From Rob Fink. Follow him on Twitter @RobDFink or email him at rob[AT]borderstan.com.
Year-end lists often blanket us with what supposedly ranks supreme in a particular category, and beer is certainly no different. I grow weary of such lists given their susceptibility to seek out greatness in the face of mediocrity in order to fulfill some sense of obligation to call something great. Either way, I have tried to cobble together my two most memorable beers and my two not so memorable beers of 2012.
Two Most Memorable Beers of 2012
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA – 8.3% ABV, 80 IBUs – Arguably my favorite brewery of 2012, Firestone Walker once again proved to the world they can do no wrong. Aromatically, Wookey Jack is a honeydew melon tropical fruit bowl mixture of Citra and Amarillo hops. Rest those flavors on a bed of dry bittersweet cocoa and my penchant for complex hop flavor grows all the more insatiable. This beer is simply one of the most profound hop-forward beers to arrive on the scene in 2012.
New Belgium/Alpine Super IPA – 9% ABV, 99 IBUs – Super IPA is one reason amongst many as to why craft breweries should continue to collaborate. Located about 30 miles east from downtown San Diego, Alpine Brewing Company hoppily shines in all its desert beauty while crafting some of the best IPAs in the country; combining forces with the regional juggernaut New Belgium was about the best thing to happen to us East Coast folks. In 2012, Super IPA maximized the hop flavor threshold with wave after wave of herbaceous pine and tropical citrus with a pleasingly dry, long finish.
Not So Memorable Beers
The 2 not so memorable beers of 2012:
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA – 10% ABV, 85 IBUs – The preceding three anniversary beers from Stone have been endearing hop-bombs, and unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the 16th iteration. While brewed with an array of delectable hop varieties, the judicious use of lemon verbena overtook the possibility of enjoying this beer; it was simply overpowering to my taste buds and didn’t allow me to enjoy other fine aspects of the beer; a rare-miss for a brewery which usually excels at brewing hoppy beers.
Founders Bolt Cutter 15th Anniversary Barley Wine – 15% ABV, IBUs N/A – Conventional wisdom rightfully suggests that when Founders puts a beer in a barrel, it turns to liquid gold. Bolt Cutter simply doesn’t excel like all other barrel-aged Founders offerings. Although only partially barrel-aged, it still doesn’t round out or soften the harsh angular alcohol presence like one expects. Founders aged this beer for four months prior to its release which only seemed to accelerate staling, not develop complexity over time. With indisputable gems such as Kentucky Breakfast Stout in their portfolio, Bolt Cutter left me shaking my head more than anything else.
With breweries such as DC Brau and 3 Stars and establishments such as Churchkey already on the map, craft beer in Washington, D.C. is in a much different place than it was five years ago. With other breweries such as Bluejacket and Right Proper slated to open in 2013, the coming year will likely prove to be an enduring one for beer in our nation’s capital.