The Beer In Review
This is my yearly wrap-up for my beer-tastic blogging exploits! I started doing this blog in 2012, initially with the intent of posting Jack Of All Brews club events. I discovered that I enjoyed writing things up but wanted to expand into more beer and brewery reviews as well. About 2 years ago I started to get into photography and added a few non-beer related photography and book-club posts as well--hey variety is the spice of life! My goal has been to have at least one post a week, since blogs that update only once a month or so quickly fall to the bottom of my check-in list. I think I've been doing fairly well on that front, averaging about 2 posts a week over the past year.
In January of this year I started a series of beer reviews called A Whale A Week. This mainly began as a way of guaranteeing at least one blog entry a week and to make a dent in my expanding cellar of rare beers. This has been an amazing experiment. By inviting different friends over to share, I've not only tasted amazing beers, but have enjoyed the social aspect of the process far more than I expected. I've had old friends, neighbors, and even had a few new friends I've met on local beer forums (Beer People on Facebook mainly) over for this series. I still have a fairly sizeable chunk of rare beers, as well as some vertical tastings of somewhat less rare beers that I'd like to get through so I plan on continuing A Whale A Week into 2015. Upcoming beers? Three Floyds Dark Lord, Cantillon Lou Pepe Framboise, Cascade Figaro, Big Foot vertical from 1995-2015, and many more! If you are local and want to join me for a tasting some time, touch base!
This year we didn't take any international trips, but did get to several areas for shorter excursions. Our biggest trip was to Asheville, NC for a week and that was a wonderful beery place to visit! We got to plenty of breweries there for sure! Sj and I also went to San Diego for the National Homebrewer's Conference and of course made sure to visit lots of places there. We took a road trip for the Hoppy Halloween homebrew competition in Fargo and got to try out a slew of new places along the way. A trip to Duluth for All Pints North and another quick jaunt to Rochester rounded out the beer-visits for the year.
I started out the year making up my own weekly photography challenges, and incorporated some of these techniques into my Whale A Week posts--making sure to use a special photo for most of them. More recently I joined up with the PhotoChallenge.org weekly photo challenge to force myself to try new things. I haven't had very much comment on any of my photo's but, hey, I'm mostly doing it for myself. I'm particularly proud of some of the photos I did for my Surly Darkness series.
Now is the time I reflect and decide what some of my favorites of the year have been. I do this a bit differently every year. I'll post a few here, but will do a couple other lists over the next few days to spread the wealth!
Top 10 New Beers I Tried in 2015
1) Surly Brewing Todd The Axe Man. I have not been as happy with Abrasive the past two years, but this beer has taken it's place in my top tier! Strong hop aroma, balanced bitterness, tropical and catty at once. Well done!
2) Waconia Brewing Pair-A-Dice DIPA. This is a new limited release at our local taproom, made with all New Zealand hops and boasts a tropical fruit and balanced malt character that is simply stellar. The first time I tried this I was blown away and have had goblet after goblet of it since.
3) Pelican Mother Of All Storms. An amazingly complex barrel aged English style barleywine.
4) Wicked Weed Red Angel. A blended raspberry lambic from the Funkatorium. We went back multiple times for this when in Asheville.
5) The Rare Barrel Ensorcelled. One of the best barreled sours I've had from America.
6) Goose Island Nuthulhu. Vanilla, hazelnuts, RIS!
7) Freehouse Infinity. An early contender, tasted in January of 2015. This was a perfectly balanced barrel aged RIS--the brewery's first anniversary beer.
8) Keith Brady's Chester Hopperpot. The only homebrew on the list, this incredible IPA has won first place at MN State Fair, Best In Show at Hoppy Halloween, and just keeps getting better. I want more commercial beers to taste this good.
9) Lift Bridge Barrel Aged Silhouette. First tasted at The Happy Gnome Lift Bridge beer dinner, this one put the brewery back on the map for me.
10) Spring House Blood Lust Aged in Pappy Van Winkle Barrels. Tasted at a Surly Darkness vertical, this was one of the best RIS I've had all year.
Top 10 Breweries I Visited in 2015
1) Surly Brewing (MPLS, MN) This one is just a treat. Say what you will about Surly, they remain one of the most challenging and unique breweries in the state. Their new brewhouse is a thing of beauty and has some of the best food I've ever had at a brewery.
2) Wicked Weed Funkatorium (Asheville, NC) Wicked Weed's sour facility is making a huge range of American sours that is incredible. We went back 4 times in 7 days.
3) Junkyard Brewing (Moorhead, MN) A surprise contender. Comfortable taproom, fabulous beers. I want to live closer.
4) Burial Brewing (Asheville, NC) Somewhat ghetto taproom, but full of character and had some of the best beers we tried in Asheville. Skillet Doughnut Stout!
5) Ballast Point (San Diego) I've really loved most of the beers from Ballast Point since they arrived in MN, and the visit to the brewery was not a let-down. Fantastic up-scale food (seafood focused) and a huge variety of beers to choose from.
6) Modern Times (San Diego) We enjoyed both the FlavorDome and the regular brewery. 80's and 90's retro style, house roasted coffee, and a mix of sours and regular beers.
7) Waconia Brewing (Waconia, MN) My local, so I spend more time here than many other places. This family run business has embraced our small community, putting out stellar beers very close to home. Their Octoberfest placed second among about 10 we tried at a homebrew club event recently (only losing to Ayinger).
8) Prairie Rose Meadery (Fargo, ND) Not my first meadery visit, but certainly my favorite. Susan Ruud has crafted something wonderful here.
9) Castle Danger (Two Harbors, MN) This summer we visited the new taproom and I was happy to find excellent beers, with a wide open and well-lit taproom space.
10) Green Flash Cellar 3 (San Diego) Green Flash's new cellar/barrel aging facility that had opened just days prior to our visit. Plenty of sours available and a food truck serving house (truck?) made jerky that was amazing.
For 2016 I plan to continue A Whale A Week. We've already scheduled a week trip to Portland (oh I'll get to some good breweries there!) as well as a Disneyworld 15th anniversary trip. I hope to continue visiting all the new taprooms in the Twin Cities area and supporting our burgeoning local beer scene.