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?
As my last two batches of home brew disappear and a commercially-made beer disappoints, I begin to look to brewing another batch. Obviously, I don’t brew one batch after another like some. No, I get around to it when I get around to it. I’m starting to get that itch and thought I’d share my thought process.
After Saturday’s disappointing experience with Odell’s Woodcut No. 5, I decided that I wanted to brew a Belgian Quad. First, I had to figure out what goes into a Quad to give it that rich, raisin-y flavor and aroma. That’s easier said than done. I looked around the internet and it doesn’t seem all that clear how the flavors of a Quad are created, especially in a batch using extract. I could read this guy’s book, but I’m feeling a bit lazy and just want to figure something out. Of course, that also means that I want to play with the ingredients to make it my own. For example, I don’t think your traditional Quad contains maple syrup. So, I think I’m really just trying to make a big, dark beer with Belgian yeast.
I’ll play with some specialty grains to obtain that dark color, but the raisin flavors and aromas will be harder to achieve. I am considering a little cheating or even going the Dogfish Head route by adding raisins and figs, but it seems more complex than I might be willing to try. From what I can tell, these beers use very little in the way of hops and what they use tend to be German. Additionally, I’ll add some candied sugar. The Belgian yeast should help to create the flavor I’m after.
The above portion was for my beer/homebrew nerd readers. Comment freely and steer me in the right direction. The conversation below has to do with naming the beer.
I’ve made a point to name my beers after musicians, albums, or song titles. This beer should be dark, sweet, slight funk, and relatively boozy. So, what should I name it?
I really have no clue where to go with this one. Often, it’s where I start. For example, Wowee Zowee Double IPA was intended to pay homage to the Pavement album by the same name. It actually lived up to its namesake. Now, that I’ve identified a style and flavor profile, I have to figure out which album, song, or musician to name my new brew after. Here’s what I’m thinking…
Slint (band) – Spiderland (album by Slint) - ”Good Morning, Captain” (song off Spiderland)
The darkness this album paints is best exemplified in the final track. However, I’m not sure if any of these names would make for a good beer name. Slint Quad? Who wants to drink a Spiderland? Can’ Good Morning, Captain make a good beer name?
Will Oldham’s “band” felt like the perfect inspiration for this beer. Dark and oddly sweet underneath… Of course, as I said before, I wasn’t inspired by a band for this particular beer. So, who knows whether this would work.
I dunno. I’m stretching it a bit here. Jon Spencer would drink this brew, right? Probably not. Besides, this name should probably be saved for something more extreme.
The California Raisins
And, that’s as far as I’ve made it. I have a long way to go. So, if you have suggestions for the recipe or the beer’s name, leave them in the comments. We’ll discuss.
I’ve hinted and shared bits of information concerning two homebrews I currently have around to consume. Well, I’ve had a chance to enjoy and share these brews with others. That’s given me some insight into what I have inside all those bottles taking up space in my cellar. The numbers denote the how many batches I’ve done. There has been a cider and a couple of collaborative projects, but these put me at 9 and 10 batches of my own doing.
Batch #9 – Black Francis Imperial Stout (recipe)
This was to be part of a Christmas gift for people, particularly family, but that idea went out the window once we counted up the souvenirs we purchased in Spain. So, I’ve been drinking and sharing this beer, especially now that the weather has turned a bit.
Black Francis is a relatively big imperial stout (9% ABV) aged with oak chips, cocoa nibs, and vanilla beans all soaked in bourbon. Soaking the chips creates an effect similar to a bourbon barrel, but it actually allows for mor surface to touch the beer than a barrel. I wish I had aged it longer, but I worried about a potential exposure issue and I’m impatient with beer.
The beer itself contains an overwhelming amount of bourbon in the nose, but one can catch a bit of the chocolate if he’s paying attention. The vanilla doesn’t come through on its own. It seems the vanilla just augments the other flavors in the beer. The oak comes through a bit under the bourbon, but this may be the vanilla as the two components often bring the same flavors to a beer. I’ve used cocoa nibs before without much success. The vanilla, however, brings the chocolate out a bit. I’m hoping to save a few bottles to see if the bourbon subsides a bit, making room for the vanilla and chocolate to come forward.
Batch #10 – Simcoe-Dependency IPA (recipe)
This is my third go at this brew. The first was an extract beer and a huge success. The second time I tried to brew the beer, my thermometer boke in the wort, causing me to dump the entire batch. This time around, I brewed an all-grain batch with friends. Many remember the first batch and have been looking forward to trying this one.
Simcoe-Dependency is a single-hopped IPA, meaning that I only used one hop for bittering, flavor, and aroma. The Simcoe hop is one of my favorites. It adds a catty, grapefruit-like presence to a beer. For my money, it’s the most potent, identifiable hop out there and is the ideal hop to be solely featured in a beer. All my favorite single-hop commercial brews are Simcoe-specific.
This batch turned out rather different from the first. It’s dryer and features the slight tartness from the hop more so than I’m accustomed. The aroma isn’t as awesome as I remember, causing me to think that doubling the amount of hops in the dry-hop could have made a huge difference. The dryness comes from the dry yeast I used that seemed to eat up all the sugars, dropping my final gravity lower than expected. A sweeter beer might have showcased the hops better, but I have no complaints.
Another interesting aspect of the IPA is the patience factor I alluded to in my summary of the stout. For some reason, I have grown impatient with the time it takes to properly bottle condition my IPA’s. I brewed one in the spring as well as this one more recently. Both were not what I expected on the first few tries. However, as they sit around, they become more complex and the hop presence grows to favorable levels, almost completely changing the flavor and aroma of the beer over a matter of days or weeks. If there’s a lesson to be learned from these two brews, it’s that patience can make a world of difference between a good beer and a great one. Also, relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.
I have some things in the works and some other things I wanted to mention, but none of that is ready nor does it interest me at the moment. So, for your reading pleasure, I will do a little free association blog post that will hopefully hit on some of the things not quite worthy of their own blog posts.
Looking for a new way to label my homebrew, I designed and ordered the following rubber stamp.
The plan is to stamp some big mailing labels, write in which beer is in the bottle, and slap those mothers on. It will save me from having to print out extravagant labels at Kinkos while providing me a uniform way to mark my own brews. A good point was made regarding the new name of my fictitious brewery: It’s better than naming it “Watery Domestic,” a name I never considered. For those of you not in the know, Treble Kicker was Pavement’s made-up label for their first few singles. They later just put it on every release, sort of for publishing purposes or something. I’m using it as the ideal moniker to connect my two loves into my homebrews.
Speaking of homebrewing, I did this collaboration with a friend. He used leftover malt to brew a pale ale and I supplied leftover hops. We split the beer to see what we each could do with dry-hopping. I had several mishaps with bottling, making me label the caps “FML” or fuck my life. The first bottle was opened seven days in at a homebrew tasting last weekend. It was awful, but the veteran homebrewers in the room assured me that waiting it out might result in a better beer. Well, I opened one last night and it is getting better. Hopefully it will continue to improve.
I’m also hoping that the new Bright Eyes’ album will get better. It’s supposedly the last album to be released under “Bright Eyes” and that might be for good reason. Conor Oberst appears to be all out of ideas at the moment. When he did that pre-emo, cathartic thing he did in his late-teens/early-twenties, he was supposed to be the next Dylan. Really, it was some good stuff. Then, he released maybe his best folk album alongside a semi-electronica record. Okay. Then, after a live album and a rarities collection, he went down the alt.country rabbit hole, seemingly never to return. This would have been acceptable as so many artists do the same. Plus, he typically aligned himself with some excellent musicians. Alas, alt.country Conor was not meant to be. He released the regrettable People’s Key last week. I’m holding off judgement to see if it will grow on me, but I’m not hopeful. At least the artwork and design of the record sleeve is interesting.
Speaking of “interesting” album artwork, I finally unwrapped Tennis’ Cape Dory. This album is everything that Bright Eyes’ “effort” is not. It’s fresh, moving, interesting, enjoyable, etc. Of course, one has to get over the awful, awful artwork on the cover. It’s low-fi with that echoey, Phil Spector-ish doo-wop feel and retro vocals. It reminds me a ton of Camera Obscura if they recorded from bedrooms instead of studios. Still, this will be a nice record to enjoy as the weather turns.
And as the weather turns, March approaches. I try not to write too much about the sports-ball in these parts, but I have to address this at least one time before March Madness descends upon us. My boys at Ohio State are the best college basketball team in the nation and early favorites to win it all in March/early-April. They are lead by a core of experienced players that seem to have played in Columbus for 15 years as well as three freshman stars. One of those freshman is Jared Sullinger whose ass keeps defenders off as he puts up 18 and 10 on a nightly basis. Look for Ohio State to make a deep run this year in the tournament.
Something else happens in March…
The first weekend of March in these parts is dedicated to the True/False Film Festival. It’s our very own documentary film festival and it’s the best thing that happens here every year. We have reservations to see somewhere between 16 and 17 films over the weekend (starting Thursday), plus a few parties and live music in between. There will be a full report here and possibly more somewhere else. It’s going to be an incredible weekend this year. I can just feel it.
… feeling it, I feel as though I’m about to have my mind blown. I’ll be imbedded in said festival like never before, there are some interesting records coming my way, and there’s a ton of beer on the horizon. So, there will be a lot to discuss here. Come back, even if you noticed the lack of footnotes in previous posts. They’ll be back. Don’t worry. Sorry for the filler. I’ll wrap up the Archers of Loaf oeuvre on Wednesday, plug in something interesting about either beer, indie rock, or both on Friday, an preview the film fest next week.
1In other words, I have several barely-started posts sitting there in the dashboard and another dozen or so ideas I just don’t feel like posting. This three posts a week thing is getting tough. Still, dear reader, I feel you deserve better than filler. However, that’s what you’re getting.
2Plus, the design and name scream punk/lo-fi indie rock. There’s no way that there’s a better (fake) brewery out there, anywhere.
3Using leftovers should have been my first clue that the beer would be questionable, but we carried on the experiment anyway.
4I’m worried that there was too much oxygen pumped into the beer, which is not a good thing. Consider that there is a reason beer is sealed in kegs, firkins, casks, bottle, or cans and not just sitting out in the open. There could have also been some unwanted bacteria, but I hope not.
5This never made much sense to me. Dylan’s the superior songwriter; Oberst is the better performer, musician. Still, I hold Oberst in high regard as a songwriter. For me, they are two very, very different kinds of rock stars/folk singers. Any comparison is silly, even lazy.
6The songs were okay, but the musical direction was a mistake.
7I realize it is 2011, but I think I have a statement to make on alt.country in an upcoming blog post. Oberst’s turn to the cow punk is not surprising, nor is the demise of Bright Eyes. I will explain once I piece together an argument with examples.
8Honestly, I hate writing bad things about musicians I like. They work too hard at what they do to be ridiculed by a hack with a blog like myself. That said, I feel it disingenuous not to be honest. I just try to make it a practice not to go on and on about bands I like letting me down.
9Just look at it. It’s awful. AWFUL!
10Actually, everything about this release is retro. The cover looks like it’s out of the early 80′s. The music is 60′s pop and the aesthetic is 90′s lo-fi.
11Some would argue that this is not the case as they have dropped two of their last three games. However, both of those games were on the road to the 2nd and 3rd placed teams in the conference. This was the meat of the schedule where everyone knew they’d lose some games. All I know is the next four teams on the schedule better look out as Ohio State will be on a mission.
13I suspect we’ll fall short of this goal. That’s a lot of documentary film to watch.
14I’ve taken on a project to help another local blogger get a Columbia blog thing going. I’ve written a post and am formulating the next. I only have to post twice a month, so that shouldn’t be too hard. There’s one in the can on The Foundry Field Recordings, another in the works on a seminal album by locals Bald Eagle, and another will happen covering the music of True/False. It should be interesting.
15There’s the Lux pass upgrade, my name on a guest list for an exclusive party, and a Twitter account that’s not mine. It’s not as exciting as it might sound, but it makes me feel like I’m on the inside of this thing.
16Man, I haven’t had sixteen footnotes in forever. This feels good!