The rules: I had to try these beers for the first time this year. That's the only rule. This has excluded some like N'Ice Chouffe, which I first tried last Christmas but it has easily become my winter warmer standard. But I'm a stickler for the rules. As a side note, my spell checker is set to Swedish and I can't change it. These past 2 years have taught me that I have a finite capacity for language. Every advance in Swedish has come at the expense of my English. So you'll just have to deal with any type-o's.
But first, I'm doling out a couple side awards...
Best session: Place: My apartment. Beer: Anchor Steam Liberty Ale. What happened: US v Algeria. Landon Donovan. You say stoppage time, I say crazy time.
Best non-drinking beer related experience: Hearing my home brew bubble for the first time. Me to my wife in complete seriousness, holding back tears of pride: "I don't think I'll be this happy until I feel our first born kick in your stomach." As I have yet to experience the latter, I can't say whether or not that statement is true.
And now to The List...
#10. Gotlands Bryggeri - Wisby Sleepy Bulldog Pale Ale: I had to get a Swedish brewery in here and Gotland puts out some nice high quality stuff. Nothing too earth shattering, but this one was my standard summer session beer this year. Refreshingly hoppy with strong citrus notes.
#9. Pontoon Brewery - Hop on Board IIPA: There's no picture for this one as it was a very limited release of 55 bottles, of which I drank approximately 50. That's right, it's my beer. To be honest it was fantastic. A super hoppy double IPA, dry hopped with Cascade...mmmmm. Could be a case of being blind to my own shortcomings, but I loved it and that is what this list is about. So shut up.
#8. Mikkeller - Texas Ranger Chipotle Porter: The first of 3 Mikkeller beers on this list. When it comes to Mikkeller, I'm somthing like a combination Beiber/Twilight crazed tween (sidenote: Thank you Atlantic for keeping the Beiber/Twilight histeria off our frozen shores). If you aren't in the know about the father of Gypsy Brewing, check out this article in the Washington Post. Back to the beer. I've had a Chipotle Porter before at Rogue in Portland. It was very much a novelty beer and heavy on the spice. Since pretty much every beer Mikkeller brews is a novelty beer, there's an attention to detail here that really works. The peppers act as sort of a substitute for hops, cutting the maltiness and only appearing as a faint burn on the way down. It really made me sad to finish the bottle.
#7. Rogue - XS Imperial IPA: Had this one at the Stockholm Beer and Whiskey Festival this year. I had eyed it for a couple years but could never justify the pricetag. A combination of homesickness and the fact that I can't buy Rogue here made me pull the trigger. My drinking companion was a Swede we met in Seattle who has since moved here, and at first sniff we were transported back to the Emerald City. That's why this one gets on the list.
#6. Mikkeller - Vesterbro Red: On tap at the Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen. This one wasn't my first choice, but a crowded bar led to a misunderstanding with the bartender and this was the result. Perhaps it was his way of telling me I was about to make the wrong choice and he took measures into his own hands. Thank you Lars or Kjell or Anders or whatever your name was. This amber ale was spot on. Crisp, hoppy and a touch of sour. I went back and had another despite the excellent range of beers on tap.
#5. Nognes - Imperial DunkelWit: I don't know what kind of beer this is. Dark, syrupy, hoppy, citrusy, cardamom, but at the same time it has characteristics of a light Belgian wit. It's that combination and undefinable taste that makes is so damn interesting. And at 10% ABV, you don't have very long to try to figure it out before your senses start to go. This Norwegian brewery puts out some pretty wild stuff so keep an eye out for them.
#4. Great Divide - 16th Anniversary Wood Aged IPA: I wasn't sure about this one, but special edition US micro's are few and far between over here, so I had to pick it up. I think I was expecting a crisp hoppy IPA with hints of oak. What I got was an IPA that was equally as malty as hoppy. It was interesting enough that I had to go back for another to try it out without any preconceptions. In the end I really enjoyed that balance of sweetness, hoppiness and high octane. A very enjoyable sipper.
#3. Brouwerij De Ranke - Guldenberg: When I'm not drinking something on the crazy experimental US side of the spectrum, I'm seeking out the time tested Belgians. This one is a fantastic example of the Tripel style. One of De Ranke's few non-sour beer offerings, they got it so right they didn't need to muck around with anything else. Although thier Bitter XX does get an honorable mention this year.
#2. Gouden Carolus - Cuvee Van De Keizer Blauw (2010): This Belgian dark strong ale is up there in best of style. Brewed once a year on Charles V's birthday, taking the regular Gouden Carolus as a base, the quality of ingredients and ABV gets a kick up with fantastic results. Great for cellaring and I have 2 of these puppies ripening right now. Plan is to pick up a 2011 and 2012 and try a vertical tasting in a couple years. At 750 ml a bottle, I'll need some help, so book your tickets to Stockholm.
#1. Mikkeller - Beer Geek Brunch Weasel Imperial Stout: This was also the last craft beer I've had this year and was a pick-up from my recent trip to Copenhagen. Coffee & chocolate dominate with a little kick of spice and vanilla. There's the added bonus of knowing that the coffee beans used in this one have passed through the digestive tract of a Vietnamese weasel creature. There are flavors and nuances here I guarantee you have never experienced in a beer before.
Honorable mention: De Ranke Bitter XX, Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper, Mohawk Barley Wine 2010, Pontoon Brewery Stockholm Amber, Mikkeller American Dream, Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti.
Until next year, SKÅL!!!