Now comes the time of year when we attempt to divine information about the time past and times to come, all based on the relative positions of celestial objects. In other words, we all become astrologists around the new year! I’m making light of this, but it’s a good thing to take stock of where we are and where we’re going from time to time, and completing another orbit around the sun is as good a time as any. This isn’t really the place for personal reflections, but it is a place for beer! So let’s get down to the year in beer that was, and perhaps look forward to what the future holds.
It was a good year! I drank lots of great beer, made lots of new friends, and even got interviewed. 2016 has a lot to live up to, but also plenty of opportunity.
Looking at the past few year end musings (jeeze, has it been 5 years? Yikes.) I tend to get repetitive on my reflections, so I’ll try to limit these observations to relatively new stuff rather than just repeating that yes, I’ve aged some beer, and while I’ve had a couple of revalations, most of it was just as good fresh (see how I squeezed that one in there? I may not be so successful at this.)
- Beer Festivals – I’ve never been a huge fan of beer festivals for reasons I have already belabored in my recap of Operation Chowder, a trip in which I attended the American Craft Beer Festival in Boston. I only went to one session (Friday night), and had a great time, but felt no regret that the other sessions were sold out. Likewise, I had a fine time at the more local Kennet Brewfest, but I only went to it because someone had an extra ticket. I mean, it’s fine, but 95% of the beer flowing there was generally available in the area anyway. I think I enjoyed ACBF more because there were so many New England breweries that I’d never had before that were there. As such, I may loosen my disdain for festivals… when traveling. GABF, here I come? Let’s not get carried away.
- Bottle Shares – I have often posted about Beer Club, but that’s generally a low key affair. This year, I connected with a more formal local group that has very cool bottle shares, ones that I haven’t really posted much about (though I have mentioned them). I would expect this to continue, because I enjoy not documenting every beer I drink, and honestly, writing a full review based on a 2 ounce sample after having sampled 10 other beers really isn’t the best way to do it. Plus, you know, it’s rude. Look for a tweet here or there, but otherwise, these shares will remain just plain old fun. Alright, fine, based on this and my beer festivals, I might add a supplementary list of beers I loved, but only had small samples of below.
- Taking a Break – For two years in a row, I’ve basically given up beer for Lent. I find it to be a very good chance to reset and recalibrate, not to mention the benefit to my waistline. Plus, I get a chance to focus on other things like Bourbon, Scotch, Wine, and Tea. It’s now something I actually look forward to every year. This starts in early February this year, so look for a shift in blogging material in a month or so…
- Wales, bro – I’ve often talked about slaying personal white whale beers, things that aren’t particularly rare, but which I’d never managed to snag before. This year was the first year I actually slayed true beer nerd walez, that ridiculous list of absurdly rare beers. In each case, it wasn’t something I realized until after I drank the beer in question (usually lucking into it by accident), and to me, that’s the way to do it. I feel like intentionally hunting down beers on that list would be quite annoying. Then again, I guess that’s why they call them wales, bro. Regardless, I’m happy I got to try those beers, and one of them was my favorite beer of the year (see below!) so maybe the list isn’t complete bullshit.
- Style Parity – Alright, this is not really true at all, but after last year’s American Wild Ale dominated top 40, this year’s list is at least a little more diverse. A lot of this is just the natural ebbs and flows of availability and the degrees to which I’m willing to hunt stuff down. Part of it is also more of a willingness to branch out. Heck, I even listed a Pilsner on this year’s top 40. A Pilsner! Will wonders ever cease?
- Blogging Plateau – I’m still blogging at a pretty good clip, but I feel like I’ve reached a nice 2-3 posts a week cadence that I don’t really want to exceed much anymore. There was a time when 4-6 posts a week were common, but those days have past, and I’d expect things to continue on the slower pace. After all, it’s nice to drink something without having to write about it, and I’ve long since gotten over the compulsion to post about literally every beer I’ve tried.
- Other Stuff – Of the normal topics, I have little to say. I had a terrible year in homebrewing, so I’m going to try and turn that around in 2016. Ratings inflation continues unabated. I keep meaning to inaugurate a new class of A+ beers, and I guess 2016 is the year for that. I’ve actually been drinking a bunch of aged beers recently, and plan on posting about them in more detail in the nearish future.
A pretty interesting year, and it’s fun to see how my beer nerdery is progressing. So here’s my list of top 40 beers I’ve tried this year. The list is limited to beers I had and reviewed this year, so if you don’t see your favorites on the list, don’t get all wound up about it. I’ve either had it in a previous year or just didn’t catch up with it. Or, I had it and hated it, because you’re the worst. How could you like such a horrid thing? But I digress. This is, of course, an entirely arbitrary exercise, but I always have fun with lists. Lists are American. What are you? A communist? There I go digressing again. I tried to limit breweries to a handful of entries, but whatever, it’s my list and I’ll do what I want. Speaking of which, let’s do this:
- Drie Fonteinen Hommage (2007) (Lambic)
- Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett (Leopold Bros. Whiskey Barrel-Aged) (American Wild Ale)
- Tired Hands Pathway of Beauty (IPA)
- Allagash Cuvée D’Industrial (American Wild Ale)
- Alchemist Focal Banger (IPA)
- Firestone Walker XIX – Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
- Midnight Sun Arctic Devil (Barleywine)
- Tired Hands Freedom From the Known (Saison)
- Logsdon Peche ‘n Brett (Saison)
- Pizza Boy Golden Sour (American Wild Ale)
- Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev’s Cobra (Imperial Stout)
- The Bruery Cuir (Old Ale)
- Firestone Walker XVIII – Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
- Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Rye (Imperial Stout)
- Allagash Farm To Face (American Wild Ale)
- Trillium Congress Street IPA (IPA)
- Jack’s Abby Vanilla Barrel Aged Framinghammer (Baltic Porter)
- Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout (Imperial Stout)
- Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip Of Sunshine (Double IPA)
- Forest & Main Moeder Seizoen (Saison)
- Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude #4 (Double IPA)
- Lost Abbey Cuvée De Tomme (American Wild Ale)
- Almanac Dogpatch Sour (American Wild Ale)
- BFM XV (√225 Saison) (Saison)
- Alpine Nelson (IPA)
- Stone Southern Charred (2014) (American Strong Ale)
- Midnight Sun Berserker (Imperial Stout)
- Crux Tough Love [Banished] (Imperial Stout)
- Prairie Pirate Noir (Imperial Stout)
- Victory Java Cask (Imperial Stout)
- Forest & Main Rum Barrel-Aged Gmork (Imperial Stout)
- Lost Nation Lamoille Bretta (Saison)
- Telegraph Gypsy Ale (American Wild Ale)
- Sante Adairius Jose Pimiento (American Wild Ale)
- Modern Times Monsters’ Park (Imperial Stout)
- Pivovar Kout Koutská 12° Dvanáctka (Czech pilsener)
- AleSmith Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout (Imperial Stout)
- Grassroots Brother Soigné (Saison)
- Lost Nation The Wind (Gose)
- Kern River Just Outstanding IPA (IPA)
The Unreviewed 5
Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.
- Lawson’s Finest Liquids Triple Sunshine IPA
- The Rare Barrel Ensorcelled
- AleSmith Speedway Stout – Vietnamese Coffee (Bourbon Barrel Aged)
- Other Half Chardonnay Barrel Aged Brett Saison
- Bullfrog Le Roar Grrrz Blueberry
I need to find a way to get more of each of these. Yum
So it’s been a great year, and hopefully 2016 has even more in store for me. Cheers!