The craft beer world changed this year. We witnessed our hearts breaking and the fall from grace of one of our favorite breweries in Wicked Weed with the selling to AB InBev. We also saw the retaliation from the craft world with the “Independent” movement in the wake of the sale in the form of the label signifying breweries as such, or as the Three-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named saw it, a big middle finger attacking them for doing nothing wrong. Nothing indeed. You know what you did… Anyway, this year I saw myself taking a step back from massive consumption and trying to focus on quality and the rare. That went out the window pretty quickly and the focus turned to whatever I could get from the east coast. That followed through the aforementioned window soon after and the focus was then supporting local. Mix that all together and you get the craft beer drinker we have today.
So this year I have decided to go about this whole categorized awards thing differently and soon after, throw it all out the window. So again, here are some of my opinions, my experiences, my favorite moments, and even some heartbreak. Here are my reflections…
I have yet to make it to a GABF, or do a brewery tour of Brooklyn, but I have made it a mission over the past few years to make the journey to the Bay Area for the release of a beer that along with the brewery has a special place in my heart, deep in the cockles, Pliny the Younger. Nothing like braving the early morning frost of a Bay Area February in order to be in line for first wave sips of what has become one of my favorite beers ever. Is it one of my favorites because of its exclusivity? Because of its cult like following, or perhaps its ability to seriously impair your good decision making skills? Or maybe it’s actually just that damn good, and as with all good beers is even better when shared with friends over great food. That’s a trip to Russian River Brewing in a nutshell, and I am one big nut.
Biggest Surprise Beer
The landscape of amazing beers produced many oohs and ahs this year, but are there any that I still dream about, even long for? Okay, there are quite a few but one above all stole the show this last summer. Fort George out of Astoria, OR gave us their highly anticipated collab beer, the 3-Way IPA. The collaborating breweries being Great Notion out of Portland and Reuben’s Brews out of Seattle and boy did they ever collab! GN and FG have been able to corral the nuances of the New England style IPA better than most and gave the west coast a dream of what they have been missing. This beer stacked up toe to toe with the likes of Other Half and Tree House like it was a real contender. Cue “Eye of the Tiger”…
My Favorite Beer(s) of 2017
Okay, so asking a guy what his favorite beer is might be like asking him to narrow down his favorite breath of air, so as it happens I cannot bring myself to pick just one. First stand out that took my liver away was Mylar Bags from Other Half. In a lineup of outstanding east coast hop juice, on a frosty night in Poulsbo, WA, everything was beginning to run together. Other Half, Trillium, Tree House, all the heavy hitters and there was only so much my palate could take… or so I thought. The hazy beast was poured and the aromas popped like a citrusy dream with an army of hops to conquer my soul. Something perfect about this beer, and I like me some perfect.
Then there was this whole milkshake IPA thing. Skeptical I was. But then I was fortunate enough to win in a game of chance, much like Jack in Titanic, a ticket that would change my life. For the better in my case (I still maintain that there was plenty of room on that floating door) and I was blown away by the Extra Vanilla Double Milkshake by Tired Hands. A mouthful to say, and an even better mouthful to… fill your mouth with? As I expected, my tastebuds were a-flurry with confusion at first, but with each succeeding sip the layers peeled back every detail until they all came together in a cacophony of harmony and discord. The vanilla mellowed the hops and vice versa like a dance on my palate which resonated long after the can and glass went dry.
This is hard. A gut check to my morales and maybe even a calling out of my craft beer ideology. I, because of this one vice, am a hypocritical lump on the log of a conflicted belief system that I will defend forever, and compromise when it suits me. The beer that causes such an unrest within is Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. To be clear, my disappointment is not with the beer but with myself. Not because of the beer, which is the pioneering bourbon barrel aged stout that is nothing if not consistently awesome, but because of its affiliations. The business practices of Goose’s parent company are deplorable, instilling actual outward frustration and even anger. So why do we flock every Black Friday to find our allotments worth if we do not support where it is coming from? I don’t have an answer. I don’t have the logical reasoning to support my actions. What I do have is my shame, and nothing drowns shame better than a BCBS…
Let us not bicker. Let’s understand that we all have our sentimental attachments to both the local and abroad. So it makes sense to highlight both, in my opinion of course, and state the drunken obvious. Let’s be real. No “Best Brewery” conversation can be had without bringing up Other Half out of Brooklyn. And rightfully so. Their growth in popularity is undeniable. Their dedicated drinkers are also campers (lining up the night before for a chance to score some sweet cans is fanatical). And the excitement that I have experienced after receiving beer mail of these beautifully hazy concoctions is just about unrivaled. They get it. They obviously love what they do which shows in their product and their rabid fanbase. There’s legitimate love there, and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Locally, I have been smitten. I am in deep smit. Claim 52 out of Eugene, OR has been consistently raising my eyebrows in delight for the course of a year or so. Like Other Half they have a focus on the New England style of brewing, and dare I say do it just as well, if not better at times than some east coasters. Home is where the heart is, and my heart is cemented in the foundations of that amazing house of hops. All I can say is thank you…
Most Anticipated Beer
I have made it a mission in my craft beer life to obtain and consume those beers that I once thought not possible to obtain, the whales if you will. Like Joe Dirt says, you can’t have “no” in your heart. So what do I want, nay, need this year? There in lays the problem. Everything is at the fingertips of the modern craft beer drinker and trader so the exclusivity factor has taken a major hit. Exclusivity makes a beer taste better. Call me a liar. Something you had to search out, pay up the wang for, fight, claw, do unmentionable things in truck stop bathrooms for always tastes of victory. So allow me to crave for an experience over “a” beer. The Great American Beer Fest is my new “White Whale”. One beer? More like I’m gonna need another liver. It’s the top of the mountain, and I can’t wait to take in the view. Maybe I’ll see some of you there? I’ll be the only drunk crawling on the ground, somehow, still Upright. Cheers you silly suds!