Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Beer: My Personal Bests of 2012

This is just a quick, off-the-cuff list of some of my favourites from the past year of which the requirement was not necessarily being new but simply being new to me.

Beers (from 10 down to 1 - 1 being my favourite of the year)
First, honourable mentions to a few delicious gems that couldn't quite make the cut (since I had so many wonderful beers this year!): Westvleteren 12 (see original review here and despite its goodness, its story lends to the experience for which it reiterates its exceptionality), Dominus Vobiscum Brut (which might merit a higher score but I only had a sample at Mondial and would need a bottle available only from the brewery to give it a thorough tasting!), Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus, and Rodenbach Grand Cru (that I'd need to side-by-side with the Duchesse [#9 below] to truly be certain of their rankings).

10: Howe Sound Pothole Filler Imperial Stout is just a fine, malty-sweet-yet-cocoa/coffee-dry imperial stout.  A 9%er in a 1 litre bottle though makes for a share or a good night (Currently an LCBO seasonal - get it while you can!)

9: Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne.  Upon first tasting, I thought this was about my favourite beer ever and though numerous tastings since have assured its deliciousness, it is rather sweet for a sour and perhaps not quite funky enough for me to call the best, but certainly a gem nonetheless.  (Regularly available at the SAQ).

8: Dunham Lapatt Robust Porter is simply a marvellous example of the style and a true delight to drink. (Available at select Quebec retailers and finer Toronto bars, such as BarVolo, on rare occasion).

7: Charlevoix's Dominus Vobiscum Hibernus which demonstrates the effect of some nice spicy notes on a sweeter sort of quad.  (Select Quebec retailers).

6: Achel Extra Brune is probably my favourite quad to date and can be found only through private import or at finer beer bars in Toronto and Montreal (for my usual coverage area anyway!)

5: Nøgne Ø #100 would be my favourite 'pure' imperial IPA thus far with a fine malt backbone to a deliciously piney dryness.  (LCBO seasonal offering to grab now if you still can!)

4: Allagash Curieux, a bourbon-barrel aged tripel, available only in some US states goes to show how far ahead our Southern neighbours have gotten!

3: Cantillon 100% Bio Gueuze offers that perfect mixture of rarity and hype that actually converge with delicious sourness and clean, but present tart-funkiness without any semblance of sweetness.  You've gotta be a sour fan, but if you are, you've gotta drink this gueuze!  (Availability: almost nowhere almost never... but keep your eyes peeled!)

2: New Belgium Lips of Faith Cocoa Mole would have been the only thing I would have drank seconds of at Mondial... except... I had the last sample (before the end of day 2 of this 5 day event!)  Anyone going to the Western United States must try this - and could always bring me one for the recommendation! ;)

1: Dogfish Head Burton Baton.  Yet another US micro with no Canadian distribution, but another gem that blends DIPA, Old Ale, and oak-aged traditions to make a marvel of a complex beer I delightfully treasure.

Breweries
For me, this year was topped by (numerous) trips to Beau's and a visit to Dunham - both of which delighted.  Beau's impressing more by the day despite having been consumed before 2012 while Dunham likewise delighted on every front in the year of its discovery for me.  A special nod to Hill Farmstead whose only beer I have yet to try - Friendship and Farewell a cask collaboration IPA with Dieu du Ciel - served to reinforce their apparently well-deserved reputation!

Bars
This year led to many new Montreal discoveries (like Reservoir, L'Amere a Boire, Le Cheval Blanc, and Le Saint Bock) along with Toronto newbies Bellwoods Brewery, Indie Alehouse, the Granite (how had I never gotten there until now?), Barhop Bar, and more.  Though all impressed for various reasons on their own terms, Bellwoods, Indie, Barhop, and Le Saint Bock deserve special nods, while Vices et Versa is - hands down - the discovery of the year for me.

Events
Much as I enjoyed Brewery Market events (which have morphed into the Brewer's Backyard), and various smaller establishment events (and lament missing Cask Days yet again), as well as the immense enjoyment of Beau's Oktoberfest, Mondial truly reigns supreme!

'Til next year - check out those breweries, pubs, events, and beers that you can and continue through my explorations from here on in!  Happy new beer-year, and let's see the craft revolution continue!

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