Welcome back! I hope all of you had a safe and happy new year. Now that we're already two days into 2013, it's time to look back with fondness (or in some cases, with not so much fondness) at the best and worst beers of 2012. It was a big year for me, as I got to finally tick of some very big wants off of my list. There were also some huge surprises in the beer world, a few of which made this list. So without further ado, here are my best and worst beers of 2012. (As I did last year, none of the Top 100 Beers are going to be included in this list. I'd rather give you some new beers to try than name beers off of a list that's easily accessible. )
Best Beers of 2012
5. Southern Tier Brewing Company - Pumking
I was starting to think that all pumpkin beers tasted the same until Southern Tier's Pumking and I crossed paths. I had heard great things about this beer going in and it absolutely lived up to the hype. The smell alone is worth the price of admission, with massive pumpkin pie and baked yam notes practically erupting from the glass. If you love pumpkin beers, this is a must try. I'll be looking to top this one in 2013, but I'm not sure how good my chances are.
4. Maine Beer Company - Zoe
I was under the general impression that most amber ales were sort of crowd pleasing beers until I got a bottle of Maine Beer Company's Zoe during a trip to Boston earlier this year. While on paper, Zoe is a very simple beer, it's just so... freaking... good. Everything about it made me rethink what amber ales should be and it's a beer I definitely hope to cross paths with again very soon.
3. High Water Brewing - Campfire Stout
S'mores and beer? Together? Going into this year, I probably wouldn't have thought this was a great idea for a beer. However, somehow High Water Brewing made this work with their Campfire Stout. The beer smells exactly like a s'more. Chocolate? Graham Cracker? Marshmallow? They're all there. What's even better, the beer nailed the taste as well. While I still think an Imperial version of this would make me so happy I would probably explode, Campfire Stout is plenty tasty and plenty worth seeking out as is.
2. Brasserie Cantillon - Lou Pepe (Framboise)
I stumbled upon this beer by chance at a local bar and decided I had to have it. Even though it was pricey, I'm so glad I tried it. While the Kriek Lou Pepe may get more of the glamor, I thought the Lou Pepe Framboise was a better beer. The beer smelled like rich, jammy raspberries and had a fantastic tartness throughout the taste. Even with a lot of sweet elements, the taste remained on the dry side, which I really loved. You have to be lucky to find anything from Cantillon around here and, somehow, I was able to find a good amount last year. This one was the best.
1. Anchorage Brewing Company - Bitter Monk
I don't think any brewery blew me away this year quite as much as Anchorage Brewing Company did. When I first saw that they made a Double IPA, I wasn't sure how the style could possibly work with Brettanomyces, so I stayed away. Eventually I gave in and tried a bottle of Bitter Monk and it ended up being maybe the best beer I had all year. There are so many elements at work in this beer and Anchorage has somehow pulled every single one of them off. Bitter Monk has a ton of juicy, citrusy hop flavors and then couples them with the added complexity from the Brett and the aging in Chardonnay barrels. I don't know if Anchorage has any plans to release any new beers this year, but if they do, I will be the first one in line for them.
And that wraps it up for the best beers of 2012. Now, it's time to move on to the worst beers. Last year, I struggled to come up with 5 bad beers I tried during the year. A few (Pizza Beer and anything from Kennebunkport) were easy, but I tried to only taste good beers throughout the year, so the rest of the beers on the list may have been a stretch. This year, I made sure I wasn't going to have that problem again. I actively sought out the worst beers I could find and found some pretty terrible stuff.
Worst Beers of 2012
5. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Bud Light Platinum
This year, Anheuser-Busch (always the innovators) introduced a new, beefier version of Bud Light- Bud Light Platinum. From the electric blue bottle to the "Bud" name on the bottle, all signs pointed towards this being a pretty crappy beer. Not surprisingly, Bud Light Platinum delivered, with every bit of the added alcohol showing up in a flavor that was a mix of Mickey's and corn flakes. If I hadn't been seeking out terrible beers, this may have been the worst out there. But I was able to do a little better.
4. Chili Beer Co. - Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer
I spent a lot of time on "Worst Beer You've Ever Tasted" type forums this year, looking for ideas. One beer that was consistently mentioned was Chili Beer Company's Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer. While I'm glad I tried it in the name of product research, the sensation of having heartburn in my mouth while drinking this beer wasn't exactly pleasant. I'm not opposed to all chili beers, but this was an absolute abomination. If Tecate, lighter fluid, and pepper spray were to have a baby, it might taste eerily similar to Original C Cave Creek Chili Beer. Avoid at all costs (unless it's for a practical joke. Then I highly recommend this stuff).
3. Rogue Ales - Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale
When Rogue first announced they were making this beer, I was really excited. Then I tried it and wanted to kick myself in the balls for falling for such a gimmicky beer. While the idea behind Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale isn't terrible, the end result was. The smoked and charred malt flavors completely overwhelmed everything else in the beer. I couldn't really taste any bacon or doughnut, which was a huge letdown. Rumor has it that Rogue's next collaboration is with Portland's Powell's Bookstore and is going to be brewed with pages from Moby Dick. I wish I was making this stuff up. I'm pretty much done with Rogue at this point and Bacon Maple Ale sealed that fate.
2. Anheuser-Busch, Inc. - Wild Blue
I began this year on a mission to find a beer worse than the worst beer I had last year, Kennebunkport IPA. The first beer I tackled on this quest was Anheuser Busch's Wild Blue and it annihilated the IPA. Grape Crush-like in color, dog vomit-smelling and already-been-chewed blueberry scone-tasting, this behemoth went untouched for nearly the entire year as the worst beer I had ever tried. If you're a fan of high alcohol beers that taste like cough syrup mixed with trash, look no farther than Wild Blue. Just thinking about this beer again makes me cringe. And yet there was one beer that topped it...
1. Browar Staropolski - Zorg
I've had some truly terrible beers throughout the time I've been blogging. But nothing has ever come close to Zorg. I blew past about every warning sign possible when I bought Zorg (came in a 51oz. plastic bottle, looked kind of like something a cat threw up, etc.). I opened it with a group of friends and none of us could down more than a few sips of this stuff. The heavy mouthfeel coupled with the flavor profile that ranged from "pure malt syrup" to "honey soaked sewage" made this stuff the worst beer I've ever had. And it wasn't even close. I shudder to think that there might be a beer out there that's worse than Zorg, but I'm going to try to find one anyways. God help me.
Thanks you all for your support throughout the year. I'm looking forward to sharing tons of good (and bad) beer experiences in 2013. Cheers!