The Ten Best Beers Of 2019…So Far
In keeping with tradition, this “Top Ten of 2019” list is being posted two months late. Ordinarily, I’d start compiling the list in January, then spend a day or two in late June tweaking it for a July 1st publication. Alas, this year…things have not progressed as they have in years past. I’ve been traveling in and around SoCal more than normal, I’ve been living the domestic life more (that is, spending time with my girl that would normally be spent ranting on a blog no one reads anymore anyway), and doing more non-blog-related writing. I apologize for the lateness of this post, but if history has taught you (and I) anything it’s that this should be expected (and you probably don’t care anyway).
I’m meeting some friends for dinner and going to a live taping of a podcast tonight. With two hours to spare, I actually thought to myself, “I should post something.” My feeling inspired to write should be a good thing. Let’s not dwell on the fact that this post is tardy by 76 days.
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 single.
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. I still refuse to stand in line for beer. I’ve stopped setting alarms for many online sales. I’m happier to show up to a party with a 4-pack of Brewers’ Bridge or a case of 805 than I am something rare or limited. I like to share equally with enthusiasts and friends who just don’t give a shit about craft beer.
As always, 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 less beer this year than last year. I find that incredibly odd because it feels like I’m drinking more. It certainly feels that way in the old GUT area. At 36 years old, I guess the benefits of running three days per week and trying to eat fewer carbs can still be undone by drinking more. Maybe I should just drink those “healthy” Dogfish Head beers and cut out everything else. Maybe I should only drink White Claw? No, I definitely do not want to drink White Claw.
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 2019…So Far
10. Casey Brewing & Blending – The Cut: Blackberry (Triple Crown 10/19/18) (Untappd: 4.50) – It did not hurt that I was able to enjoy this both out of the bottle with friends in LA and in Glenwood Springs, Colorado at Casey. I go back and forth on whether my favorite Casey “base” is Oak Theory or Saison, but the combination here of Oak Theory plus blackberries at 2 pounds per gallon really lets the fruit shine. The commercial description for this beer is: “Back in the fall of last year, our blackberry grower brought us more blackberries than we had space for in our freezer, but we had an empty fruiting tank, so we found a single barrel of Oak Theory and racked it on the berries. More blackberries were added than was reasonable and they blend with the Oak Theory funk delightfully. We haven’t blended this beer since 2016 so we’re really excited to have this one available for you!”
09. Untitled Art / Mikerphone Brewing – Barrel-Aged Hazlenut Imperial Stout (Untappd 4.50) – Untitled Art rarely deals in nuanced, simple beers. Everything is dialed to 11, including this collaboration with Mikerphone Brewing. It’s an imperial stout treated with hazelnuts and aged, I believe, in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. The result is something absolutely decadent. I haven’t had fresh Grey Monday in a while, but the Untitled art beer might be even more hazelnut-forward. I feel like a 4-ounce serving at a bottle share is more than enough. It’s impressive, for sure, but I don’t know if I could take down a full 22-ounce bomber of this one.
08. Tree House Brewing Company – Impermanence (Untappd: 4.50) – “Impermanence is an imperial milk stout brewed with coffee, chocolate, and maple syrup. Below these additions lies a complex base of chocolate, caramel, and dark crystal malts. A kettle addition of lactose serves to amplify the decadence of this uniquely Tree House offering. Impermanence coats the tongue with flavors of sweet milk chocolate, dark amber maple syrup, and coffee ice cream. It’s an incredible treat – a bona fide breakfast confections bonanza. It is an example of what is possible with careful selection of ingredients paired with focused brewing execution. Please enjoy it fresh and use it as an opportunity to reflect, give thanks, and enjoy in the company of others.”
07. O’so Brewing Company / Funk Factory Geuzeria – Tradeship Straight (Untappd: 4.50) – “Tradeship is a mini-series of American Sours with flavors from around the world. Aged 12 month in oak barrels, Tradeship beers are exceptionally tart with big bold flavors. Having already spent time in the hold, we recommend drinking Tradeship beers fresh.”
06. Casey Brewing & Blending – The Mix: Ecessive Recessive (9/25/17) (Untappd: 4.50) – “For this Mix, we took a couple barrels of Saison and aged them on fresh, whole organic Palisade peaches and nectarines at a rate of 4 pounds per gallon. The small genetic difference between peaches and nectarines is a recessive gene, hence the name. We’ve been aging this blend for over 4 months, waiting for the stone fruit juiciness to pop out of the bottle. The time is now.” I guess this solves the riddle of which base beer I like more. Whenever Casey sends out emails asking for suggestions on member blends I always use Saison as my base. It’s so damned good. I know it sounds silly to say because their beer rarely makes it out of Colorado, but try to find some Casey. Next time you see me ask me to pop a bottle. It’s a joy that everyone should get to experience.
05. Black Project Spontaneous & Wild Ales – SUPERCRUISE: Mal | Mer (Untappd: 4.50) – “SUPERCRUISE starts with wine grapes from locally-sourced, family-owned vineyards in Palisade, CO. Once the grapes have been destemmed and crushed, we allow the juice to rest for a few days – developing rich color and depth of flavor – before finally transferring the juice to neutral oak barrels along with our base Golden Sour. The beer then goes through a secondary fermentation while resting on the grapes, and after a few weeks is ready to bottle. Fruited at about half of what we do for Mach-Limit, the stonefruit character from the base beer is backed by bright fruit and soft tannins, yet the beer still shines through.” The grapes here, if you can’t tell, are malbec and merlot. The result is one of the prettiest glasses of beer I’ve had all year.
04. Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Framboos Oogst 2017 (Season 17/18) Blend No. 16 (Untappd: 4.50) – “This particular Framboos has macerated for 5 months. The final fruit intensity is 37% (so 370 grams of fruit per liter of finished Framboos). The summer raspberries are hand-picked and cultivated organically by Ferme Framboos. 3 Fonteinen Framboos is the result of macerating hand-picked whole raspberries on young lambic for at least four months, in a proportion of one kilogram of fruit per litre of lambic. The raspberry lambic is then blended again with more young lambic to obtain a minimum intensity of 35% fruit, and is bottled immediately afterwards. These bottles are then stored in our cellars for at least five months so that the raspberry lambic can develop into a beautiful, traditional, and refined Framboos. With an abundant forest fruit nose as it warms in the glass, 3 Fonteinen Framboos will age perfectly but may lose some of the vibrant colours and forest fruit aromas. This unfiltered and unpasteurised lambic is all-natural with no artifcial juices, syrups, or sugars added. Traditional Lambic is living, cultural heritage rooted in the Zenne valley!”
03. House Of Fermentology – Yellow Dot (2017) (Untappd: 4.50) – “Golden Sour aged in Gin barrels with Vermont wild flower honey and lavender, elderflower and chamomile.” To say that I am in love with HOF is an understatement. I respect the mission (a “weekend project” when brewer/blender Todd Haire is not busy with Foam Brewers). I respect the process: wort is fermented with a mixed culture of Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces in oak barrels, often with a fruit addition. And the execution is always in keeping with the ethos: make experimental, interesting beer. The Dot series (“All great art starts with a single dot”) are pretty much flawless, and the depth and character of Yellow Dot might make it my favorite entry in the series yet.
02. The Lost Abbey – Isabelle Proximus – (Untappd: 5.00) – “In March of 2006 five guys, Adam Avery, Vinnie Cilurzo, Rob Todd, Tomme Arthur and Sam Calagione accompanied Lorenzo Dabove, The Prince of Pajottenland, through a tour of Belgium’s finest geuze producers. Many of the mysteries of lambic production were answered along the way. They vowed to return to the states to brew a sour beer celebrating their experiences. In November of 2006 they reunited at Port Brewing to brew Isabelle Proximus. In this bottle, you’ll find the answers to many of the questions that were posed along their journey near the river Senne. However, like the mysteries of lambic beers, there remains one lingering question that was left unresolved. We hope like us, the next time you’re on a pilgrimage to Brussels you’ll drop by the Empire Club and let us know whether you prefer Green or Orange…” Once considered the greatest of all beer white whales, I finally nabbed a bottle of Izzy this year. As part of a silent auction to benefit the Make-A-Wish foundation, I bid on a single bottle and wound up winning it. Yeah, it’s like 10 years old now, and while the tartness has faded – some might say its last legs – the truth is it is still the best American geuze ever made.
01. Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Zenne Y Frontera Solera (batch 2) (Untappd: 5.00) – “With the first version of Zenne y Frontera, 9 Oloroso barrels and 3 PX barrels were filled with young lambic. After one year of oak maturation, the characteristics of the finest of sherries and the 40-year-old casks integrated with the 3 Fonteinen lambic. Only half of the volume of all casks was blended and bottled and the barrels were filled again with young lambic – our interpretation of the “solera” method. For this second edition, again only half of all barrels was blended and bottled. After another 17 months of bottle maturation, the average age of this naturally refined traditional lambic beer is more than 45 months. This batch is limited to 3,000 bottles.” This was had alongside the Isabelle Proximus ranked just below it. It’s almost unfair to judge one against the other (one is from 2016 and one is from 2008), but this was the best lambic I’ve ever had. You can read more about the brew here.
We’ll revisit the list in December (I swear, I only used beers from January – June 2019 while making this list). I’m pretty sure the 1 and 2 spots won’t change, but hey…you never know!
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