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Jul 29, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 2, No. 14
More 'best beers' of 2001

Jan. 10, 2001

- Previous reader input

Here's more input from readers on the best beers they drank last year. As we've already written, our goal is not to end up with a Beer of the Year. However we will let you know what beers receive the most reader nominations (the current leaders: Golden Monkey from Pennsylvania's Victory Brewing and Ommegang from the brewery of the same name in Cooperstown, N.Y.).

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- From New York:

Black Hat Porter (Otter Creek Brewing, Middlebury, Vt.). I happen to like Porter and found Otter Creek's to have all the good, hearty taste and mouth feel of a true porter. Although I first tasted this 3-4 years ago while on vacation in Vermont, the Otter Creek beers have recently showed up at my local distributors' on Long Island. A fortunate coincidence.

BOOM Porter (Czechoslovakia). A casual acquaintance was kind enough to send me a 6 of this for New Years Eve. Wow! What a nice, creamy head and what great taste. (I haven't seen this in a distributor's yet, and I did come away with the impression that his source may have been an importer in NYC, so BOOM may not have "hit the market" yet.)

- From Tony Dugas in St. Louis, Mo.:

Blue Paddle Pilsner from the New Belgium Brewing Co. I've lived all over the world, spending considerable time in Germany and Belgium. Blue Paddle is easily the best "Pils" in the United States, and one of my all time favorites anywhere. Just pour some in glass and smell the aroma before you drink and tell me it doesn't bring a smile to your face. Better yet, visit the brewery in Ft. Collins, Colo., and taste it fresh. Heaven on Earth.

- Chris Freitas of Folsom, Calif., took the time to list his favorites in several different styles. Here are a couple:

Anchor Porter from Anchor Brewing Co. Need I say more?

Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic Brewing Co. If you like in your face hops followed up by more in your face hops, then you'll love this beer.

- Paul Ragogna writes from Halifax, Nova Scotia:

The best beer I tasted this year has got to be a cask conditioned pint I had the pleasure of tasting over this years holiday season. It was brewed by John Tiffin (Brewmaster) at the Merchant Ale House in St. Catharines, Ont., Canada. The beer was an Extra Special Bitter that was true to its name! The beautifully fragrant nose was complimented by a hoppy bite at the finnish! Not to mention the honey coloured cascade one was presented with from the freshly pumped pint ... honestly, it was the best beer I have ever tasted. I have frequented this small "out-of-the-way" brewpub on my many visits to the Niagara region while visiting family. If anyone is in the area I strongly urge you to taste their beer ... and the food isn't bad either!

- From Stuart Williams:

Just a quick note to say that my favorite beer in 2001 was undoubtedly Pyramid Apricot Ale. I'm not one who usually goes for "fruity" beers, but the addition of apricot to the refreshing taste of a wheat brew is fantastic. Going down the beer has a great smooth taste, but it is at the end of the drink that you get a burst of apricot flavor and aroma, which goes surprisingly well with the flavor of the beer. My favorite combo is a cheeseburger, onion rings and ice-cold Apricot Ale!

- From Tobin Sharp in Costa Mesa, Calif:

My lager kick this year is courtesy of my German sister-in-law so here goes: Weihenstephaner Original Lager (clean, crisp Teutonic joy!), Portland Brewing Zig Zag River Lager (yes, I know the yeast is from Weihenstephaner... perhaps that's why I love it so much!) and Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier (My brother was stationed near Bamberg around the time he met sis-in-law) for that rich, smokey goodness.

- From a reader offering genuine diversity:

1. Victory Brewing's Old Horizontal Barleywine. Massive malt and hop assault - nuclear meltdown in a pint glass. If you like your barleywines loud and angry, this one's for you. The beer I love to hate.

2. At the other extreme, Lindenman's Framboise. The beer world's answer to soda pop. Beautiful ruby color, sweetly fragrant without being cloying, rich raspberry palate.

- From Noel in Belgium:

1. Cristal Alken - local brewery in Limburg, Belgium. 2. Victoria Bitter - Australian beer which I buy in Brugge when I'm in the neighbourhood. 3. Coopers Original Pale Ale - Australian beer which I drank in an Australian restaurant in Diepenbeek (Limburg), Belgium.

- From Joe Phohasky:

1- North Coast - Old Stock Ale (2001) 2- Lagunitas - Brown Shugga (2001) 3- Dogfish Head - 90 Minute IPA (2001)

Any or all of these could have benefited from cellaring (as I intend to do with the survivors) but they were excellent right off the shelf.

- Alistair Boyd of the Red Star Brewery in Scotland writes:

Perhaps your readers might be interested in hearing of a selection of great beers from Scotland. For many years we were limited by the almost total dominance of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries and Tennent Caledonian, neither of whom had (or have) any real interest in marketing quality beers, preferring to market keg and mixed gas swill backed by massive advertising.

In recent years, however, Scotland has begun to catch up with the rest of the civilised world and we have developed some absolutely wonderful microbreweries producing excellent brews. I am no nationalist and this list only represents a few of my native favourites (I also worship places like Flanders, Bamberg, most of California, amongst others).

Orkney Dark Island. This beer defies classification. It is dark and malty, with decent hop level. It is not Scottish light, not old ale, definitely not stout or porter. Probably the closest I can guess is the defunct Dark Heavy, a beer style which had died out by the 1960's. Wonderful stuff. Their Ravenhead Stout and Skullsplitter strong ale are both also outstanding.

Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted. Probably the best example of the "IPA" style that has appeared in Scotland in recent years. The gravity is far too low to be a true IPA. They are session beers of around 3.8 ABV. Great session beers and wonderful on the one summer day when the sun breaks through the rain in Scotland.

Harviestoun Schiehallion. A rare example of a lager brewed in Britain that is fit to drink. It is more than fit, it is superb, with plenty of hops on show all the way through. It is hardly surprising that it is a regular prizewinner in CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain speciality beer category.

Arran Blonde. An elegant 5% lady from a brewery only opened in 2000. It is beautifully balanced with just a slight bias towards the hops. All the beers from this island brewery are outstanding.

Clockwork Brewery Raspberry Wheat. The title tells all. The brewery is in a pub just a few yards from Scotland's national football stadium, Hampden Park. On big match days it pays to possess their regular customer card -- which gets the holder 10% off the brewery's beers!

Houston Brewery Peter's Well. This comes from the original Houston, in Renfrewshire, Scotland and is a tasty, hoppy pale 4.2% ABV beer. I'm not biased by the fact that it was originally brewed by a friend of mine!

Skye Brewery Red Cuillin. A fruity, malty red ale from yet another island brewery which brewed a special ale to support the campaign against the charges for crossing the new bridge to the mainland.

There then, a fine selection of brews which span the gamut of brewing styles. We don't have any smoked beer yet, but a new brewery has just opened at the top of Loch Fyne, which is an area famous for the production of kippers. I have already spoken to the brewers and made the suggestion. Watch this space ....

And watch this space in the coming weeks for more about the Best Beers of 2001.

- Previous reader input

Pairing of the week

This isn't exactly a pairing, but we suggest trying New Belgium Frambozen and Pyramid Snow Cap Ale together. These two winter seasonals are available in many states west of the Mississippi. Try a bit of the Frambozen first, then the Snow Cap. Next -- and we know this is the part that makes brewers cringe - mix them together. We suggest two parts Snow Cap to one part Frambozen.

Tasting notes
(Both of these beers are among those listed above.)

ARRAN BLONDE
Brewed by the Arran Brewery on an island not far from Glasgow

Michael Jackson writes:

In the Arran beer, the tartness imparted by wheat is beautifully combined with yeasty fruitiness (reminiscent in this instance of peaches) and flowery hop character (just a touch of the citric-tasting variety Cascade, grown in Washington State): a beer that is easily drinkable, yet refreshing in its flavors. It would be perfect after a climb among the crags of Arran, or perhaps some slightly less strenuous exercise.

BROWN SHUGGA'
Brewed by Lagunitas Brewing Co. in California

Notes from the Celebrator Beer News Blind Tasting Panel:

Originally a happy accident when a batch of barley wine went awry. Fixing it involved cleaning out three area groceries of all their brown sugar. Back again by popular demand for the third year and now brewed this way on purpose, it is very, very sweet with hints of creamy butterscotch, big bitterness peeking through and a long, dry finish. Quite complex despite the sweetness with hints of herbs, spices and fruit all in attendance.

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