Prologue: Yes, yes, I’m still here. This blog has become somewhat infrequent of late. I’m more active on social media, but as I usually say, time writing these posts for the website is time not spent writing the current composition.
I’ve been on a try-new-beers kick since I relocated to Charlotte, NC in December 2018. Luckily for me, North Carolina avoids the silly alcohol restrictions of the Midwest, such as “Can’t sell beer cold” (Oklahoma) or “Can’t sell beer above 3.2 in grocery stores” (Kansas). Therefore, I have a newfound abundance from which to shop! Add to that the ability to sell mix-and-match craft-beer six-packs (even in grocery stores) and you might as well start singing “I can show you the world…”
I use Untappd to keep track of beers I’ve tried, and if you enjoy beer I recommend giving it a try. It’s a fun and simple way to keep tabs on what you like (and almost more importantly, what you don’t). As an aside, if you’re more into wine than beer, Vivino is a similar app for wine that I also use.
For reference, here are my all-time Top 5. Despite trying well over a hundred new brews in 2019, only one cracked my High Scores list (the New Belgium Honey Orange Tripel).
All-Time Best Beers
- Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR) – The Stoic (Belgian-style Quadrupel) – A 2015 only release. I scour liquor stores for it every time and have seriously considered a pilgrimage to Oregon to search for more. I currently have three bottles left that I’m saving for very special occasions. If you find any, contact me.
- Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO) – Bourbon Barrel Quad (Belgian-style Quadrupel) – There are many “bourbon barrel” beers these days, but in my opinion Boulevard’s Quad is what a Bourbon Barrel beer should be. Smooth, smoky, complex and delicious. This is a beer to be savored.
- Boulevard Brewing Company (Kansas City, MO) – Unfiltered Wheat Beer (Wheat) – Cheating a bit, because I’m a Kansas native and after I moved out of the college-Natty-Light phase of life I started drinking Boulevard Wheat. Still, this is as excellent, tasty and smooth a session beer as I’ve had.
- New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO) – Honey Orange Tripel (Belgian-style Tripel) – See below.
- New Holland Brewing Company (Holland, MI) – The Poet (Oatmeal Stout) – My very favorite oatmeal stout, though oatmeal stouts don’t usually rank higher for me than imperial stouts or coffee porters. Tremendous flavor.
As you see above (and below) my tastes run to stronger, darker beers, particularly Belgians, stouts, and dark lagers. I alternate those with lighter ales and wheat beers, but as in writing, my heart belongs to the heavy dark tales. (Unlike most craft beer enthusiasts, I don’t have a lot of love for IPAs. They’re fine. Just not my jam.)
Best Beers of 2019
(Not that they were released in 2019, only that I tried them for the first time in 2019.)
10. Olde Mecklenburg Brewery (Charlotte, NC) – Dunkel (Lager) – OMB is the local version of Anheuser Busch – big, popular, and fairly generic. However, their dark winter-only lager is an excellent choice, not to to be lumped in with their other, perhaps more pedestrian fare.
9. DuClaw Brewing Company (Baltimore, MD) – The PastryArchy Barrel Aged Vietnamese Coffee Stout (Russian Imperial Stout) – Bar none, the best coffee stout I’ve ever had. No offense, Schlafly.
8. Wichita Brewing Company (Wichita, KS) – Belgian Dubbel – This is cheating, because I had it on a trip back to Kansas to visit family, not in NC. Still, WBC brews an excellent Belgian.
7. Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, MI) – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (Imperial Stout) – This is one of those beers that had every craft fanboy fawning, selling out constantly. It is very good, with just the right amount of chocolate notes, but don’t overpay for it simply because it’s hyped.
6. Westmalle Trappist Brewery (Westmalle, Belgium) – Westmalle Trappist Dubbel (Belgian Dubbel) – I haven’t yet explored all of the Trappist Belgians, but the Westmalle Dubbel is my favorite so far, better than anything from Rochefort. If you happen to run into Westvleteren 12 though, please: give me a call.
5. Big Boss Brewing Company (Raleigh, NC) – Aces & Ates (Stout) – A powerful and flavorful stout. Readily available in NC too, which is a bonus.
4. Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago, IL) – 312 Urban Wheat Ale (Wheat) – Boulevard Wheat isn’t usually available here, but Goose Island’s 312 is the next best thing. Tough to get a flavorful light wheat ale but this one does the job superbly.
3. Flying Dog Brewery (Frederick, MD) – Brewhouse Rarities: English Breakfast Stout (English Stout) – A limited release in their Brewhouse Rarities series, this was a terrific stout flavored with Earl Grey tea. My favorite stout of the year so far.
2. New Belgium Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO) – Honey Orange Tripel (Belgian Tripel) – I’ve gone back to this one so many times. As light and easy-drinking as a lager, with the flavor and punch of a Tripel (it’s 10.2% alcohol), and without the back-of-tongue bitterness that so many Tripels succumb to. It’s in my fridge right now.
1. True Respite Brewing Company (Derwood, MD) – The Plunge (Belgian Strong Golden Ale) – Good luck finding this one. I picked up a single tallboy in a mix-and-match on a trip to Maryland this summer, and once I had it, I was scouring eBay for another. For a brewery only founded in 2017, this is a remarkable achievement. The only reason I didn’t add it to my all-time top five was because I only had it once, and prefer to have several opportunities over time to enjoy something before declaring it one of my all-time favorites.
What about you? Had any of these? What are your favorites of 2019, and what are you looking forward to in 2020?