Well, I figured I would blog about this. Why? I dunno. Maybe it will help give you an idea of what I like and thus will give you some insight into the madness that is my brewing. Mostly, I just feel like posting some beer advocacy can't hurt and I haven't blogged in awhile. Each of the beers will have a link to my BeerAdvocate review so if you want to check that out for a more detailed, and timely review, go right ahead.
(don't worry; bottling the Citra DIPA soon and brewing a Kolsch soon too! And after that, who knows? Maybe an IRS to age until the winter or another shot at saison)
Of course, in making a top ten list, a lot of things get left out, so I think my list is closer to beers that made lasting impressions than anything.
Without further ado...
Oh, Stone Smoked Porter. This was the first beer that made me go "Damn! That's good!" Its complex enough to keep you interested without being so complex as to make it unsessionable. The smoke isn't obnoxious. All around, it continues to be one of the beers that I have the fondest memories of and like going back to when I get a chance.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the first Russian Imperial Stouts that I had. Also, despite being amazingly delicious, it gets extra points for the fact that its incredibly accessible. If I wanted to, I could head to the distributor right now and buy a case of it and I wouldn't have to break the bank to do so. This is comforting in a world where most Imperial stouts are overpriced! This is the best beer the Brooklyn Brewery makes, in my opinion.
Southern Tier seems to be a hit or miss brewery. You either love 'em or hate 'em. Though I've been underwhelmed by their regular line up and their hoppy beers particularly (all of their DIPAs taste like barleywines to me), their Black Water imperial stout series really hits the spot when you want a desert beer. Of all of them, my two favorite are Choklat and Mokah, which is a blend of Choklat and their coffee stout, Jahva. Of all the chocolate added beers I've had, Choklat is undoubtably the best. It features the chocolate prominently without being one dimensional.
I don't drink a whole lot of Mikkeller. For one, their beers are a little too expensive. Also, some of them are a little gimmicky if you ask me. That said, Beer Geek Breakfast was my favorite beer of 2010. Though not really a very big imperial stout, the Guiness-esque head makes it a beautiful stout, the body is great and the flavors work together well. Its also not (that) hard to find.
I was debating which of Founders' stouts to post to this list, because Breakfast Stout and Imperial Stout are both amazing. This is one of the more balanced barrel aged beers I've had and doesn't taste anything like the 11% ABV beer it is.
The fun story about this is how my girlfriend and I managed to get 4 bottles at our local beverage distributor despite a 1 bottle limit. The moral of the story: be a regular somewhere and spend five minutes chatting up the owner and be friendly. You'll get extra beers out of it.
I was lucky enough to have a pint of Stone's Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean at Rattle N Hum's Stone Total Tap Tower Takeover Tour Two Thousand Ten. I already told you how much I loved Stone Smoked Porter, but the vanilla version is extra good. When are they going to bottle this? Hopefully soon. In a night filled with super rarities like 2008 IRS aged in bourbon barrels, brandy barrel aged Double Bastard, this simple yet amazing porter beat them all and was the most memorable of the night for me.
Also, for the brewers out there, there's an old Stone Blog entry about brewing this beer! Cheers!
The Alchemist is another must on the beer fan's travel itinerary. All their beer is amazing, but I'm going to focus on Heady Topper to prevent this from being a "Best Beers by the Alchemist" list. My girlfriend and I visited Vermont for Valentines Day, largely to see what the Alchemist was about. I asked the bartender if Heady Topper was on tap, because it wasn't listed on the beer list. To my surprise, it was! Getting a 12 oz pour and apprehensively expecting yet another ultra-hyped beer to fall short of my expectations well, lets say I wasn't let down. Its an incredible beer and its coming to cans soon! Drink it as soon as you can.
Stone's Ruination IPA was probably the first DIPA I had and I think it was the first hoppy beer that I really truly loved. While many other IPAs that have been released since Ruination are more aggressive and more palate destroying, this beer really hits what a DIPA should be on the head for me and its beaten out some classic DIPAs in my mind, like Pliny the Elder (which I'm not a big fan of, by the way). And one of the best things about Stone beers? You can get them pretty easily almost no matter where you are.
Southampton Publick House is the best place for a beer fan to visit. Their beers are all excellent and Phil Markowski, the brewmaster, does an excellent job when it comes to things like saison. Hell, he literally wrote the book on saison. Their IRS is one of the best I've had. What adds to how good it is, for me anyway, is that it doesn't resort to things like barrel aging or added ingredients to get its luscious flavor. I'm glad my cellar has five waiting for special occasions.
Black Tuesday is notorious in beer circles because it is pretty much everything a beer geek could want. Its over 18% alcohol, an imperial stout, aged in bourbon barrels, and incredibly rare. My bottle kind of fell into my lap. I set up a trade on BeerAdvocate, sent out some aged Dogfish things and some locals, and said "Just send whatever" and I got a Black Tuesday. Not bad!
As for the beer itself, its pretty amazing to me how they got it up to 18% alcohol without it tasting like rocket fuel and in fact have made a beer that is wonderfully complex and unlike anything else I've ever had. If you can score a bottle, definitely do so!
And for some honorable mentions: Cigar City Hunaphu, Ithaca Flower Power, Stone Double Bastard, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, North Coast Old Rasputin, Pretty Things Jack D'Or, and probably a dozen others. Cheers!