Looking back on the craft beer scene at the end of 2016 is depressing. I have completely given up on the culture of Ahab-ingÂ around Southern California trying to slay a proverbial whale while ten thousand otherÂ ship captainsÂ are on the hunt as well. What is craft beer culture in 2016? If you donâ€™t make it to every bottle release prepare to pay a kingâ€™s ransom for what you missed. If youâ€™re not using the fastest high-speed Internet connections and F5-ingÂ at the top of the hour (which you determine within a fraction of a second by syncing your computerâ€™s clock toÂ whatever the hot world clock of the moment is) youâ€™re not going to score â€œticketsâ€ (read: bottles) to â€œeventsâ€ (read: new releases) at your favorite brewery. Want the most sought after and limitedÂ 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 wantÂ to play along. I’ll say this at the outset: if you’re miffed becauseÂ my list does not include anyÂ of the current Top 50 beers on Beer Advocate,Â the exit is that little “x” onÂ the right-hand sideÂ of the tab. You don’t have to keep reading. If I cared about pageÂ impressionsÂ 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 useÂ my phone), I consumed 904 total beers in 2016. 83% of those beers were unique, meaning I have never reported consumingÂ them before. I averaged a shade under two-and-a-halfÂ 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 statsÂ the top beer styles I consumed this year were sour/wild ales (149 check-ins), double/imperial stouts (88 check-ins), IPAsÂ and IIPAs (68 and 58 check-ins respectively).Â 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 PersimmonÂ – 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 showcasedÂ much moreÂ barrel character. It was not enough to vastly improveÂ thisÂ vanilla Glade candle hot fudge brownie of a beer, but sometimes you just have to enjoy a vanilla GladeÂ candleÂ hot fudge brownie beer for what it is.
The Veil Boss Man – I stumbled acrossÂ 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, imageÂ 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 likeÂ you’re drinking extract.Â Modern Times Monstersâ€™ Park (Bourbon Barrel w/ Coconut & Cocoa Nibs)Â on draught was a close second in terms of which beer had the most Will Kassouf #COCONUTS in 2016, but once Modern TimesÂ bottled theirsÂ supposedly the coconut fell off or itÂ 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 moreÂ fudge-y way. HonestlyÂ the best ANTEADÂ is the regular non-adjunct version ofÂ ANTEAD. Why isÂ thatÂ not on this list? Because I’m aging whatÂ 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 convinceÂ 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 longerÂ boozy bourbon, instead it is highlighted byÂ grape skins and oak. There’s enough caramelized dark fruit and dryness on theÂ finish to make thisÂ a totally unique offering. Loved it.
Sam Adam’s Utopias 10th Anniversary (2012)Â -Â Don’t you laugh at me, asshole. This thing is tasting incredible right now.Â 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 drinkÂ 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’sÂ 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.Â All those infected bottles. All those refunds. All those free t-shirts I now see one ofÂ 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. RareÂ 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 dubbedÂ Bourbon Country, and it was just as bad as you’d expect when you mix tastyÂ beer with infectedÂ beer.
Brasserie Cantillon Zwanze (2016) – Last year’s Wild Brussels Stout wasn’t all that great. The experience of Zwanze Day was fun, though.Â I always have fun on Zwanze Day. Who cares about the beer?!
This year’s Zwanze wasÂ much better. They followed the recipe for Cantillon FramboiseÂ and blended that 82% raspberry lambic with 18% blueberry lambic withÂ less than 1% vanilla. It was much more enjoyable than 2015.Â 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.Â 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 ofÂ acidity. Oude Lambiek hasÂ been bottled as recently as 2012, so if you can find one collecting dust on a shelf at a liquor store nearÂ 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 bottlesÂ can survive the bloody, shark-infested waters of this cityÂ your town shouldÂ have dozensÂ laying around.
09.Â 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 operatingÂ 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 oftenÂ perform great…stuff.
08.Â New Glarus R&D Wild Peach -Â I know I sat on this for like two years so who knows how it changed whileÂ it was awaiting consumption. Sometimes I look at a particular bottleÂ in myÂ cellar and think, “I can’t wait until IÂ can blow (insert name here)’s mind with that!” And the next thing I know two years pass,Â the person and I stop talking, I forget all about it, and wind up drinking it on my couch while watching re-runs ofÂ LOST on a Tuesday night. Because my life is dope, and I do dope shit.
07.Â Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze (2013)Â – Lost Abbey released — or tried to release, a coupleÂ times — the newest batch of “DDG” this year. AÂ lot of people complained that it was not handled well by the brewery, saidÂ Lost Abbey acted shamefully throughoutÂ the process, and they’dÂ never purchase another beer from them again.Â I did not have that experience. I happened to have the dayÂ off whenÂ bottles were released, so from myÂ bed in my pajamas IÂ 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 itÂ or I don’t. That said, the release of DDG 2016Â seemed like a good time to drink my last DDG 2013.Â It wasn’t soÂ much funky as it was musty. I got a good amount ofÂ white grape flavor. The acidity had toned down. I have no clueÂ how much longer these bottlesÂ canÂ be aged (some people think NOW is too late…), but I’m sorry I don’t have more to play around with.
06.Â 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 IÂ don’t know if I can wait for her to buy a plane ticket out here. The next one of you who asks won’tÂ have to try too hard toÂ convince me we should drink it without her.
05.Â Highland Park Brewery BA Hammered SatinÂ – 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/HPBÂ 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 thinÂ but clean, espresso-y in all the right ways, and showcasedÂ incredible barrel presence. They only bottled about 325 of these so I had to be content with just one. MAKEÂ IT AGAIN, HPB.
04.Â Lost Abbey Cable Car (2016)Â -Â I’ll be honest with you, down at Toronado in San Diego my sister and I put away three bottles of Cable CarÂ in addition to whatever else we were buying from their cellar, so my memory is hazy. Lemon, stone fruit, oak, Chardonnay (?), and funk are whatÂ 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.Â Bouwerij 3 Fonteinen Hommage (2013) – Lambic blended with 30% raspberries and 5% sour cherries. Musk for days, dark fruit skins, tannic spice leveled offÂ byÂ fruity sweetness. I could drink this every day of my life and be content. Maybe I should move to Brussels.
02.Â Armandâ€™4 Herbst (Autumn) – Recent reviews saidÂ this bottle had lost its carbonation or “went bad,” but five years or proper storage left this little guyÂ tasting great. It’s tough to say between this and my number one ranked beer of the year which one had the better nose, butÂ I onlyÂ 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 bottleÂ 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.Â Brasserie Cantillon Vigneronne (2009)Â – All I have to say about this is:Â
Mostly because I had it during that 30-bottle share in Hoboken andÂ my memory is fuzzy. All I recallÂ isÂ falling in love. One taste of that sweet nectar led me toÂ I reach out and grab the bottle, makeÂ for the front door, and drive off with it belted into the passenger seat of my Toyota. The dregsÂ 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 2009Â 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 LeVigneronneÂ is going to grow up to be a lambicÂ man, much like his proud papa.
‘Til next year!
Oh, and please drink responsibly.
Zelienople – Pretty Baby [MP3]