I drank a lot of great beers over the past 365 days but these are the ones I remember most foundly. The ones I can close my eyes and almost taste if I think hard enough. If I included it on my “best-of” list for 2008, then no matter how good that same beer is/was, I made it ineligible for this year’s list, but with two notes:
1. Darkness (2009), while a completely different formula than the 2008 batch, was every bit as good in my opinion and would have easily been my 1st or 2nd highest-rated stout of the year.
2. I had a few bottles of Pliny the Elder for the first time in 2008 and thought it was good enough, but I apparently hadn’t had it fresh, because this year, after finally having some fresh fresh fresh bottles and drafts of Russian River’s classic, I realized why it is so acclaimed. I now consider it neck-in-neck for the #1 spot on my all-time IPA list with #3 on the following list.
And, with that, said following list…
TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2009*
I never expected to have this beer and, quite frankly, I didn’t know a whole heckuva lot about this beer, but then one day I found myself at an epic sour tasting where this blending of Yellow Bus, Duck Duck Gooze, and Cuvee de Tomme absolutely blew away fellow masterpieces in their own right Beatification, Temptation, and Captain Lawrence’s Flaming Fury. I now call this the greatest single beer I’ve ever had.
The first time I had the “Citizen Kane” of beers, I thought, “Eh, it’s great. I suppose,” and gave it probably the most unenthusiastic A+ ever issued. Luckily, I got to try it again in a blind quadruple tasting along with The Captain and, this time, Westy 12 humiliated Rochefort 10–a beer I had long hailed as the world’s best quad–so badly, that it made it smell like vomit and taste like bathwater. Aha! Now I got it. Maybe not the best beer in the world, but goddamn close.
I’m not sure if I’d even heard of California’s Alpine Beer Company one year ago today, but when my new e-friend and San Diego legend Jesse the Hutt tells me what I should be drinking, I gladly listen. In mid-summer he was kind enough to send me a fresh growler of Nelson and I was absolutely floored as it now stands as the best IPA I’ve ever had. Another package from Jesse is supposedly going in the mail today, one which will include Alpine’s “other” IPAs–Exponential Hoppiness, Pure Hoppiness, Duet, and Nelson bottled this time–and I’m so thankful and anxious to try those sure-fire masterpieces.
Ironically, in a year in which The Lost Abbey was the most shit on of all the major craft breweries due to percieved carbonation, release date, and pricing issues, I fell in love with them and had winner after winner after winner from them. (And none had carbonation issues nor did the high pricing bother me one bit.) Likewise, in a year in which I tried pretty much all of the “major” imperial stouts–most of them limited bottle, pricey, one day releases–it was The Lost Abbey’s fairly easily found stout that defeated them all, even beating the far more “famous” Deschutes Abyss in a blind tasting I conducted which then led to me to drunkenly embarrassing myself in front of Tomme Arthur.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout is one of my favorite beers in the world and with Night Stalker being that beer before it is bourbon-barreled, I expected to like it but not love it quite as much. I was totally wrong. This tap-only offering is just as complex as Bourbon County Stout as the lack of barrel-aging assures that the beer’s amazing complexity isn’t masked by boozy bourbonness (admittedly delicious boozy bourbonness, but still.) I had this on numerous occasions this year, often facing it off against other highly-regarded stouts, and it almost always won.
I had, wrongly, dumbly, idiotically, considered Avery somewhat of a second-class craft brewer until this year when I finally start to explore all they had to offer. The pricey but easily available Mephistopheles’ was their first offering that truly opened my eyes and it still remains one of my favorite stouts on the planet. Worth every penny.
I had this on my first ever visit to Philadelphia’s legendary Monk’s Cafe on a very memorable drinking day with my man Batch. I’d actually gone to Monk’s most excited to try Struise’s Black Albert stout–which was fine enough–but this incredibly unique spiced quad from these avant garde brewers is truly a beer to seek out.
I had the fortune to also have Three Floyds’ more “famous” IPA this year, Dreadnaught, which was tasty enough, but it was their little-discussed English IPA Blackheart that absolutely blew my mind and was a clear winner over that supposed top 25 beer in the world. Like any beer geek I drink a ton of IPAs and this is one I’ll never forget.
I’ve never had a bad beer from Founders but I’ve never been absolutely floored by any of their offerings either. Even the legendary Breakfast Stout and Kentucky Breakfast Stout, while both very deserving of their acclaim, have never blown my mind–perhaps something we can attribute to too lofty of expectations heaped on them. I went in with no expectations about Harvest and it became a highlight of my year. I may have only given it an A in my initial review, but damn if I’m not still thinking about this sucker a couple of months later, already counting down the days til next year’s “wet hop” season (late fall) so that I can wisely stock up on this gem and polish off as much of it as possible while it’s still fresh.
Probably the most underrated New York state brewery, my trip out to the Publick House was a memorable one and this beer is probably the finest American “Belgian” offering I’ve ever had. Wish I’d stocked up on it as I think about the one time I tried this beer more fondly than I think about most of my past sexual experiences.
Dogfish Head was one of the first breweries to get me into craft beer and I still love their inventiveness to this very day. I’ve long considered their 90 and 120 Minute IPAs to be classics and I still enjoy them often. Well the amazing Randall machine adds a whole ‘nother level of complexity and pure deliciousness to those beers and I’d dare say the world would be a better place if all beers were run through this funky machine. A true revelation in my beer-drinking year.
Russian River Consecration–I feel silly not having a single Russian River beer in my top ten as I gave four of them A pluses this year. Masters of the American wild ale style, Consecration was my favorite I tried this year, just edging out Beatification and Temptation.
Kate the Great–the patron saint of the Vice Blog, my friend DW, stood outside in the cold (BY HIMSELF!) to secure one of these super-limited, highly-rated stouts and I think we’d both agree it was well worth it (me more so than him because I didn’t stand in line by myself in the cold!)
Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock–the best wheat beer in the world “iced” and suped-up?! Why thank you very much!
Odell Woodcut #2–the (surprise) big winner at this year’s SAVOR event, it must have out-performed 50 other beers I tried.
Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia–these Warren, Michigan brewers became a new favorite of mine as they finally got a small push into the NYC market this year. I’ve only had four of their beers so far–all unequivocal winners–but this old ale was my favorite.
Cantillon St. Lamvinus
Dieu du Ciel! Peche Mortel
Girardin Gueze 1882 Black Label
Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. the Crusher
Marin White Knuckle DIPA
Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel
Nogne O Dark Horizon 2.0
Russian River Beatification (Batch #2)
Russian River Tempation
Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs
The Lost Abbey Angel’s Shares
Three Floyds Dark Lord
Favorite wine of the year: Kluge Estates Cru
Favorite liquor of the year: George T. Stagg bouron
WORST BEERS I DRANK IN 2009
You know it was a great year when there was only five beers so bad that I couldn’t finish them. These are them:
The beer itself was plenty awful–sure–but it led to my least proud moment of 2009, which is more than enough to merit it a spot on this list.
4. Southampton North Fork Fresh Hop
I hate to bash Southampton as they made several of my favorite beers of the year, but this effort was just a watery mess. After my first sip of it at Blind Tiger one evening, I set it down and ordered a new beer.
Southern Tier had never done me wrong until this disgusting brew which tastes like an original Coors with some cheap cherry syrup poorly mixed into it. I tried it freezing cold, I tried it room temperature, tried it from several different glasses…I ultimately tried it down the drain. Awful.
This falsely named beer (cask?!?!?! bourbon?!?!?! are you fucking kidding me??!?!) was so horrendous, just a few sips of it had me sick to my stomach for the bulk of the next day.
Just an iconoclast of awfulness. So fucking terrible I implore you to try it just to know what the lowest depths of beer can be. Unfortunately, the brewery that makes this supposedly went belly-up, rendering this beer fairly rare I suppose and meaning you may never get the grave misfortune to taste it (I actually have a few bottles still “cellaring” just in case). Eh, I do things so you don’t have to…just watch my tasting video linked above and count your blessings.
Happy Holiday and New Year and here’s to grand tipplin’ in 2010!
*Notable 2009 offerings I’ve yet to try which I own or am soon to own: The Bruery Black Tuesday, Pelican Pub’s The Perfect Storm, The Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze, Firestone 13, and a few others. 2010 is gonna be a good year I think…