Monday, December 20, 2010

Not Another Year-End Best-Of List. Or Is It?

Time to gift myself a self-indulgent post about the beers I enjoyed most in 2010. Merry Christmas to me! Oh, I don't know. I guess there's a chance someone out there will find it useful.

Now listen: I'm not saying these are the best beers of the year or any of that nonsense. Clearly we're all experienced hedonists who understand that enjoyment of a beer is highly contextual. The quality of a glass of beer or wine or a meal brings a lot to the table, so to speak, but so does the quality of your company, your surroundings, your mood, the size of the paycheck you just received, and so on. This a collection of memories more than anything else.

In no particular order: These first three might be modern American classics... but I'd never had any of them until this past year. After four years abroad, there was some catching up to do.

I was hanging out with old friends, whom I hadn't seen in some time, when I thoroughly enjoyed a glass of Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter at the Meridian Pint in D.C.* Great roast character combined with a light impression of cocoa sweetness and dryish finish. Hit all the right notes and highly drinkable.

Then there was the Bitch Creek ESB from Grand Teton. Enjoyed that for the first time at the brewery in Victor, Idaho, with my dad, brother and son. I expected a nice malty pale ale. I did not expect the big floral-woody hop aroma. We drank it while admiring the country's first modern growler (cue Indiana Jones: It belongs in a museum!).

Closing out the trifecta of American classics is Three Floyds Gumballhead, my favorite in a box of beers mailed to me by gentleman and scholar Stefan Berggren. It's a hop-forward wheat beer that ducks excessive bitterness and opts for big aroma with notes of flowers, blood oranges and mangos. Refreshing and addictive. I owe him big time.

Going back a bit further: Before leaving Belgium in the spring, if you recall, we opted to drink the cellar rather than try to pack it. We saved one of the best for last: a Fuller's Vintage from 2007. Its flavor blossomed from somewhere among applewood, Port, caramel-sugar and sparkling wine. Maybe it would have continued to improve but I can't say I'll ever regret opening it. These days I miss the occasional cannonball run to London every bit as much as I miss living in Belgium.

Then there was the parting gift from Mr. De Baets: a few bottles of Wadesda No. 1, a mixed-fermentation blend of Senne's Jambe de Bois triple and Cantillon lambic. Two of them I managed to keep. The one I drank had enough lemony, grapefuity, musty Cantillon character to convince me the beer was refreshing. Yet the body and the buzz gave away its 8% abv origins. Terrific and dangerous.

However: My absolute favorite beer from the past year was an unfiltered lager. It was an orange-copper color. It had a sweetish nose with notes of orange zest that carried into the firmly bitter flavor then all the way through the aftertaste. It struck me as the finest nexus of great character and sublime drinkability. It was the Ungespundet from Mahr's Bräu in Bamberg, enjoyed with my wife and dear friends. A liter of the stuff wasn't enough. Someday I hope to go back and drink my fill.

Finally, I've got to mention the glass of Libertas blonde ale I had from the finally-just-about-to-launch Costa Rica's Craft Brewing in Cartago. Crisp, subtle and visually perfect, it has the potential to be a gateway drug for Costa Rican beer lovers tired of the local swill. After months of thin lager, it tasted like liberation.

* Incidentally, check out what's going on at Meridian Pint tonight. Eleven different Bell's stouts for the year's longest, darkest night. Could you get through all of them?

1 comment:

  1. Hello brewers, that this Christmas will bring much happiness to all and many beers ...
    Happy Christmas ...........