Welcome to the inaugural Whosies; a year-end recap of everything I loved and loathed in the year of beer. I’ll be giving out arbitrary awards in categories that I arbitrarily create as I go along. And just a note so I can keep the Internet Semantics Police off my back, when I say “The Best” I really mean “My Favorite.” Ok? These are supposed to be a little tongue-in-cheek, so just take it easy.
Best New Beer of the Year – Scythe & Sickle by Brewery Ommegang. This beer made me grin from ear to ear. The flavors were elegant and rustic all at once, a truly delicious harvest-time beer that had nothing to do with pumpkin syrup puree banana spritzer gun powder nutmeg crap.
Two Beers I Drank more of than Anything Else – 21st Amendment Bitter American and Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. These are both my go-to options for pale and dark. Bitter American has become my balanced pale ale companion and Milk Stout Nitro is a sweet beer that sings to my inner fat kid. I can’t get enough of either of them.
The Beer I couldn’t Bring Myself to Hate even though I Really Wanted To – International Arms Race by Flying Dog. The idea was so gimmicky and foolish that I had basically pre-written a “MARKETING STUNTS BE DAMNED!” verdict before my nose even got a whiff of it. But to be honest, the beer was quite good.
Another Beer I wanted to Hate but Couldn’t – The idea of Stone’s “Enjoy by IPA” pissed me right off. A beer that I have to drink immediately or the quality will suffer? What kind of nonsense is this? Shouldn’t a lengthy, reliable shelf life be cherished and not punched in the face? But my arguing was futile. For a guy that typically dislikes double IPAs, this really managed to put a hoppy smile on my face. But for the record, I still think the idea is stupid. BAH HUMBUG!
A Beer That Unfortunately Validated my Dislike of Double IPAs - Resin by Sixpoint. It saddens me to say that, because I really adore Sixpoint an awful lot. But this beer, after a certain point, was utterly undrinkable. There’s a point where it gets to be too much. For me, that point is Resin.
Best Spiced Beer – Friendship Brew by Green Flash and Brasserie St-Feuillien. I don’t even know what the hell was in it, but it was damn tasty.
Best Foreign Beer – This really boils down to “Best Foreign Beer that I Happened to Have.” And because I drank a lot of British beer, it boils down to “Best British Beer that I Happened to Have.” The answer is pretty much anything I had from the Welsh brewer Tomos Watkin. They’re absolutely wonderful and it deeply saddens me that I can’t get their beers in the states.
A Pumpkin Beer that Didn’t Suck – Fermentation without Representation by Epic and DC Brau. Pumpkin stouts can be quite tasty. These brewers realized that. Hopefully others will, too. Runner up is the Pumpkin Ale by Rivertown Brewing in Cincinnati, because they didn’t forget to put the beer in their pumpkin beer.
A Beer I Genuinely Disliked – Devious by Fegley’s Brew Works. Chaotic, disjointed, really a freakin’ mess from start to finish.
Summer Madness – Apollo by Sixpoint and Brooklyn Summer Ale. It was nearly impossible to get these two out of my hands during the year’s hotter months.
The Beer that Knocked my Socks Off – Big Eddy Wee Heavy. This floored me, quite simply. After each sip I kept looking at the beer and thinking “Are you REALLY doing this to me right now? REALLY!?”
We’re Still Havin’ Fun, and You’re Still the One – Genesee Bock Beer. I had way too much fun drinking this beer in 2012. I often brought it to band practice and it yielded many smiles from all who sipped it.
The IPA that Reminded me that I still Like Hops – Uinta Hop Notch. Hops used judiciously and carefully, leading to a cleverly crafted beer. This IPA was the warm blanket I needed while I was in my anti-hop Siberia.
The Beer that Surprised the Hell out of Me – Great Divide’s Wild Raspberry. American-made fruit beer has been well-documented as a common brewing pitfall, but man, Great Divide nailed this beer.
Score one for Lager – Northcoast Scrimshaw Pilsner. An unsung, delicious beer.
Best New Jersey Beer of 2012 – This one is ferociously contested, but I have to go with Boat by Carton Brewing Company. I’m a great admire of the attention put on flavorful low-alcohol beer, and Carton knocked this one out of the park with Boat. It’s a beautiful beer, really. You could quaff it in five minutes or stretch it out over the course of a half hour and allow the lovely flavors to develop. I’m interested by this beer every time I try it, and yet it allows me to keep my attention elsewhere when I need to.
Best Up-And-Coming New Jersey Good Beer Bar – If you call the Garden State your home and you have an affinity for good beer, you’re likely familiar with places such as the Cloverleaf Tavern, The Shepherd & The Knucklehead, Jersey City Barcade and so forth. But I have to call attention to a bar that is taking good beer very, very seriously: 10th Street Live in Kenilworth. Now, I’ll freely admit that I’m good friends with the management there, so if you want to shout “BIAS!” at me, you’re within your rights. But I wouldn’t call attention to them if I didn’t feel it was absolutely well deserved. Need proof? Well, tell me how often you can walk into a bar in central New Jersey and find a row of taps that features beers such as Founders Breakfast Stout, Celebrator Doppelbock, Raging Bitch, Narwhal Imperial Stout, Bitches Brew, Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, Nugget Nectar and countless others. On TAP. They’ve quickly become a go-to good beer destination and they deserve a ton of recognition for it.
Dumb Things I Read about Beer in 2012 – People reviewing Newcastle Winter IPA on Beeradvocate and bemoaning the lack of hops, saying things such as “It’s not hoppy enough, it’s more like an ESB, I would’ve rated it higher if it were called an ESB.” Ok, first of all, if you would have rated a beer higher if the beer were named something different, then you have a serious problem. Second of all, the beer wasn’t called Newcastle American-Style IPA. It was Newcastle Winter IPA. The hop dosage probably wasn’t determined in accordance with the standards of needy hop fanboys. Get over it. Also, the fact that the Brewers Association continues to suggest that brewers such as August Schell and Yuengling, each more than 100 years old, are both untraditional because they put corn in their beer or something. That’s really dumb.
Great Things I Read About Beer in 2012 - Anything Pete Brown put his mitts on. Also, Ron Pattinson’s drinkalongathon had me in stitches.
Things I want to see Continue to Happen or Begin to Happen – Session Beer and a tempering of hop usage. I love hops. They’re very tasty. But the three other ingredients in beer are more important. I want people to remember that those three ingredients are A) things and B) exist. Also, more good lager, please.
Things I want to see Stop – Stupid gimmick beers.
And that’s The Whosies, my loves. Don’t take ‘em too seriously ’cause I sure as hell didn’t.