Making noise in the blogosphere with beer.
It’s that time of year, the end. End of the year that is, not this article. Please do, read on.
During 2010, we’ve witnessed another year of amazing beers from new and older craft brewery’s alike. In the arduous research that was drinking a plethora of craft beer during the last 12 months, I’ve come up with a short list of my top ten beers of 2010. Rough job, but someone has to do it. Each one of these deserves a place in your fridge.
Started in 2007, the World Beer Awards is judged in three stages with the results announced each July. Deschutes Red Chair NWPA - 6.40% won World's Best Pale Ale, World's Best Beer, World's Best Ale, World's Best Standard Pale Ale and the Americas' Best Standard Pale Ale. Available January to April, Red Chair NWPA is named after the oldest operating lift at Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon. With an overall rating of an A- on Beer Advocate, you know hundreds of beer drinkers can’t be wrong. The bouquet offers notes of citrus and orange with a strong malt backbone. Amazingly drinkable, the hop profile and satiny caramel flavors are the perfect combination of bitter and sweet.
Allagash Black (Belgian Style Stout; Allagash Brewing, ME); 7.5% abv, $8/750 ml. Recommended Cellaring Temp: 50-54°F Allagash is dark mahogany color. Rated 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, and #1 beer of 2010, it’s brewed with German 2 row barley, Torrified wheat and oats. Espresso beans, dark chocolate, molasses, clove and nutmeg aromas transition to more of the same in the mouth. The smooth, earthy dryness and level of champagne like carbonation, makes for a nice aftertaste. Allagash recommends pairing Allagash Black with beef Wellington, shepherds pie, and herbed goat cheese.
Russian River Temptation Blonde Ale Aged in Oak Barrels (American Wild Ale; Russian River Brewing Co, CA); 7.25% abv, $12/375 ml. A Belgianstyle Blonde Ale aged in French Chardonnay barrels with Brettanomyces for 12 months. Brettanomyces is actually yeast, and has the propensity to continue fermenting through almost any type of sugar. This American Wild Ale has an amazing flavor profile highlighting notes of white wine, granny smith apple peel, kaffir lime and a hint of funk. The mouthfeel is luxuriant, vibrant and beautifully balanced. Temptation tempted beer judges at the Great American Beer Festival when it won the Silver Medal in 2007 for the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour beer category and was also rated among the top beers this year in Wine Enthusiast.
Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout: just when you thought everything sucked (American Double/Imperial Stout; Great Divide Brewing Company, CO) 9.50% abv. It’s a wonderfully ominous liquid. Coffee, chocolate, oak, sweet malts and vanilla flood the nose and palate with a wonderful complexity. This high abv beer is surprisingly smooth and the flavors all balance each other with poise. This was awarded a gold and one of Rate Beer’s Best Beers of the United States 2010.
Back in Black by 21st Amendment Brewery is not actually named after my favorite AC/DC album. Inspired by Paul Revere's midnight ride, the patriotic brewery rebelled against the British style IPA, by concocting this hoppy 6.8% by volume beer with four malts. It’s brewed like an American IPA but with the addition of rich, dark malts. And apparently it’s too sexy for its bottle. Back in Black is the first black IPA to be released in the USA in a can. Released in July, there’s some controversy with black IPAs (or Cascadian Dark Ales), but they seem to be catching on. Black IPA is the newest official style in American craft beer, recently recognized by the Brewers Association as its own category in the Great American Beer Festival. It’s weighty, but bright in the mouth with roast coffee, roasted malts, light pine resin and citrusy hops flavors. It’s not intense, but has a long lasting bitterenss on the finish.
Stone 10.10.10 Vertical Epic Ale, 10.10.10 is the ninth installment of their Vertical Epic Series, released on October 10th 2010. It’s a Belgian Strong Pale Ale brewed with pale malt and triticale (a cross of wheat and rye), hopped with German Perle hops, and steeped with chamomile during the whirlpool stage. These bottle-conditioned ales are specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012. In secondary fermentation, they added a juice blend of Muscat, Gewurztraminer, and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. While the smell is slightly distant and thin, the Belgian yeast, candied sugar and grape juice blend was enough to quench a voracious thirst…with style. This could be a great accompaniment to appetizers like cheese and crackers. The intricate herbal notes and flavors used in this Belgian Strong Pale offer up reasons to store this Epic ale away for a year or so.
The 2010 Great American Beer Festival chose the best beer from a field of over 3,500 entries that were all vying to be the best in class. Savannah, GA’s only brewpub, Moon River Brewing Company, took home the gold this year in Category 5, Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer. Their winning beer, Rosemary Swamp Fox, was good enough to beat out Stone Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter with Chipotle, which is also amazing, I might add. It’s a delectable way to add spice to your life. The Herb and Spice or Chocolate Beer category had 91 entries, more than any other category. If that’s not an example of a trend that Americans have been moving towards the distinct and ingenious beer style, then I don’t know what is.
La Parcela No. 1 Pumpkin Ale by Jolly Pumpkin (Dexter, MI) was first brewed in 2008 and released only at the brewery. Released to the public this past fall, it ironically was the brewery’s first pumpkin ale. It’s like 10,000 wine glasses, when all you need is a mug…or something. Jolly Pumpkin bills itself as the only brewer in the U.S. to “age 100% of its beers in oak with naturally occurring wild yeast.” Thirty lbs. of pumpkin were used per 310 gallons of beer. The fragrant nose of this pumpkin ale is evocative and unique. Subtle notes of oak, cacao, allspice, of course pumpkin and signature yeast strain makes it one of the most distinctive and unique beers you’ll try in America. A bold statement, I know. Try it with Christmas dinner or following dessert.
And now for the sexiest beer of all: 9.8% ABV Barrel-Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout. Hailing from Winston-Salem, N.C., hundreds drove to Winston-Salem to stand in line for hours to get their hands on a bottle. The original version, Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout is a cocoa infused Imperial Stout with notes of espresso. But barrel-aged chocolate stout…it’s like adding pear brandy wrapped blue cheese to your filet mignon or Baileys to your coffee. It’s just better. The smell gets four stars. It suggests oak and bourbon notes with a vanilla-chocolate bouquet. The chocolate lingers in the mouth with a touch of dark fruit (fig perhaps). Everything is very well integrated. It’s a truly decadent beer.
The ingenuity, enthusiasm and tenacity that the above and hundreds of other U.S. breweries have shown are nothing short of remarkable.
The following beers also deserve honorable mention, not just because I thoroughly enjoyed them in 2010, but because they won the taste buds of beer festival judges and beer lovers everywhere.
- Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (Anderson Valley Brewing Company)
- Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout (Three Floyds Brewing Company)
- Lost Abbey Yellow Bus (Port Brewing/Lost Abbey)
- AleSmith IPA (AleSmith Brewing Company)
- Rogue Juniper Pale Ale (Rogue Ales)
- Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale (Deschutes Brewery)
- Oude Tart (The Bruery)
- Hair of the Dog Matt (Hair of the Dog Brewing Company)
- Firestone Walker 13 (Firestone Walker Brewing Co.)
- Fade to Black (Left Hand Brewing Co.)
If you think I missed a beer that deserves attention (after all, there are thousands of amazing beers that have been distributed and enjoyed during 2010, but I can’t name them all), please feel free to give it praise below. Cheers and Happy New Year!