By ALAN J. WAX
It was a year in which I had to slow down. Both on drinking and writing.
Medical issues forced me to cutback on imbibing for several months. I’ve been adjusting back slowly, largely sampling, not guzzling brews. I’ve stopped going to beer fests, too, but that’s just as well because you barely have time to taste and analyze what you’re drinking at these events.
As a result, I sampled only a hundred or so beers in 2016. With fewer opportunities to imbibe, there were fewer opportunities to scribble blog posts.
When you cut back, you hope the brews you’re drinking are only the best. But that’s in an ideal world. There were more than a handful of beers tasted over the past 12 months that were exceptional. Many more good, but no nearly as good and there were a few drain pours. I visited one brewery in Brooklyn during the past year, where after tasting, I could not find a single beer that I’d considering drinking a full glass as one was hoppier than the other. I hope this hop craziness goes away. What’s wrong with balance?
My favorites last year represented a broad spectrum of origins and styles. They included American craft brews, Belgians and one German. There were more than a few sours, a lager, a stout, a porter and a couple of big brews. Here, alphabetically, are the best beers I had last year:
Collaboration No. 5 – Tropical Pale Ale by Boulevard Brewing Co., Kansas City, MO., and Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, FL. This 6.2% ABV, bottled pale ale is built on a pilsner malt base with additions of Marris Otter, Munich, and caramel malts and late hopping with a blend of Mosaic, Citra, Lemondrop, and Azacca hops. It’s bright amber with a dense head and a citrus nose. This is a real lip smacker with a great balance of fruit, malt and hops.
Imperial Biscotti Break Natale Pretty Please With A Cherry On Top by Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn, NY. A deep brown, bottled American-style imperial porter (11.5% ABV) with a mocha head and a nose that shrieks alcohol. Nonetheless, it was quite likeable, sweet and winey with notes of chocolate, caramel and malt.
Nancy by Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME. A sour red ale fermented with Maine cherries and Brettanomyces in 100 percent stainless steel tanks for almost a year. Golden/copper hued, the bottled version presents itself with a nose of Brett and earth. It’s extremely tart and balanced with feint cherry notes. Quite lip smacking.
Oude Kriek (Vieille) by Brouwerij Oud Beersel, Beersel, Belgium, This deep red Lambic brew with 6% ABV offers up a pretty-in-pink head. There’s a lovely balance that melds 400 grams of cherries per liter and the oak from old barrels that are used in its production.
Pop’s Porter by Wynwood Brewing Co., Miami. A 6.2% abv robust porter, this brew was a GABF gold medal winner in 2014 and is made with a blend of roasted malts. Deep brownish black with a cocoa-hued head, there are notes of roasted grain and chocolate on the nose. There’s lively carbonation in the bottled version, which has a creamy, chewy texture and flavors of chocolate, caramel and anise. It finishes bitter.
Southdown Breakfast Stout by Sand City Brewing Co., Northport, NY. Sampled on draft, this 8% ABV, American-style stout is dark and roasty with notes of coffee and hints of creaminess. It’s brewed with roasted barley, oats, chocolate, and coffee beans from Southdown Coffee in Huntington, NY.
Speziator Hell by Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, Germany. We forget how good German beer can be. This relatively new-to-the-U.S. Teutonic import is a reminder. A doppel-style mai bock, it pours deep gold with a thick white head. The nose is rich malt with a touch of floral notes. There’s a mouth-filling, malt-rich, caramel malt palate with a tad bitter finish.
St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition by Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck of Emelgem, Belgium. This brick-red Gueuze style beer is anything but shy. It has a huge ripe cherry palate and perfect tartness.
Keep up with my ratings at untappd.com. Find me there as corkscapsandtaps.