It's the time of year when everyone feels obliged to take a step back and reflect on where we are and where we're going. I suppose aligning this with orbital cycles makes as much sense as anything else, so since this is a beer blog, I shall recap my year in beer. 2016 was a crappy year in many ways, but no so much with beer, which is nice, since this is a beer blog. So what happened this year?
- Repeat Beers - I've been something of a novelty whore for a while now. Rarely did I drink a beer that I'd had before, preferring instead to try something new. This is something that's been easing for a while now, and 2016 marks a high point for me. I probably still drink a far wider variety of beer than your average dork, but the thought of buying a 4 or 6 pack and drinking the whole thing doesn't seem infeasible anymore, so that's different. Don't get me wrong, I'm still fascinated with new beers and continually seek them out, but I've had enough beers to know what I like, and look forward to trying certain beers every year now, which is nice.
- Bottle Shares - I mentioned last year that I fell into a good group of local beer nerds who have a regular share, and it's been fantastic. Everyone's very generous, and it's always a good time. I've been to a few others as well, and it's generally a fun way to try a bunch of beer that I'd probably never even know about or hope to acquire (most of the below "Unreviewed" list is from shares.)
- Homebrewing - Another lackluster year in this arena for me, but let's make a new years resolution to get this hobby going again. I had a good start with my Christmas Ale rebrew (which I dubbed Rantlers! after a favorite movie quote from a bad movie) and plan to keep it going with my much threatened Scotch Ale in the near future.
- Blogging Plateau - I've continued a slow decline in the number of posts, I know. Part of this has to do with the above. Drinking more of the same beer means less things to review. I've also gotten over the compulsion to write about every new beer I try and tend to focus on beers that are interesting or great. This will probably continue into 2017.
- Taking a Break - For the third year in a row, I basically gave up beer for Lent. This is a great chance to reset and recalibrate and it's good for my waistline too. Plus, I get to explore other worlds of boozy glory, which is actually very enlightening. In theory, this should translate to more variety throughout the year, but I'm basically still obsessed with beer, so while I do blog about wine and whiskey and whatnot from time to time, don't expect this to turn into anything other than a beer blog.
- Other Stuff - Minimal trading last year, but I don't think that will hold up. Definitely some great stuff I'm looking to trade for this year. I still go through phases where I drink down my cellar and try aged beer (another recap of vintage beer coming soon) and for the most part, my recommendation remains to drink your beer fresh. My aging focus now is more on lambic than anything else, because I've had the best experience with that. Still plenty of things aging down there though, so you'll probably continue to see posts about aging beer from time to time.
It's been a good year of beer for me. Nothing too unusual going on, but my beer nerdery is continuing to progress apace. So here's a list of my 30 favorite beers of the year that were new to me. Astute readers may notice that this list is normally 40 beers, but in accordance with some of the above, I feel like less is more this year. As per usual, it has to be a beer that I reviewed this year and it's also something that I haven't reviewed before (i.e. no Heady or Parabola on this list). I'm also going to include a separate list of 5 beers I loved that I didn't review (almost all of which came from bottle shares, and thus were small pours with no notes taken, and so on). Of course, this is an entirely arbitrary exercise and the rankings would probably change depending on mood etc... I've also tried to limit the number of entries from a single brewery, but sometimes that's hard, so whatever. Let's get to it:
- Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2015) (Imperial Stout)
- Hill Farmstead Civil Disobedience #14 (Saison)
- Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream (Double IPA)
- Allagash FV 13 (American Wild Ale)
- Firestone Walker XX Anniversary Ale (American Strong Ale)
- Ale Apothecary Sahalie (American Wild Ale)
- Tired Hands Rustic Pentagram (Saison)
- Sante Adairius Saison Bernice (Saison)
- FiftyFifty Eclipse Grand Cru
- Fantôme Artist 2 (Saison)
- Foam Built To Spill (Double IPA)
- Hill Farmstead Dry Hopped Arthur (Saison)
- Casita Cerveceria Del Árboles (Saison)
- Crooked Stave Nightmare On Brett with Blueberries (American Wild Ale)
- SingleCut Softly Spoken Magic Spells (Double IPA)
- Funky Buddha Wide Awake It's Morning (Imperial Stout)
- Midnight Sun Termination Dust (Barleywine)
- Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout)
- Tired Hands Oat Potion (Saison)
- The Veil Crucial Crucial Aunt Aunt (Double IPA)
- Tired Hands Believer's Club Bottle 1 (Saison)
- Forest & Main Marius (Peach) (Saison)
- Free Will Ralphius (Imperial Stout)
- Oude Geuze Boon Black Label (Gueuze)
- McKenzie Toad the Brett Rocket (Saison)
- Tröegs Bourbon Barrel Aged Impending Descent (Imperial Stout)
- Hanssens Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek (Fruited Lambic)
- Barrel of Monks Three Fates Tripel (Tripel)
- Rodenbach Alexander (Flanders Red Ale)
- Victory Java Cask Rye (Imperial Stout)
The Unreviewed Five
Beers that where I had small samples, never wrote a review, but an impression was made regardless.
- The Bruery Wineificiation III
- Cigar City Double Barrel Hunahpu's Imperial Stout
- Kane A Night to End All Dawns (Vanilla)
- Fremont B-Bomb Bourbon Barrel Aged Abominable Winter Ale
- Casey Family Reserves - Cherry
I would love to get more of each and every one of these beers, but I'm just glad I got to try some of them at all.
So a great year in beer, with hopefully even more to come in 2017.