Friday, January 31, 2014

My Favorite New Beers of 2013

In 2012, I attempted to go the entire year without drinking the same beer twice.

Last year, I decided rather than deprive myself of the enjoyment of drinking a really great beer a second or third time, I would simply try to drink as many new (to me) beers as possible.

I don't know the exact number because it's not easy to determine, but according to my Untappd profile, I drank exactly 100 beers for the first time (since I started using the beer drinker's social network).

That last part is important because there certainly are a few I drank in the pre-Untappd days as well, but Untappd doesn't know that.

So, for the sake of this post, I'm considering only beers I know I tried for the first time in 2013. Here are my nine favorites:

9. Brown Angel (Clown Shoes)
It's my turn to decide what AfroDan's next brewing endeavor will be, and the thought that came to mind was Imperial Brown Ale. The idea is to make something that recalls my memory of my first favorite craft beer, Brooklyn Brown. Since my beer drinking standards have changed considerably in the past 20 years, that concoction would have to be a full-bodied and fairly aggressively hopped version of the American Brown. Fortunately/unfortunately, Clown Shoes beat me to it.

8. Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (Lagunitas Brewing Co.)
Only the second-best new (to me) beer from Lagunitas this year struck me as a stronger, but less balanced, version of the first. We'll get to that one in a bit.

7. ISA (10 Barrel Brewing Co.)
Of course, it's virtually impossible to compare beers I tried early in the year to those near the end. To that point, it's difficult comparing beers I drank even a week apart. So, what I have to go on are the ratings I gave these beers in the moment. That can be problematic too, because my standards might change a bit from time to time, but this list is comprised of beers I gave 4.5 and 5-star (or cap) ratings. In January, I gave this Oregon session IPA a 5, which for some reason, I'm questioning a year later, but there was definitely something about how much IPA goodness was packed into a 5.5% beer that made a big impression on me.

6. One Boston (Trillium Brewing Co.)
I realize I'm mostly sharing anecdotal information about my experiences with these beers rather than telling you that much about the beers themselves. For this one, I wrote something that covers both angles.

5. Furious (Surly Brewing Co.)
After seeing some discussion between a couple Twitter pals about a beer bet, I took a chance (or so I thought) and placed a wager on a struggling Yankees team. Needless to say, they made me look like a wolf of a Yankees fan as they swept four straight from the Twins and earned me a @MightyMpls hand-picked Surly variety pack, which included this hopping mad IPA that had been one of my most sought after beers to that point.

4. Sahalie (The Ale Apothecary)
Sometimes setting, and a host of other characteristics, has a lot to do with how much I (and probably you) enjoy a beer. In this case, the setting was a brunch gathering in Portland, Oregon. My beer-drinking pal out there bought this wildly expensive wild ale especially to share with me, while the girls drank mimosas or some other brunchy alcoholic concoction. No, it didn't make this list because it's the first and only pre-noon beer I've drank since my son was born, but like I said, context matters.

3. Heady Topper (The Alchemist)
That's right, the highest rated beer on Beer Advocate, BeerGraphs and pretty much everywhere else was only the third best beer I tried for the first time this year. I've got to be honest here. This was the most pined for beerthe only one that comes close is Samichlaus, which was once known as the strongest beer in the worldin my personal history of beer drinking. Before I got my hands on it, I wondered if it could possibly live up to expectations. I've had some really great IPAs before. What characteristics could possibly make this one that much better? As it turns out, Heady Topper wasn't disappointing at all. The fact that I rank it third just tells you how truly fantastic my two favorites were.

2. Enjoy By 11-12-13 IPA (Stone Brewing Co.)
I'd pretty much given up hope of getting my hands on one of Stone's limited-release, guaranteed-to-be-fresh, IPA offerings, when I spotted this on the counter at my local beer store. It was their last one, and for $10a surprisingly reasonable price for a bomber of such a popular brewit was mine. I had only recently tried Heady Topper for the first time. Although that one was a little more unique in that it's hoppyness seems to linger longer than any other IPA, and although it's difficult to compare two beers consumed a couple weeks apart, I thought this was just a little better.

1. Lagunitas Sucks (Lagunitas Brewing Co.)
When I checked into this one on Untappd, I commented "If 5 star beers are first-ballot Hall of Famers, this one's more Willie Mays than Lou Brock." That's the understatement of the century. In reality, Lou Brock is more the equivalent of a 3.5 star beer, but that's beside the point. Sucks (aka Brown Shugga' Substitute) is definitely the Willie Mays of beers, arguably the greatest of all-time.


  1. No F'in way. Dude, I grabbed my first six of #1 on the way to a Lauri McKenna house show in Sudbury. I was blown away at the first sip and now I can't get enough of the stuff. I'm gonna crack a #1 now as I listen to the 2013 play list. First I stumble onto 2 of your top albums from 2013 on my own, and then we end up with the same #1 beer. It's as if we've know each other since we were 5.

  2. I have to agree with you on the wonder of the Sucks; my brother-in-law handed me a bottle, saying "This is pretty good--you might like it." His gift for understatement is pretty remarkable.