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.
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?
I, like Lenny Bruce am not afraid. The Mayans are wrong about this one. The world will not end by 12/21/2012 EST. And if it does, I live in CST and should have at least an hour to take care of some unfinished business.
It’s all coming to an end and we can’t take any of it with us. So, why not indulge a little. Get that one more experience in before it all comes to an end.
It makes record collections and beer cellars obsolete. Unused blogs sit and digitally rot, losing readers by the minute.
We should enjoy the freshest of IPAs before they go bad. Don’t let the hops fade. It’s important to smell the fruit and pine aromas and to allow their bitterness to defeat your tongue. I enjoyed Stone’s Enjoy By 12/21/2012 weeks ago and I’m glad I did. I’ve had too many IPAs who sat months on shelves outside their proper homes in beer coolers. My bottle barely spent any time on a shelf or even in a refrigerator. I mean, why wait when you know it’s peaking now and will only fade as the days pass?
Anyway, here’s a blog post to prove that I’m still around. In case, you know, the world comes to an end. And if it doesn’t, maybe I’ll post again sometime soon.
1Actually, due to family travel plans, I will be in the Eastern Standard time zone. So, I get no hour, well aside from the hours I’ll have after Europe goes up in flames.
When Stone finally arrived in Missouri, so did Greg Koch, the brewing company’s co-founder and CEO comes correct, preaching the craft beer gospel through a bull horn. His message is the only thing louder than said bullhorn. It’s a message that speaks to the coalition. It’s a message that promotes artisanal products, particularly his own Stone beers.
Unfortunately, Greg did not make it to Columbia during that release. He did however take the time to respond to my blog post on the events of that week. He even responded to each and every footnote. Regardless of your stance on Stone, craft beer hype, or the circus that surrounds Greg, it was pretty cool that he took the time to leave comments on my 100-views-a-day blog. It was even cooler that he took the time to answer my questions for this series.
1. Describe your craft(s).
Our craft at Stone Brewing Company as you might guess is craft beer. We started in 1996 and since then helped introduce the world big character, hoppy, aggressive beers that don’t compromise. Also, our craft is in the Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens where we have become the largest restaurant purchaser of local, small, farm, organic produce in Sand Diego County – a stat that I am particularly proud of. In addition we have our own small organic farm which only produces a small percentage of our produce needs is about eight miles north of our brewery.
2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
It’s substantial. When you’re independent- that is not owned by a large conglomerate or industrial producer or also not publicly traded or held – you can make decisions that aren’t based upon a bottom-line, financial black and white spreadsheet. Now I’m one that argues that actually making “impractical” or “nonstandard” decisions is a very good business model, but it’s extraordinarily hard to do that hundred any circumstances, to trust your gut, to go direction really feel you should go. But if you’re in part of a larger conglomerate or a publicly held company, then the chances that you’re going to do that are almost nil. Being indie allows the creativity to come out and now to go directions that may seem on the surface to many impractical or uncertain but ultimately can allow you to create things that are special and unique and hopefully, ultimately successful.
3. How does your craft contribute to society?
At Stone, our biggest contribution is to do our part to show the world that there are better, more interesting things out there. There are things that have a better connection to the community, a better connection to our local region [through] our eclectic menu, our aggressive and unique beers…that people don’t have only the same old same old to choose from. They also have the ability to choose and learn about things that are of a special and unique quality. We’ve also tried to do our best to display a model that is highly connected to our community as far as community involvement. We participate in more than 500 charitable events each year. We’ve donated more than $2 million in cash and beer to charities for charitable fundraising events over our lives at Stone Brewing Company. We’re an active part of the community. Stone Brewing World Bistro Gardens is a community gathering place. It’s a place where people go to congregate, discuss issues like the old-time pubs and meeting places. Our place – which has no TV’s, a complete ban on high-fructose corn syrup, no commodity beers, no commodity pre-processed foods – is a place that sort of breaks free from the convention that’s all around us, allowing people to more creative in their own direction and their own lives.
4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
I’m actually stoked to say that there’s quite a number. Maybe coffee would be at the top of the list but coffee would have to share the top of the list with artisanal cheese producers. Pretty much all artisinal and artistic food and drink: local bakeries, kombucha producers – creating great, flavorful, healthy drinks – , and restaurants and pubs… You know, like the gastropub movement to use a broad term. These businesses that are working hard to make sure they’re connected to the community and our environment by carefully curating what they serve, understanding the policies, practices, philosophies behind the items that they bring in the backdoor, prepare, and serve to their guests. All places that approach their business from that perspective I have a high level of respect for and appreciation for because it makes my life as a consumer richer and more rewarding. I get to experience the best that life has to offer. In today’s world, there’s kind of no reason no to enjoy all of these things. Sometimes in certain areas you have to seek it out a little bit more, but overall the level of availability of specialty and artisanal products has continued to grow. I appreciate that.
5. What is your dream of success?
Success to me means the world has changed or is dramatically changing for the better; yhat we are continuing to understand the importance of organic and local produce; that we [consume] actual, real food as opposed to pre-prepared foods or processed foods and all that. They’re better for our society. They’re better for us individually. They’re better for the environment. They’re better for the animals in the case of eating meat. We can live happier, healthier lives. This is a beautiful thing. It’s what I believe in. While it may not look like on the surface from our work that we’re working towards that, but I really feel that we are part of this movement to steer away from commodity, conglomerate, and lowest-common-denominator stuff towards artisinal quality, characterful, and well-crafted items.
Cheers and thanks for including me in the article! I appreciate it.
Greg has a new book out that you should read. Some of it is redundant for those of you who know the story of beer well or even the story of Stone. However, there are some great beer and food recipes included along with a good model for starting a small business the way you want to do it. In the meantime, drink a Stone in honor of this interview.
Click here for the previous twelve indie-craft interviews. If you know of someone I should interview for the series, make a suggestion below.
It’s a Friday afternoon and I don’t have anything for you. So, like teachers all across this great land of ours, I will show you some videos instead of actually teaching you anything. Granted, two of these videos were supposed to inspire blog posts of their own, but I’m being lazy.
The first video is part of that stupid Shit X say meme.
The second is an excellent video made by regular commenter Carrie Wade and Michael Hopkins.
The third video from which you can learn is this talk Coalition favorite Greg Koch of Stone gave to the nerds at Goolgle.
Have a good weekend, all.
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.
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.
The Beer and Whiskey Bros. provide me with a lot of ideas for beer posts here. This week’s top-5 was inspired by a post on go-to and no-go breweries. I will abstain from calling out the no-go breweries and just give you my top-5 go-to breweries, breweries that I’ll buy whenever I see their product on the shelf, in the cooler, or on tap.
5. Schlafly/Boulevard – These are the two big breweries in Missouri, Aside from that one brewery. Bothe breweries provide us with entry good beers from which to choose. Of special note are Schlafly’s bourbon barrel beers and Boulevard’s Smokestack series. Both breweries also offer nice (A)IPA’s as well as some seasonal favorites.
4. Founders – I’m not sure any brewery gets the intense flavor of every style of beer better than Founders. Their IPA’s are straight bitter with a citrus nose. The stouts and porters are blacker than night and easily some of the best in the business. The only thing I’ve found that Founders doesn’t do well is subtlety. And is that so bad?
3. Jolly Pumpkin – I pretty much always have a JP in the cellar. Whenever they put out a new brew, I am sure to grab one, despite their somewhat steep prices. A Jolly Pumpkin beer tastes like no other as they employ a wild fermentation with all their beers. Even their ESB’s and stouts are funky. We don’t get a ton of JP here, but whenever I can, I grab one.
2. Stone – This was the brewery (specifically Ruination IPA) that turned me on to craft beer. I consider them the Founders of the west (or vice versa), but they can do subtlety. At least when I pick up a Stone beer, I know every time that it will be enjoyable. This was a major get for our market this last year. Now, we have some of the best IPA’s, stouts, and barley wines available for very little money.
1. Mikkeller – Like Jolly Pumpkin, I pay an extra premium for these beers. The trouble is that we only get a few of their brews at a time. Then, one has to decide if $12 for 12 oz. is worth it. Often, the answer is yes. And they do every style imaginable, plus a few they made up. Even if I don’t like a Mikkeller beer, I will at least find it interesting.
The following list is based on my anticipation for cracking open the following beers. I may have some beers that are rated better or that I may actually like more, but this is more of a list that highlights some oddball beers and beers I just can’t wait to open. Some I’ve had already, but some will be new to me once I open them in the coming months or years.
5. Allagash 2010 Odyssey and 2009 Interlude – The Odyssey was scored in a Yankee Swap last Xmas. I have no idea what’s inside. The Interlude was found while on a business trip in Richmond, VA. Again, I have no idea what’s inside. Anything barrel aged and produced on a small scale by one of the more respected American craft breweries has me intrigued. Now, if they’re terrible, the brewery’s mystique will fade. However, I suspect these beers will be pretty awesome.
4. 2009 Alaskan Barley Wine – Someone told me that they had this beer and vintage at a beer festival recently. It was the hit of the fest according to this one guy, but I trust his opinion. That’s why this beer’s days are numbered and I’ll be cracking it open at some point this winter.
3. Never Forget Barley Wine – This was the barley wine I had planned for my daughter’s first birthday. I didn’t get around to brewing and bottling until a few months after her birthday, but quite a bit of it has been consumed, leaving me with only two bottles. At some point, I’ll open one to see what happens. The other may have to wait until a significant birthday. 18? 21? We’ll see.
2. Cantillon Lou Pepe – This one I just bought this past week. At $22, several factors are at play. First, I could only justify buying one as I had already purchased three bottles of something else that day. So, I will have no idea what it tastes like. This may mean that this one has a short stay in the cellar/closet. Second, the high price point makes me hesitant to just open it for any old reason. Regardless, it will be saved for a special occasion, of which there will be plenty with the oncoming holiday season.
1. Stone Vertical Epic Series – With 11/11/11 happening, another in the series of beers not meant to be consumed until after 12/12/12 hits stores this week. My sister’s birthday happens to be December 12th and the goal is to consume as many of these as possible – in a commemorative glass – on or more likely after her birthday next year. We’re now one year and beer closer. I currently have ’08-’10. My sister grabbed a bottle of ’11, but I may grab another when it arrives here next week just to be sure. It will be a surprise no matter what the beers taste like. Hopefully they all do stand the test of time.
I’m starting over with this Monday top-5 list feature. Instead of five random things, I’m going to do an actual top-5 list based on some theme or topic. Some will be beer focused; others will be primarily about music. There might even be room for something else, but every list will make sense.
Argue with me in the comments. However, be aware that these lists are based on my opinions and feelings at that very moment and could change tomorrow.
For this week’s list, I’m listing my top-5 session beers. A session beer, according to Beer Advocate, is a beer that registers at no higher than 5% ABV. This post isn’t intended to question the validity of this definition or to argue the finer points of a session beer. My intention is basically to list five beers that could be enjoyed throughout a period of time with drinking buddies. The idea that there is a huge difference between a 4% and 5% beer is ludicrous and somewhat arbitrary. For the purpose of my list, I’m drawing the line at 5%.
5. Schlafly Kölsch – Honestly, there were some hoppy pilsners and sweet bocks I wanted to include in this list so as to represent all the decent lager alternatives that are out there, but all my favorites don’t meet the 5% standard I set above. So, I’ll go with a Missouri beer in Schlafly’s Kölsch, the closest an ale can get to being summary and lager-like. The beer is a pleasantly crisp, clean drink during the hot Missouri summers.
4. Stone Leviatation Ale – If you want the hops and malt presence of an American IPA/DIPA without drinking yourself under the table, Levitation is the way to go. The bitterness and floral aroma we hopheads crave is there only in a much lighter package. I’m not one who likes to limit a beer to a style, but this one still manages to adhere to the boundaries for an amber without boring me to sleep. This is seriously one of the best hoppy beers you can drink while standing.
3. Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere – It’s no secret that I love oddball breweries who tinker with style and fermentation processes to create lovely beers. Jolly Pumpkin is one of my favorite breweries and Bam Biere is a go-to whenever I can find it on tap. Even a 750 mL bottle won’t put me under when a beer like this measures at 4.5% ABV. It’s a dry, earthy Saison that also features a pleasant amount of bitterness. This is a fine example of a beer that can be low in alcohol and big on flavor.
2. The Bruery Hottenroth Berliner Weisse – I love what The Bruery does. Aside from Dogfish Head, I’m not sure another brewery makes beer that is more ideal for the dinner table than The Bruery. This beer is an example of the under-brewed style of Berliner Weisse. The Bruery adds lactobacillus and brettanomyces to the beer to attain a certain tartness, but it seems that this may be a departure from more traditional brewing methods of this style. Either way, it’s a beautiful beer and something one can enjoy all day long.
1. New Glarus Wisconsin Red – It’s funny to me to include a “Wisconsin Red” to the list after what transpired this weekend, but I would be an idiot not to include this beer on my list. In fact, Wisconsin Red has a permanent spot on my all-time-favorites list. From the first time I tasted it, I knew that I would always have to have a bottle of this nearly perfect beer in my cellar. Whenever someone heads to Wisconsin, I always ask them to bring me back a bottle. The tartness of the cherries is nailed without the overwhelming presence of cough syrup. It’s light and flavorful, pairs well with all kinds of food…I could go on and on about Wisconsin Red, but I’ll stop there. Maybe I’ll do a proper review when I finally open the bottle I have.
What are the session beers you like most? If you have an issue with my arbitrary definition of a session beer, let me have in the comments.
On a programming note, look for reviews of Eleanor Friedberger watching the World Series, Sebadoh battling me on the Twittersphere, and a post a day for the month of November.
For more on session beers, follow The Session Beer Project.