Sunday, January 2, 2011

Beers of the Year

This is the third year in a row that I've reviewed my year in beer, providing insight on my best and worst beers of the year, and my best beer experiences.  This year I didn't seem to have tried as many beers as in past years, so my list of beers from which to choose was not too long.  I also seemed choosier, trying to avoid potential clunkers.  My best and worst beers may not be the beers I liked the best or disliked the most, but are the new beers I tried over the past year that stood out to me one way or another.

Best Beers

The Bruery's Mischief.  I had this beer in January and it was the benchmark all other beers were judged against.  The Bruery can create some palate bending beers where it takes the better part of an evening to drink a bottle.  Mischief, a Belgian golden ale, is not one them.  It is approachable yet complex, drinkable and delicious.  I was told by a brewer at The Bruery that Mischief was tinkered with throughout the year to make it better.  I have a bottle purchased several weeks ago that I am hesitant to open, because I am not sure how The Bruery could have made Mischief any better.

Port's High Tide Fresh Hop IPA.  I had never paid attention to fresh hop IPAs until this year, which was a mistake.  High Tide, and its cousin, Pizza Port Ocean Beach's Get Wet, made me a believer in fresh hop IPAs.  At their best, fresh hop IPAs are aromatic, juicy and bitter.  High Tide drinks much bigger than its ABV level.  I will be searching this beer out in the fall.

Collaboration Saison du Buff.  I did not even review this beer, although I started one or two reviews, so maybe I should not include it, but what the heck.  I must have had at least four Saison de Buffs since it was released, always trying to get my head around its essence.  Saison Du Buff was a collaboration among Stone Brewing, Dogfish Head and Victory Brewing. Du Buff's sage is prominent, but the sage competes with plenty of yeast and hops, all combined in one smooth, excellent beer.  It is a unique and compelling beer that makes you want to keep drinking it.  Saison Du Buff is the perfect collaboration beer.

Other memorable beers this year included rye beers from Ladyface Alehouse and Karl Strauss, Stone's Lukcy Basartd, The Lost Abbey's Red Barn Ale, Russian River's Consecration and Ommegang's Zuur.  

Worst Beers

Worst may be too strong a word, because I did not drink a beer I truly disliked, except for the first beer listed below.  The list below tells my that I need to get more adventurous in 2011.

Shipyard XXXX IPA.  I had XXXX IPA at a barbecue last summer and it was a sticky, boozy mess.  It killed the whole evening for me.  I realized while drinking this wreck that I am over double IPAs, and I will have more to say on this later.  In the meantime, Shipyard XXXX IPA is not a good double IPA.  It was my worst beer of the year by a wide margin.

Magic Hat's Lucky Kat.  I had this over the summer while in Georgia.  It was from a six pack bought at a Publix grocery store, and it must have spent some quality time on the shelf enjoying all the light.  The beer had clearly gone bad.  I know it's not fair to put a beer not in its best condition on this list, but let me tell you, this beer was bad enough that it needs to be on this list and age can't explain away all its problems.   Lucky Kat was an undrinkable drain pour.

The Bruery's Saison Rue.  I had never tried Saison Rue until this year and may have been expecting too much, which is understandable with The Bruery.  Call my a blaspheme, but I just didn't really like Saison Rue.   I am guessing it's a beer that has to grow on you.  The Bruery's Saison de Lente is one of my favorite beers, but Saison Rue was a let down compared to it.  I tasted them side-by-side at a The Bruery event during San Diego beer week I found Saison de Lente much more enjoyable.  Here is what I said about Saison Rue last summer. 

A couple of other beers that did not meet expectations were Stone's Vertical Epic 10.10.10 and Lagunitas Lucky 13.  Vertical Epic 10.10.10 was too winey and confused.  Lucky 13 had a distinct pine resin that I did not like.

Best Beer Experiences

Beer can be made better by timing and circumstance.  No beer tasted better this year than the growler of Ballast Point's Dorado split between myself and the Beer Rover's traveling correspondent after moving, literally, thousands of pounds of rock and brick (my comment about double IPAs notwithstanding).    My first bottle of Stone's 14th Anniversary Ale seemed much better when shared with friends than when I went back to drink it alone to write a proper review.

My best beer experience  of the year was finding a Belgian wit beer, Blanche de Bruxelles, which the Beer Rovette and I split in the cafeteria of New York's Museum of Modern Art.  Finding a Belgian beer on draft in a museum cafeteria was completely unexpected.  This beer hit just the right tone after trekking through the various crowded galleries of the MoMA.

The May opening of the Ocean Beach Pizza Port was good news for me.  It was more a seven-month event than a one-time experience.   I have had plenty of growlers and pizzas to go, and I frequently check its tap cams to see the guest beers.  Having a top notch brewery so close was my beer highlight for the year. 

I'm looking forward to 2011.


Anonymous said...

LMAO. Completely agree about Stone's 10.10.10.
Wish never bought two. Unsure 2 years in the cellar will improve it past barely drinkable.

Anonymous said...

it's not so bad Antonymous. agree about Mischief. quite nice.