Monday, December 19, 2011

Closing out the 2011, my top 10 favorite new beers of the year.

What a great year of beer drinking 2011 has been! Started it off in Vermont where Long Trail, Otter Creek , and Wolaver's are right around the corner. Then went to two beer tasting festivals, four beer and food pairing dinners, and found two local pubs that feature craft beer from all around the local area. one of which has over 60 brews on tap!!!  Maloney's in Matawan, NJ and Hailey's Harp & Pub in Metuchen, NJ (smaller tap run, but good irish pub food to compliment the beer).

Even though my fridge was stocked with many of the normal seasonal I look forward to ever year, my beer exposure was at its best in this year. Easily trying 50-75 new beers this year, it's been hard to keep track of how each one exactly tasted. I tried keeping up to date on my beer advocate account with reviews, and even kept notes on napkins in pubs while sipping on something new. But some fell through the cracks. But, I can recall with certain accuracy which beers made me stop and go "damn, this is amazing!" then taking another sip and saying "holy S**T!, how I have never had this before!".

So here they are. The top 10. These are the beers that stuck out. The ones I may have tried randomly on a Wednesday in February but can recall exactly how it tasted to this day. Seek these guys out. You will be amazed with their flavor!

In as close to possible chronological order;

Ottercreek Black IPA, Middlebury, Vermont.

Fittingly I had this on tap in Vermont so it was nice and fresh. At the time it was O.C.'s winter seasonal although it's now available all year round. But you're lucky if you can find it on the shelf as it sells out quickly and is carried by a limited number of stores.

Climax Nut Brown Ale, Roselle Park, New Jersey

This is as local as I can get. Climax is brewed around 15 minutes from me and although I've had other offering by them, this year was the first time enjoying Nut Brown Ale. Up until this year, Climax was only sold in 64oz. growlers, but now you can find it in 6 packs. Only negavite is the growlers are being fazed out. Grab one if you see it to use at your nearest growler fill location after you drink the beer.

Riverhorse Farmhouse Saison, Lambertville, New Jersey

Farmhouse Saison was a very limited release from this NJ brewery. Part of their Brewer's Reserve series, it only came in kegs or their variety pack. We enjoyed both, once at the brewery itself, the other in bottles. It's placing on this list reflects the tap variation. This beer was everything a Saison should be. Look for it next year if they brew it.

Allagash White, Portland, Maine

And so an obsession begins. White was the first offering I tried from Allagash, a now favorite brewery of both my wife and I. A great summer beer that's brewed all year round this beer became our stand by for the remainder of the summer after all the summer seasonal brews became sold out.

Weyerbacher Verboten, Easton, Pennsylvania

Enjoyed this tasty all year round brew at a beer dinner featuring Weyerbacher. This brewery has been a favorite of mine for some time but aside from a few of their offerings, we never ventured into Verboten land. Mistake. Verboten is an enjoyable beer that can sit in the basement for years to be aged or enjoyed fresh. This offering is bottle conditioned.

Weyerbacher Double Simcoe Ipa, Easton Pennsylvania

Another one of Weyerbacher's offerings we tried for the first time at the beer dinner we attended. I default to IPAs when there isn't much else to choose from in a bar so this was right up my alley. But The D.S. IPA also did something I never imagined possible, it turned my wife on to IPAs and got her palate more comfortable with hops! A great beer by itself, but even better when enjoyed with food. Take note of how it cleanses your palate after each sip.

Triumph Brewing Company of New Hope's Oatmeal Cookie Stout, New Hope, Pennsylvania

I love Triumph. Their beer is always good, always fresh, and always pairs well with their food. This was the first time having this stout and thankfully got to enjoy it on tap (the only other offering by triumph is growler or 750ml bombers). Rich and smooth and perfect for a fall day. Hope I see this on the tap list again one day.

Allagash Curioux, Portland Maine

"It's the best beer I've ever had". My wife has said this numerous times when we talk about Curieux to someone. This beer did so much for me. It turned me on to barrel aged beer. Before trying it I had been semi skeptical, but now it makes sense to spend $20 on a bottle of beer. At first, we thought this offering was a one time only brew, but thankfully it's year round. There's always one on hand in my house for when we have people over.

Fengleys Brewworks Devious Pumpkin, Allentown, Pennsylvania

I like pumpkin ales. It's a yearly habit for me to rush around buying 6 packs of all my favorite pumpkin offerings from breweries I support. I also like local products. So how Devious Pumpkin had not been enjoyed by my wife and I to this point baffles me. Rich in flavor, body, and ABV, we loved this beer. Next year we will be buying more than a single bottle though.

Honorable mention,
Carton Brewing Company Boat Beer, Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey

So happy to be seeing more breweries opening around this state. Carton is a welcome edition. Their Boat Beer is as perfect as you can get for a session beer. Rich in flavor, but low in ABV you can keep on drinking this one until the game is over and not have to worry about a hangover the next day. The only negative is keg and growler fill only.

There you have it, 11 beers that highlighted my year. Looking forward to 2012 and another full year of beer discovery. First stop, New Hampshire for a family vacation.

Happy New Year to all! Cheers!


  1. I too have a special place in my heart for local breweries. Wish I could try some of the ones on your list - they sound great!

  2. What's your location? I'm willing to trade if you're interested