Monday, January 6, 2014

Beers of 2013

I did not post a review my favorite beer of 2013  - Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ale's Baudelaire Beer iO Saison - on the blog.  I'm not sure why.  I guess I wanted to write something profound.  Now as my favorite beer of 2013 I have to write my thoughts on Baudelaire Beer.

Just looking at its label alone you know there is something different about the Baudelaire Beer.  It's a portrait of a calm, wide-eyed waif with a short haircut and heart-shaped locket set against a pink background.  The picture takes on a sinister twist when you realize that the girl's hair pin is a fly the size of a sparrow, and you then start to think something strange awaits you inside the bottle.  I had the Baudelaire Beer on the Fourth of July, and it was batch 1015/1016, bottled on 02/22/2012 (abv of 6.8%).  While I did not formally review this beer I did take notes, and I wrote that the beer was "deep copper, with a pink hue.  Effervescent funk.  Light and dry.  Amazing."

The Baudelaire Beer was brewed with rose petals, rose hips and hibiscus, and I remember a faint, but persistent floral presence throughout the nose and taste.  It mixed well with the yeast, which gave the beer its gentle funk.  The Baudelaire is floral and funky, complex yet drinkable, and more wild ale than saison.  I thought this beer a masterpiece.

I missed this year's version of the Baudelaire Beer, which I saw on shelves in late summer, in part because I didn't want a sophomore jinx, because any beer had on a lazy summer holiday is going to have an advantage over most other beers.  I didn't want to buy another Baudelaire Beer and open it on some fall weekday night only find a pedestrian beer.  I'll keep my memory for now.

Other worthy beers of 2013 included - in no particular order - Mother Earth's Kismet IPA, Ballast Point's Homework Series Batch 1 ( a red ale), The Bruery's Saison Tonnellerie, Modern Times Neverwhere 100% Brett Trois IPA, and Pizza Port Ocean Beach's fresh hop Coup D'Etat and sour Mi Nachos Trois.  Finally, Stone's Enjoy By IPA, which is a hop revelation every time I have a bottle, needs a special note.  It has become one of my favorite beers.  I know it's big, bombastic, and over-the-top, but it's also delicious.  I had a couple of triple IPAs this year, but neither was close to Enjoy By in terms of taste, or hops, or construction.  Enjoy By, I believe, is the hoppiest beer I have ever tried, but it maintains enough sweet malt balance to ensure drinkability.  It's a testament to brewing excellence.

It wasn't all good in 2013, I had some crap beers, too, and unfortunately most of these were from new, local breweries.  I'm not going to call out any particular brewer - and there were several - because I tried most of the beers when picking up pizza to go, so I can't honestly say I gave the beers a fair tasting.  Plus, I know new breweries tweak recipes, so what initially stinks might change over time into something better (let's hope).  But I do know the difference between what tastes good and what is garbage, and a few were drain pours.  With the craft beer boom growing every day there is plenty of competition for tap space.  New breweries need to resist the urge to standout through strange ingredients or style bending, and must instead focus on making good, drinkable beer.  Experimentation can come later with success.  There is always room for good beers, and new brewers that put out lousy or marginal beer are going to have a hard time surviving.

(There is a difference between a beer I didn't like and a bad beer.  I wrote a negative review of the Stone Dayman Coffee IPA Collaboration early in the year.  I didn't care for this beer, but it was obviously well made, and you could easily argue that it was a good beer from that standpoint.   A well-made beer is never going to make my list of worst beers even if I didn't like it.)

The most interesting beer of the year was Ballast Point's Indra Kunindra, an explosion of coconut, cedar, cayenne pepper, and spice.   This near foamless export stout brings a different flavor with each drink.  This is not a beer you drink everyday, but worth having on occasion.  It also shows what a successful brewery can do when it wants to experiment.

Here's looking forward to a great 2014.

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