Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Year in Beer

Best rated beers of the year.  Of the 546 new entries in my Taste Database for the 2011 year (festivals help the average--a lot!), these are the highest rated for the year.  As you will see, it's been a very good year.

I started the year with a five plus year old bottle of Raison D'Extra from Dogfish Head on Jan 1st of 2011, and followed up that bottle with a six year old bottle of D'extra in the fall.  Both excellent and will try to review the next bottle at seven years old  from my cellar collection to start recording the aging of this amazing beer.
Cambridge Brewing's Arquebus

Cambridge Brewing Arquebus was possibly the best beer of the year.  At least, I not only had a draft when I visited this top Boston brewpub, but when Gloria showed up for our week long road trip of New England, this is the one beer I insisted she try after my three days of beer reconnaissance.   On the same trip, Three Philosophers 2011 fresh from the brewery confirmed why Ommegang is a heavy weight in Belgian beer category.

Town Hall Fresh Hop 2011
last pint from growler
Town Hall Czar Jack Russian Imperial Stout is always a treat, and loved it both times I was able to get it this year.  While this year's Fresh Hop wasn't the best, but I did really enjoy the hop plopping in my glass from the growler. 

Additional top beers without a particular story but glad to have found a glass:

Alaskan Smoked Porter
Bell's The Oracle
The Bruery Trade Winds
Dogfish Head Burton Baton
Firestone Walker 14th Anniversary Ale
Port Older Viscoisity
Surly Abrasive Ale

Beer highlights of 2011 in no particular order.

Stone World Bistro
Pilgrimage achieved and had so much fun with friends and family joining us for the day in Escondido.  More in the review of the bistro later, but no surprise that several beers from Stone come in with top marks as drafts on site: Vertical Epic 11.11.11, Sublimely Self-Righteous and Ruination IPA.  My souvenir growler of double hopped 15th Anniversary IPA was spectacular.  And, a first bottle of Double Bastard from my local liquor store earlier in the fall; I just bought three bottles to cellar for a future review of this high octane brew.  
Happy Cal standing among the tanks at Stone Brewing Co
Al's Darkness Vertical
Al was kind enough to invite me to his vertical tasting of several Darkness bottles that he acquired over the years, mostly at Darkness Day (a goal of mine for this coming year).  Great night of Surly, but can't forget the very cool sample of Bat Out of Hell by Brouwerij de Molen that Eric shared from his Amsterdam trip.
The vertical line up at Al's

Garrett Oliver and signed copy of Oxford Companion of Beer
Headed to the Happy Gnome and met Garret Oliver, and, when given a chance, we didn't even talk about beer.  I put on the English teacher cap and talked about the writing process for the Oxford Companion.   Great night and very fun to meet a giant in the beer industry.  The only surprise was--like the Statue of Liberty--I thought he'd be bigger.  Also found out that Brooklyn Brewery Chocolate Stout is very good aged, as we sampled a keg from 2009.

Book signing of The Oxford Companion of Beer by Garrett Oliver at The Happy Gnome

Beerbistro in Toronto
My niece Regan was (successfully) doing an intership in Toronto, so Uncle Cal head up Nort' to visit and drink some beer.  Since she was of age in Canada, we headed to Beerbistro in downtown.  On my first trip to Toronto's Festival of Beer, a miscalculation caused me to miss out on Beerbistro.  World renown for their beer cuisine, we shared a three course meal and a host of beers, chatting the evening away.    No pictures, sadly, but easily my best beer and food experience ever.

Autumn Brew Review 
Headed to the brew review this fall, as I have every fall since ABR started.  However, this year was different. Two of my nephews--Josh and Ben--were able to attend and we spent the day chatting and drinking together.  I didn't have many new beers that day, but it was a clear highlight of the year.
Autumn Brew Review 2011: me, Ben and Josh.
Additional beer pictures of fun times in 2011 that didn't make the list above and are not appearing immediately in future posts.
Harpoon Brewery in Boston

Sam Adams aging room---yummy.  
Magic Hat in Burlington, Vermont
C'est What? in Toronto
HALF the taps at Meadhall in Cambridge, MA
Dark Horse in Marshall, MI

Winner of coolest bar: literally, made out of ice.  Fun stop.   

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