January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's a new year and the holiday season is over, but not without a good amount of superb beer having been consumed. The day after Christmas, my friend Robin at Good For The Palate hosted an evening party filled with food and drink. To start things off, I opened a bottle of The Bruery's Rugbrød, a dark, Danish-style rye ale ('rugbrød' apparently means 'rye bread' in Danish). Pours brown with a hint of red, kind of a dark auburn I guess, with a very thick head that almost makes you feel like you're about to take a bite of a tasty piece of bread. Creamy texture. Spicy notes, fig and prune, a little earthy, nutty, with just a touch of that rye bitterness. Huge fan of rye beers and this one did not disappoint!

Rugbrød

Next up was Robin's bottle of Allagash Odyssey, a very dark ale aged in oak barrels. I had Odyssey once before, at the 2010 Charleston Brewvival, and I had it in my head (without looking at the bottle first) that it was a stout. It's not, but you could easily be fooled by the thick body, heavy lacing, and extra dark brown, almost black color. The oak aging is obvious even as you pour, and when you take a sip there is a nice oaky flavor and a burst of alcohol, though it's not overpowering. A little coffee and cooked brown sugar, and with more vanilla and sweetness as it warms. It was snowing the night of the party, so I decided to take the shot of this one outside.

Odyssey

Like I have done with books in the past, sometimes I buy something based on first appearance. I love the artwork on the bottle of Tilted Smile, part of Uinta Brewing Company's 'Crooked Line' of beers. At this point I was starting to feel the effects of the alcohol, and I didn't make many mental notes of this beer. It was good, but that's about it. Nothing memorable, but very drinkable and a nice break from the two heavier beers I'd had earlier in the evening. Crisp, with a light hop flavor. Is it just me or does the 'Imperial Pilsner' beer style seem to just be a pilsner recipe with pilsner or medium malts and extra hops, almost a combination of a pilsner and a light IPA? Not that I'm complaining... I love Dogfish Head's My Antonia (more on that later).

Tilted Smile

New Years Eve. I stayed in this year. I'm 27 years old now and although I still love a night out at the bar or a rowdy party now and then, I did not want to deal with 'the crazies'. My dad calls New Year's 'amateur night'. It's true. People who don't even drink that often to begin with come out in droves and drink more than they should even if they were staying at home and not endangering anyone. I do not like being in that kind of mess.

First up was The Bruery's 3 French Hens. It is 75% Belgian-style dark ale blended with 25% (I'm assuming of the same batch) aged in French oak. Pours a fairly clean brown with a small head that thins quickly but continues to play around on the surface. Very much Belgian on the nose and palate. Strong, complex aromas and flavors, but very well balanced. Bready, yeasty, dark fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, a little vanilla, figs, caramel... yum.

3 French Hens

Second in line was Baltimore brewer Brian 'Stillwater' Strumke's Belgium-brewed import beer, 'of Love & Regret'. First off, the carbonation is lively, suds pouring out as soon as I popped the top. I set the beer in my goblet and let the suds slowly drip down and settle so I wouldn't lose too much beer (nice trick by the way). Love & Regret is another saison style from Stillwater, this time brewed with beermaster Jef Goetelen in Beerzel (Antwerp), Belgium. This is Brian's 'spring' beer, and he incorporated several botanical elements into the brew; heather, chamomile, lavender, and dandelion. The result is a lightly funky, earthy, and refreshing beer with aromas and flavors to match. It really is what Brian intended it to be, a "liquid interpretation of the spring season... like a fresh meadow in spring." Absolutely delicious.

of Love & Regret

We also had a bottle of Dieu du Ciel Dernière Volonté (no photo, sorry!). Cloudy golden color with a nice white head. Sweet lemon and spice on the nose. Has a great, funky flavor, with lemon, grapefruit, pear. Light, citrus hop flavor, not so much pine. Robin stopped by on New Years and had some of this with me and she really liked it. I did too, so I'll probably get another bottle (it was only $4.99 at Dawson's) and have another round (this time with a proper photo).

So, now that 2010 is over, I wanted to throw out my picks for the best beers I had over the 12 months. I've had so many that it's hard to choose. I've documented dozens through BEERsimple but there are dozens more that aren't mentioned here (I have a notebook with a bunch of scribble, sometimes just the name of a beer, sometimes with tasting notes, and sometimes even with the label torn from the bottle).

In no particular order...

De Dochter van de Korenaar L'enfant Terrible - This beer made me fall in love with funky, sour beers.

Bell's 2 Hearted Ale & Founders Red's RyePA - Both of these beers I had for the first time while visiting Michelle in Michigan (Bell's and Founders are both Michigan breweries). My first taste of 2 Hearted was from a hand pump at Slow's BBQ in Detroit. Michelle and I split a 6-pack of RyePA while watching movies one night on the couch. 2 Hearted may actually have topped 60 Minute IPA and Green Flash West Coast IPA as my favorite hoppy beers, but unfortunately I can't get it in MD. Absence makes the heart grow fonder I suppose. Not only are these beers awesome, but they will always remind me of my summer with Michelle.

Brooklyn Detonation Ale - One of the most powerfully flavored/hopped beers I've ever tasted. My favorite from my first trip to ChurchKey.

Dogfish Head Bitches Brew & My Antonia - I have never been a fan of World Wide Stout of Chicory Stout, so I was overjoyed when Dogfish released Bitches Brew and not only is it (in my opinion) worlds better than their other stouts, but it was one of the most delicious, smooth, and chocolately stouts I've ever had. My Antonia is a collaborative effort between Sam Calagione and Birra del Borgo in Italy. In a process that is fast becoming tradition, each company used the same recipe to brew their own version. I haven't had the Italian version, but Dogfish's version is a delicious 'Imperial Pilsner' brewed with (no surprise here) pilsner malt, but continually hopped with Noble and West Coast hops. The first time I had a glass, it was with Sam Calagione himself at a private event at RFD in Washington, DC.

Oliver Ales 3 Lions - Another local beer, native to Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore. I was disappointed when my favorite local beer bar, Heroes, stopped carrying Brewer's Art's Pale Ale and soon after, Resurrection (actually it may not have been their fault; I don't know the story). Fortunately, Heroes started serving 3 Lions, a delicious strong brown ale.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast - click here to see previous post

Honorable mention... Stone Vertical Epic 10.10.10

My next three picks are breweries and not specific beers; Nøgne Ø, Stillwater Artisanal Ales, The Bruery. These guys represent what I would want in terms of success as a brewery, if I were a brewer myself. All the beers I've had from all three brewers are insanely delicious, have a ton of flavor, are well balanced, and are also beautifully packaged. I recommend anything they have to offer. I've had the pleasure of enjoying the following from each:
Nøgne Ø: Batch #100, Brown Ale (favorite), Imperial Stout, India Pale Ale, Saison, Two Captains
Stillwater: Stateside Saison, Cellar Door (tie with Existent), Autumnal, Existent, of Love & Regret, A Saison Darkly
The Bruery: Saison Rue, Saison de Lente, Mischief (favorite), Rugbrød, 2 Turtle Doves, 3 French Hens

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