Reflections: Another Year in Craft Beer Pt. 1

Another year has passed, and we are again lost in the ethers of what was. The craft beer world saw outstanding variations of all beer styles that sent our palates to the heavens, and occasionally to the drain. It is time to honor the honorable, to reflect once again on the best, the most desired, the Rare, the beers that were like a beautiful sunset for our livers. And now, without further ado… 

Biggest Surprise Beer(s) of the Year

There is almost nothing better than to be completely blown away by a beer you’ve never had before. Expectations surpassed, sensory notes at full tingle and excitement, all after your first sip of a beer that you only know from the words on the menu board. There were two beers this year that showed me that I can still be taken to that special place in my hop shaped heart, which brings me to the first one, the Heart Shaped Box from Oakshire Brewing out of Eugene, OR. HSB was a bourbon barrel aged imperial stout with cocoa nibs, cherries, espresso, and vanilla beans. Now I can hear you saying it already. “Really? A BBA imperial stout? How’s was that a surprise?” Those of you who have noticed that you are never lacking in choice when it comes to a bourbon barrel aged anything these days know that when one is unique it stands out just a little further on that ledge. This one stepped to the edge and jumped off, confident that it could fly. The aromas were thick with coffee and cocoa while the palate backed it up with a sweet and velvety smoothness from the cherries and vanilla bean. No hype, no warning, just a lasting impression. 


Beerfests are always great venues to find those diamonds in the rough. Brewers bring out their secret weapons or smaller experimental batch beers that excite, and honestly, sometimes greatly disappoint. But disappointed I was not after trying Sunriver Brewing’s Sweet Mosquito On Fire. Their IPA Vicious Mosquito is a decent representation of the style but lacked the something that would make it extraordinary. SMOF, takes the VM and uses habanero and mango to enhance the ordinary, giving it that little extra. Sculpin threw habanero peppers in and it disrupted the balance of the force. Along with the mango which makes for a perfect marriage to the spice, the habanero helps bring everything back into balance. High praise. 

Best Variations and Manipulations

Sculpin has its grapefruit, pineapple, and habanero. Dogfish Head has their 60, 90, and 120 Minute IPA’s and Oskar Blues has Ten Fidy driving people crazy. Brewers take leaps of faith when they tinker with their classics and in some cases they make absolute magic. Prairie Artisan Ales had lightning in a bottle when they created “Bomb!” with its so-much-going-on mouthfeel and aromas that one wonders how you can pack any more punch for the palate. They have decided to create a Bomb! for every occasion whether it be a birthday, Christmas, a pirate party, or just a chilly night by the fire with a whiskey snifter. What sets this variation-healthy beer apart is that the base beer, while brimming with flavor notes that push your palate to its apparent limits, doesn’t allow for other additions to change what it is. You know you are having a Bomb! and anything else is just another layer of personality that define the moment that you’re living in. A beer for the “whenever” in your life, thats the “Bomb!”.

Most Anticipated Beer of the Year (2017)

I’ve had the Younger. I’ve had the Topper of Heady. 120 Minute? Check. I’ve been deep into the dark and the light of Other Half. But there is one that had alluded me, yet again. I missed out on Drakes Brewing’s Black Label Hopocalypse last year and the year before literally by minutes and now, this year as well and I am very pissed off. Moving on, I thought to myself that sure enough, I will be able to get it this year. Its the one I can’t stop thinking about, the one that keeps getting away, so what would another year of craft beer consumption be without the soul crushing disappointment of losing out on “The One Beer”. A social media post confirms my worst fear, the Black Label will be delayed. Not only delayed, but futures will ONLY sold on one day, a week before I am able to brave the air in flight in hopes to get there in time for it. I was (am) upset, so I went on to their post and voiced my displeasure with their handling of the situation. Their response was a bland sorry that I couldn’t make the bottle release and that they would have it on tap later on in the month. This helps me not. I love Drake’s beer, but I can’t help but feel a little disillusioned with them. I’m sure that will fade with time and beers, but right now the middle finger is stuck in its Upright position…

To be continued…

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