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The best beers I had in 2016


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?

Rant over.

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_12oz_bottleCollaboration 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.

evil_twin_big_bottle_0007_imperial_biscotti_break_nataleImperial 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-1Nancy 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.

oudbeersel_oudekriek_375_met_glasOude 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.

popsporter-1520Pop’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-2Southdown 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.

 319-speziator-hell-doppelbock_720x600Speziator 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.

8803797958686St. 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.

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Evil Twin beers will garner your attention for many reasons

Evil Twin logoIf the eye-catching labels of Evil Twin’s distinctive brews don’t get your attention, their names — among them Bikini Beer, Plastic Man, Femme Fatale, Justin Blåbær, Imperial Biscotti Break—will do the job. And once you’ve tasted them, they’ll have your full attention.

Recently, I tasted a selection of the beers created by Evil Twin’s Danish creative genius, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who is the twin brother of the equally iconoclastic Mikkeller founder and brewmaster, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø. The tasting, which I curated, took place at a meeting of a local beer club, Long Islanders for Fermentation Enjoyment, which meets monthly to share new beers.

Evil Twin is a gypsy or nomadic brewer (not unlike Mikkeller or Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project), producing its beers at breweries with extra capacity and a willing brewer. Evil Twin’s beers originally were produced at various breweries around Europe and were first imported to the U.S. two years ago by Brooklyn-based Twelve Percent Imports. Now, having moved from Copenhagen to Brooklyn, Jarnit-Bjergsø utilizes Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., to produce the beers under contract.

The tasting included beers across a wide range of strengths, styles and flavors. Some were easy to drink; others made with Brettanomyces (a yeast sometimes known as Brett) had a more distinct flavor profile as did a beer made in the style of a Berliner Weise. And, the most potent beer of all proved to be, perhaps, the most interesting and most pleasurable of the bunch.

Some of my notes from the tasting:

Bikini labelBikini Beer, IPA. 2.7% abv. A bottled version (it’s also available in cans) of this lightweight IPA, brewed at Lervig Aktiebryggeri, Norway, that Jarnit-Bjergsø describes on his web site as “a sissy beer” for inexperienced craft beer drinkers. It’s a golden, extraordinarily light-bodied brew with a big hoppy nose. ★★★

Plastic Man labelPlastic Man Saison Farmhouse Ale. 5.5% abv. Brewed at Westbrook in collaboration with Chicago’s Local Option Brewing, this cloudy, gold brew offers up a spicy nose and a spice-box palate. Bitter and dry on the finish.  ★★½

Yazu labelFemme Fatale Yuzu Pale. 6% abv.  An American-style IPA flavored with Yuzu, a small, citrus fruit that tastes like a cross of a lemon and an orange, and fermented with Brettanomyces. Originally brewed in Denmark, it’s now made at Westbrook Brewing, Mt. Pleasant, It’s a pale, cloudy gold with a white head and lemony nose There’s lemon and a bitter funkiness on the palate and it’s surprisingly refreshing. ★★★★½   

Femme Fatale Noir lableFemme Fatale Noir. 6% abv. Originally brewed in Demark and now at Westbrook, this is an American-style black IPA fermented with Brettanomyces. Ebony in color with a mocha head it offers notes of chocolate, smoke and licorice notes. The funky character seems muted. ★★★★

Nomader wit labelNoMader Wit. 5% abv.  Brewed at Westbrook, this is a Brett-fermented wit beer with traditional coriander and orange peel seasonings.  It’s a cloudy gold and exudes funk and spice. Wondering if it might be more pleasurable sans Brett. ★★½

Justin Blaber labelJustin Blåbær Blueberry Beer. 4.5% abv. Brewed at Westbrook in collaboration with the  Charleston Beer Exchange, a craft beer store, this is a blueberry flavored brew in the Berliner Weise style. Blåbær, by the way, is the Danish word for blueberry. It’s cloudy gold with a white head. The nose is tart, as is the palate and the finish, well, strongly acidic. You’ve got to be a fan of the style to appreciate this. ★★★★

Biscotti break labelImperial Biscotti Break. 11.5% abv. Another Danish original now brewed at Westbrook, this is an imperial Porter with coffee and, perhaps, vanilla and almonds (they’re not identified on the label. This is a deep-brown hued brew with a short mocha head. On the nose there are notes of coffee and vanilla nose. On the palate, layer after layer of flavors unfold with notes of raisins, nuts and chocolate. Perfect for after dinner. ★★★★★

Based on this tasting, I can’t wait to try the many other Evil Twin brews. Which have you tried? What were your impressions?



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