Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best/Worst Beers of 2013

Well, my friends, another fantastic year for beer has come and gone and I hope it was as good a year for you as it was for me. Just to give the quick recap, here were the Top 3 Highlights of my year in beer:
  1. Brewed my first batch of beer. Hopefully there's gonna be a lot more of this in 2014.
  2. Watched "The List" of top beers expand from 100 to 250 and knocked off 43 of them.
  3. Got to try the #1 beer in the world, Heady Topper, along with a lot of other beers I never thought I'd get to try.
I recently moved into a house (explaining the lame no-post week last week), which should allow me to do fun things like homebrew, have better tasting events and not have to listen to my upstairs neighbors having weird sex for hours or blasting country music. It's gonna be awesome. Anyways, let's get on with the "awards." As I've done for the past few years now, here are the five best and worst beers I reviewed this year. I've gone off on beers that HAVE made the Top 250 list enough already, so the "best" beers here are beers that you will not find on in the ranks of the Top 250. Not yet, at least. So without further ado, let's do this.

Best Beers of 2013

5. Hangar 24  Brewery - Pugachev's Cobra

If the name Pugachev's Cobra alone doesn't intimidate you, the alcohol content will. At least it should have last New Year's eve, when I thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of this, but stupidly tried to tackle it alone. Take one sip of this puppy and you'll start feeling pretty selfish, too. It's delicious! Bourbon and beer are perfectly balanced in here and Pugachev's Cobra has depth for days. The flavor ranges from dark fruit to tobacco to brownie batter. It's an awesome, awesome beer.

4. Ruhstaller - Exquisite Kolsch


You may remember that earlier in the year, I got a bad can from Ruhstaller and the owner responded to my bad review by thanking me and then sending me a bunch of new beers to review. The Exqusite Kolsch is the one that really stuck with me. It doesn't beat you over the head with hops or blow you away with depth, but it strikes a few delicate chords really, really beautifully. Grassy hops, pale malt and some fruity esters create a fantastic drinking experience. Especially when the weather gets a little warmer.

3. Prairie Artisan Ales - 'Merica

I don't know that anyone out there killed it this year quite as much as these guys did. And while Prairie Bomb! justly gets most of the credit, 'Merica isn't too shabby either. This single hop saison finds the perfect blend of funky/grassy/farmhouse of the saison style with the awesome grapefruit/lemon/passionfruit of the hops. I'm really excited to try more Prairie beers in 2014.

2. Caldera Brewing Company - Mogli

I had tried a few of Caldera's beers before this one and had yet to be impressed by their other offerings. But after one sip of Mogli, I was a believer. The beer smells like s'mores, tastes like espresso and cocoa AND it has a really cute dog on the label. You pretty much cannot lose with this beer.

1. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales - West Ashley

 If West Ashley isn't the best sour I've ever had, it's damn close. It's an apricot sour aged in Pinot Noir barrels that impressed me more than any other beer this year. Tons of incredible apricot flavor here without ever feeling forced or artificial. I'll probably never see another bottle of this again, but it was fantastic while it lasted. Chances are, it's only a matter of time until this pops up on the Top 250 List.

Worst Beers of 2013

5. Hillcrest Brewing Company - Perle Necklace Pale Ale

I loved a lot of things about Perle Necklace going in. I loved the name, loved how they were able to sneak one by the often humorless people who deal with label approvals, and loved that there was finally a brewery down in one of my favorite areas of San Diego, Hillcrest. Unfortunately, once the bottle was open, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot to love. This beer didn't smell great and the taste was just a mess. Faded hops, soggy wheat thins and not a whole lot of joy can be found in this bottle. There are far worse things out there, but this was definitely one of the lowlights of the year that I reviewed.

 4. New Belgium Brewing - Lips of Faith-Cascara Quad

Cascara was another one I'm throwing on here mainly because I had such high hopes for it and it soullessly dashed them. A quad brewed with dates and "coffee cherries" sounds awesome, but "awesome" this beer was not. There's a lot of flavor to be found here, but the flavors run rampant with no boundaries whatsoever. The result is some interesting elements, but no real cohesion. In other words, this beer is a hot mess. The Lips of Faith series in general wasn't fantastic this year, so here's hoping that 2014 is better for the series as well.

3. Anheuser-Busch - Wild Black

Having tried Wild Blue prior, I kind of knew I wasn't in for a good time when I tried Wild Black. Still, this was one gross mother. If you like to pick up things like Robitussin, pureed raisin, wet cardboard and tar in your beer, then I have just the beer for you. For those of us who aren't so inclined (or aren't desperate teens looking for anything to get hammered off of), you may want to look elsewhere. Far elsewhere. 

2. Cisco Brewers Inc. - Island Reserve: Rumple Drumkin

Cisco was a new brewery to San Diego this year and, unfortunately, my first experience was Rumple Drumkin. A rum barrel aged pumpkin beer with a funny name seemed harmless enough when I saw it in the bottle shop. Little did I know what a monster this beer was. From the lime green sediment that left a half inch layer on the bottom of my glass after it settled to the pumpkin beer itself, which tasted nothing like pumpkin, Rumple Drumkin was an experience. I wasn't joking when I said it tasted like an aspirin pill Fun-Dipped in litterbox. Don't be fooled by the catchy name. Just say no to Rumple Drumkin.

1. Boston Beer Company - Samuel Adams Triple Bock

 Not only was I able to try the #1 beer in the world this year (Heady Topper), I was able to try arguably (though I don't know who would argue with it once they tried this beer) the worst beer in existence- Sam Adams Triple Bock. The appearance made me wonder how many hours I would have left to live if I downed the whole bottle, the smell made me gag and the taste was straight from the pits of hell. So really, a pretty pleasant experience. If you're into pain and having unpleasant tastes seared into your memory, I highly recommend Triple Bock.

And that about wraps things up over here. Cheers and Happy New Years to all. See you in 2014.

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 126

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