In the year 2012 my love of a fine craft beer became a full fledged hobby. I spent much of my free time this year enjoying many beers, going to my first beer festival, and even venturing to more than a few breweries. I drank nearly 120 unique beers this year and I feel like naming some of my favorites. I’m just getting to know certain styles so you wont see everything represented here but in the styles I feel confident in I have created an award. There are 13 awards including Best Beer of the Year and 2 runners up for Beer of the Year. Let me know some of your favorites so I can give them a try.
Best Beer Thing That isn’t a Beer: Untappd
Straight up. This post wouldn’t exist without Untappd. What is Untappd? The simple answer is that its Foursquare for beer. You check in to a beer, earn badges, comment on your friends beers, etc. It documented all the beers I’ve had this year, the places I drank them, and even on a scale of 1-5 what I thought of them. Untappd help me discover new beers and even where to get them. The site recently launched a paid account program and I highly recommend it. If you’re drinking beer and you have a computer or smartphone near you, you should be on Untappd. We should also be friends. Look up Jimplachy.
Best Place to Drink Beer: Half Acre Beer Company Tap Room
Half Acre’s amazing tap room only opened in November and I’ve only been there once, but I can say without a doubt that it is the best place I drank beer in, in 2012. Just look at it. The amazing attention to detail, especially in the wood certainly makes it one of the classier tap rooms around. Besides just being a nice place to be in the other fantastic part is that each beer comes in multiple sizes. This includes a 5oz pour for $2 essentially allowing you to make a flight out of any of the 10 beers on tap. Half Acre has been cranking out fantastic beers for over 5 years and now they have an amazing tap room to showcase those beers in.
Best Spring Beer: New Belgium Dig
As I wrote when I reviewed Dig its hard to remember sometimes that New Belgium makes anything other than Fat Tire. But they do and the results are usually pretty damn good. Dig is no exception. A perfectly balanced refreshing pale ale, Dig makes me long for the Spring. And finally not just because the weather is getting nicer.
Best Summer Beer: Half Acre Akari Shogun
Half Acre’s Akari Shogun is listed as a wheat ale, but this is Half Acre we’re talking about so of course they hopped the hell out of it. Beers are routinely called “refreshingly bitter” but never like Akari Shogun. Its a great easy drinking beer, that went down quite nicely on the hot Summer day I drank it. It was on tap at the tap room when I went to go check it out and have regretted not having it again while I was there.
Best Fall Beer: Founders Harvest Ale
I don’t have to tell you that wet-hopped ales are delicious. As a smart beer drinker you should know this. However, I was absolutely unprepared for how amazingly delicious Founders Harvest Ale was. Fruit forward and ridiculously pleasant on the tongue this beer had me seeking out more wet-hopped ales for weeks. None of them held a candle to this one.
Best Winter Beer(Holiday Beers Included): Revolution Fistmas Ale
Revolution’s Fistmas Ale hits me right in my weak point. Ginger. I love things that taste like ginger. Fistmas combines one of the most delicious red ales I’ve tasted with tasty orange and a nice spicy shot of ginger. If there is any downside to this beer its that the ginger flavor fades in older bottles. Maybe Rev should think about bottling this stuff a little closer to Christmas next year. Fresh this stuff cannot be beat.
Best Fruit Beer: New Glarus Apple Ale
Apple Ale by New Glarus tastes like a carbonated caramel apple. I don’t really know what else you need to know. Fresh apple juice with a hint of sweet caramel. It is absolutely fantastic and makes me long to try New Glarus’ other fruit beers.
Best New Hard Cider: Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Angry Orchard came out of nowhere and is taking the hard cider game by storm. Angry Orchard’s crisp apple is everything you want a hard cider to be. Sweet, crisp like fresh apples, and with just enough booze to let you know you’re drinking alcohol. There hasn’t been a hard cider this well balanced since Woodchuck Amber. And that is saying a lot.
Best Hard Cider: Woodchuck Pear
How good is Woodchuck Pear Cider? I don’t even like pears and I could drink this stuff all day. This stuff was hard to find in the Chicago area for quite a while, but then Binny’s upped their cider selection and brought Woodchuck Pear into its stores. There is nothing more satisfying, tangy, and refreshing than Woodchuck Pear.
Best New Brewery: Solemn Oath
Solemn Oath are awesome guys and gals who took a chance on opening a brewery in the suburbs and they are absolutely nailing it. Tons of experimentation, an amazing tap room, really neat artwork, and integrating with the beer community are just a few of the reasons why Solemn Oath is the best new brewery of 2012. How much do I like Solemn Oath? I’m not even a huge fan of their beer. That’s right, I’ve had about 5 of their beers and none of them have really knocked my socks off. But I like them, the people. And I think they will continue to do amazing things for the local beer scene and that’s why they are the best new brewery of 2012.
Best Brewery: Revolution Brewing
I could have easily named Revolution the best new brewery in 2012 seeing as how they opened in March. But they aren’t the best new brewery, they are the best brewery of the year. In 9 months they opened a taproom and a restaurant, brewed up countless amazing beers, released 2 barrel aged beers to much excitement, and racked up a few medals and “best-of-shows”. Revolution absolutely killed in 2012 and I can’t even imagine what they have in store for 2013. Here’s to Rev pumping out some more of my favorite beers.
Best New Beer: Revolution Anti-Hero IPA
My favorite beer style is the pale ale. So when I went to the Wheaton Ale Fest this past August I stuck to trying a bunch of IPAs I’ve never had before. They all tasted pretty much the same. And then I had this. Anti-Hero IPA. It was an oasis in a desert of boring same-old IPAs. Its sweet, fruity, bitter, with just enough malt to let you know its there but not overpowering. This is the beer that I want constantly in my fridge at all times. If its on tap somewhere I can’t help but order one. By far and away this was the best new beer of the year.
Best Beer of 2012(2nd Runner Up): Goose Island Juliet
Juliet was the first and quite frankly the best sour beer I’ve ever had. Bursting with a sour blackberry flavor Juliet left my mouth watering with every sip. It made me crave it. I tried to savor my bottle but I just couldn’t. It was too good. Juliet opened my mind to sour beers but so far they have all paled in comparison. Until we meet again Juliet.
Best Beer of 2012(1st Runner Up): Boulder Beer Co. Oak-Aged Apri-Cran Mojo IPA
This beer is as rare as its name is long. How rare is it? The pic above is a picture I took of it with Untappd. Its also the first result when you google image search this beer. On tap at the Bavarian Lodge back in August I had never heard of its base beer(Mojo IPA)let alone this oak aged fruitified version. I didn’t even know there was an advantage to aging an IPA. In fact I thought it was frowned upon, since the hops would fade. This beer however was incredible. Absolutely no bitterness and the added fruit really brought out the flavors in the hops that remained. Somewhere between a fruit beer and……a cider? I couldn’t wrap my head around it but I enjoyed every sip. Hopefully one day we will be reunited.
Best Beer of 2012: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about the almighty Bourbon County Stout so I’m not sure what I can add to the conversation. However I’ll do my best. Stouts are not beers I’m a big fan of, but what Goose Island does with Bourbon County can only be described as magical. The flavors of chocolate, coffee, and butterscotch compete with every taste bud on your tongue. Your brain gets confused, the burn of the alcohol starts to affect you and by the time you’re done you are a different person. Its hard to believe this is even a beer. It feels elevated, it feels so much bigger than the word beer. Bourbon County Stout is an experience I wish everyone could take. It is remarkable.