The Top Ten Beers I Consumed In 2014
I’ve done a lot of drinking this year. What began with champagne at The Hudson in West Hollywood will probably end with a cocktail someplace else a few weeks from now. In between there have been plenty of good, happy reasons to toast with friends and family. There have also been some darker and unhappy reasons to knock back a few too many drinks this year. I’m sure most of us can look back on the previous twelve months and find similar instances in which we found ourselves imbibing. Whatever the case may have been on those nights I found myself drinking, the silver lining is that I got to try a ton of new beers.
More so than any year in recent memory I focused on finding the highest-quality craft beers in 2014 I could find. Whether that meant going to more special events and tap takeovers, driving further distances to explore bottle shops reported to be goldmines, or generally expanding my palette to try new styles or upstart breweries, I wanted to taste as many top-rated brews as I could find. If the end of 2014 is any indication of how 2015 is going to proceed, I anticipate going to even further lengths to get my hands on some of the best beers in the world.
Hi, have I mentioned what a huge fucking nerd I am? Oh, you already knew that? Okay!
Without further ado, here are the ten best beers I consumed in 2014.
Abita Bourbon Street Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Almanac Bourbon Sour Porter
Amager Bryghus Hr. Frederiksen
The Bruery Sucre (Whiskey Barrel Aged)
Cismontane Brewing Co. 4th Anniversary
Dansk Mjød Viking Blod
Firestone Walker 17 (XVII) Anniversary Ale
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (2014)
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Cherry Rye (2012)
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
Mikkeller Wheat Is The New Hops Barrel Aged Chardonnay
The Top Ten:
10. Belching Beaver Peanut Butter Milk Stout – First consumed on May 13, 2014 at Blue Palms in Hollywood. You could imagine my surprise when I saw this on the board at Blue Palms. It was as if someone had read my mind (and masturbatory fantasies) and combined all my favorite things into one otherworldly ambrosia. A milk stout with peanut butter. Yes, of course it’s as good as it sounds. Of course, I’ve had a few more peanut butter beers this year that ran the gamut from really good (DuClaw’s Sweet Baby Jesus) to moderately good (Terrapin Liquid Bliss). None are bad. I’m surprised it’s taken more breweries this long to utilize Peanut Butter. I remember a decade ago the Boston Beer Works had a Peanut Butter but I only had it once at a tasting event in Boston. It took ten years, but now similar beers are making beer geeks happy across the country.
09. Noble Naughty Sauce – A golden milk stout with Guatemalan coffee. First consumed on September 14th at the Hermosillo. That place always has great beers on draught, and I think now that Eagle Rock is opening their own restaurant maybe more taps will open up for other breweries. Also, how cool is it to order a milk stout and have it show up looking completely unlike any other stout you’ve ever consumed!? Really delicious. And, you know, it’s fun to have a cute waitress arrive at your table, look you in the eye and say some variation of, “And some Naughty Sauce for you.”
08. Ballast Point Victory At Sea (Barrel Aged) – The Ballast Point tap takeover at Sunset Beer Co. on September 26th was a fun and intoxicated part of this year’s LA Beer Week festivities. Not only did they roll out bottles (and a keg) of Grapefruit Sculpin (which was kicked/sold out so quickly I was shocked) they brought a keg of Victory At Sea that was aged in Four Roses barrels. And it lasted much, much longer than the Sculpin. As much as I love that IPA, I’m impressed the imperial porter outlasted it. It was incredibly bold, but absolutely delicious.
07. The Bruery Oude Tart With Sour Cherries – Another LA Beer Week find, The Bruery and Almanac took over the taps at Beer Belly in Koreatown and combined for my favorite event of the week. I got absolutely hammered, but loved every moment of it. Almanac really impressed me with their sours: Golden Gate Gose, Bourbon Sour Porter, Dark Pumpkin Sour, Cerise Sour Blond, Farmer’s Reserve Citrus and Dogpatch Strawberry. I expected greatness from The Bruery and I was not let down. Hottenroth, Berazzled, Atomic Kangarue, and Soroboruo were great. The standouts were Melange No. 9 and this one, Oude Tart With Sour Cherries.
06. Firestone Walker Sucaba (2014) – This was a recent one, I had it for the first time at the Firestone Walker Tap Takeover at Cloverleaf in New Jersey (of all places). I kept going back and forth all night as to whether this was better or Parabola was better. In the end, they both made this list. A strong (12.5% abv) barleywine, this is one of two such beers I had this year (Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine is the other) that tasted like no other barleywine I’ve ever consumed. And I mean that in the best possible way. Although I’ve never seen it in person, it’s been bottled, so you’d best be on the lookout for it where you live.
05. Epic Brewing Co. Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout – So good I had to order it twice. Tried for the first time in February and then again in October. With rare exceptions, it’s unheard of for me to go to bars and order beers I’ve already had before. I figure there are so many unique brews out there, I’d be silly to drink the same ones over and over again. So sometimes I go out of my way (to a fault, I’ll admit) to choose the possibility of something new over a reliable option. And then there’s Big Bad Baptist, which is such a great Imperial Stout I had to return to it recently. I’ve got a bunch of bottles from Epic’s exponential series in my pantry waiting for the right occasion, and if they come anywhere close to BBB there might be more beers from Epic on next year’s list.
04. The Bruery Melange No. 9 – Fuck. We have it so good in LA right now. In California in general, I guess. So many incredible breweries. Russian River, Firestone Walker, The Bruery, Port/Lost Abbey, AleSmith, Alpine, FiftyFifty, Eagle Rock, Hangar 24, Belching Beaver, Green Flash, Ballast Point, Almanac, North Coast…so many and I haven’t even mentioned Stone yet! Jesus! Melange was a limited wild ale that blended The Bruery’s sour blonde, Sour in the Rye, and White Oak Sap along with ginger and coconut. It was unbelievable. And, of all the palate killing sours I had at that event at Beer Belly between Almanac and the Bruery, this one stood out as the best.
03. Firestone Walker Parabola (2014) – Parabola has long been a favorite of mine. Since 2012, I believe, when it was the #1 beer on my “Best Of” list. And, were it not for the next two beers (both of which were kind of surprises that ordinarily would not have ever happened but for sheer luck) Parabola would have been #1 again this year. It is, simply put, a phenomenal beer. A Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout aged for 8 months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, it’s a blacker than black, sweet chocolate and espresso bomb. Like the Sucaba, I had this year’s brew at the Firestone Walker tap takeover at Cloverleaf in New Jersey. I’ve been looking for it locally since I returned but I’ve yet to do so.
02. The Alchemist Heady Topper – Total fucking dumb luck. As far as I know, there is no way to get Heady Topper outside of Vermont. And yet, somehow, through sheer luck, a can turned up at my place of work a few months ago courtesy of an acquaintance. I couldn’t turn it down. I couldn’t even share it with anyone. I just took it home and drank it alone in my room. Oh, and I think I Facetime’d my sister just to rub it in that I — being 3,000 miles away from home — miraculously obtained Heady Topper before she could. Of course, word from the East Coast is that The Alchemist is already old news in the craft beer world, and another Vermont brewery is putting out MONSTER beers. I’ve been told a growler filled with one of their IPAs might be overnighted to me in the near future…if so, and if it really IS better than Heady Topper, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it.
01. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Vanilla Rye (2014) – I’m pretty sure I didn’t know that Cloverleaf was doing a Goose Island BCBS event until I flew home for Thanksgiving a couple weeks ago. And it was probably an hour after Thanksgiving dinner that I learned the event was going to be at 11am the following morning. I was in absolutely NO shape to wake up early and stand in line to try a beer, but my sister and I braved the cold (and slight hangovers) to be one of the lucky 30 folks who got to buy a flight of BCBS (2014), Coffee Stout (2014), Cherry Rye (2012) and Vanilla Rye (2014). It was an incredible opportunity that was highlighted by this beauty, easily the most intense vanilla beer I’ve ever tasted. As much as I like the essence of vanilla bean in…say…Stone’s Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean, this Goose Island beer is a full on vanilla explosion. Not cloyingly sweet, maybe a touch overpowering, it was easily the best beer I’ve had this year. Now I just wish I could find some bottles in LA to see how it tastes with age…
Gnod – Visions Of Load [MP3]
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