I like beers that excite my palate, that make me ask myself “how did they brew this?!” and that call me back for another taste. These don’t necessarily have to be crazy, abstract beers, just one that stands apart from the rest of the crowd.
2010 was a particularly great year for craft beer. Craft beer sales were up over 12% despite the recession while overall beer industry volume sales were down over 2.7 %. The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) sold out in record time, Savor was a huge success.
This year has also been a great beer year for me. I built a homemade mash-tun and brewed my first two all grain recipes (more to come on that later). I also made the pilgrimage to Belgium for an amazing beer vacation! Additionally, I visited plenty of new brewpubs and breweries, turned friends and family onto quality craft beers, and tried hundreds of new beers. Even after all this, there are still a few select beers that stand out in my head from this year. I may not remember the first beer that turned me onto craft beer, but I sure can remember my thoughts and feelings while experiencing a few new beers in 2010.
This year may not officially have been “the year of the stout” (See: Black IPA/Cascadian Dark Ale/American-Style Dark Ale), however it wasn’t until this year that I actual came to enjoy and outright love stouts. All of a sudden my palate expanded and I developed quite the thirst for stouts.
(5.) Terrapin – Moo-Hoo Chocolate Stout – (6-pack, $6.99) - The perfect chocolate stout?
This could be the perfect chocolate stout, depending on your taste preference of course. This beer impressed me from the first taste. The beer pours black with a nice tan head. This is a super smooth stout that is not really dry on the finish. There were apparent chocolate notes in the nose and palate, yet the sweetness was perfectly balanced. This beer would be great for someone who doesn’t like it too dry or too sweet but wants something to enjoy with or as dessert. Overall: B+
(4.) Triple De Garre – (On tap in Brugge only) – The best triple you may never try
My first taste of Belgium so to speak, as this was the first beer I ordered during my stay in Belgium, and what a beer it was! This was the house Triple on tap at De Garre in Brugge. Deep, clear orange in color with a thick white head. A bit of citrus and clove in the nose. Extremely smooth and drinkable despite the 11.5% ABV. You could easily drink a few of these if you weren’t careful, however apparently they won’t let you drink more than three. One of my favorite triples ever, and one of the best beers that I came across during my whole stay in Belgium. This house beer, at this amazing bar is unmatchable. Definitely do not miss this if you visit Brugge, which is HIGHLY recommended! Overall: A+
The two Belgian brewers who brew this are the Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development Manager for Yakima Chief Inc., the Washington state hop producer who accounts for over one-fifth all hops produced in the U.S. This is their second beer (Check out IV Saison for the first, and VI Blanche for their third), however word about their beers quickly spread throughout the beer aficionado world. V Cense is described as a citrus bomb, as the concentrated fruit aroma comes from the hops including dry hopping with Amarillo hops, yet the bitterness of the hops is balanced by the sweetness of the beers Munich and Caramel malts.
(3.) Southern Tier – Choklat – (22oz, 7.99$) – Dessert in a glass!
My top rated Stout of 2010, however if it wasn’t for Guinness Extra Stout paired with a homemade bowl of chili, I honestly would not be enjoying stouts to this day. This might not be a new beer, but it was new to me. Even more than being one of my favorite stouts of the year it turned me onto a whole new beer style; sweet stout! Pours a slick, deep black with little to no head. It has a sweet, chocolate aroma with slight hints of caramel, and coffee. Full bodied, slick, oily texture with very little carbonation and the 11% ABV is well hidden, as the beer is surprisingly drinkable. The beer has a smooth, chocolately palate that finishes slightly dry yet is very well balanced. Probably my favorite chocolate stout, perfect for a night in front of a fire or enjoy as or with dessert! Overall: A-
(2.) Jandrain-Jandroulle – V Cense (750mL) – The “5th Sense”
This beer gets its name from a few places. First, the IV Saison was the brewers fourth “child” and this is his fifth, their IV Saison has four ingredients, this one has five (with one additional “proprietary spice” that I was told was Licorice). Also, quite literally the word cense in French means “farmhouse”.
My love for this beer wasn’t solely because I had this it on tap at Moeder Lambic in Brussels, not that it could have hurt it any. The beer pours amber/brown in color with a nice white head. There is an awesome sweet hop aroma in the nose. The beer drinks slightly sweet and citrusy all of which comes from the hops, yet the beer is not overly dry or bitter. This is a really stellar sweet hopped Belgian Saison (as if any other beers like this exist!). If you come across this beer or anything by Jandrain-Jandroulle, do not miss out and treat yourself regardless of the cost! Overall: A+
(1.) Dogfish Head – Sah Ti’ (750 mL, 11.99$) – Not everyone’s cup of tea!
I first had this on tap at the Pony Bar in NYC, which is an awesome American Craft Beer Pub in NYC with all pints $5, but that’s a whole different post. This beer is by far my favorite beer of 2010, not because it’s the best beer that I have ever tasted but mainly because it’s the beer that impressed me the most. I remember when I first tried this. After my first taste, it was all I could talk about; just ask my poor friends who were with me. With each subsequent taste, i was continually impressed all the way through the 16oz pint. Maybe the previous pint or two acted as bit of social lubricant paving the way for this particular beer, or the anticipation of the Wolf Parade concert I was about to attend at Terminal 5. Whatever may have added to the awesomeness experienced upon first taste, this beer still impressed me each additional time I had it. Sweet yet spicy gin like notes (from the juniper berries) in the nose, well balanced, medium body with a slightly sweet aroma. This beer is definitely worth going out of your way to try, and if you are lucky enough to come across it on tap, do not miss the opportunity! Overall: A