I drank a lot of great beers over the past 365 days–no surprise considering I spent 30 consecutive days going from beer bar to beer bar–but these are the ones I remember most fondly.
(Note: If I included it on my “best-of” list for 2008 or 2009 then no matter how good that same beer is/was, I made it ineligible for this year’s list. Also of note, Thank Heaven For Beer’s super-high ABV imperial stout homebrew was easily one of the three best beers I had this year, though I chose not to include it for the simple reason that none of you out there have any chance to ever purchase it. For the moment at least.)
TOP TEN BEERS I DRANK IN 2010
1. The Bruery Black Tuesday (2009 vintage)
I quaffed this during an epic high-ABV, highly-rare imperial stout tasting (some pictured above) to celebrate a friend’s marriage and this one easily took the wedding cake. Due to the immense hype surrounding it, you might think Black Tuesday couldn’t possibly deliver, but it does big time. Just a boozy, complex, and delicious big boy stout. Everything I could possibly want in a beer. Though you truly do need about five guys on hand to finish a 750 mL bottle.
I had this several times during the year, including during the aforementioned epic stout tasting, and this was the only one that was able to go a few slug-’em-out rounds with Black Tuesday. Regular Bourbon County seems to have been specifically created for me. Deliciously hot and boozy, packed with chocolate and vanilla and about as un-subtle as a beer can get, the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso added to Bourbon County Coffee makes it a little smoother, a little more palatable, a little more “user-friendly.” It may be the best coffee beer ever made.
This had long been my “most desired” bottled beer in the world, one which I never thought I’d get to try, so I guess it’s good to have generous friends, ain’t it? The Drunken Polack, that saint, a splendid acquirer of rare stuff, was kind enough to split his rare bottle with me one Saturday afternoon and we both just absolutely luxuriated with this blueberry lambic, surely one of the best sour ales in the world.
I’d long heard of this somewhat urban legend of a beer, but never thought I’d get to try it. Never released commercially as far as I know, a small, small batch of Brooklyn’s Local One was bourbon-barreled with Brett added. Local One is a terrific beer, one fit for countless occasions, but adding Brett makes it truly majestic! I would stand in line in the freezing cold for this beer if it was released at a yearly one-off event, that’s how much I adored it. And, I am going to assume it is only lack of knowledge of its mere existence that prevents this beer from being one of the most coveted rarities on beer trading forums throughout America because, simply put, it might be the best American wild ale I’ve ever had.
The brilliantly named (it uses multiple kettle hop additions with the technique of doubling the hop amount each addition, thus exponentially) is sticky sweet with a bitter finish and the slightest hint of the oak chips it’s aged on while dangerously drinkable too at 10.5%. ALL of Alpine’s IPAs are massive, massive winners, but Exponential Hoppiness, perhaps until I finally get to try Pliny the Younger, is the best DIPA I’ve ever had.
Cigar City entered the fray for “best brewery in America” honors this year and, luckily, I got to try dozens and dozens of their rarities at a few events around the city. This was a beer I honestly ordered just to fill out a flight foursome, but it absolutely floored me, more so than anything else from the Tampa beermakers. This is their normal Warmer Winter Winter Warmer–an old ale–aged on Laird’s apple brandy. Silky, syrupy, and sweet but not cloying, this reminded me of J.W. Lee’s delicious Harvest Ale Calvados, but even boozier and more delicious.
Nebraska Brewing Company burst onto the scene this year with some great efforts, but this was easily their best. The taste is more God-like than hop-like, but that hardly matters. This was one bottle of sour tart deliciousness. Strong wood flavors come through with the oak and the Belgian yeastiness is accented nicely by some subtle wine flavors. Just a hint of citric sour fruit flavors as well. Tastes not Belgian IPAish at all, more like a wild ale, though I’m not sure there’s any Brett in the barrel to make this officially “wild,” but whatever the case, this was an incredibly memorable brew.
Surly does not fuck around and it’s quite likely they’ll have a beer appear in my year end top tens for the rest of time. Within a few hours I was fortunate enough to get to try batch 1 on tap, batch 1 canned, and an ever so slightly tweaked batch 2 on tap. Now while batch 1 and the first canned version I tried were both magnificent, both A level beers, batch 2, the batch that I suppose will be the recipe from now til iniquity, blew my mind and is clearly one of the best IPAs I have ever had.
The “normal” Pop Skull, a collaboration brew between Three Floyds and Dogfish Head, was a kinda lame brown ale, but the bourbon barrel-aging turned this ordinary beer into something extraordinary, the rich vanilla tastes of bourbon latching on beautifully to the brown ale base. A huge surprise of 2010, proving that it’s not only imperial stouts that can benefit from bourbon barrel aging.
I got a tip there was a nano-brewery in Portland, Maine cranking out some amazing shit and sure enough that was the case, as I stumbled upon one of my most memorable beers of the year. Packaged in thin and sultry needle-nosed bottles I’d heretofore only seen Pliny the Elder employ, Zoe is a bitter explosion in the mouth, perfectly carbonated and tingly, tastes of tropical fruits yet still balanced perfectly with a strong malt backbone. Simply put, it’s the best amber ale out there now, even better than the quintessential one Nugget Nectar. If I lived in Maine, I’d be drinking Zoe weekly. (Which actually might be harder to do than you think, even if you do live in Maine, considering a mere 144 bottles are produced weekly!)
I had the pleasure of getting a private tour of this two-year-old Oklahoma City brewery and I was quickly wowed by all their beers, but especially this beauty. Aged on Bulleit bourbon barrels, this might seriously be the smoothest, most perfectly melded bourbon-barreled stout I’ve ever had.
I’ve enjoyed numerous beers through Dogfish Head’s Randall before, but always IPAs, and always a hops-filled Randall. This was my first non-IPA, non-hops Randall and MY GOD was it amazing. It even made a somewhat lackluster “How to Fail” book signing event at P.O.P.E. in Philadelphia memorable.
Had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum. Like a liquidized sack of fresh weed. Yum. Maybe the dankiest beer I’ve ever quaffed.
Also had this at the epic Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover event at Rattle ‘n’ Hum. I wouldn’t have thought that red wine barrel aging would bring a Belgian IPA to such greatness, but indeed it did. One of those most unique beers I’ve ever had.
I’m sure I had a few better IPAs this year, but I couldn’t quite shake from my mind the first time I had this on tap, over the summer in Boston at the Publick House. I’ve had it bottled a few times since and while it’s always good, it’s never quite been as great as that first fresh time I had it on tap. A brilliant East Coast IPA.
Ballast Point Victory at Sea
Birrificio Le Baladin Xyauyu
Brewdog Sink the Bismarck!
The Brewer’s Art Cerebus Tripel
Brooklyn Detonation Ale
Cigar City Guava Grove Saison
Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout - Laird’s Apple Brandy Barrel
COOP Red Zeppelin
De Dolle Stille Nacht (2004 vintage)
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA
The Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus
Nebraska Melange A Trois Reserve Series Aged in French Oak Chardonnay Barrels
Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Imperial Stout
Somewhat sadly, in a schadenfreude kinda way, I had such a great drinking year that I have nothing to submit for my always-amusing worst beers of the year list. Bummer. Hopefully next year.
Actually, hopefully not. May we both continue our great beer drinking into 2011.
Happy New Year!