Friday, January 30, 2015

Beers of 2014

As usual, my beers of the year list highlights those I drank for the first time last year, but there are a couple here that don't meet that criterion. I'll explain when I get to them.

No ranked order this year, just an approximately chronological list of the beers that made my year. 

Nugget Nectar (Tröegs Brewing Co.)
I didn't acquire as many "white whales" last year as I did the year before—I think perhaps that's a phase I'm growing out of—but this was one of my most sought-after beers when the year started. A trip to the newly opened Craft Beer Cellar in a neighboring town to get my hands on some late-season Lagunitas Sucks proved fruitful in helping get advanced notice of a future shipment of this wonderful Imperial Amber (which isn't quite as good as Sucks, but I can't guarantee a blind taste test would confirm that). Get to know your beer guys, kids. I mean, young adults. 

Chico King (Sierra Nevada/3 Floyds Brewing Co.)
Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp Across America 12-pack of collaborations with smaller brewers was another of the most highly coveted products to me this year. A few of the guest collaborators were breweries it seemed I might never get my hands on their offerings. Most of the beers were good but not great, but this was the first one I drank and it made the biggest impression on me, even if everyone else raved about the Double Latte: Coffee Milk Stout collaboration with Ninkasi. 

Fort Point Pale Ale (Trillium Brewing Co.)
My first actual visit to Trillium was a fruitful one. Some half-drunk guy who worked across the street tried to convince me to opt for Congress Street IPA instead, and on most days I would have. But, I was planning on sharing it with a friend who's not a hophead. Still, this one has many characteristics I was instantly infatuated with—gloriously citrusy hops and a nice bite—that leave it straddling the line between pale ale and IPA. In fact, this one beats out Nugget Nectar as my favorite non-IPA-that-could-be-called-an-IPA, and was probably also better than any IPA I had last year as well. Time to head back to Congress Street to get more of what Boston's best brewery has to offer. 

Breakside IPA (Breakside Brewery)
It's not officially a rule or a tradition, but it seems our trips to visit KJ's family always include one night where I pick a restaurant/brewpub to go to dinner with her parents. Breakside was an excellent choice this time around, because the food was good, the atmosphere worked for a party of five that included two senior citizens and a toddler, and because their IPAs were excellent. Perhaps the fact that my father-in-law, whose favorite beer is Fat Tire, chose this over their Woodlawn Pale Ale—which was about to be my recommendation—put me in just the right mood, but I think it was really strong on its own merits. 

Fred (Hair of the Dog Brewing Co.)
I went to Portland's Hair of the Dog seeking out Adam, but I found Fred first and he made Adam seem much less friendly. Yes, these beers are named after dogs and no, they don't have much bite, which I guess is a good and a bad thing. Fred was golden and delicious (and 10%) and Hair of the Dog was one of two beer highlights of our recent family trip to Oregon. As a bonus, I got to take LC one block down the street to watch freight trains pass at street level...not once but twice. 

Celebration Ale (Sierra Nevada)
I'm not really sure how long it had been since I last enjoyed this one, but it dates back to the days when Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was one of my first favorite micro-brews in the mid-'90s. Celebration Ale was always a wintertime treat that was noticeably bolder than anything I was drinking at the time. I hadn't really thought twice about it in years, until the Beergraphs guys started talking it up. The fact they were now calling it a Fresh Hop IPA (i.e. a winter ale that doesn't get any spicyness from anything but hops) made it a must-have-again for me. I was not disappointed. 

Loose Cannon Hop3 IPA (Heavy Seas Beer)
Two-plus years ago, during our visit to Baltimore for a friend's wedding, an 11-month old LC and I explored parts of the city together while KJ did pre-wedding things with the girls. After he nodded off in the stroller, I took him to Heavy Seas Ale House. He woke up a little quicker than anticipated, but I still enjoyed a cask-conditioned Loose Cannon with him. It was good, but not great, I'll admit. For Christmas this year, it was one if the beers in my stocking and it was much better than I remembered. I even snapped a photo of LC handing one of my stocking beers to me and it turned out to be this one. Clearly, this is our beer. 

Honorable Mentions: World Wide Stout (Dogfish), DirtWolf (Victory), Jurata (Coronado/Cigar City)

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