Saturday, December 31, 2011
Best/Worst Beers of 2011
2011 has been a huge year for me as far as trying new beers is concerned. I was able to tick off 33 of beeradvocate's Top 100 Beers, tried hundreds of great new beers (and some not so great ones), and discovered some fantastic new breweries. So for my look back on 2011, here are the 5 best and worst beers I tried in 2011. So that this entry isn't just a rehashing of the Top 100 Beers list, these beers will all be beers that are not found on the list.
Best Beers of 2011
5. Brasserie Cantillon - Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus
I'd heard a ton of good things about Cantillon and finally got to try my first one this year. Their raspberry lambic, Rosé De Gambrinus, absolutely lived up to the hype. I can't imagine a fruit beer smelling better than this one. Huge aromas of raspberry and red currant with just the right amount of funk. An absolutely fantastic beer.
4. Avery Brewing Company - Rumpkin
When I heard about this beer, I was convinced that it was going to be a mess. After all, a nearly 16% pumpkin beer aged in rum barrels couldn't taste good, right? As it turns out, I was way wrong. I loved everything about Rumpkin. The rum turned out to be the perfect complement to the sweetness of the pumpkin and pumpkin pie flavors. The high alcohol was evident, but worked beautifully in the beer. This one was a keeper. I'm definitely hoping to get more next year.
3. Great Lakes Brewing Company - Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
I'm usually not a huge fan of porters. There are a few great ones out there, but I thought that the style wasn't really my thing. That is, until I went to Cincinnati earlier this year and got the chance to try Great Lakes' Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Holy God, what a beer. I usually don't like smoke flavors in beer, but the smokiness in this beer was just fantastic. This remains my favorite porter ever and one I really want to try again soon.
2. Bell's Brewery, Inc. - Bell's Expedition Stout
I was able to get two 2008 bottles of Bell's Expedition Stout this year. Best...idea...ever. Apparently this beer isn't fantastic fresh, but holy crap is it good with three years under it. Smooth, full bodied and full of rich flavors, this beer has everything I could possibly hope for in a stout. I just wish I had more of it.
1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery - Miles Davis' Bitches Brew
I reviewed this beer way at the beginning of the year, but it remains way up there on the list of beers I tried in 2011. Part Russian Imperial Stout, part Ethiopian honey beer, Bitches Brew was one incredible beer. Chocolate, coffee, earth and honey flavors coupled with a velvety-smooth mouthfeel to create a beer that is very tough to top.
Before I move on to the Worst of 2011 List, I want to note that the title may be a little misleading. I'm only including beers that I reviewed on this blog. I try to not buy/review crappy beer. Therefore, you won't find beers like Bud Light, Mickey's or Miller High Life on this list, even though I had them this past year and they were far worse than almost anything on this list. Most of these beers would not make the list if I included every beer I've tasted over the past year. Moving on...
Worst Beers of 2011
5. Steinhaus Brewing Co. - Jumping Cow Amber Ale
I'll admit it, Jumping Cow is far from being the worst beer out there. It's been a staple in the Trader Joes' beer section for longer than I've been with the company. My beef with this beer (no pun intended) is more that it's taking up space that should be taken by much better beer. The flavors are inoffensive, they're just so faint that it's tough to pick anything up. It's the quintessential "meh" beer: Not awful, not good, not...much of anything.
4. Stone Brewing Co. - Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout
Ok, so I didn't do a full review on this one, but I mentioned it when I was reviewing it's much tastier cousin and I just have to include it here. I'm all for a brewery coming up with new variations on a good beer, but sometimes they're going to backfire, and this experiment did just that. The anise was literally all I could taste in this beer. It was gross. But not as gross as the next three beers, which would have made the "Worst Beers of 2011" list even if I had included beers like Mickey's and Bud Light.
The Bottom of the Barrel
3. Federal Jack's Brewpub - Kennebunkport Winter Ale
So many good winter ales out there, and I had to decide to try this one. Kennebunkport Winter Ale looked harmless enough after I poured it, but it got really, really ugly from there. I've never thrown together descriptions like "buttered popcorn," "metal" and "cardboard" when talking about one beer. The best part of this beer was when it was over. But it still wasn't as bad as the next two beers.
2. Pizza Beer Company - Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer
I tried this with my friend Beau a few months back and we both had similar reactions to it. Pizza Beer is, without a doubt, one of the worst beers in existence. It smells and tastes like week old pizza (and pizza box) that's been fermenting in Bud Light. I can't imagine finishing a bottle of this unless it was part of a dare with the prospect of a very, very big reward.
1. Federal Jack's Brewpub - Kennebunkport IPA
This may be a touch predictable based on how much I badmouth this beer, but it remains the worst beer I've had this year. Not only does Kennebunkport IPA not taste like an IPA, it tastes like a mixture of goat piss and rusty nails. I don't really know what else to say about it that I didn't already say in my review. Somehow I doubt that this is truly the worst beer out there, so I'm making it a goal in 2012 to find a beer that is worse than this.
Have a safe and happy New Years and get ready for some big reviews to open up 2012.
Top 100 Beers Tasted: 33