For me, it’s been a pretty damn good year. For beer, it’s been a pretty damn good year. For many politicians and cell phones, ehhhh not so much of a good year. It seems like the craft beer industry has jumped by leaps and bounds this year or maybe it’s the simple fact that my eyes were closed and I just missed a lot of it. I don’t know, but I do know that it’s as popular as ever…especially here in Louisville. New breweries have opened and new beer bars have opened. Danville now has two nano-distilleries and Lexington has some new breweries coming to town. Bourbon may still be king in Kentucky, but beer is working its way up there.
For homebrewing, it’s been a year producing 14 different recipes and learning a lot from the online and the in-person community. Many thanks and praise go out to David Pierce of NABC for fielding my questions and being generally and overall kickass guy when it comes to beer knowledge and expertise. I’ve made beers that have been my best, made beers I thought were horrible, and made beers that have surprised me after aging. The great thing about homebrewing is that I’ve probably given away about 50% of my beer and a majority of what I did consume was with others.
Probably the most important thing is that I’ve learned to enjoy beer for its craft, not its alcoholic nature. The tastes and the smells appease me more than its alcohol percentage. Like cooking, it truly is a fine art and brewers receive my utmost respect. I’ve ventured in styles a bit, but always come back to my staples. I’ve learned I do not like sours (at all) and my heart resides in that in the dessert nature of an imperial stout. I can only drink one or two IPAs and the temperature must be 70 degrees are above. Wheats are treated like a red-headed stepchild and scotch ales are swooned over like a fair queen, or as my wife puts it, a corn cob queen. With this, I’ve looked over my blog and tried to recall the many beers I’ve consumed this year and produced a Top Ten beers of 2011. December is the time of lists and this might be long, and slurred at times…but here we go.
Almost made it: 2011 Dark Lord, Uinta Black Labyrinth Ale, Founders KBS, 3 Floyds 2009 Behemoth, Ninkasi Tricerahops, & Jacki O’s Kentucky Monk.
The Holy Grale might be the best thing ever to happen to me and Louisville. They offer a wide arrange of draft options and doing many tap takeovers from some of my favorite breweries (Founders, Bells, Dogfish, and 3Floyds to name a few). So cheers to Tyler and Lori for working hard and bringing some oddities to Louisville.
I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel aged beer, especially scotch ales. I brew a lot of mine this way and just love the complexity it can give a beer but they can often overshadow the true flavors as well, so bourbon with caution. We had this after a Valentines Day beer and cheese dinner at the Grales sister location, Louisville Beer Store, and then headed to the Grale to see what was left for the uber-packed Founders tap takeover. Black Biscuit went as quick as it was tapped, but KBS was still there for some reason. The 09 Backwoods was a sweet combination of oak, bourbon, and caramel. With age, Backwoods gets even better because fresh, it comes off as way too boozy.
The first and only “old ale” on the list. Old ale’s sit in third place spot in my 2011 favorite type of beer list. I have a damn sweet tooth, what can I say. My grandmother (96) still eats a bowl of ice cream before she goes to bed every night. This was the biggest surprise of the whole bunch and probably, “what the hell is that doing there of the bunch”. I snagged this last Christmas when I was with Ashley and visiting my buddy Troy in Vermont. I just let it sit in the cellar for a long time because I really never knew when to drink it. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for Old Brown Dog and Ellies Brown mainly because the pups on the label. When I bought it and even when I opened it, I just figured it was a brown ale with some more booze (I never looked it up). I really wish my wife could have enjoyed this but she was too busy Hangin’ Tough at a NKOTB concert.
In short, I’m looking for a lot more of this in the upcoming week. Here is what I said: “I cracked the beer, poured it, and walked away for a while to mess around fixing the damn door handle which broke. I came back to a real surprise. I took a big whiff and soon realized it wasn’t just a bigger version of their Old Brown Dog, it was actually an Old Ale (I never read above). The nose was full of raisins and toffee and smelled awesome. A great smelling beer. Upon taste, my mouth was reminded of a barleywine with a sweet malt taste and a sticky mouthfeel accompanied by brown sugar, bourbon, and syrup. Where are the pancakes! “
A simply awesome beer from one of my favorite East Coast places in the world. Make it a smutty, not like smut dirty though.
New Albanian is what I consider my hometown brewery. The brewers are buddies of mine and I think/know, they make damn good beer. Myself and Ashley volunteered to serve beer for them at the Keg’s Fest of Ale event this summer, one of our favorite things to do because it gives us the chance to talk beer. A great event, but the past two years the name should have been the Swampass Festival because it’s just been bitchingly hot. Before the event, Ashley and I both ran a trail half in Bernheim Forest and placed 2nd each, so we had a reason have a few celebratory beers while serving in the sweltering heat.
Note the pit stains
When you think 90 degree weather, the sun beating down on you, and legs so tired you don’t want to stand…one typically thinks of of a beer crisp and like summer. I’m not typical. I enjoyed my fair share of Thunderfoot, an Imperial Stout aged on cherries (tart and bing) and oak spirals. On draft that day, it was the best I’ve ever tasted it in either draft or bottle form. Maybe I was dehydrated or the sun was getting to me, but then and there, I knew I had to get more…and also knew I had to quit so I could drive home in a few hours.
If it wasn’t for my buddy Stephen, this beer wouldn’t beer here. Only a beer geek would take a day off work in search of this beer and he was lucky enough to get us two-a-piece. We just drank it the other night actually when Ashleys mom was intown. They stayed in the front room, while Stephen and I got tipsy in the den/beer room, life works in mysterious ways. The guy has been obsessing over these beer for months so his stash was well deserved. I think it was good fresh but would be even better with some age on it. It ranks as one of the most balanced (chocolate and coffee) imperial stouts I’ve had all year. Very sweet but not like Aunt Jemima just had relations with the bottle either. The beer was worth it, but not worth the EBAY pricetag.
Jacki O’s had a huge red star on it in my GABF program. It was the number one brewery I wanted to try and everyone in my party agreed they had the best offerings of any of brewery there. I’m pretty sure I snuck away from our beer area where we were supposed to be to sample there beer and then meet up. Oh well. Rules Schmules. Luckily their lines weren’t long and I was able to get two samples of Oil of Aphrodite. Although, I can’t recall the specific tastes…my GABF notes had double stars by this beers. That must have meant it was awesome. I’ll go with that.
This picture explains it all.
We had just came back from our honeymoon and chose to go to the Holy Grales Derby Party instead of the Kentucky Derby itself. They had an impressive selection (see below and I had sampled the ones in bold). Urbain from De Struise was intown brewing a collab with New Albanian and he had just came back from the Derby (his pictures were of 75% females and a majority of them had this “why are you taking a picture of me” look on them). I found them hilarious. In honesty, Urbain was a pretty nice guy and easy to chat with. Maybe it’s the ostriches?
The imperial stouts were quiet tasty and quite boozy (666-13%, Mocha Bomb-12%, Double Black- 26%), but did not carry an overwhelming alcohol burn. I was so surprised with the Double Black being 26% and you could barely taste the alcohol burn or maybe, I had just already abused my tastebuds. Or I was inebriated, whatever works, but all three of them were fantastic.
Struise Black Albert
Struise/De Molen Black Damnation 666
Struise Black Damnation II – Mocha Bomb
Struise Black Damnation V – Double Black
Founders Kaiser Curmudgeon
Founders 2010 Nemesis
Founders Double Trouble
Founders Devil Dancer
Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
Three Floyds Rabbid Rabbit
Three Floyds Zombie Dust
Three Floyds 2011 Behemoth Barleywine
Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA
Three Floyds Gumballhead
Bell’s Lager of the Lakes
Bell’s Expedition Stout
Attention: If Lucky Pie reads this, have you seen my 2008 Boston Marathon jacket. If so, mail it to me, ok?
Our trip to Colorado and GABF was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Great hiking/running, great friends, and most of all, great beer. Steve and Jen took us to a craft beer haven and brick oven pizza places called Lucky Pie. If you’re ever in Boulder or Louisville…go there. Now.
Best. pizza. ever.
“HGH (Home Grown Hops) is an 8% ABV and 70 IBU Strong Ale juice with hops locally grown at Oskar Blues Hops & Heifers Farm. Our home grown, high-potency, home-run hitter is dry-hopped with Amarillo hops and then finished with a dose of Nugget & Centennial dry hopping.”
One of the best hopped beers I’ve had this year. I don’t think Oskar plans on canning it, but I really wish they would. The nose on the beer was amazing. Enjoy those 30 days at home Barry, you coulda been a contender.
I’m sorry, I have to.
This was the last beer I had at GABF before I headed back to Boulder. No patrons were visible so I had my fair share of Sexual Chocolate and just stood and talked (probably slurred) to the volunteers working that event. In the meantime, Ashley was dominating drunk skeeball at Oskar Blues. So proud.
Sexual Chocolate has double stars by it as well and it did really live up to the hype. So much in fact, I’m debating on going to the bottle release at the end of January and maybe run some trails while I’m out there. I imagine drinking this beer would have been comparable to a night with Barry White. Maybe.
Best imperial stout of the year. Hands down. And it came in a growler that had been filled 3-4 months prior. Had this beer at an imperial stout tasting at Beau’s in late spring. Czar Jack has been the beer I have compared every imperial stout I’ve consumed to this day to. A quality benchmark that has still stood up against KBS, Abyss, Dark Lord, BORIS, DORIS, CBS, and many more.
Czar Jack is their Jack Frost Imperial Stout aged in Jack Daniels barrels and exactly what I want in an RIS, a very sweet combination of vanilla, chocolate, and caramel with a small amount of roast and oak from the barrel aging. The taste was superb. I need to get more of this.
If you’ve been following the beer news lately, you know this beer will be coming up in bottles around Valentines day. I’m praying the madness won’t ensue like it it did for the CBS release (are you listening God?). What I said..
“A version of their Old Curmudgeon (an old ale), but aged in maple-syrup barrels. A very sweet and sticky beer…almost too sweet at some points. Ashley enjoyed it a lot though, and I did as well. Nice smells of caramel and maple on the nose with hints of vanilla. A very full mouthful of brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. This beer had a ton of different flavors, but those were the most of note. Probably would be best during the winter months and as it sits and gets warmer, the taste gets even more subtle and better.”
Maybe it’s because it’s in the new again, but this beer sticks out as the best one I’ve had and been trying to clone every since, but to do that…I need to stop drinking and aging more of my scotch ales. The caramels, the maple, the sweetness, the booze all wrapped up. If I could drink this with bacon topped guacamole I’d die a happy man (I can’t ever rely on the Cubs winning a World Series).