ginger to help settle the stomach and awaken the tongue. Shiphead Ginger Wheat is the best session beer I’ve had this year. Sure, I enjoyed the IPA’s put out by Stone and others, but this beer’s gingery bite sets it apart from the rest.
“My Favorite Beer of 2014”
I could name so many new favorites from this past year like the ones above as well as Four Hands Alter Ego Black IPA, 3 Floyds War Mullet DIPA, Logboat/Four Hands Loghands Saison, Four Hands Cash Money, Founders Dissenter, Prairie’s Bomb!, Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal Saison, Three Taverns’ White Hops, my own Aaawrange IPA and Smoke without Fire, Stone Go To IPA, Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Stout (2013), Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery Oil of Aphrodite, etc. I could also consider some old favorites that showed well again this year like Boulevard Saison Brett, Boulevard Love Child #4, Boulevard Rye on Rye, Bells Dark Note, Deschutes Hop Henge DIPA, Bells Hopslam, Mikkeller Citra, etc.
However, this year’s favorite beer has to be the one I predicted almost three years ago. I wrote the following:
Dogfish Head Guided By Voices Heavy Lager – I once heard Bob Pollard proclaim on stage that he drinks “Bud Heavy” and not Bud Light. So, I think Dogfish Head needs to produce a “heavy” lager, maybe an imperial pilsner or high ABV bock of some sort and dedicate it to the reunited classic GBV lineup. I chose Dogfish Head because they’ve done this sort of thing before and there’s a picture of Sam Calagione wearing a GBV t-shirt out there somewhere.
I was pretty close in my prediction and although I didn’t correctly predict the name of the beer, I did name a two-episode web series the same as my beer of the year. This beer wasn’t necessarily the best or even my favorite for taste, aroma, etc. This beer captured the connection between craft beer and indie rock I have been preaching about here when I actually find time to post.
That beer, of course, is Beer Thousand, the imperial lager Dogfish Head brewed in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Guided By Voices’ Bee Thousand. Never has a beer more perfectly deserved recognition on this blog than now. And somehow with the help of my brother (who happens to live in Dayton), I was able to score a 4-pack. The beer is excellent. It hides the booze well and defies the style. While it may not rank high in tartness or hoppiness, it certainly tastes like Bee Thousand sounds: gloriously lo-fi and bound to get you drunk.
No, this is not a list of the twelve worst beers I’ve had this year. I won’t do that. What I will do is put together a cheap post, a list of my last twelve beers as a way to fill some space. Think of it as the twelve beers of this Christmas or something. Some of these I’ve had and might have reviewed somewhere, but I thought I’d look back and see what I’ve enjoyed recently*. Of course, most of these happened on Sunday at a beer geek holiday party, but they still count…
Parabola Russian imperial stout by Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Sycamore, a favorite place to get a beer and a fine meal was hosting a Firestone Walker beer dinner. I didn’t get tickets, but I was able to score a seat for my daughter and I. We ate pork belly sliders, their special salad (soft boiled egg, bacon, etc.), smoked trout belly, and their famous Parmesan fries. I washed all that down with this beer. At 13%, it was the only beer I could safely drink in order to get my kid home in time for bed. It’s a huge and intense flavor experience, but it’s plenty drinkable now and should be out of this world in a year or two.
Fuego del Otono by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales – We had guests over for dinner. My wife makes this pumpkin soup where she bakes it inside a Long Island cheese pumpkin and we scoop out pulp with the broth and melted Gruyere. Somehow the brown ale I chose to pair was not going to make the cut. So, I quickly chilled this Jolly Pumpkin. The nuttiness, spices, and slight tartness played well with the soup.
Double Bastard by Stone Brewing Company – This one was served before dinner for a couple of bastards (myself included). I’ve always had an interest in drinks named “bastard” ever since I had my first Miserable Bastard at the bar around the corner from my college apartment. I like to pretend when I drink this beer that it’s what the regular Arrogant Bastard used to taste like before we all became acclimated to such big beers.
Firestone 15 (XV) Anniversary Ale byFirestone Walker Brewing Company – I was lucky enough to get a nice sample of this beer which should age nicely. I still have several bottles in my possession at the moment, but one is promised to a friend. This means that I either have one to sell or trade or I’ll drink it over the holiday with friends and age another for the future. Either way, I feel pretty lucky to have any and to have tasted it already. Did I mention that it’s pretty incredible already?
N’Ice Chouffe by Brasserie d’Achouffe (Duvel Moortgat) – After a while, I feel all these great Belgian beers – seasonal or not – begin to all taste the same. Of course they don’t really and of course this is not a bad thing. My underdeveloped tongue for Belgian beers just struggles to differentiate. This one was nice. I don’t remember anything that set it apart particularly. Plus, it was in the midst of a decent haul for a Sunday afternoon.
4 Calling Birds by The Bruery – I love The Bruery. This one was interesting. Unlike the one above, it stuck out as a Belgian style beer. However, I sensed a lot more clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, you know, Christmas spices. Still, it didn’t quite stand up to the actual Belgian beer. Had I consumed it alone, I might think differently. Of course, I’d drink this over 97% of the holiday beers out there. So, there’s that. (On a side note, this holiday get-together included a Yankee Swap. I walked off with a Cuir from The Bruery. I can’t wait for the perfect occasion to crack this baby open.)
Wytchmaker Rye IPA by Jester King Craft Brewery – I was very excited to try this beer as I have been reading for months about all the cool beers they’re brewing. It didn’t disappoint. Some couldn’t get past the rye, but I thought the rye was almost an afterthought as the tartness and hoppy bitterness shared center stage. I have to find a way to try more of these beers.
Doodle Dubbel by Doodle Brewing – So, the great thing about craft beer – like punk rock 25-30 years ago – is that anyone can brew beer. The bad thing about craft beer – also like punk rock – is that anyone can brew beer. I’ll just leave it at that.
Harvest wheat wine (2009 vintage) by Boulevard Brewing Co. – This beer came out two year ago. I hated it two years ago, but I still had an unopened bottle. So, I cellared it. Time passed by and I couldn’t find the appropriate time to pull it out of the cellar until the holiday party happened. I was considering contributions and noticed that the best by date was 10/10. I figured we might as well open it now. There’s no shame in pouring a beer down the drain…but we didn’t have to. In fact, this beer mellowed a ton and was well worth the wait. Sweet and smooth, nothing like I remembered it. It makes me rethink my dislike of the wheat wine altogether.
Winter Ale by Petrus – OK.
Rumpkin by Avery Brewing Company – I don’t know about a pumpkin ale, but this tasted more like a huge barley wine. I didn’t really sense much pumpkin at all. It’s so malty and sweet. I wish I was able to get my hands on some for aging purposes. Oh well. Can’t win them all. Still, I got to try some and it’s a nice barley wine – forget the pumpkin angle.
*Honestly, since I started this post, I’ve had a couple of other beers. One was the Shmaltz/Terrapin collab Reunion ’11. It was better than I remembered. There are moments when it’s spicy and others when the chocolate hits. It’s a very nice beer that I wouldn’t turn down. The other was one of my 90 Minute IPA‘s I have lying around, but I want to say more about it in another post. So, it will have to wait.