Reflections: Another Year In Craft Beer Pt. 2

My apologies. Had to take a break after my little rant about the Black Label Hopocalypse release. But now I am back with a couple more opinionated jabs at my favorite libation… Coors Light. Ha! Even typing that I couldn’t do it with a straight face! But seriously though, here we go with…

Honorable Mentions

Russian River Brewing Company

First off, I want to thank Russian River Brewing out of Santa Rosa, CA for keeping it real. That’s right, I said keeping it real, because throughout the years and many trips to their pub there is one thing that I can honestly say has never happened. I have NEVER been disappointed. They are the most consistent, unwavering, always gonna have a helluva good time kind of place, and in the hearts of the craft beer enthusiasts that is a treasure. This years Pliny the Younger, just as good as last years. I would actually say better considering that this year I knew what to expect and was still blown away. Amazed. Keep doing you brewbrew. 

Best New Brewery

Beer Lab HI

I may be biased with this one and I’m sure there are infinite amounts of new breweries throughout the country that deserve some accolades but my choice for this one is Beer Lab HI on the island of Oahu. The truest spirit of craft beer is alive and well at this year old house of hops. Passion and excitement, science and smiles, there is a stool waiting for you to expand your palate and give you something to talk about henceforth with all. If you plan a trip to Hawaii, make this brewery part of your itinerary. You will not be sorry. 

Biggest Let Down Beer 

The Beet Gose On

So, inevitably there were going to be some beers that didn’t live up to the hype, the expectations, the dream within a dream… Okay, so maybe not that dramatic but when it comes to our beers, it can get serious. At a local beerfest in Eugene,OR I noticed a beautifully colored beer in the hands of many floating through the crowd. The entire event I was searching for that beer. Which booth was it at? Who made it?! It’s coming down to the wire and I need that beer! Found it. The Beet Gose On by Agrarian Ales in Eugene. A beet beer? Sure, why not? Unlike Red Velvet from Ballast Point, the beet was more than a bit of food coloring for an otherwise tasty beverage. It seemed to play the lead in a one man show production of Titanic, sinking, ne’er to sail the open ocean of my palate ever again. It was blatantly beet juice, carbonated and apparently, if drank enough will get you drunk. The benefits though. Instead of being hungover you’d probably feel great the next day! I couldn’t imagine having even one more glass however. A valiant effort and points for thinking outside the tun, but some things are meant for the singular experience. Agrarian Ales is an amazing brewery. Their dedication to craft beer and using the best ingredients is unmatched almost anywhere, but this beautiful looking beer (and it looked gorgeous) will not be had again. 

Best Brewery of the Year

Its not about one beer. Its not about what your favorite beer might currently be. This is about a fire lit in the industry. A flame felt across the craft beer landscape that whether you liked the beer or not, you respect the heat and warm your toes by it. Locally here in Oregon specifically, a brewery that constantly ignites my passions and my internal warm and fuzzies is Block 15 Brewing out of Corvallis, OR. They have yet to release a beer that was less than outstanding, but the reach throughout the industry is just not there, yet. Other Half has been doing the same with just about everything they are brewing. Traders are doing their part to help the reach of this house of hops span the country, but as amazing as their beers are they tend to be a singular experience. So who is adding kindle to the flame? This decision will not be popular, but I stand by it with my liver in hand. The best brewery of the year, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. out of Chico, CA. Lets forget about the fact that the first craft beer I can remember is their Pale Ale. Lets not bring up the fact that their seasonal beers are some of the most anticipated releases of the year such as their Celebration Ale during Christmas time. What about Hoptimum, one of the hoppiest beers this palate has ever experienced? Consider their Beer Camp series, the widespread collaboration celebration of some of the countries best breweries. Their barrel aged series, Trip In the Woods is fantastic and their Belgian Ovila series makes me feel very evil, Dr. Evil… Countless beers flow from this place throughout the year and I almost always have the thought, ”Thats new… Gotta try it.” Granted, not all of the beers are mind blowing, but all of them are consistently well done and well received. They have hit the mark so many times with beers like Ruthless Rye, Torpedo, Estate Homegrown, Flipside, the list goes on and on, and thats what you want from a brewery. Give me reliability, peace of mind that when I grab one of your beers, I am not going to be let down. Sierra Nevada makes a good beer, and are well traveled enough to be in any one of your hands at any given moment. They have elevated the craft beer community by not only promoting their own brand, but lifting many others through collaborations and creating a sense of solidarity that the macros will never have. Come to think of it, can you tell me any other consumer based product that can say the same? Because I can’t…

 Best Beer of the Year

I have received numerous responses to this question. Opinion after opinion, argument after argument, all pointing to the same conclusion predictably enough. If you ask 100 craft beer enthusiasts what the best beer is you’re most likely going to get 500 different answers, because that’s the world we live and drink in. To the stout drinker you’re going to hear that maybe Bourbon County is the best, or Prairie Bomb! To the IPA drinker you’re most likely going to hear a laundry list of Other Half, Tired Hands, Tree House, Alchemist, or any one of the East Coast breweries that are doing awesome beers these days. You’re going to have people claim that their local brewery has the best beer anywhere (I am guilty, Block 15, you my boys) and who is to say otherwise? Certainly not me and shame on anyone who does, because no matter what is in your hand, at that moment at any given time, that might be the best beer for you. We as a community understand that and are doing our part to spread the word across the country through trades, raffles, giveaways, like mini distribution companies. It’s a great time to be a beer drinker. There’s excitement coming home to a porch bomb of cross country libations that before you would’ve had to actually travel great distances to enjoy. I myself recently had my head turned by Tired Hands’ Extra Vanilla Double Milkshake, a beer that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try had not been for a raffle, that had me on the verge of being outwardly emotional. At that moment, it was the best beer that has ever been. But then again I might have been a little tips. I feel that the best is yet to come for us legions of thirsty. The next fad will flood the palates of the land and set our livers ablaze and the discussion will start again. From now on, when someone asks me what I think the best beer of the year is, I am going to say without hesitation, all of them. Cheers brewthren!

Since my last post, there have been some new developments in the search for the elusive Black Label Hopocalypse. Through social media it appears that just about anything can be acquired. I put the feelers out for a loose bottle of the white whale and after a few weeks I got a nibble. My faith was shaken, until the day I got the response that a bottle was available, and within a couple weeks I was holding it like the baby Jesus. I am excited beyond belief, and hold no animosity towards Drake’s Brewing. I have the one beer that took three years to get. I am at peace…

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