Like making a year-end list of best records, creating a list of one’s favorite is a silly yet necessary exercise. Silly because who really cares? Necessary because everybody’s doing it. In no particular order, here are beers that were either released this year, discovered by me this year, or finally made sense to me this year. I apologize upfront for the IPA-heavy list. I’m a hop head and have trouble remembering what I thought about most sours, stouts, Saisons, etc.
Trappist Westvleteren 12
I’ve had Westy before, but it was a small sample at the end of an evening of craft beer debauchery. My bother “won” one of those lottos just to get a chance to buy and $85 six pack. He shared as family is wont to do over the holiday. Half a bottle was more than enough for me to fully appreciate what many consider to be the best beer in the world. I don’t know about all of that or even if it’s the best Belgian quad, but it’s very very good.
Goose Island King Henry
This may have been released in 2011, but we never saw it locally. One evening in Lincoln, Nebraska at an excellent pizza joint offered me the opportunity to try this magnificent beast.
Bells Black Note Stout
I should not have had a glass of this beer, but I did. A sample was sneaked to me as I had to leave a Bells dinner. Imagine the molasses-fueled deliciousness of Expedition, mixed with the sweetness of a milk stout, and brewed in bourbon barrels. Even then, you can’t imagine how glorious this beer tasted.
Three Floyds Zombie Dust
I love me some APA’s but this one is on another level. So much Citra. So good.
Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Specially released IPA’s from Stone are all over my list. This one featured an amped-up version of what was my epiphany beer, if that was even possible… Of course it was! This was as good a tribute as any brewery has ever brewed.
Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA
I actually preferred this one to the September version. It’s possible this one was fresher, but both were consumed well before their best by dates. The idea of a ridiculously fresh IPA is nothing new, but this release made it a priority. There’s no way one of these will ever sit on shelves too long. I hope they continue to brew Best By IPA’s.
Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek (2008)
Obviously, this beer was not from this year, but I finally opened it and was glad I did. No one does lambics and sours like Cantillon. Probably no other more obvious sentence has ever been uttered regarding beer. Lou Pepe was no exception. I suspect the aging altered the beer, but I doubt I wouldn’t have loved it a couple of years ago.
This one is on the brain as I just picked up the latest release of this great Smokestack Series brew. I always liked this beer but never really got it until this year. I don’t know whether that’s trying so many inferior rye beers or just the ongoing development of my palate, but it’s so rich and so good. Aside from Boulevard’s Saison Brett (another all-time favorite that could make this list every year), this is one of the true Missouri craft beer treasures.
The Bruery 5 Golden Rings
I stumbled upon one of these at a Whole Paycheck the day before Xmas Eve and figured it would make the perfect Xmas dinner drink. And it did. No one outside of these guys and Stillwater consistently make beers that go better with food. I was lucky I paced myself of this one would have put me under the table.
Broadway Brewery Columbus Single Hop IPA
Never in my wildest dreams would I have figured a beer brewed here in Columbia, MO would make a list like this, but this one stacks up. I’m sure the freshness factor comes into play here, but I dragged a growler nine hours to Ohio, another three to Cleveland – all of it in a cooler that was probably not properly chilled and a growler that was not properly filled to the top – and the beer survived. Hell, it did better than survive. It was downright delicious.
Odell The Meddler Oud Bruin
I had nearly given up on Odell’s special releases, but this one was decently priced and I like to try anything new in this style. The beer was beautiful from appearance to aroma to the all-important flavors within. It paired well with whatever I was eating that night. This beer renewed my faith in Odell.
Schlafly Tasmanian IPA (TIPA)
Schlafly has been experimenting with different varieties of hops, mostly through special keg-only releases and cask ale. Still, this one was a nice little surprise. It’s one of those beers that nails the hoppiness hop heads are always after, causing us to want to drink one after the other.
Millstream Great Pumpkin Imperial Stout
This is how pumpkin ale should be done. Screw the pumpkin pie and sour varieties. Put your pumpkin in an imperial stout or Baltic porter! As an imperial stout, it’s not my favorite. However, it made me rethink pumpkin beers just as I was writing them off.
Treble Kicker Beer New Slang Saison
My own Saison is easily one of my favorites. I upped the ante with this year’s version for my partner’s tenure celebration. More lemon zest and rosemary = a punch in the face Saison that is not playing around. Add in some dry-hopped Sorachi Ace hops and you have a lemon bomb/balm that needs to brewed again and soon.
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
This one was met with many mixed reviews, but I loved the twist this one offered some lemon verbena and rye-induced spice that made for one of the more interesting/surprising beers this year.
Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA
Why isn’t the white/wheat IPA more popular? Because no one wants to take on Deschutes’ hold on hoppy beers. No one hops a beer like Deschutes. No one.
Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale
This was my beer of the summer. Refreshingly hoppy goodness in a can carried me through record-setting heat, including a 30-mile bike ride.
Green Flash Rayon Vert
I’m not sure how long this beer has been around, but it made its first appearances in middle-Missouri earlier this year and I’m sure glad it did. Another twist on the IPA (this time with Belgian love), Rayon Vert became the “heavy” beer of summer.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said before about Stillwater’s excellence. I could put any of their beers on this list every year. Still, this one made its debut in 2012 and I for one welcome it to the best lineup of Saisons this side of Belgium.
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
The Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale continues to dig out a niche in craft beer and Firestone’s entry is no different than the best of the style.
Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies
Did I mention Deschutes’ mastery of the hop. This fresh-hopped IPA and its fresh-hopped APA cousin (Hop Trip) do what fresh/wet-hopped beers are supposed to: capture the essence of Dionysus’ underwear… or something like that.
Mikkeller Royal Rye Wine
Most of the Mikkeller releases I enjoyed this year were not all that new to me. However, the experience surrounding the Royal Rye Wine made this possibly the most memorable beer of the year. Read more about it here.
What did I forget? What would you add? Disagree or agree with any of these?
In no particular order, here are my ten favorite beers of the year. A few are new for 2011 and some were just new to the market in which I live (Missouri). What did I miss? Are there better examples from the following breweries or of the following styles? Discuss in the comments. Warning: There’s a whole lotta Miekkeller and Stillwater in this list.
Mikkeller Black Imperial Stout – I love the ultra-boozy, thick imperial stout. You know, the kind that is sold in 12 oz. (or Euro equvialent 11.2 oz.) that costs more than many six-packs and bombers. The ABV is obscene and they’re good now or after a couple of years in the cellar. This entry into the sub-style from Mikkeller is astoundingly good. It’s all I can do to keep myself from cleaning the shelves around town of the monster in a bottle. My bank account appreciates it, but my stomach and tongue glare at me with resentment.
Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout – Another huge imperial stout that is maybe the most hyped beer of all-time. Hyperbole aside, this beer lived up to the hype. It’s a mouthful as the maple syrup, coffee, oak, and all the things one would expect from a Founders imperial stout are there. I feel lucky to have tried CBS on tap and still have a bottle to save for later.
The Bruery Black Tuesday – A glass of this fantastic beer crossed my lips at the same event that provided my portion of CBS. More in the vein of Mikkeller’s Black, Black Tuesday is a gigantic imperial stout. Howevern, unlike Black that comes in a bottle more appropriate for a single serving, this Goliath comes in 750 mL bottles, meant to be shared with a group. Still, I lucked out by being in the right place at the right time and got to try this beast next to the one above. Life’s good for the beer geek.
Anchorage Bitter Monk – Moving on from imperial stouts, a surprising arrival showed up in stores this year. Anchorage makes what is one of the more complexly interesting beers I’ve had in a long time. The huge hop presence of a DIPA is balanced with chardonnay barrel-aging and even Brettanomyces… basically a dream beer. Despite its relatively high price point, I’ve noticed this beer doesn’t hang out on shelves for long.
Stillwater/Mikkeller Two Gypsies Our Side – Another beer that finds a way to bring piney hops to the farmhouse, making this hybrid style a sure thing to be cloned over and over in the coming year. Where Bitter Monk relies more heavily on the barrel aging and Brett, this beer keeps it simple but still strikes a chord with the beer nerd in search of a complex, challenging experience.
New Belgium La Terroir – A third, less-intense version of the IPA/Saison hybrid is New Belgium’s La Terroir. Technically, none of these beers really fits a style, but they highlight the best of the Saison/Farmhouse/wild end as well as capitalizing on the resinous hoppiness we all love in our IPA’s. This third in the hybrid group of beers on my list is more of a barrel-aged wild ale with the peachy presence of an Amarillo and Cascade dry-hop.
Stillwater/Mikkeller Rauchstar – Second Stillwater/Mikkeller brew on my list is also another hybrid beer. This beer also happened to just slide into the top-10 as it was consumed the day after Xmas. Yes, it’s a smoked beer, but it’s also highly hopped and there’s that Stillwater tang that’s unmistakable. Really, this was a shockingly good beer that I wished I had more of. Plus, the label is pretty wicked.
Odell Friek – I’ve really learned to appreciate Kriek Lambics and the like over the last year, especially when paired with chocolate. This one delivered and has made a brief return to our market right at the end of the year. It’s very welcome. My previous experience with Odell’s Woodcut series did not end well and I have another of their beers I’ve been advised to wait out. Still, when they do it right, I still have to give them credit. Friek is a freak of a good beer.
Firestone Walker Double Jack DIPA – I realize that this is far from a new beer for most beer enthusiasts, but it was new to our little market this year and very welcome. While some will go more for the bigger, richer, oakier varieties of beer, but this DIPA is exceptional. The only thing that may challenge it is their Union Jack IPA which just arrived.
Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA – Another welcomed sight on the shelves and coolers here was Stone. Then, they came correct with their 15th anniversary ale, a big, hoppy double black IPA. Really, this beer was phenomenal and has extended the legend of the black IPA.
I spend a lot of money on beer. Sometimes, I’ll spend a lot of money on just one beer. One such beer or series of beers is Odell’s Woodcut series. These are special brews that a small batched, one-offs with a hefty amount of booze, flavor, and cost. I assume the “wood” portion comes from the oak barrel aging they do, something they are demonstrating a great aptitude for with this series.
I’ve had a couple of the series in the past. The high price point makes me hesitate, but the rave reviews from beer nerds I trust convinced me to buy number 5 in the series, a wine-barrel-aged Belgian Quadruple. Even in the ballpark of $25, I felt it would be a nice beer to try. Part of me wanted to age it, but an opportunity to share it with a friend who appreciates such beers arose and I popped the cork open to consume.
The only problem was that there was no “pop.” After a slight struggle, the cork simply slid out. This worried me, but I poured two tulip glasses anyway. The first looked flat, so I poured the second aggressively. Yep, still flat. Normally, I would be mildly annoyed, but a beer this expensive coming out this flat was a real disappointment. I ended up finishing off most of it as my friend moved on to something else.
Why didn’t I pour it down the drain? For one, it was $25. Otherwise, it was a pretty awesome beer, even without the carbonation. Figs, raisins, cherries, assorted dried fruit dominated the beer. The oak present in this beer was nearly perfect. Some beers feature too much oak and some are too mild, every oak-aged Odell brew I’ve had is perfectly oaked. That touch of vanilla from the woods is so well-balanced that I nearly forgot the beer’s faults. The booze was there, but it was unnoticeable despite it sitting there at 11%. All this made the experience even more disappointing as it could have been one of the best beers I’ve had this year with a little carbonation.
As I normally do, I reported my beer on Untappd. I asked whether or not the beer should be flat. Some high-end, high ABV beers can be flat. However, this should not have been the case for a Quad. My Untappd reports post on Twitter where Odell picked it up right away. They suggested that carbonation may vary with bottle aging, which as a homebrewer I know all too well. However, they asked me to email them. As of now, I don’t know what they will/can do for me, but just responding to my concern is a good sign. I suspect they’ll make amends somehow. Just another reason why I love the craft beer industry.
I’ll update the story as soon as something happens.
I’m not gonna lie. I drank some beer this holiday season. That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
The following are not all the beers consumed this holiday season. They are either beers I liked, felt were interesting enough to mention, had pictures of, or some combination of the three. Also, it’s worth mentioning that I’m using the term “holiday season” loosely to describe several weeks of beer-geek debauchery. Mostly, I just wanted to write about some beers I had over the last month.
Mikkeller Black Tie
Honeyed ash tray. That’s all I can say about this one. It’s not terrible, but good luck finishing an entire 500 mL on your own. I shared this with some dudes in a little pre-holiday fatherly drinkfest.
Stone Double Bastard
Well, it’s double the Bastard. So, how can it not be good? This one was purchased for me by family mistakenly thinking they had found the Lucky Bastard I so wanted this holiday season. Alas, Lucky never made its way to Missouri, but this held me over for a bit. That is, until my siblings proceeded to send me this picture on Xmas Eve:
Not cool. Not cool at all. Of course, for those of you who know the Bastard, you’ll adeptly point out that the beer in their glasses is not Lucky Bastard. I think it was Southern Tier’s Krumpus. So, there’s still hope, I guess.
He’Brew Jewbilations 13 and 14
How are these beers 1) only $5 and 2) still available? I’m talking about two beers that measure in at 13 and 14% ABV respectively. I had both several times this winter and still hold onto one bottle of each. Hopefully, I can hold on for 15.
He’Brew Rejewvinator Year of the Date
I am not a big fan of this particular lineup of He’Brew beers, but the annual Hanukkah party gives me an excuse to show up with a few bombers of the ‘Brew. This one surprised as it festered with festiveness and raisins…or might those be the dates?
He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale
This beer accompanied me to said Hanukkah party last year and I was pleasantly taken aback as the pomegranate pairs well with and feeds the dry, fruity, hoppy bitterness. I like a dry fruity finish with my beers and somehow pomegranate does the trick. This one will become a Hanukkah tradition around this gentile’s house.
Mikkeller Rauch Geek Breakfast
I had this several times this fall and winter. Normally, I am not a smoked beer fan, but this one is different as it is smoky Beer Geek Breakfast Stout. This beer does for smoke what Beer Geek Brunch Weasel does for poop. Perfect smoky beer for a Polish feast.
Mikkeller Ris a la Male
I’m not sure this one fits with the holiday theme, but I found one and had to try it. I’m still not sure what I thought of it. Almonds, cherries, but not too much of either. The packaging and appearance are beautiful, but the beer lacks anything to make it memorable or even interesting.
O’Dell Deconstruction Golden Ale
Held onto this beer for a while until breaking it out for movie night and Indian takeout. Phenomenal. Slight tartness and pungent but golden sweetness to make it one of the more balanced and diverse beers I’ve had this year. This beer defies style and that may hurt it hype-wise, but I enjoyed it both times I was able to sample it, especially that night I killed the entire 750 on my own. See below for the other time I sampled Deconstruction.
Yankee Swap – Allagash Odyssey
This is the only beer I have yet to try. I “won” it in a Yankee Swap after some persistence. It was that or a Russian River beer I’ve since forgotten. I’ll let you know when I do cork it. This was one of the few acquisitions over the holidays that will still hold a spot in my cellar.
Alesmith Horny Devil
My brother (seen pictured taunting me with Lucky Bastard) brought this one on a whim. I asked for several breweries available in Ohio and he shows up with this one. I took it to a officer meeting for my beer club and so glad I did. Freaking awesome! As you can see in the picture below, we enjoyed some nice beers at our meeting. The three Hopslams were from last year and not one tasted like the others. It sorta made the case for never cellaring Hopslam again. Still, the Horny Devil was a nice discovery.
Anchor Steam Christmas Ale
This was my first foray into season craft brews so many years ago. Anchor Steam changes their recipe from year to year. I always hope one year will blow me away, but they rarely do. I enjoyed the one three years ago, but my taste buds have undergone a lobotomy since then. Still, it’s a nice, flavorful beer. The spices actually accent the slight hop presence as opposed to overwhelming. It’s not bad and plenty sessionable. Of course, it’s taken the entire season to get through the sixer.
Afternoon at Hellbender
I have these friends who are trying to get a nano brewery off the ground. It’s called “Hellbender” and it mostly runs out of their garage at the moment. I hope they make this thing happen as their beers are consistently solid and unique. I got a chance at Thanksgiving to try their Rosemary, Baby, a beer they plan to enter in The Bruery’s Batch 300 Contest, and I have to say it’s the best beer The Bruery hasn’t brewed. I’m predicting it wins, but I’m also prepared for the West Coast bias. The homebrew in the pic is that very beer. We also had a beer geek’s delight in the rest of the lineup: Deschutes’ The Dissident, another Deconstruction, Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA, Cantillon Kriek, and The Lost Abbey’s Devotion. All beers were good. Drink them if you get your hands on them, but you could probably live without the Lost Abbey.
I have to interject here. This is maybe the best part of being in a beer geek community. I had to drop something off at my buddy Jarrett’s place. With beer in-hand, I entered his garage. By the end of the 2-2.5 hour visit, these were the beers shared. Beer geeks are a giving bunch and my
liver belly tongue thanks them.
Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper 2010
I had the 2009 version of this beer among many other seasonals last Xmas. This one I broke out and consumed on my own for our traditional Polish feast Xmas Eve. I enjoyed this beer so much as I was able to spend time with it, getting to know it’s subtle intricacies, rubbing its thigh, whispering sweet nothings into its ear…Let’s just say 750 mL of a good Belgian-style ale with your favorite meal of the year is a nice way to ring in the holidays.
New Holland Spirits
I know this isn’t beer. I also know that New Holland brews maybe one beer I like. That said, my wife mixed things up this Xmas and purchased me some holiday spirit(s). The Brewer’s Whiskey is good, not great, but it’s a nice sipper and warmed the cockles of my heart Xmas day. The gin is pretty excellent. Me thinks my retired, gin-loving daddy will like some of his own come Father’s Day. More craft brewers should get in on this small batch spirits game. It’s the next big thing since, well, craft beer.
Rogue Yellow Snow IPA
I bought a growler of this last year just so I had something interesting to bring to a party. It was not our favorite IPA. Still, something made me buy it again this year, only in a smaller container. It was really quite nice. None of the super-sweet maltiness so many IPA’s are going with these days. The Simcoe and whatever give you that piney, catty sensation…It’s not for everyone, but this was the perfect hair on the dog Xmas afternoon.
Southern Tier Iniquity
I’ve had this beer many times, but the trend of the black IPA has to be addressed. Maybe the biggest trend of 2010, the black IPA is all anyone wants to brew these days. The name is terrible. How can something be black or dark and pale? Even worse is the Oregon-centric push for the style to be called “Cascadian Dark Ale.” I call it a “black bitter,” but I think “black ale” is appropriate for those brews on the sweeter/less bitter side. Regardless, this is easily my favorite of the style, closely followed by the Odell double black IPA.
Sam Adams Infinium
I haven’t had the best of luck with hyped beers, but this one pulled through. Sure, it’s getting blasted in reviews. However, Infinium is a fine beer. I don’t know that it’s a fine $15 beer, but I liked it. The only problem was that I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve with any beer geeks. No one was interested in trying this beer. I had to polish off the entire 750 mL myself. That was a little much. Still, Infinium is a good brew, sharp, clean, fruity. It washed down the take-out Indian brilliantly. It did, however, make me feel a little dirty for drinking it alone.
This was my first attempt at writing some more beer-centric posts here at Building Coalitions. I want to do the same for music and for posts that intersect the two and stay away from things like college athletics, politics, and beards. It’s sort of a blogging New Year’s Resolution, which, as someone pointed out, usually run out by mid-February. Still, the hope is to get three of these bad boys out every week. I’m hoping to do one beer post, one music post, and one that intersects the two each week. I want more readers and regular content is the only way that will happen. Now, I just have to think of some topics.
As usual, read the footnotes and comment at will.
1Or it could be just the beers I remember. You know how that goes.
2It was father craft (beer) night, I believe as several mothers attended a craft (craft) night.
3Although, word on the street is that Stone will be in the Show-Me State next year. Yay.
4Although, I believe some people from my high school still think I’m Jewish.
5Which is strange, because if a Mikkeller beer is not good, it’s at the very least interesting. See the previously mentioned poop stout and Black Tie.
6And by “cellar” I’m just talking about a particularly cold closet in my basement.
7Actually, I had three or four of them. The last two were left at a New Year’s Day party. I’m good on holiday beers for another year.
8More on the black IPA later. Odell has always made dependable beers, but anything they do in a 750 mL bottle with a cork is liquid gold. This black IPA being black gold, Texas tea.
9There is no better hair on the dog than beer hair on the dog. Sugar and vitamin B. That’s all you need.
10Me alone with 750 mL of beer is an alarming trend, something that will need to be addressed in resolutions of moderation for the year to come.