The sun is out this morning, in full force, in the slowly rising city of Anaheim, California. The Orange County city that gave the world Oranges, No Doubt and today some of the best beer being brewed in America. While the elements tried Saturday, to test the mettle of Noble Ale Works‘ fans, the Noble Crew and their band of Nobleteers still managed to pull off another successful, delicious and thoroughly entertaining Anniversary Party. (That certainly left more than a few folks shuddering to think about last night…) Here are my reflections on the day as a Nobleteer.
Whether you’re a fan of the latest Hazy IPA, Cereal Stout, Spicy Beer, Sour or tried and true West Coaster, Noble brewed up something for everyone. I had the pleasure of serving the most beautiful beer I’ve ever seen, Orange is the New Black Currant, a Radler that was as delicious as it was beautiful. And I’m sure it would be all over Instagram if folks weren’t drinking and had ten minutes to type out that hashtag #… (I’ve now done it for you, so if you took pics of that beauty, hashtag away. If there was a prettiest in show or most likely to be mistaken for an Acai Smoothie Award, this lovely lady has it in the bag, and everywhere else for that matter.) I also measure beer success by how often the Brewers and Tasting Room Employees come back and yeah…FANTASTIC BEER!
I also served Montemocito (would love to know the meaning behind this beer name Noble folks.) This was a Cherry Lemonade Beer. Though I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, the folks who like it came back like 15 times, seriously. I also poured a few Lemon Shandylands and Pomelo Something or other….I learned what a Pomelo looked like yesterday, I kinda knew what it was, but people kept asking so I finally looked it up and then started describing it…beer brings knowledge, knowledge is power…beer is power.
The best part of being a Volunteer Beer Server is getting to meet and talk beer with so many cool and often like minded people. The one thing we all can agree on is that we love beer and Noble was more than generous in facilitating and offering a plethora of delicious libations.
Huge thanks to Thunderking Brewing for keeping me going with that yummy Cold Brew! Appreciate it!
All in all, it was a fun, exciting and joyous couple of hours. The Impromptu Dance Party USA that sprung up at 4PM was absolutely awesome and Vito was, well Vito! Such an Awesome Day! Thanks again Noble for the opportunity and thanks to everyone who came out in support of one of America’s Premiere Breweries and local Anaheim, Orange County treasures. I look forward to continued to success for this Crew and can’t wait to see where this year takes them.
(To anyone I was lucky enough to serve, I truly hope you enjoyed the beer and the day!)
Hope your 2018 has been full of delicious Independent Craft Beer thus far, and if not, get on it!
According to the Brewers Association, there were 5,301 breweries operating in the United States in 2017. 5,301. Let that sink in.
As I’ve said before, I’m not happy unless I’m drinking a beer that received a rating of at least 4 on my Untappd account. With so much competition in the realm of Craft Beer, I’m very discriminating and a brewery can easily find itself on my DO NOT DRINK list with too many subpar offerings. I’m all for experimentation, but that’s what small batches are for…
What follows is a list of 171 new beers I tried this year from 85 breweries that get it. To be clear, these beers are all good and I would gladly drink them again, they weren’t out of this world…but they were excellent representations of their style.
Listed below, in alphabetic order, are the 85 breweries and their offerings that left me satisfied.
One thing 2017 was for me, was full of delicious Craft Beer…And, while I drank many a decent beer, these 99 beers were just a step above the average. For me, I’m not satisfied unless I’ve drank a beer that I would rate as a 4. And, as I’ve said before, if a brewery isn’t consistently putting out 4s, they should do the world a favor and close their doors…
What follows are 99 beers that received a rating of 4.25 on Untappd. These beers were just a cut above the masses and in the overcrowded world that Craft Beer has become, that’s saying something. Each of these beers had something about them that made them stand out just a bit amongst their peers.
These beers can be broken down into 6 general categories: Barrel Aged Beer, Stouts, Porters, Tart/Sours, Pale Ales and IPAs. These categories are further broken down below. Without further adieu, I present to you 99 bottles of beer that should not be left on the wall…
Barrel Aged Beer
Something special happens to a delicious beer when it’s aged in a barrel. Whether it’s a Wine barrel, Rum barrel or Bourbon Barrel the magnificent flavors that impart themselves into the beer are often times otherworldly…While I generally stray away from spirits, I actually run towards Barrel Aged Beers. This year, these 10 barrel aged beauties were just a cut above their competition. Some notable entrants are the Blackberry Sour that Aliso Viejo’s Stadium Brewing Company previewed at this year’s Sabroso Fest; Royal by Claremont Craft Ales (which I still see on shelves…grab it…age it…enjoy…you’re welcome); and Tustin Brewing Company continuing to master barrel aging with their delicious Kentucky Hug. Below is a further breakdown of the Barrel Aged category along with the beer/brewery.
Fundamental Observation (WOL Preview) by Bottle Logic Brewing
Number Crunch by Bottle Logic Brewing
Sumi Ink by Grimm Artisanal Ales
Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout
Fydor’s Classic (2014) by Stone Brewing
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Coffee Stout
Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founders Brewing Co.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Mint Mocha Stout
Dragon’s Milk Reserve: Mocha Mint (2017)
Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout
Royal by Claremont Craft Ales
Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine
Sucaba by Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
While I’m not a believer in Stout Weather, I am a believer in imbibing delicious stouts whenever and wherever I can get my hands on them. Though I find all manner of stouts delicious, I would have to say that Coffee Stouts are my favorite. Throw in an Imperial moniker and I’m in… Some notable entries on this list are the 2017 GABF Gold Medal winning Wall of Sound by Anaheim’s Stereo Brewing Company (the best beer they make…); Grandpappy Imperial Stout from San Juan Capistrano’s Docent Brewing (these guys should be on your must visit list…); and Imagination Land a Golden Milkstout from Mother Earth Brew Co. (reminiscent of Naughty Sauce).
Below is further breakdown of the category along with the beer/brewery.
City of the Dead Export Coffeee Stout by Modern Times Beer
Wall of Sound Oatmeal Stout by Stereo Brewing Company (GABF Gold Medal Winner)*
Get More Likes (with Kinsmen Brewing) by Kent Falls Brewing Co.
Grandpappy by Docent Brewing
Viva La Beaver! Horchata Milkstout by Belching Beaver Brewery
Imagination Land Golden Milkstout by Mother Earth Brew Co.
Imperial Coffee Stouts
Son of a Baptist by Epic Brewing Co.
Sump Coffee Stout by Perennial Artisan Ales
Tovarish RIS (Burundi) by Beachwood Brewing
You can rest assured that if I love Stouts, their progenitor the Porter style is going to find it’s way onto my list. Notable entries include Tustin Brewing’s Blimp Hangar Porter, which just seems to keep getting better; and a super impressive offering from South of the border from Cervejaria Dogma. Their Imperial Porter was damn near IMPERIAL. Below is a breakdown of the category and the beer/brewery.
Blimp Hangar Porter by Tustin Brewing Co.
Spectral Beast by Relic Brewing Co.
Modern Dogma by Cervejaria Dogma
I have to admit that in an effort to make this nice and neat, I kinda invented a category…None of these beers is a true sour, but their taste/flavor profiles are similar…think of this as a tart beer list with a Belgian thrown in… Some notable beers on this list were Beachwood Blendery’s 3.3e4 from their Propagation Series (someone brought this to the Week of Logic Wrap Party and it stood out to me in an epic game of “No Skips”); and Troglodyte by Anaheim’s Unsung Brewing Co. My first Grisette and man, what a delicious ultra light brew. Below is a further breakdown of the category and the beer/brewery.
Propagation Series No. 3.3e4 by Beachwood Blendery
Guava in Berlin! By Green Cheek Beer Company
Troglodyte by Unsung Brewing Co.
Tart Wheat Ale
Hostile Intent by Bottle Logic Brewing
Seems to me like it’s been a while since anybody brewed a worthwhile Pale Ale…with their hoppy brother dominating the beer world, this relaxing/refreshing style has taken a back seat. But luckily 2017 changed that. Not sure if it was me constantly speaking forth the reemergence of the style into the universe or if brewers just got nostalgic, but either way there were definitely some standouts in both the traditional and hazy iteration of the style. Some notable entries are Field to Ferment a Centennial wet/fresh hopped pale from Seattle’s Fremont Brewing that graced SoCal with distribution this year and Tired Hands Brewing Company in general (they were involved with two Hazies that made this list). Below is a further breakdown of the category and the beer/brewery.
Citra Happy by Artifex Brewing Company
Dymaxion by Modern Times Beer
Street 3, Block 2 by Beachwood Brewing
Field to Ferment (Centennial) by Fremont Brewing
Shire –Pale New Zealand Biter by Pure Project Brewing
Hazy Pale Ales
Jean Hands (with Tired Hands Brewing Company) by Monkish Brewing Co.
Curve My Flight by Green Cheek Beer Company
Intensely Juicy, Dank, Beautiful (Copy & Paste) (with Hill Farmstead Brewery) by Tired Hands Brewing Company
And now, we come to the payoff! Any best of beers list created by me is more than likely going to be dominated by the IPA category and once again, this list is no exception. With everyone and their grandmother brewing this style it takes a lot to stand out. Every beer listed below stood out to me above the masses. While taste is relative, I’m certain that if you love real IPAs, you want to seek out the beers on this list…
Some notes from the list below:
1) 10 First try breweries made this list (Had my first beer from them in 2017)
2) I’m currently labeling Noble Ale Works the “Haze King” of Orange County. (But look out as Evan and Unsung on your tail…)
3) Sparks, Nevada’s Revision Brewing Company should be on your MUST TRY list.
4) My Top 10 Breweries are all over this list…3 of which just cracked my top 10 this year (Pure, Green Cheek, Fieldwork)…
Reckoner by Homage Brewing
Hexagonal IPA by Bottle Logic Brewing
Old Town IPA by Tustin Brewing Company
Lush IPA by Fremont Brewing
Coffee & Milk by Fieldwork Brewing Company
Juicy Secret by New Glory Craft Brewery
Hopful 7 by Beachwood Brewing
Can-a-Bliss (a joint effort with Other Half Brewing Company) by Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
Melvin IPA by Melvin Brewing
Gimme by Docent Brewing
Sidekicks (with Alvarado Street Brewery) by El Segundo Brewing Company
Clear AF by El Segundo Brewing Company
DIPAs (Double IPAs)
Blah Blah Blah IPA by 21st Amendment Brewery
Super Beer Bros – Level 1 (with Grains of Wrath Brewing) by El Segundo Brewing Company
Leo v. Ursus: Fortem by Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Lupine by Pipeworks Brewing Company
Greenshift by Beachwood Brewing
Tell Shaky and Boxcar Joe DDH IIPA by SingleCut Beersmiths
Power Glove (with Noble Ale Works) by Fieldwork Brewing Company
Left Eye, Right Eye by Track 7 Brewing Company
Tetra City by Modern Times Beer
PUNCH-OUT!! (with Fieldwork Brewing Company) by Noble Ale Works
Dank Energy by Beachwood Brewing
Leo v. Ursus: Inferos by Firestone Walker Brewing Company
TIPA (Triple IPAs)
Tundra by Fieldwork Brewing Company
Golden Pineapple by Modern Times Beer
Centaur Gardens by Modern Times Beer
Goblin Rock by Modern Times Beer
Crowler Phil by Noble Ale Works
Good Googly Moogly by Noble Ale Works
I Edited It by Noble Ale Works
Countout! by Noble Ale Works
Taking It To The Extreme by Noble Ale Works
UP UP: Konami Code by Bottle Logic Brewing
LEFT RIGHT LEFT RIGHT: Konami Code by Bottle Logic Brewing
B A: Konami Code by Bottle Logic Brewing
Double Dragon by Bottle Logic Brewing
Sink or Swim by Green Cheek Beer Company
Soft Skin by Green Cheek Beer Company
A Salute To Classic Beers (with Cellarmaker Brewing Company) by Green Cheek Beer Company
Supercollider by Brouwerij West
Picnic Lightning by Brouwerij West
Battle-Scarred Shogun by Monkish Brewing Co.
Galaxy Juice by Fieldwork Brewing Company
Snacktime (with Finback Brewing) by Civil Society Brewing
90s R&B by Mumford Brewing
Cold Side by Magnify Brewing Company
28 Haze Later… by Beachwood Brewing
Hop Swingers (with Burgeon Beer Company) by Artifex Brewing Company
Master Shredder by The Veil Brewing Co.
Altered Dankopotamus by Hog Dogma Brewing Co.
DDH Rinse/Repeat (with Motueka and Wakatu) by Westbrook Brewing Co.
Broken Filter (with Beachwood Brewing) by AleSmith Brewing Company
Planet Lovetron by Revision Brewing Company
Galaxy Sauce by Fieldwork Brewing Company
East Coast Bias by HenHouse Brewing Company
Men at Murk (with Highland Park Brewery & Alvarado Street Brewery) by Noble Ale Works
Cool Runoffs by Alvarado Street Brewery
Crucial Taunt by The Veil Brewing Co.
The Bruff by Revision Brewing Company
Xylophone Tones by Monkish Brewing Co.
Foggy Window by Monkish Brewing Co.
CANniversary by Noble Ale Works
CANniversary (with peaches) by Noble Ale Works* (this beer improved to near perfection with the last can…)
And there you have it folks, 99 beers from 2017 that shouldn’t be left on the wall but should be taken down and enjoyed ; share them if you have to…
I hope that your 2018 overflows with delicious, soul satisfying Craft Beer!
I am not sure why, but quantifying and categorizing things makes me happy. Maybe it’s the time spent in reflection or the beauty of bringing order to chaos. Either way, I thoroughly enjoy taking a look back at some of the special beers I drank this past year. What follows is a list of beers that I rated as 4.5 on Untappd. These beers were definitely above average but just shy of perfection or near-perfection for that matter.
Winter Beers? Summer Beers? I’ll drink a good stout regardless of what the calendar says. This year, these stouts were just above the competition.
Evan from Green Cheek Beer Company didn’t skip a step or fall off this year. His Failing Up Coffee Stout was a welcome addition to the OC Stout Scene.
Those wizards currently from San Diego, Modern Times Beer, offered a fantastic variant of their flagship Oatmeal Coffee Stout. Black House w/Toasted Coconut & Cocoa Nibs Oatmeal Stout was especially nice if you could find it on Nitro!
The same year we saw Orange County graced with the AMAZINGNESS that is Beachwood Brewing, they managed to offer up two fantastic Russian Imperial Stouts. Tovarish (2016) Russian Imperial Stout was simply divine and the Elida Coffee Variant was to die for…
Recent kids on the block, San Juan Capistrano’s Docent Brewing had a strong offering with their Tonic Oatmeal Coffee Stout that was all the rage at craft beer festivals this year. I had the pleasure of serving it at OC Brew Ha Ha 2017.
Meanwhile, stalwart veterans, AleSmith Brewing Company canned their iconic Speedway Imperial Stout and lord was (2017) DELICIOUS!
2017 also afforded me the opportunity to finally try Great Notion Brewing. Someone brought a crowler of Double Stack Imperial Stout to the Week of Logic Wrap Party and holy hell, I finally love pancakes. If this was more fresh, I’m sure it would have been a perfect 5…
As in years past, my love of all things barrel aged, led me down a path of many a fantastic barrel aged beer. When it came to classics the brewmeisters at Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Hangar 24 Craft Brewery continued to deliver as this year’s Parabola (2017) and Pugachev’s Cobra (2016) were two near perfect Bourbon Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stouts.
Collaborations were all the rage this year. Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing collaborated with Florida’s J. Wakefield Brewing to produce a superb Rum Barrel Aged Porter. The Week of Logic preview of Mxyzptlk was so different and delicious, somehow the name just fit this beer.
Bottle Logic kept the Florida collaboration theme going by teaming up with 3 Sons Brewing to produce Fundamental Summation a Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Coffee Stout. I swear that the preview was somehow better than the bottled version…I rated the WOL Preview at 4.75…maybe it just tasted so good after running around working…
Deschutes Brewery in collaboration with Hair of The Dog Brewing Company painted an almost perfect picture with their Collage #2 Barrel Aged Blended Ale, which featured a blend of beers from each brewery.
I’ve said it before, if I have to drink a Lager, it had better be some type of bock and what better bock than a Dopplebock. And what better Dopplebock than a true German Dopplebock. Bayerische Staatsbrauerei Weihenstephan is the first German Brewery to grace the pages of Craft Beer Confessions. But, I have to celebrate craftsmanship and their Wehenstephaner Korbinian Dopplebock was textbook perfect and just a little bit above…
Though mead is featured in one of my all time favorite movies, The 13th Warrrior, this warrior had to wait until 2017 to have such deliciousness grace his lips. I normally don’t like drinks that are sweet, but this Mead and Braggot were just too good not to give them props.
Another fellow attendee to the Week of Logic Wrap Party was Schramm’s Mead’s Blackberry Mead and I must admit that I personally snaked everybody and hit this bottle twice during our game of “No Skips”…
Bottle Logic Brewing themselves also offered a fantastic Braggot in collaboration with Superstition Meadery. The Week of Logic Preview of Iridium Flare was the first and only braggot I’ve ever imbibed, so I have nothing to measure it against, but if this is what Braggots are like, sign me up…
As IPAs and their derivatives were my most drank styles of 2017, it makes sense that they would hold a disproportional amount of spaces on each of my lists; and this list is no different…
While I’m not opposed to Session IPAs, few of them can hold up to my flavor standards. But the award winning Nose Candy from Noble Ale Works is a wake up call for the nostrils and the palate. I swear I rated this beer last year, but the overlords at Untappd said no, so here it is on this year’s near perfect list…
If I could drink only one beer style for the rest of existence, it would be the Black IPA, and this year Bottle Logic Brewing’s Circadian Rhythm hit all my harmonic sweet spots. I really think that only a different or tweaked hop profile could improve this beer. It was so dark and delicious…
Speaking of dark and delicious how about triplicious? That’s just what Black Market Brewing Co.’s Black Belt Triple IPA was. I would think it’s impossible to balance this beast enough to be a perfect 5, but damn did this Temecula outfit come close…Superb.
In the inundated realm of IPAs, it’s so hard to stand out and make a name for yourself these days, but El Segundo Brewing Company continued to dominate the SoCal IPA scene. Their Bursted Series: Nelson Sauvin IPA was a terrific Single Hop brew that left folks wanting to sample the entire series.
Meanwhile, San Diego’s Modern Times Beer offered a fantastic South African hopped IPA named Triton Project; that paired perfectly with the Super Bowl.
And in an unexpected twist a North Carolina brewery delivered a near perfect West Coast IPA. Wilmington’s New Anthem Beer Project with their New Jack IPA solidified the myth that there is something in the water in southern North Carolina…
As the “Hazy” IPA style continued to gain momentum this year, West Coast breweries continued to perfect it. And OC breweries were among some of the quickest to adapt to the style. Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing had some solid offerings in their Konami Code Hazy IPA Series and DOWN DOWN was a standout amongst the group.
Meanwhile, Orange’s Green Cheek Beer Company experimented with and near perfected the style in months. No Complaints, no that’s the beer’s name, but no complaints on this Hazy IPA here, well, almost none, but I respect experimentation…
If you truly know me, you know that I truly love Double IPAs. With so many examples to choose from, it’s quite amazing that these four stood out amongst the masses, but nevertheless, they did.
New Jersey’s Magnify Brewing Company delivered one of the most original and most delicious DIPAs of the year. Their Most Important Meal Hazy Breakfast DIPA brewed in collaboration with TOCA Coffee, had me asking what the fuck is a Breakfast DIPA. But let me tell you that after I drank it, I was asking where the hell can I get more Breakfast DIPAs? Like seriously, I need one for tomorrow and Tuesday, and…
San Diego’s Modern Times Beer laid an almost perfect Jurassic egg with their Dinosaur World Hazy DIPA. And though I missed cans, I drank it on draft and can only imagine how it morphed with age…
Orange County Haze Masters, Noble Ale Works further solidified their role with Drops of Jupiter a Hazy DIPA that I had the pleasure of serving at their Anniversary Party. This beer even got a canning run, though it was still highly underrated…
And capping the list, Green Cheek Beer Company also dabbled in near perfect Hazy DIPAs with their The Other Brian which should have been canned, but I’ll take the crowler…
In the end, these 27 beers would make any self respecting beer drinker happy and should be on your wishlist if you truly love delicious craft beers. These beers run the gambit of flavors and offer an excellent jumping off point for the wannabe craft beer lover.
Go forth and find these beers. And if you stumble upon one you really like, drop me a line, let me know…
I pray that your 2018 overflows with near-perfect craft beers.
In my “never-ending” quest to discover my “perfect beer” this year (notice I say my, as “the” perfect beer can only exist to you…), I came across 12 almost perfect beers. This dirty dozen was just so close, but in the end needed just a bit more to be there with the elite beers of 2017. I would call this 2017’s B Team… (though more of an A- really…) to be clear, all of these beers were FANTASTIC!
If you’re anything like me, you rate beers within an instant of the first taste/smell. You know as soon as that sweet, hoppy, malty goodness hits your tongue how this beer in particular, sizes up against the examples you’ve enjoyed from that style. And though some beers do seem to “improve” as they warm, I usually go with my first impression. These were the beers that I rated as 4.75 on Untappd.
Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works led the way taking up 1/4 of this year’s “Almost Perfect” 12-pack. Whether it’s fantastic Hazy DIPAs or Imperial Coffee Stouts, Noble was on point all year long.
Double Platinum and the brewery only release Because You’re Worth It provided further proof that Noble knows Hazy DIPAs (see my Best of 2017 post for their best).
Ending the year with a fantastic canned Imperial Coffee Stout brewed in collaboration with 2nd Craft was brilliant as was the name, Whoomp! There It Is, and there it was indeed with such toasty, roasty, delicious coffee flavor!
In classic Bottle Logic fashion, Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing added 2 Barrel Aged entries to this year’s twelver. When it comes to Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts, Bottle Logic is Orange County’s “Lord of the Dance”. This year’s Week of Logic preview of their now iconic Fundamental Observation was almost perfect (and that was a preview, mind you…).
Vamp up their Ground State with an infusion of Mostra Coffee and you have Reaction State (which hopefully remains part of the Stasis Project) another in a long line of fantastic coffee infused collaborations from this awesome duo. So much delicious coffee flavor that blended almost perfectly with that bourbon…
Surprisingly, Hazy IPAs and DIPAs took up another 1/4 of this 12-pack. When it comes to Hazies in Southern California most people think of one brewery and that brewery, Monkish Brewing Co. added a fantastic Double Dry Hopped Double IPA to the pack. Foggier Window was an amped up version of Foggy Window (which I rated at 4.25) where the DDH did so much to make this beer even more delicious.
And although they were the new kid on the block this year, Orange’s Green Cheek Beer Company jumped right in and claimed a spot on Orange County’s list of Haze Master’s. Their Wherever You Land Hazy IPA was a delicious burst of West Coast Haze illustrating just how quickly Evan mastered this style while staying true to his West Coast roots.
Another newer OC brewery to quickly establish themselves as being in the know when it comes to the Haze Craze was Anaheim’s (or is it Tustin’s?) Unsung Brewing Co. — They wowed me with Triangulum from their Nebuloid IPA Series and left me thirsting for more…(still have to try that Cat’s Cradle…)
Not surprisingly, 2 DIPAs, West Coast Style Double IPAs, to be exact made this year’s “Almost Perfect” pack. Perennial All-Stars El Segundo Brewing Company did not disappoint with their Wet Hopped Citra-Mongous DIPA that was so close to being perfect, I bet it was at their tasting room…
San Diego’s Modern Times Beer (Who’s gonna claim them next year?) saw fit to somehow try and improve on their masterpiece flagship beer Blazing World, by making a double Dry Hopped Version and they almost succeeded at perfection. Mega Blazing World was an other-worldly Hoppy Amber though they have yet to finally admit it’s an IPA…
The only beer in my “Almost Perfect” 12-pack not from a California brewery was this year’s Christmas Bomb! From Prairie Artisan Ales. This massive 13% Imperial Stout went down way too easy!
[I’d like to thank the good folks at Bradley’s in Tustin, CA for always keeping me stocked with fantastic beer and always looking out for me. Much Love!]
The final entry and definitely the “Most Interesting” beer I’ve ever tasted in my entire life was riip Beer Company’s Kalua Porker, a Pork, yes PORK! Infused Baltic Porter. This was the brain child of Trevor and this year’s addition to Firkfest. I was fortunate to get to serve this beer at the festival and I may or may not have taken home a growler…I couldn’t just dump all that deliciousness as instructed…sorry Trev!
So there you have it folks, my 12 pack of “Almost Perfect” Beers (which oddly enough is exactly half as many as “Perfect” beers I had this year…)
And while I’m never one to tell people what they should drink, I’d highly suggest that you put these beers on your radar and if they are still available, find them!
I hope your 2017 was full of fantastic Craft Beer and that your 2018 overflows with your perfect and almost perfect brews.
2017 has come and gone and this year, 23 beers have left a lasting impression on my palate.
One brewery led the way with 6 entries on this most prestigious list, and that brewery was Orange, California’s Green Cheek Brewery. Evan and company burst on to the scene in 2017 and actually earned 7 entries on the best of list, one entry was in collaboration with El Segundo Brewing Company…
What followed was an all out assault on the craft beer world with such fantastic West Coast Inspired releases as Radiant Beauty IPA, West Coast is Dead IPA and West in Peace DIPA.
The assault continued into the realm of Hazy IPAs with Attack With Love and even branched out into the Lager realm with Bier and Evan’s Michelada (A Must Have on any Brewery Visit!).
When it came to Bourbon Barrel Aged Offerings, Anaheim’s Bottle Logic Brewing still reigned supreme; with such offerings as Fundamental Observation
and a coffee infused variant FOMO brewed in collaboration with Mostra Coffee.
Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works kept themselves relevant in light of Evan’s departure, with some wondrous Hazy DIPAs; Starting off the year with 24K Juice
and ending it strong with a DDH version, known as 48K Juice.
Much like Green Cheek, San Diego’s Pure Brewing Project took the craft beer world by storm this year and cranked out such solid offerings as Murklands, a Hazy Pale Ale and Digital Detox, a Hazy IPA that were both to die for…
The West Coast IPA saw some righteous treatment from San Diego’s Alpine Brewing with their super dank release of Windows Up. And Beachwood Brewing solidified their role as West Coast Masters with a Double Dry Hopped version of their Melrose IPA.
Hazy Pale Ales made a strong showing this year with fantastic releases from HenHouse Brewing, their #Stoked Series was off the hook !
and New Jersey’s Magnify Brewing, whose Low Visibility Pale showed just how far down these cats could boogie…
Stouts were alive and well the country over this year; as evidenced by such strong releases as North Carolina’s Burial Brewing Co.’s Skillet Donut Stout
Utah’s Epic Brewing’s fabled Big Bad Baptista Mexican Inspired BA Imperial Stout
Denver, Colorado’s consistently epic Oatmeal Yeti Imperial Oatmeal Stout from the masters at Great Divide Brewing Company,
and Costa Mesa, California’s The Patsy courtesy of Barley Forge Brewing Co. brewed in collaboration with Thunder King Coffee.
This year, 2 sours/ American Wild Ales even made the list with Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks and their barrel wizard Sour Jim introducing us to Krieky Bones and the Bay Area’s The Rare Barrel who wowed me with Ensorcelled…
While 2017 was loaded full of delicious Craft Beers, these 24 were the standouts and should be on any self respecting craft beer lovers radar. I would never say these are the “best” as taste is relative, but if you are looking for a gateway to great beer, look no further.
I hope your 2018 is full of Fantastic , Independent Craft Beer!
By now, 2016 has hopefully washed out of everyone’s systems, and we are ready for a new year full of new hopes and new beers!
But before I close the chapter on the year that was 2016, I wanted to take a quick moment to recognize some excellence in brewmeistering that shouldn’t be overlooked.
With the advent of apps like Untappd, it’s become so easy for people to rank, rate and comment on others’ work without ever taking the time to step back and really look at and appreciate some of the liquid accomplishments that we all enjoy and love. Sure, the best beer is the one in your hand, but when you collect beers like I do (by collect beers, I mean collect tastes, flavors, beer names, abvs..sorry, I’m weird) it’s important to take the time to make some sense of all the data that’s been collected.
While my recent posts have focused on beers that received ratings of 4.5 and higher, this post focuses on those beers that were just a step-above the average beers I drank this year. The bulk of beers I drank this year received a rating of 4. For me, if you are a brewery and you are not brewing a line-up that averages in the 4s, you don’t belong in the business. Your friends like your beers and they like any beers…Thankfully, there are a slew of breweries across the country (and even the world…one brew from the Other Side made this list…) that are consistently putting out fantastic beers and even when they are experimenting, they are using the experiences to learn, revise and perfect the liquid goodness that we all then get to enjoy.
The beers on this list received a rating of 4.25 on Untappd (brew_fiend). I have divided the beers up into the following categories: Brown Ales, Witbiers, Lagers, Sours, Porters, Stouts, Bourbon Barrel Aged Beers and IPAs
Brown Ale: This is a style I don’t usually drink, but anomalies exist…And this year one such anomaly made this list.
Witbier: One of my least favorite styles of beer. If it makes my list, it’s a must try for style lovers…The lone specimen is a textbook example of the style.
Lagers: Me and Lagers are like Britain and the EU…that is to say that we really don’t like each other, but when push comes to shove, we can make nice…The fact that there are Lagers, plural, on this list; even amazes me…two?
Sours: Though I am not a huge fan of sours, I will always give credit to fantastic brewmeistering. The 3 sours that made this list are well worth seeking out.
Porters: This grouping can be further sub-divided into Coffee Porters and Imperial Porters. These two almost stouts are worth a whirl…
Stouts: This grouping can be further sub-divided into Stouts, Milk Stouts, Oatmeal Stouts, Coffee Stouts and all manner of Imperial Stouts. This year proved once again that I LOVE STOUTS! And from the wave crashed shores of sunny Southern California to the Windy City of my birth, America’s Craft breweries are turning out some fantastic boundary pushing brews. The 12-pack I’m serving up is a bevy of all manner of that rich, thick, roasty goodness we all love.
Bourbon Barrel Aged Beers: This group contains beers that have been aged in Bourbon Barrels. While the bulk are Stouts, some Porters and Strong Ales may have snuck in there…It’s been said that 7 is god’s perfect number. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that seven beers made this year’s cut…
IPAs: This grouping can be further sub-divided into IPAs, Double IPAs, Triple IPAs and Black IPAs. The Black IPA sub-category encompasses Black IPAs and Double Black IPAs. It’s pretty obvious from this list what my favorite style of beer is…Unlike Sammy Hagar, 55 is a number I find pleasing and easy to remember. This year there were 55 IPAish beers that deserve a nod for being just a notch better than the rest.
The 83 beers that made this list are divided into Style. Beers within each style are listed alphabetically by Brewery then ABV where applicable.
As always, these beers are rated against the style they represent and not all beer in general…
If you are reading this, chances are that you’ve tried most of the beers on this list. And on the off chance you haven’t, you really should as these are some excellent examples of their individual styles.
Beer: Shot In The Dark Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter ABV: 11.8% Brewery: Tustin Brewing Co.
Fact: Beachwood, Bottle Logic, Modern Times, Monkish and Noble will always have SoCal on the map when it comes to fan-tastic IPAs! Though we’re always flying that West Coast Style Flag, we got this Haze on lock too…
While some may think that rating a beer is arbitrary, I find that rating beers allows me to personalize and quantify my drinking experience. I have a fairly good ability to recall how a beer tastes or the feelings it evoked, but rating it allows me to measure it against the other beers of the style that I have tried. The beauty of drinking Craft Beer is that everything is relative. Everyone has flavors they do and don’t like. Something I find amazing may underwhelm or overwhelm someone else. What follows is an account of the 58 beers that landed right on my sweet spot…I find that most great beers I try are in the 4.25 to 4.5 range on my 5 point scale. But today, I am concerned with those beers that received a rating of 4.5 on my Untappd account (Brew_Fiend)
I’ve broken the beers up into categories:
The One-Offs: These are beers that are from various styles. There were only 6 so this seemed like the best way to categorize them…anomalies…
Sours: The category name speaks for itself. Though I am not a huge fan of sours, I will always pay homage to something that tastes fantastic. The 3 sours that caught my tongue are well worth seeking out.
Barrel Aged Beers: This group contains beers that have been aged in Wine Barrels, Bourbon Barrels or a combination of both. Though truly an undertaking, this is one of my favorite styles. This year, 8 Beers were worthy of the close to perfect badge.
Stouts: This grouping can be further sub-divided into Stouts, Imperial Stouts and Specialty Stouts. Easily one of my favorite styles, I was lucky enough to try 7 supremely fantastic stouts this year.
Porters: This grouping can be further sub-divided into Porters and Imperial Porters. There were 3 stand up porters I tried this year that approached perfection.
IPAs: This grouping can be further sub-divided into IPAs, Double IPAs, Triple IPAs and Specialty IPAs. The Specialty IPA sub-category encompasses Session IPAs, Coffee IPAs and Double Black IPAs. Easily my favorite style of beer, there were 31 beers I tried this year that satisfied my Hop-thirst and had me craving more!
I wonder how many of these brews would be on your “Almost Perfect” List?
Hope your 2016 was filled with fantastic, real, independent craft beer! Looking forward to what America’s Craft Breweries have in store for us in 2017. Regardless of what your mood is going into 2017, be thankful that no matter what: We always have BEER!
Prost to a Blessed and Fruitful 2017! Happy New Year to You and Yours!
Wheat Ales, Brown Ales and German style beers are my least favorite. While I don’t go out of my way to try them, I will at times dabble and on occasion, I find an excellently executed example of the style. Pale Ales are one of my favorite styles of beer, though I feel that it’s been a long time since anyone has really done the style justice…What follows are the “anomalies” that I imbibed this year. I will always give props to true craftsmanship.
Beer: Hell or High Watermelon Style: Session Wheat Ale ABV: 4.9% Brewery: 21st Amendment Brewery
Beer: Nut Brown Ale Style: Brown Ale ABV: 5% Brewery: AleSmith Brewing Co.
Beer: Arrogant Bastard Ale Style: American Strong Ale ABV: 7.2% Brewery: Arrogant Brewing
Beer: Long Bocks on the Beach Style: Dunkelweizen ABV: 6.9% Brewery: Bottle Logic Brewing
Beer: Corporate Ladder Style: Pale Ale ABV: 5.2% Brewery: Civil Society Brewing
Beer: Jungle Boogie Style: Pale Wheat Ale ABV: 5.4% Brewery: Marz Community Brewing Co.
Sours…I must say that this is a style that has grown on me over time. I drink a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar religiously every morning, so it was only a matter of time before I started down the path of the pucker…It takes a lot for me to hoot and holler about a Sour. These are 3 that should be on your “DO TRY” List. Trust me.
Beer: Tart of Darkness (2016) Style: Sour Ale ABV: 6.6% Brewery: Bruery Terreaux
Beer: Cuddlebug Style: Sour Ale ABV: 4.5% Brewery: Smog City Brewing
I don’t like Hard Alcohol, but…I am a sucker for anything Bourbon Barrel Aged and apparently Wine Barrel Aged and…basically any Barrel Aged is A-OK with me! While this list is Stout heavy, the other beers on this list are no slouches! If spirits make you do weird things, but you love the flavor, Barrel Aged Beers may be your salvation…they are mine.
Beer: Oblivion Style: Wine Barrel Aged Flanders Red Ale ABV: 8.7% Brewery: Wicked Weed Brewing
Beer: The Stoic (2015) Style: Barrel Aged Belgian Quad ABV: 10.9% Brewery: Deschutes Brewery
Beer: Barrel Aged Heavy Boots of Lead Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout ABV: 11% Brewery: SingleCut Beersmiths
Fact, I LOVE STOUTS! I must give credit where credit is due and thank Guinness for taking me down the path of the Dark Side. Though these days, I’ve upped my stout game to the “N”th degree…Milk Stouts, Oatmeal Stouts, Coffee Stouts—if you got ’em, I want ’em…ALL. These almost perfect stouts should be on any self-respecting stout lovers list…
Beer: Heavy Boots Of Lead Style: Imperial Stout ABV: 11% Brewery: SingleCut Beersmiths
I love history. I love beer. Beer History is the equivalent of an Acid Flashback for me…that is to say that it is highly enjoyable! Porter is the progenitor of the modern day stout. Again, thanks to Guinness for deciding to Stout up their Porter and Export it out of Ireland. The only thing as good as an Excellent Stout, is a Rich, Flavorful Porter and these are 3 such Porters…
Beer: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Style: Porter ABV: 6.4% Brewery: Funky Buddha Brewery
Beer: Lumppacoal Style: Imperial Porter ABV: 11% Brewery: Noble Ale Works
Beer: Stone 6th Anniversary Porter Style: Imperial Porter ABV: 8% Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
My Shangri-La. Hoppy, Hoppy oh and Hoppy! If I could only drink one style of beer for the rest of my life, it would hands down be IPA. There is something about a nice bitter glass of India Pale Ale that just makes my heart sing. And, I love every style of IPA. Be it, Single, Double, Triple, Session, Coffee, Red, Black…whatever! So long as it’s hoppy and preferably resinous; I’m in HEAVEN! Below is a list of all manner of IPAs that approached perfection in 2016. (This list is arranged Alphabetically by Brewery)
*This is a Hop Head’s list. No balanced IPAs made this list
In an effort to get myself into the “Holiday Spirit” this year, I decided to turn to a trusted friend…BEER!
And not just any beer, but Real, Independent, Tried & True Craft Beer. Sure, the moniker is thrown around rather loosely today, but for me Craft Beer is beer produced by small, independent brewers that have no ties to “Big Beer” or do not incorporate a “Corporate Mind Set”… so, you won’t be seeing any In-Bev affiliates or a certain gargoyle-esque company who has recently placed profits over people…
Trust me when I tell you that the best beer in the world is currently being crafted by small, local breweries across the United States and every brewery on this list is one that you should seek out.
So, without any further adieu, the 12 beers that got me through the commercialized holiday we call Xmas:
The 12th Beer of Xmas Beer: Leche Mole (Mexican Milk Stout) 6.8% ABV Brewery: Bottle Logic Brewing Location: Anaheim, CA Rating: 4.5/5
This beer is truly a present that I look forward to every year. This is the first Bottle Logic Beer that I fell in love with. Think Abuelita’s Chocolate with a hint of spice. Add the words NITRO, and this was liquid velvet coating my throat with Stouty goodness. [You may still be able to find it on tap…]
The 11th Beer of Xmas Beer: Nelson, She Wrote (Triple IPA) 12.3% ABV Brewery: Noble Ale Works Location: Anaheim, CA Rating: 4.75/5
At Noble’s last Anniversary party, I spent the after-party making out with Nelson Triple Yum Yum. It was hands down one of the best Triples I’ve ever had. Well, this time around, Noble decided to give it a rebrand and maybe a minor tweek. Lucky for me, I drank this one right before it started to malt over (my last one was a tasty malt bomb). The secret is to drink these fast, but at 12%, Damn…
The 10th Beer of Xmas Beer: BLAM! BLAM! (Yeasty IPA) 7% ABV Brewery: Modern Times Beer (Collaboration with Garage Project) Location: San Diego, CA Rating: 4.25/5
NorthEast IPA meets WestCoast IPA with a lovely Nelson hopped juice bomb. Grapefruity and delicious, though I didn’t like this one as much as Underworld Dreams, I certainly went through the 4 pack a lot quicker. I’d drink it soon if you are still sitting on it…
The 9th Beer of Xmas Beer: The Butcher (Stygian Imperial Stout) 7% ABV Brewery: Societe Brewing Location: San Diego, CA Rating: 5/5
Roasty, delicious, devastating. This brew instantly became one of my favorite stouts. It was like chewing on chocolate with a lovely hoppy bitterness to it. I bought two bottles on my brewery visit and drank the 2nd one the next night. [My wife wanted some beer and said: “I want whichever one you smelled like last night…” Priceless.]
The 8th Beer of Xmas Beer: Awkward Hug (Yeasty IPA) 7% ABV Brewery: Kent Falls Brewing Location: Kent, CT Rating: 4/5
This beer drinks like a session. A nice fruity, juicy IPA that was so fresh tasting. This was my 3rd beer from this outfit and everything thus far has been delicious. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a steady supply from my East Coast comrade.
The 7th Beer of Xmas Beer: Feel This Coffee IPA (Coffee IPA) 7.3% ABV (Collaboration with Dark Matter Coffee & The Descendents) Brewery: Mikkeller Brewing Location: San Diego, CA Rating: 4.5/5
This beer definitely gets better as it warms. Super Hop Forward, but that Hypercaffium Spazzinate still pokes through to produce one thoroughly enjoyable beer. Definitely one of the better Coffee IPAs I’ve had.
The 6th Beer of Xmas Beer: 5 LB Sledgehammer (Double IPA) 9.1% ABV Brewery: El Segundo Brewing Location: El Segundo, CA Rating: 4.5/5
Dank & Resinous, just how I prefer it. This one was a no-nonsense WEST COAST DIPA at its finest. Simcoe and Mosaic to the MAXX! Enough said.
The 5th Beer of Xmas Beer: CoDependent (Yeasty IPA) 6.3% ABV Brewery: Noble Ale Works Location: Anaheim, CA Rating: 4/5
This beer was brewed in honor of one of my favorite breweries, Beachwood Brewing. While not my favorite of Noble’s recent foray into the juice, this was definitely an easy drinker with some nice flavors going on.
The 4th Beer of Xmas Beer: Inner Geek Ale (Brown Ale) 5% ABV Brewery: Bottle Logic Brewing Location: Anaheim, CA Rating: 3.75/5
This beer was brewed in honor of the 25th Anniversary of Blizzard Entertainment. (The folks that created Diablo, WOW & Overwatch). While the Label Art was absolutely amazing, the beer was a little thin and nowhere near the type of Brown I’d expect from Bottle Logic. It had some nice flavor and got a little better as it warmed, but there was something funky I just didn’t like about it…oh well, sometimes you shoot and miss…
The 3rd Beer of Xmas Beer: Lumppacoal (Imperial Porter) 6.3% ABV Brewery: Noble Ale Works Location: Anaheim, CA Rating: 4.5/5
Roasty, Chocolatey goodness. This is exactly what I am looking for in an Imperial Porter. I wanted a growler, but sadly it’s a tasting room only offering. Let’s hope it’s a yearly tradition…
The 2nd Beer of Xmas Beer: Diavoletto (Super Session IPA) 3% ABV Brewery: Bissell Brothers Location: Portland, ME Rating: 4.5/5
I was so iffy about this beer when I received it from a friend. I’ve never been a big fan of Table Beers and don’t even drink Sessions that often. But, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the extreme flavorful-ness of this beer. It was like one of the best glasses of Grapefruit Juice that I’ve ever had. I could seriously see this being in my fridge on a regular basis if it was readily available.
The 1st Beer of Xmas Beer: The Nothing (Double Chocolate Imperial Stout) 9.3% ABV Brewery: Smog City Brewing Location: Torrance, CA Rating: 4.5/5
This is one super dark, chocolatey SOMETHING! When I want a Chocolate Stout, I want a CHOCOLATE STOUT! And this brew will not disappoint. The best present I received on Xmas! Nothing like giving gifts to yourself…
And there you have it folks; 12 beers that got me through 12 days of 2016. While the bulk of these beers are readily available in Orange County, CA a couple of them made their way to me from across the country and I’m so grateful for the chance to try them.
If you completed a Beer Advent Calendar or something similar this year, let me know what you drank, as I’m always looking for new brews!
Peace, Love, Beer!
(Note: Some days, 1 beer just doesn’t cut it, for up to the minute brew reviews follow my Untappd feed at Brew_Fiend)
On Saturday, February 20, 2016, Anaheim’s Noble Ale Works turned 5 years old. And, like the gracious, self-sacrificing folks they are, they decided to throw a party, for us their craft beer lovin’ devotees. Thanks to their graciousness, attendees were allowed to bask in the glory of their labors to the tune of some 30-plus beers.
While the day showcased their classics and featured almost every iteration of brew they’ve recently brought us, they also brought out some “big guns” like their Putin put in Barrels, an intensely delicious high ABV Barrel Aged beauty (that I had the pleasure of serving Anniversary attendees all day long. Sorry, if some of them pours of the Putin were heavy…). They even brought out some “beer cocktails” that were a fan favorite with “non-beer drinkers” (Say What?!).
Anniversary attendees were also treated to live music courtesy of some of SoCal’s best brewery house bands. (Yes, that’s an actual thing, Craft Brewers are creative as hell and need to have many outlets…). Hearing Evan and Co. put some interesting spins on hip-hop classics has become a favorite past time of mine.
The event even featured some of OC’s premier Food Trucks like Hobo Pizza, Flipmasters and Rolling Sushi Van.
While the 4 hour time limit may seem a bit stringent, the ease with which the lines flow at this event means you never have to wait in line longer than a few minutes and if you are respectful, friendly and talkative, well, servers could be coaxed into topping you off…
This was my second year attending the event, as a Volunteer. So while I didn’t get to partake of every beer there was to offer, I did get to enjoy a day of doling out liquid bliss to the craft beer loving masses and I can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday. While my goal in volunteering was not to receive anything in return; trust that Noble Ale Works went out of their way to thank me and everyone else who took time to serve.
What happens in Noble’s addition stays in Noble’s addition, but let’s just say, they provided Volunteers with a fun filled night of beer and shenanigans. (If it’s possible to make out with a beer, I believe that me and Nelson Triple Yum Yum did…) Thanks to all the Breweries that pitched in to make the after party a memorable night…for some of us…
If you were lucky enough to attend the event, let me know what your favorite beer of the day was, I’m curious. And if you did not go, start planning for next year. In fact, just head down to Noble’s Tasting Room now, because they still have a ton of great beer from their Anniversary on tap. Bean Bump Anyone?