The Top 10 Beers I Consumed In 2016
Looking back on the craft beer scene at the end of 2016 is depressing. I have completely given up on the culture of Ahab-ing around Southern California trying to slay a proverbial whale while ten thousand other ship captains are on the hunt as well. What is craft beer culture in 2016? If you don’t make it to every bottle release prepare to pay a king’s ransom for what you missed. If you’re not using the fastest high-speed Internet connections and F5-ing at the top of the hour (which you determine within a fraction of a second by syncing your computer’s clock to whatever the hot world clock of the moment is) you’re not going to score “tickets” (read: bottles) to “events” (read: new releases) at your favorite brewery. Want the most sought after and limited cans from whoever is aping the New England-style pale ale this week? Get your lawn chair set up in line the night before and sleep in your car. It’s a joke. Plain and simple. I don’t want to play along. I’ll say this at the outset: if you’re miffed because my list does not include any of the current Top 50 beers on Beer Advocate, the exit is that little “x” on the right-hand side of the tab. You don’t have to keep reading. If I cared about page impressions I’d write more often.
With just a few days left in 2016 it’s time to look back on my year in beer. According to Untappd, a wonderful app I use whenever I drink (until I’m too drunk to use my phone), I consumed 904 total beers in 2016. 83% of those beers were unique, meaning I have never reported consuming them before. I averaged a shade under two-and-a-half beers per day this year, up from my 2015 average of 1.5 beers per day. No wonder I’ve put on weight.
Untappd has some weird style distinctions, but according to my stats the top beer styles I consumed this year were sour/wild ales (149 check-ins), double/imperial stouts (88 check-ins), IPAs and IIPAs (68 and 58 check-ins respectively). My biggest drinking days of the year were May 14th (the Bruery Anniversary Party) and July 16th (an epic bottles share in Hoboken). On those two days I consumed 29 and 30 beers respectively. Yikes.
Mom, please disregard this entire post if you happen to see this.
In spite of my disinterest in “the game” as it extends to chasing whatever is LIT and/or FIRE at the moment, I got to consume some phenomenal brews this year. Some of them were released in 2016, and some came out of my cellar or a friend’s cellar. This isn’t a list of the ten best beers made this year, it’s a list of the ten best I consumed. Got it? Good. Let’s do this.
de Garde Brewing The Persimmon – A wild ale aged in oak barrels with — you guessed it — persimmons. Some de Garde sours are too acidic for me (here’s looking at you, Imperial Nectarine Bu!) but this was more tempered, with fruitiness and funk in equal measure.
Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation (2016) – What a weird trip it was from the Bruery Anniversary party (where an early blend of this year’s batch was a barely drinkable ‘NILLA BOMB) to the final bottled version, which I thought was lightyears better. The finished blend showcased much more barrel character. It was not enough to vastly improve this vanilla Glade candle hot fudge brownie of a beer, but sometimes you just have to enjoy a vanilla Glade candle hot fudge brownie beer for what it is.
The Veil Boss Man – I stumbled across a can of this at a lil’ bottle share when I was home for Thanksgiving and, whoa. Kettle soured double IPA FTW. Are kettle soured double IPAs the next hot beer trend? Or are we still banking on the IPL as the style de jour of 2017? Is it something else? Have the trends shifted to something else I don’t know about? Oh well! If the kettle soured double IPA becomes a “thing,” I’ll look back on this post in a year and feel like a real genius.
Bottle Logic Space Trace – In the simplest of terms, image Fundamental Observation with coconut instead of vanilla. This was probably the most coconut forward beer I’ve ever smelled/tasted, complete with coconut floaties so you don’t feel like you’re drinking extract. Modern Times Monsters’ Park (Bourbon Barrel w/ Coconut & Cocoa Nibs) on draught was a close second in terms of which beer had the most Will Kassouf #COCONUTS in 2016, but once Modern Times bottled theirs supposedly the coconut fell off or it started revealing sour notes. At least on draught it was delightful.
Kane A Night To End All Dawns (Cocoa Beans) – You’ll notice I went with the LAME ASS cocoa bean version as opposed to the sexier vanilla bean or coconut bean (heh) variants. But to me this was the standout variant, because it best showcased the base beer, albeit in a more fudge-y way. Honestly the best ANTEAD is the regular non-adjunct version of ANTEAD. Why is that not on this list? Because I’m aging what bottles I have left, that’s why.
The Bruery Port Barrel Aged Black Tuesday – Little known fact about me: I love port. Whenever I go out to a Dinner Club meeting I try to convince everyone to join me for a glass of port at the end of the meal. It rarely happens. Naturally, pairing a world-class beer with port wine barrels did wonders for Black Tuesday. The nose is no longer boozy bourbon, instead it is highlighted by grape skins and oak. There’s enough caramelized dark fruit and dryness on the finish to make this a totally unique offering. Loved it.
Sam Adam’s Utopias 10th Anniversary (2012) – Don’t you laugh at me, asshole. This thing is tasting incredible right now. Aromas of port, rum and bourbon with a hint of caramel. Tasted sweet and oaky with lots of heat on the back end (which at 27% ABV should be obvious). I can imagine this getting even better with age, but I done fucked up and drank it so we’ll never know unless you invite me over five years from now to drink yours.
The Rare Barrel Gifted Branch – Some of these Rare Barrel beers will strip the enamel right off your teeth, but this? This is grade-A sour beer with enough stone fruit to kill a small child. It’s only 4% ABV so I don’t think that’s enough to kill a small child, but this sentence is going downhill fast so I should end it and change the subject.
Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2015) – Last year could go down as the year that killed BCBS. All those infected bottles. All those refunds. All those free t-shirts I now see one of at every brewery I visit. My buddies and I did a little horizontal (sounds so wrong) with our combined Goose Island wares. We even included the infected barleywine and coffee variants. Rare was definitely the best of the bunch. The base beer was our second favorite. The Proprietor’s BCBS was too cloying for me, and the infected bottles were, well…drain pours. At the end of the night we drunkenly mixed everything together to create what someone dubbed Bourbon Country, and it was just as bad as you’d expect when you mix tasty beer with infected beer.
Brasserie Cantillon Zwanze (2016) – Last year’s Wild Brussels Stout wasn’t all that great. The experience of Zwanze Day was fun, though. I always have fun on Zwanze Day. Who cares about the beer?!
This year’s Zwanze was much better. They followed the recipe for Cantillon Framboise and blended that 82% raspberry lambic with 18% blueberry lambic with less than 1% vanilla. It was much more enjoyable than 2015. And once again the atmosphere made the day even more enjoyable. Going with someone who gave me half her pours and also drove my drunk ass home didn’t hurt, either.
The Top 10:
10. Geuzestekerij De Cam Oude Lambiek (2003) – Who doesn’t like 12 or 13-year old lambic that itself was a blend of three-year old lambic? Funk for days, hints of lemon, just the right amount of acidity. Oude Lambiek has been bottled as recently as 2012, so if you can find one collecting dust on a shelf at a liquor store near you, grab it and throw it in a closet for the next ten years. If you’re like, “Fuck you! There’s no De Cam on shelves where I live,” then look for Boon’s Geuze Marriage Parfait. I see that an the Kriek on shelves out here in LA, and if those bottles can survive the bloody, shark-infested waters of this city your town should have dozens laying around.
09. Carton Brewing / Other Half All Orange Everything – I’m lucky my sister loves Carton because she has provided me with more cans of theirs than I could ever hope to attain through non-familial channels. I only wish Carton was operating when I was still living in NJ. Having world class beers so easily accessible might have convinced me to stay on the east coast. Every year-end beer list needs at least one IPA or IIPA on it, and this was mine for 2016. Great minds working in concert often perform great…stuff.
08. New Glarus R&D Wild Peach – I know I sat on this for like two years so who knows how it changed while it was awaiting consumption. Sometimes I look at a particular bottle in my cellar and think, “I can’t wait until I can blow (insert name here)’s mind with that!” And the next thing I know two years pass, the person and I stop talking, I forget all about it, and wind up drinking it on my couch while watching re-runs of LOST on a Tuesday night. Because my life is dope, and I do dope shit.
07. Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze (2013) – Lost Abbey released — or tried to release, a couple times — the newest batch of “DDG” this year. A lot of people complained that it was not handled well by the brewery, said Lost Abbey acted shamefully throughout the process, and they’d never purchase another beer from them again. I did not have that experience. I happened to have the day off when bottles were released, so from my bed in my pajamas I bought as many as I could. Who am I to complain about the way a beer is released? Nobody owes me anything, I either get to taste it or I don’t. That said, the release of DDG 2016 seemed like a good time to drink my last DDG 2013. It wasn’t so much funky as it was musty. I got a good amount of white grape flavor. The acidity had toned down. I have no clue how much longer these bottles can be aged (some people think NOW is too late…), but I’m sorry I don’t have more to play around with.
06. The Bruery Room For Me – I know, I called de Garde Imperial Nectarine Bu too acidic and here I am praising The Bruery. Dude, whatever. This was puckering but it didn’t flatten out the stone fruit like the aforementioned Bu. I’ve got one more of these hanging around I promised I’d share with my sister, but I don’t know if I can wait for her to buy a plane ticket out here. The next one of you who asks won’t have to try too hard to convince me we should drink it without her.
05. Highland Park Brewery BA Hammered Satin – I probably drank more HPB than any other brewery this year. In fact, HPB beers accounted for about 20% of my beer intake according to Untappd, which is downright bonkers when you take into account how much I drink. Other than my house (and Blue Palms, which I can walk to) The Hermosillo/HPB was my top venue of the year. I am unabashedly in love with their beers (except Ham Porter — remember that? — what he fuck was that?!). Anyway, BA Hammered Satin was a touch on the thin but clean, espresso-y in all the right ways, and showcased incredible barrel presence. They only bottled about 325 of these so I had to be content with just one. MAKE IT AGAIN, HPB.
04. Lost Abbey Cable Car (2016) – I’ll be honest with you, down at Toronado in San Diego my sister and I put away three bottles of Cable Car in addition to whatever else we were buying from their cellar, so my memory is hazy. Lemon, stone fruit, oak, Chardonnay (?), and funk are what come to mind. Also my sister wanted me to make out with the bartender in the hopes of getting comped another bottle, but 3cc’s was enough for me.
03. Bouwerij 3 Fonteinen Hommage (2013) – Lambic blended with 30% raspberries and 5% sour cherries. Musk for days, dark fruit skins, tannic spice leveled off by fruity sweetness. I could drink this every day of my life and be content. Maybe I should move to Brussels.
02. Armand’4 Herbst (Autumn) – Recent reviews said this bottle had lost its carbonation or “went bad,” but five years or proper storage left this little guy tasting great. It’s tough to say between this and my number one ranked beer of the year which one had the better nose, but I only wanted to sit and smell this for the rest of my life. It was oaky, tart, and grassy, funky in that same way all the best of the old world gueuzes are. If this is the lowest-rated bottle in the set, I can’t wait to demolish the other three seasons like high school me used to demolish liters of Pepsi. No wonder I had bad skin. Also, who needs tasting notes?
01. Brasserie Cantillon Vigneronne (2009) – All I have to say about this is:
Mostly because I had it during that 30-bottle share in Hoboken and my memory is fuzzy. All I recall is falling in love. One taste of that sweet nectar led me to I reach out and grab the bottle, make for the front door, and drive off with it belted into the passenger seat of my Toyota. The dregs and I drove all the way across the country to Vegas for a quickie wedding.
Wouldn’t you know it, a few months later Vigneronne 2009 and I are expecting our first child together. We’re keeping its sex a mystery until its birth, but I’ve got a pretty strong feeling little baby Evantillon LeVigneronne is going to grow up to be a lambic man, much like his proud papa.
‘Til next year!
Oh, and please drink responsibly.
Zelienople – Pretty Baby [MP3]
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