The Best Beers of 2010
|Photo courtesy of beercollege.net|
Dwell all you want on the poor economy, the dwindling job market or the plethora of depressing events of 2010 -- it's been a good year for beer. Despite a drop in overall beer sales, craft brews continue to rise in popularity, allowing innovative American brewers to stretch their muscles and placate the thirsty masses (i.e. us) with ever-more inventive and flavorful drinks. Here's a selection of our favorites; 14 new, delicious beers that made 2010 awesome.
Deschutes Hop in the Dark
2010 was the year of black IPAs, or, as this beer bills itself, Cascadian dark ales. Black as night, packed with citrusy Northwestern hops and tinged with just the right amount of roasted malt, Hop in the Dark set the stage for a wave of others to follow.
Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
Innovation is a lovely thing, in both beer and jazz. Inspired by the iconic and eponymous Miles Davis album, Bitches Brew is a blend of one part Tej, a "beer" made in Africa with honey for sweetness and gesho root for bittering purposes, and three parts imperial stout brewed with Muscovado sugar. The making of the beer was the featured thread in the first episode of the Discovery Channel's new show Brew Masters, which has sent Dogfish Head's -- and Bitches Brew's -- popularity through the roof.
Sierra Nevada Fritz and Ken's Ale
For Sierra Nevada's 30th anniversary, the brewers decided to release a series of collaboration brews that showcase their own roots as well as the very roots of the craft beer movement. Fritz and Ken's Ale (named for Fritz Maytag, owner of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company, and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada) was the first of the series, and, to our tasters, the best. A big, roasty imperial stout, it showed us how far craft beer has come and how far it will continue to go.
In philosophy, Deconstruction is an approach of breaking down a text into its base parts to find its true meaning. In beer, it's a method of brewing based on isolating first principals and -- through brewing pilot batches -- combining the desired elements that contribute to the overall flavor. Odell's DeConstruction is a 10.5 percent ABV golden ale created by blending the final recipe with its own barrel aged pilot beers: 44 percent of the final recipe is plain golden ale, while 33 percent was aged in oak, 20 in bourbon barrels and 3 percent in wine barrels. All that aging and blending brings out greatness: a nice tart character balanced with oak, pine, sweet pineapples, white grapes, red apples, pears, and strawberries.
Firestone Walker Parabola
Previously only available in Firestone Walker's tasting room in Paso Robles, this 13 percent ABV Russian Imperial Stout was released in bottles for the first time this year. It's a big imperial stout aged for nine months in a combination of barrels that range from whiskey to bourbon to wine to plain oak, and each shows itself in the flavor. Vanilla, oak, espresso, chocolate and figs are all noticeable in the brew, which may explain why it's quickly become one of the country's most sought-after stouts.
Uinta Cockeyed Cooper
Beer that comes from Utah is often met with skepticism, mainly due to the belief that brews from the beehive state must adhere to a strict alcohol requirement that limits beers to 4 percent ABV or below. Salt Lake City's Uinta Brewing Company, however, is doing its best to change the minds of beer drinkers everywhere. This year, Uinta unveiled its Crooked Line -- a catalog of beers that boast alcohol contents of 9 percent or higher. The best of the lot is Cockeyed Cooper, an 11.1 percent ABV barleywine aged for six months in oak bourbon barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Stout - Coffee, Vanilla, Rare
The boys at Goose Island must be exhausted. Since 2006, they've been churning out batches of Bourbon County Brand Stout (aged for 100 days in Heaven Hill whiskey barrels)on a regular basis. For 2010, they kicked it into overdrive, rolling out three variations on the classic: one aged with coffee beans, another with vanilla, and a third aged for two years in barrels that used to hold 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle whiskey.
Cigar City Hunahpu's Imperial Stout
Cigar City beers don't find much distribution outside their home base in Tampa, Florida, but they still seem to garner acclaim wherever they land. Based on Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout, the brewery's regular-release RIS, Hunahpu's is brewed on a bed of Peruvian cacoa nibs along with ancho and pasilla chiles, Madagascar vanilla beans and cinnamon. It's just as complex and interesting as it sounds.
Cascade Bourbonic Plague
Masters of sour beers and oak aging, for 2010 Cascade brewed up a beer that'll encourage you to bring out your dead for a tasting. Bourbonic Plague is a blend strong dark porters aged in oak, wine and bourbon barrels, then blended with another porter that had been mixed with vanilla beans and cinnamon. But wait; there's more! This blend was then aged an additional 14 months on dates. It's a crazy-complex mix of sweet, dark fruits, vanilla, oak chocolate that's so delectable you'll hardly notice that it's also 12 percent ABV.
Pelican Mother of all Storms
Up until 2009, this beer was called The Perfect Storm, but copyright issues led to that handle's demise. Renamed for 2010, the Mother of All Storms is based on Pelican's English-style barleywine, Stormwatcher's Winterfest and spent four months aging in 1998 Evan Williams Bourbon barrels. At 13.6 percent ABV, it delivers flavors of deep toasted malt, oak, vanilla and toffee.
The Alchemist Heady Topper
Previously only available on draft at The Alchemist's brewpub in Vermont, Heady Topper made its way into bottles this year and has been climbing in popularity ever since. A brash double IPA, the beer delivers 120 IBUs of hop heaven, slamming your palate with citrusy orange and grapefruit flavors amidst its 8 percent ABV.
Flying Dog Raging Bitch
An American IPA augmented with Belgian yeast, Flying Dog's 20th anniversary beer jumps out of the glass and nips at your taste buds with tart grapefruit juice flavors. The 8.3 percent ABV brew then follows it up with resinous hops and fruity Belgian yeast notes of peaches, raisins and apples.
Bell's Batch 9000
Brewed in celebration of Bell's 9,000th batch (who would've thought?) Batch 9000 was met with mixed reviews upon its release, but those who allowed the beer to age have found themselves a treat. The beer makes use of molasses and brewer's licorice, which impart flavors of sweet caramel, dark rum and fruits such as raisins and plums. It's too bad this 12.5 percent ABV ale won't be brewed again, but if you can find a bottle, we suggest you cellar it for a while -- it'll continue to develop in flavor and complexity for years.
Lost Abbey Deliverance
Deliverance is actually a blend of two of Lost Abbey's renowned brews: bourbon barrel-aged Serpent's Stout brandy barrel-aged Angel's Share. The best aspects of each beer combine to create a taste harmony that'll deliver us from shitty beer forever.