Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Beer In Review: 2013

The new year is a time for reflection on the past year and for forward thinking about the future.  2013 was a good year for me overall.  As a beer geek, many of the things I did were beer related, and most were chronicled here in the JABlog.  For those who missed out, read my old entries to catch up! 

Brewing:  I didn't brew nearly as much beer this past year as I would have liked.  Usually I brew a ton of big beers in the fall to keep me busy over the winter months, but that just didn't happen before this deadly cold streak we have been having here in Minnesota.  It is now difficult for me to bundle up to brew in my garage when the outside temps are hitting negative 8 degrees F.  Call me a wimp.  I hope to brew a lot more for the coming year and to keep all 6 of my tap lines rotating frequently.  I did get to take part in the Jack Of All Brews club yeast experiment and our first barrel aging project resulting in a fantastic and award winning JAB de Garde.

Fame:  My brushes with fame this year include being featured in a few more fun episodes of Limited Release.  Probably their top viewed episode was on their trip to Russian River Brewery for the Pliny the Younger release and their subsequent punking by handing me doctored Mickey's malt liquor and watching me squirm on camera.  JABlog and Jack Of All Brews were nominated for The Growler's Kind Of A Big Deal Awards this year--alas neither placed in the finals!

Travel:  This was a year of many short trips, mainly for a slew of weddings.  Amongst the nuptials I was able to fit in fun brewery visits in Tennessee, Kansas City, Portland and Bend.  In Bend, we visited 10 different breweries in 2 days!  I also had quick visits to Alabama, Illinois (Champaign and Chicago), and Duluth (for All Pints North).  For 2014,  I look forward to a big trip to Belgium next May, another Duluth trip, and hopefully NHC in Michigan if I can get in.

Breweries: The Minnesota craft beer scene continues to blossom with new local breweries and better access to national brands that we have been denied previously.  I was fortunate this year to be able to break the news of two new breweries in this very Blog: Enki and the Roets Jordan Brewery!  Enki is now up and running, putting out very solid beers in the close-by town of Victoria.  Tim Roets is currently working with the folks from Minnesota Harvest Orchard to open a hard cider and apple wine store, as well as working on renovations for the old Jordan Brewery.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what he does in the coming year.  Bent Paddle from Duluth has opened and is putting out fantastic beers (that we can now get here in the cities.)  The folks on the West Coast (Green Flash, Ballast Point) have finally noticed us here in the Great White where is that Russian River beer?  I'm excited to try all the up and coming local breweries in 2014--please don't disappoint me Minnesota!

I think I'll now do a couple of my personal Top 10 lists for 2013. 

Top 10 Breweries I've Visited in 2013 (Based on beers, service, and vibe)

1) Steel Toe: The new tap room is too dark and too small, but always full and serving up Steel Toe's amazing line up of beers.  A high point this year was getting to taste barrel aged Wee Heavy, Lunker, and Dissent all at once.
2) Deschutes: This place was massive and I had a great time at the brewery and its sister brewpub in Bend Oregon.
3) Bent Paddle: A shining beacon of well-balanced but interesting beer in Duluth.  I'm glad that Bryon, Colin and Peter are doing so well right out of the chute.  Now please can the Cold Press for us!
4) Boulevard: An epic trip to Boulevard Brewery while in Kansas City, Missouri was a high point of that trip.  I've got my fingers crossed that things will only prosper under the new ownership of Duvel.
5) Town Hall: Always a favorite, Hoops and the TH gang continue to put out some of the best beers in the State of Minnesota.  I'm looking forward to seeing the place once their renovation is done.
6) Enki Brewing:  New and small, this is my local brewery.  Located in an old 1900 creamery building, it is a fun place to stop in for a pint.  Many of my friends volunteer here and every time I visit, I find someone to talk to.  I also was able to have my 40th birthday bash at the brewery.  I wish these guys more good luck for the coming year! 
7) Dangerous Man: I love the look of the place and the beers are stellar.  My only complaint is how crowded this place is.  Waiting in a line for 25 minutes to get served a beer is extreme.  They have rapidly outgrown their demand.
8) Revolution: One of the coolest newer breweries in Chicago, these guys have a Surly-esqe vibe and a huge selection of amazing beers.
9) Avondale Brewing: A hidden treasure of amazing beers located in Birmingham, Alabama.  Proof that this craft beer thing is spreading even to less conventional areas.
10) Pfreim: A small new brewpub in Hood River, Oregon that knocked my socks off with traditional style brews and amazing food.

I went to a lot of good (and some not so good) breweries in the past year, but these stood out for me. I still haven't been to the new Surly tap room, so that explains the suspicious absence from my list.  Honorable mention would go to Northbound Smokehouse, for the excellent sandwiches.  Oh and Cascade Barrel House was amazing too.

Top 10 Beers (that I can remember)

1) Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue--Keith Brady brought a growler of this to our last JAB meeting and it jumped to the top of my list.
2) Surly Abrasive--a yearly favorite of mine with such a tropical fruit flavor!
3) The Bruery Chocolate Rain--Crazy good and crazy sweet.
4) Cigar City Jai Alai--Just tried this on tap in Florida, finding a new favorite IPA that I can't actually buy and drink where I live.
5) Goose Island Bourbon County Stout--Always amazing.
6) Sam Adams Utopias--Tried this just a few minutes before 2014.  I have a wonderful wife.
7) Surly Darkness--Yup always makes my list.
8) Heady Topper--Brought back just days off the canning line by Jason.  Thanks man!
9) Russian River Pliny the Younger (for reals)--It was better than a Mickey's
10) Enki Citric Journey--A great regular pint.  Hoppy but malty, a good mix between English and American pale ales.

Yup lots of hoppy ones in this year.  This is a tough list to make since I had so many great beers this year...a bunch of Cascade sour beers just missed making this list.

For 2014 I'm looking forward to a lot more beer related fun.  The way things are going, it will be hard to keep up but I'll do my best.  I will continue to chase the beers, the places and the experiences that really make me want to write.  Thanks for reading and offering me a venue to discuss the beer scene.  I'd love to hear more about what you, the reader think!  What are your hopes for 2014?  Are there any great breweries or beers that I should have put on my list?  What do you want more of in the blog? Interviews, homebrewing, beer reviews, brewery reviews, random musings, food, competitions?

No comments: