The Earth has once again completed its orbit around the Sun, which for some reason means that we should all take stock of what we did over the past orbital period and post our top 10 whatever. Here at Kaedrin, we like things, so I'm thinking we'll post our top 40 beers. That sounds like a lot, but it's been a good year, and I've sampled at least 250 different beers, if not more. Plus, I stink at choosing favorites, and with something as varied as beer with all its disparate styles, I need some breathing room.
Before we get to the big list, I thought I'd muse a bit on the themes of the year. This is, of course, more about me than the industry in general. But that's why you're here, right?
- Trading - Yes, I've dipped my feet into that most nerdy of pursuits, beer trading. Indeed, at least a few of the top 40 wouldn't be there if it weren't for some trades made this year, and I'm betting this will flow into next year as well. I don't see myself reaching the heights of the true beer nerds out there, but I'm sure I'll be getting ahold of more and more interesting beers in the coming year. Special thanks to Jay for kickstarting this new phase in my beer dorkery.
- Sour Beer - Despite experimenting with sours over the past few years, I didn't fully buy in until this year. Naturally, these are beers that are expensive and harder to find, but I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more in the way of sour beer in the next year or so. At the very least, I expect to hunt down some Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen, so it should be a fun year.
- White Whales - When I first started this blog, I found it frustrating to read all these other blogs about beers that I'd never seen before or that weren't really available in the area. Well, that's changed somewhat, but then, so has the definition of "White Whale". I'm certainly not to the point where I'm going to start creatively misspelling them as .rar walez or anything silly like that, and the stuff that those trading nerds revere as wales will probably never made their way into my greedy paws (not that I'd mind, but still, those seem like tough beers to land). In the meantime, I'll have to settle for shelf whales and the like, but that's not a problem or anything. In a year where I got to try DONG (draft only, no growler) whales like Pliny the Younger, or pre-brick Westy 12 (tasted so much rarer back then), or witness the emergence of Tired Hands, I really have no room to complain and heck, I'm starting to feel a little bad about constantly reviewing beers that aren't that easy to find for the majority of the country. A little. Not that I'm going to stop or anything.
- Barrel Aged Beer - These continue to be a little obsession of mine, and that partly feeds into my newfound admiration for sours as well. That being said, bourbon barrel aged stouts and barleywines continue to be a favorite, and I've got some supposedly spectacular stuff lined up for 2013.
- Palate - I always feel awkward discussing my palate for this stuff, but I will say that I've started to get pickier about certain things. I've especially become sensitive to hoppy beer and age/storage issues. It's not something I recognized much in previous years, but this year it became more obvious that fresh, hoppy beer is really ideal and that such beers need to be refrigerated immediately, etc... I'm also getting to be one of those nerds that can identify certain hop varieties by aroma/taste. I'm not awesome at it, but I can pick out a lot of the usual suspects like Cascade/Simcoe, Centennial, and the like. And I'm getting there with specialty malts too, though I'm certainly far from an expert on either. Most of this is due to my further exploration of:
- Home Brewing - I actually only made 3 batches of beer in 2012, but two of them were fantastic, and the other is actually conditioning nicely and getting better as we speak. I would have probably made another batch at some point this year, but I was redoing my kitchen, so that didn't happen. My new stove, however, might help speed up the process. I guess there's only one way to find out. I'm actually hoping to try some more adventurous stuff in the homebrewing realm this year, so stay tuned.
- Aging/Cellaring Beer - I've mentioned a few times that my eyes are bigger than my liver, so my cellar has grown to be rather large at this point (this might be part of why I'm attracted to trading, but we'll see how that goes). Some of that stuff is aging intentionally, others will just take a while for me to get to. As mentioned above, I tend to favor drinking hoppy stuff right away at this point, but I've got some really interesting beer in the cellar that I want to get to ASAP. Others are things that I really want to age and find out how well they hold up. Only one way to find out, I guess.
It's been a good year, filled with great beer. So great that, like I said earlier, I'm going to post my top 40 beers, if I can even manage that. Like last year, this list is based solely on what I drank this year. While I drank my fair share of 2012-only limited releases, a lot of these will be old-hat to some of you. To qualify for the list, I had to drink the beer in 2012, and I had to review the beer on this here blog (each beer will be linked to its respective review). They're all at least an A- on my grading scale
, and they're being listed from best to "worst", though I should note that this is a pretty fluid list. Stuff could shift around depending on my mood, and there are some A- beers that ended up looming larger on my mind than expected, perhaps even pushing out an A. Go figure. If you're really curious, check out the archives on the right of the page. Ok, enough disclaimers and equivocation, here's the list:
- The Bruery Coton (Old Ale)
- Logsdon Farmhouse Ales Seizoen Bretta (Saison)
- Hill Farmstead Abner (Double IPA)
- Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale (Flanders Red Ale)
- Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (Imperial Stout)
- Firestone Walker Parabola (Imperial Stout)
- Bell's Hopslam Ale (Double IPA)
- Firestone Walker §ucaba (Barleywine)
- Hill Farmstead Society and Solitude #2 (American Black Ale)
- Russian River Pliny the Younger (Double IPA)
- Trappist Westvleteren 12 (Quadrupel)
- Firestone Walker XV - Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
- Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne (Gueuze)
- Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire iO Saison (Saison)
- Weyerbacher Whiskey Barrel Aged (American Brown Ale)
- Rodenbach Grand Cru (Flanders Red Ale)
- Tired Hands Flavor Aroma (IPA)
- The Bruery and Cigar City Collaboration: Marrón Acidifié (Flanders Oud Bruin)
- Hill Farmstead Double Citra IPA (Double IPA)
- Tired Hands Westy13 (Saison?)
- Three Floyds Zombie Dust (American Pale Ale)
- Weyerbacher Insanity (Barleywine)
- Tired Hands Zombie (American Black Ale)
- Russian River Row 2/Hill 56 (American Pale Ale)
- Victory Oak Horizontal (Barleywine)
- Dieu Du Ciel Équinoxe Du Printemps (Scotch Ale)
- Full Pint Rye Rebellion (Imperial Stout)
- HaandBryggeriet Bestefar (Winter Warmer)
- Bink Grand Cru (Belgian Strong Dark Ale)
- Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (Imperial Stout)
- Hoppin' Frog Barrel Aged Naked Evil (Barleywine)
- Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale (Double IPA)
- Port Brewing Older Viscosity (Imperial Stout)
- Victory Éclat Cocoa Lager (Dark Lager)
- La Trappe Quadrupel Barrique (Oak Aged) - Batch 3 (Quadrupel)
- Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti (Imperial Stout)
- The Bruery Oude Tart (Flanders Red Ale)
- Schlafly Reserve Imperial Stout 2008 (Imperial Stout)
- Affligem Dubbel (Dubbel)
- Tripel Karmeliet (Tripel)
Hot damn, that was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I could have easily made this a top 50 without blinking, and those 10 that I left off could have muscled their way onto the above list if I were in a different mood. And heck, there are some superb beers I just recently had that haven't been reviewed yet - ¿Impending Descent?
could have made the list for sure... but it'll have to wait til next year, I guess. Speaking of which, I'll see you then. Have a great new year!
Update: Jay has posted his top beers of 2012
today as well, check it out, his lists are always worth reading...