Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 12
Readers vote for the best of 2001
Dec. 27, 2001
Wow! We should have learned from past experience not to be surprised by the
email feedback we get from Beer Break readers. Nonetheless, reading your
replies to our request to learn about the best beers you drank in 2001 has
been a hoot.
Here are a few of the responses. We picked the ones we did for a variety of
reasons. First, they'll alert you to great beers to look for. Second, they
remind us of the diversity of beer tastes. Third, there were some we just
plain liked reading.
We'll run more next month, so if you haven't sent your nominees to
firstname.lastname@example.org then please do (and if you've written us, don't worry,
your favorites will be tallied along with all the others). We haven't decided
just how to present the final list, but it will be available at Realbeer.com.
- From Mike Donovan in Bristol, R.I.:
I won't try to give my amateur tasting notes on this beer as they wouldn't do
it justice. The best beer I had the privilege to enjoy this year was
Allagash Brewery's Dubbel Reserve. The brewery describes a dry finish with a
hint of chocolate and nuts. I served this at a special engagement dinner with
Veal Scaloppine over angel hair pasta with a Gorgonzola cream sauce. All my
fiancee and I could say was WOW! The dinner was pretty good too. This beer
hadn't been aged very long and I will definitely pick up a second bottle to
I wasn't sure my fiancee would enjoy it as she favors lighter beers and won't
touch the porters and stouts I bring home. But we were both impressed with
the Dubbel as we usually are with all Allagash products. A fave for special
occasions or any occasion for that matter.
- From Andrew Smith in California:
Hair of the Dog Adam: This one is top of my all time list and it will take
something sensational to move it. A great brew to sip and savor, with a
complexity that will have you jotting down notes with every sip.
Victory Prima Pils: Proof that an American brewer knows just how a pilsner(or
probably more "pilsener" in this case) should taste like.
Fullers 1845 Bottle Conditioned Ale: Great complexity for an English ale.
Others to mention: Anderson Valley Belk's ESB, Anchor Porter, North Coast Old
Rasputin, North Coast Old No. 38, Sierra Nevada Celebration.
- Martin Tousignant notes these are "respectfully submitted" and they are
certain beers that deserve respect:
1. Lagunitas Maximus, a strong IPA (1.080 o.g.) which is surprisingly light
(does it use pale malt exclusively?), dry, and citrusy, despite its hop
content (72 IBUs).
2. Stoudt Abbey Dubbel, an very clean-tasting, well-balanced abbey ale, much
like a supercharged Chimay Premier might be.
3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA, simply the hoppiest beer (90 IBUs) I've
tasted. The hops resemble a good Habanero in their initial impact, followed
by a lingering dry hop bitterness and massive pale and caramel malt.
- Patrick writes "I appreciate the chance to try to contribute!" and we like
his two choices because they aren't beers that demand you stop what you are
doing to discuss the beer. You've surely noticed we're happy to talk about
beer, but there are times when beer should facilitate rather than dominate
I'd like to nominate Goose Island Honker's Ale. A craft brew from Chicago,
it's a must have when I travel to the Windy City. It's smooth and full of
flavor with no unpleasant aftertaste, and it's not too heavy, so it's great
to enjoy with food. Goes well with Chicago-style stuffed pizza or most of the
foods available at one of Goose Island's two brewpubs.
My second favorite is probably Leinenkugel's Northwoods Lager. It's made in
Chippewa Falls, Wis., and is available only in a few Midwestern states.
"Leinie" also makes about a dozen other regular and seasonal brews, but the
Northwoods, one of their two lagers, is probably my favorite. Very smooth,
not too heavy, and has a good flavor.
- John Adams offered a longer list, and then was kind enough to sum it up:
If I have to pick my favorite, it was probably be the Old Ale that I had this
past July 3rd at Bell's Beer in Kalamazoo, Mich. I had it on tap. I was also
able to enjoy their Two Hearted Ale in the beer garden later that evening.
This was my first and second visit to Bell's, but since then it hasn't been
my last (though I live in Chicago).
- What do we mean by diversity? Ron Simpson of Denver offers a Belgian
specialty, a Mountain stateslager, an intense old ale and an American
invention (the first beer listed):
1. Dogfish Head Midas Touch
As smooth as it is deadly, wonderful honey and other flavors.
2. Delirium Tremens
Wonderful golden Belgian.
3. Snake River Lager
What Sam Adams really wants to be. Wonderful malty flavors.
4. North Coast Old Stock Ale
A beautiful beer, that makes me wonder what it'll taste like in a few years.
How can it get better?
- An unsigned submission illustrates diversity of a different sort:
I'd like to say something about my favorite beers. I tend to call the
commercial beers, the "Shelf Beers." My favorite being Budweiser. It has a
smooth, easy to drink feature for the person that's going to drink more than
just a couple. I also like Sam Adams Cherry Wheat when I'm just going to have
drink just a few. For something a little more stout, I like the Montana ale
called Moose Drool. It's a more full bodied dark brown ale that's just a bit
stout, but relatively smooth.
- Chris Sherman wrote, "There are many great beers out there, bottled and
draft and I have tried a lot this year but some just stay with you."
In my travels this year I have tasted many good fresh brewed beers. I live
outside Syracuse, N.Y. so I have a partial favorite right hear at home. The
Middle Ages Brewing Co. has many great beers every year
but this year I have to nominate the Middle Ages Black Hart Stout. Another
one is the Barrington Brewery Porter, in Great Barrington, Mass. As a
follow up would I would nominate The Albany Pump Station (C.H. Evans) Kick -
Ass Brown Ale, in Albany, N.Y. and also Saint Arnold Brewery's Brown Ale
gets a big thumbs up in Houston, Texas.
- Want to drink a great vintage beer in a few years? Then perhaps you should
follow the lead of Jason Rich of Warsaw, Ind., who obviously made his
preparations for 2001 a few years back.
1. Kings & Barnes Millenium Ale - brewed for the new years' celebration of
two years ago, this beer had a picture perfect body with a perfect balance of
hop and malt. I can't wait to try the next two bottles I have stashed...
2. Thomas Hardy's Ale 1995 - This thick, dark beauty was wonderfully
balanced, and made me wonder just how good it'll be in a few years. I had to
shut off all the lights in the room and savor this one in peace. Glad I have
nine more bottles. Heh heh heh...
3. Anchor Our Special Ale 2000 - I let this sit for a year, and worth the
wait! A more intense piney aroma evolved and the beer was much more settled
and enjoyable than I remember from when it was fresh.
- Dan McKeever of Attleboro, Mass., writes, "I'd like to suggest three beers
that I feel are under appreciated. I'm not saying they are the best beers on
the planet, but I'd like to see more folks give them a try."
1) Paulaner Premium Pils: For those enamored with the German pils style, I
heartily recommend this fine beer. I love the elegant bitterness and the
2) Sam Adams Boston Ale: I prefer this stock ale to the pale ales on the
market, even Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I'm frequently disappointed to find that
bars carry Sam Adams Boston Lager, but not their Boston Ale, as I find it
more interesting and full of character.
3) Sam Adams Double Bock: While there are some outstanding German double
bocks on the market, I'd like to recommend Sam Adams limited edition double
bock, as I find it a terrific interpretation of the style. What an amazingly
creamy head it has! It's rather hard to get and is available only during the
winter months, but give it a try if you can find it.
- Ralph Bellamy's choices aren't for everybody, because, "I drink beer for
taste. Not for alcohol or 'kick' and not for 'balance,' either. I want taste
and I like hops. So, I want to taste some hops even in my stouts."
El Toro India Pale Ale, El Toro Brewing, Morgan Hill, Calif. A generous
amount of three kinds of hops; it has the fragrance, fruitiness (not too
much) and bitterness. An awesome IPA. ABV is 6.5 I've killed for less.
Stone I.P.A., Stone Brewing Co.. San Marcos, Calif. Also, a generous amount
of hops, but different ones from El Toro, hence a different finish. It is
soooo delicious. ABV 6.9. As close to heaven as I'll ever get.
Old No. 38 Stout, North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, Calif. A wonderful
malty-chocolatey stout in which the hops still come through (they must've
used a ton). For my $$$, the best American stout.
Obsidian Stout, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore. The hops don't compare to Old
38, but what a smooth, robust stout! Perfect for curling up by the fire with
a good ...
Red Seal Ale, North Coast Brewing, Fort Bragg, Calif. A hoppy, American red
ale. This is my "everyday" beer. Nothing beats a Red Seal and a baseball
- This one wasn't signed, and we pass it along for obvious reasons:
My nomination: PBR - Pabst Blue Ribbon. Reason: 7th year veterinary grad
school, can't afford any thing else, but PBR is always there for you when
finals don't go your way!
- Mike Piazzi nominates Whale's Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewing, island of
All around classic pale ale, with hoppy nose (perhaps Cascades?),and a malt
profile which is of interest yet not so bold that it scares the "light" beer
drinker away. The best part yet is that it is bottle conditioned in 750 ml
bottles, which are perfect for opening with a table full of friends! A beer
to share is the best beer of all!
- We would close with that fine thought had Jake Morrill of Portland, Ore.,
not reminded us that sometimes it helps to just get lucky. We don't expect to
have a chance to try this beer:
The best beer I drank in 2001 was actually from 1983. I live in Portland, OR
and one fine winter day went for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, and on
the way home we decided to stop in at the Full Sail Brewery. They were
serving a 1983 Brewer's Reserve IPA that was delightful. My companions (who
chose different brews) asked me to kindly keep my praise to myself after I
regaled the ale after each swallow. This beer was a true hop monster -- very
complex floral and citrus flavors. I savored every last drop.
- More reader input