The Ten Best Beers Of 2018…So Far
Yes, I know this post was “due” on July 1st…Sometimes I get busy (or is it lazy?) and posts are delayed. Please accept my sincerest apologies. Given the subject of this post, maybe I can convince you that my tardiness is the result of being perpetually drunk since late June? No? Fine. Whatever. Moving on…
As much as I love a memorable meal, or a great album, or a roll in the hay with a young lady who just arrived in Los Angeles with dreams of breaking into the entertainment industry, nothing beats a cold beer. Beer (and by extension fine wines or small batch bourbons, I suppose) elevates memorable meals, goes quite well with good albums (at least according to my Instagram account), and helps give me the confidence to make those rolls in the hay possible. At least it used to, back when I was young and virile.
I try to take beer seriously without sucking the fun out of it. To that end, I have chased far fewer new releases this year than last year. I still refuse to stand in line for beer, and I like to share equally with enthusiasts as well as friends who couldn’t give a shit how many cases of whatever I’ve brought to my weekly Survivor viewing party were produced. I keep a “cellar” that currently houses a few hundred bottles. If you want to keep up with what I’m drinking in real-time (or stalk me IRL), there’s always Untappd.
Speaking of which, according to my Untappd “Personal Stats” I’ve consumed 522 beers so far this year, which almost 80 less than I consumed during the same period of time last year. I find that incredibly odd because it feels like I’m drinking more this year than last year. Alas, the first part of 2017 featured way more binge drinking than the first part of 2018 (what a difference a new job can make!). Even though I’m still running three or four days a week and trying to eat healthier, I’ve also found myself feeling under the weather more this year than last year. Maybe it’s global warming. Maybe it’s all the wildfires. Maybe I’m just getting old and dying. Who knows?!
ANYWAY… This list was compiled and calculated using my ratings on Untappd (and Beer Advocate where applicable). Rather than bore you with my own tasting notes I’m using the commercial descriptions wherever possible.
The Top Ten Beers Of 2017…So Far
Hudson Valley Brewery – Purelake (Untappd: 4.25)
Suarez Family Brewery – Ms. Frank (Untappd: 4.25)
The Bruery – Sour In The Rye With Napa Cab Grapes (Untappd: 4.50)
Cigar City Brewing – Maple Bourbon Barrel Aged Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout (Untappd: 4.25)
Goodfire Brewing Co. – Tri Combs (BeerAdvocate: 4.31, Untappd: 4.25)
Three’s Brewing – Short Fuse (Untappd: 4.25) – I know it’s honorable mention only, but this little helles lager also has the distinction of being one of my most-consumed beers of 2018. It’s an outstanding brew, subtly smoky, savory, and eminently crushable. My 8 cans were not enough, and I sorely miss having them in my fridge now.
10. Sour Cellars – Frosy (Untappd: 4.50) – This was a Curios Club “member’s only” bottle that a buddy shared with me a couple months ago. There was no Untappd entry for it at the time, and there is currently no BeerAdvocate page devoted to it, so ratings are hard to come by. Sour Cellars is committed to making slow beer in the Belgian tradition, and the results that I’ve been lucky enough to taste thus far have all been outstanding. Frosy is a barrel-aged blended golden sour with Balaton and Montmorency sour cherries. It was brewed between January and October of 2016 and bottled in March of 2018. Totally outstanding.
09. Highland Park Brewery – Woodshop 10 (BeerAdvocate: 4.13, Untappd: 4.50) – Brewed for The 10th Annual Woodshop Tasting(s) in San Diego and Los Angeles, 10/3-10/4/15. A double oatmeal stout with Trystero Ethiopian Dry Process Yirga Cheffe Buufata Konga coffee, lactose, cinnamon, vanilla beans, and cedar “wood shavings”.
08. Trillium Brewing Company – Raspberry Soak (2017) (Untappd: 4.50) – Soak: our line of sour wheat ales, aged in oak, featuring a variety of single fruit additions. We place a base brew crafted with 60% wheat grist in 600L oak puncheons for 3 months with fermentation duties shared gracefully between Lactobacillus and our Native New England mixed culture. Loosely inspired by the cold-maceration process used in winemaking, we blend fruit directly into the barrels to “soak” for enhanced extraction of unique colors, aromatics, and flavors. Delightfully acidic, but not funky, our Soak series is an approachable sequence of wild offerings that we are proud to share. Raspberries bring an assertively tart, yet unsweetened flavor profile, striking crimson hue, and re-enforced tannic structure. Raspberry Soak is dry with undertones of oak and wheat.
07. Russian River – Beatification (Batch #4, 2011) – (Untappd: 4.50) – This beer is very unique and inspired by breweries in the Lambic region of Belgium and, especially, our friends at Cantillon. It is 100% spontaneously fermented, meaning yeast is not added. Once the beer is brewed, it is transferred to a cool-ship or “horny” tank located in our barrel room at the pub. There it sits overnight and collects whatever funky wild yeast and bacteria may be living in the room. The next day it is transferred to oak wine barrels where it ferments wildly and ages for a few months. The end result is a wild, spontaneously fermented, sour, and tasty hand-crafted beer!
06. LIC Beer Project – Hollows (BeerAdvocate: 4.45, Untappd: 4.50) – Imperial IPA double dry-hopped with Mosaic, Motueka, and El Dorado. Quick little aside, I heard about LIC Beer Project via the Steal This Beer podcast and was very impressed by what I tasted at EBF Los Angeles last year. When I was home in April I dragged a bunch of friends to the brewery even though they kind of wanted to try someplace else. We all left with armsful of Hollows, and it’s far and away the best IPA or IIPA I’ve had in 2018.
05. Oxbow Brewing Company – Momoko (2017) (Untappd: 4.50) – Barrel aged farmhouse ale blended w/ freshly pressed peaches. Had a bottle of this at Tørst in April and was floored by it. Proper old world funk with huge stone fruit flavor. A couple days later I found some bottles at Brouwerij Lane and bought all they had in stock. I’m insane. I know. Sorry!
04. AleSmith Brewing Company – Barrel-Aged Vietnamese Speedway Stout (Batch 1, 2014) (Untappd: 4.50) – We traditionally brew Vietnamese coffee, known as cà phê sa đá, with a phin-style filter that gently percolates water through ground coffee. The result is a chocolaty and bold tasting coffee that perfectly complements the notes of oak, vanilla, and bourbon in this massive barrel-aged stout.
03. Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Oude Geuze Golden Blend (2014) (Untappd: 4.50) – The Golden Blend is made with 4-year-old Lambic that accounts for 25% of its contents, the rest of the blend is made up by a “secret” combination of 1, 2 and 3-year-old Lambic. The exact mixture is only known by the master-blender Armand himself. The name “Golden Blend” is not far away from the truth, in fact, the 4 years of maturation in oak-wooden barrels is making this particular Lambic very expensive. Due to the “evaporation” through the barrels, only a small percentage of the lambic is left over after 4 years of maturing.
02. Allagash Brewing Company – Coolship Resurgam (2017) – (BeerAdvocate: 4.61 Untapped: 4.75) – Coolship Resurgam is a blend of both old and young unfruited spontaneous beer. The name comes from the motto of our fair city, Portland, Me. It means “I shall rise again”. Coolship Resurgam won a Silver medal at the 2010 GABF. A blend of this one-, two-, and three-year-old spontaneously fermented beer. The finished beer has aromas of apricot, lemon zest, and candied fruit. Notes of tropical fruit and flavors of funk lead to a clean, tart and dry finish.
01. Ithaca Beer Company – Excelsior Brute (Batch E!027) (Untappd: 5.00) – Brute is the only beer I’ve given a perfect score to in 2018, and only the 10th beer (out of over 3,500 unique ratings) I have ever scored that high. Brute is, for all intents and purposes, like the Dom Pérignon of beers. Described as a Belgo-American, Brute is brewed with vintage (aged) local hops, barley, wheat, and corn. It is aged in oak barrels with Brett, and finished with three types of champagne yeast. It appears to glow in your glass, smells of proper funk with apples and touches of stone fruit, has a shockingly zesty mouthfeel and a bone-dry finish. Considering E!027 was brewed in 2010, I would say it is aging wonderfully and might still have some time left if you’re sitting on any bottles. And if you are sitting on any bottles, LET ME KNOW RIGHT NOW SO I CAN HAVE SOME MORE. Just… Wow.
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