Amid all of this exercise came an equally active year in beer. I added 640 new beers to my list and eclipsed the 3,000 mark finishing the year with a cumulative total of 3,204 different beers. Though I plan on scaling things back a bit in 2016 and perhaps beyond I do intend and expect to eclipse 4,000 and possibly even 5,000 at some point down the road. Of course a lifetime goal of surpassing Michael Jackson's legendary 10,000 still remains but I think it would be foolhardy to pursue that actively; instead, I'll take each beer as it comes and if at the end of the day I accrue more than 10k then so be it. At this stage, I'm more interested in enjoying the beers than merely accumulating them.
The drive to consume with a focus on variety was dampened a bit in 2015 as I encountered truly phenomenal beers at a record clip along with a comparable cache of forgettable ones. The experience made me question my mindset and approach and left me focusing more on quality than quantity arguably for the first time. My goal remains as it always has been: to try as many beers of the highest quality as possible--but now I'm finding that I'm less inclined to spend my money blindly plucking bottles off of the shelves. Thus the moderation aspect.
The adjustment in beer purview and philosophy also helped me to overcome the single most nagging and detrimental aspect of my passion: FOMO. I had long been tired of that incessant panic that accompanied the news of every rare beer arrival at my local bottle shops or release at my favorite breweries. I hated the notion that I was hoarding beer and waiting for a so-called special occasion rather than doing what I should have been doing all along: enjoying it. I finally accepted that it's impossible to get every great beer all of the time every year. In 2016, I'll focus my energy on pursuing old favorites rather than whatever people are clamoring for en masse.
In my Top 100 Beers of 2014 entry, I had commented on how I never thought I would surpass the sheer number of quality beers that I enjoyed that year. I gave 295 beers a grade of 90 or higher that year out of a total of 427 meaning that 69% the beers I tried earned an A- or better. I couldn't have imagined having a better year and yet 2015 absolutely eradicated 2014 in terms of sheer awesomeness. Not only did I manage to knock off some of the biggest whales around, I seemed to do so at a record pace. In 2015, I gave 440 beers a grade of 90 or better meaning that not only did I surpass the total of comparably scored beers from a year before--I drank more world class beer than ALL of the suds I downed in 2014 COMBINED! Plus I covered a greater variety of breweries in 2015 (170) than in 2014 (134).
Unfortunately, as I noted earlier, balance was a central theme and despite all of the amazing beer that I had, it amounted to a nearly identical total percentage of the whole at 68.75% from the year before. While I had only 15 beers that merited a grade of 79 or lower there were a ton of grades in the low 80s. Thankfully, for every shelf turd I choked down I was enjoying two phenomenal beers. Still, it had me reconsidering my consumer habits and so in 2016 I intend to scale down on my spending in terms of quantity and put more money into better beer.
The beer landscape failed to awe with little variation or standouts in terms of geography and age (620 of the 640 beers were brewed in the United States (36 different states in total) and only 49 beers were aged a year or more with 9 being aged between 3 and 5 years) but it was undeniably impressive in terms of barrel aged beers. I had called 2014 the year of barrel aged brews with 92 out of 427 beers spending time in casks but 2015 was almost exactly on par percentage-wise (in 2014 barrel aged beers accounted for 21.54% of the total--in 2015 they represented 21.09%) but exceeded the total with 135 different entries for an increase of nearly 50%. Not bad considering I never actively sought out barrel aged beers over any other types!
The variety of barrels increased considerably as well. Bourbon still dominated the scene with 73 of the 135 beers or more than 54%. I had 5 different tequila aged beers, a few other whiskey types including rye and Tennessee whiskey, and several rum aged beers including a spiced rum barrel aged one. The number of wine barrel aged beers also increased with 3 Chardonnays, a Madeira, and a Pinot Noir along with two other red wines and a white wine-aged beer.
Though moderation and consistency were at the forefront of both my personal life and my beer drinking one I still managed to have some truly transcendent experiences. I attended the Extreme Beer Fest in Boston and got to try a ridiculous array of mind-blowingly awesome beers; I knocked off my two biggest white whales in Founders' CBS and Russian River's Pliny the Younger and then added my first Cantillon beer to my list. I was awed and humbled by the generosity and camaraderie that I experienced at a number of bottle shares and special beer events with special notice being deserved by Craig Andrews, owner of the Chubby Pickle in Highlands, New Jersey whose kind heart, charitable spirit, and overall great nature makes me glad to have met him.
I also fell in love with a new brewery (The Bruery) and got to meet its founder (Patrick Rue) while getting to watch the reputation and production of an old favorite (Kane Brewing) expand exponentially. It should come as no surprise then that The Bruery and Kane finished number 1 and 2 with the most beers on my Top 100 list. I'm looking forward to experiencing even more of what both breweries have to offer in 2016 along with my oldest, most cherished favorite Dogfish Head. A special note of thanks and congratulations goes out to Mike Kane for all of the love and attention Kane has gained since opening its doors more than four years ago; it's 100% deserved and I wish him and his crew down in Ocean nothing but continued success moving forward.
Now, on to the Top 100 Beers of 2015!
This was without a doubt the single most difficult year that I have ever had in terms of creating a list of just 100 beers. There were simplyt too many worthy entries--so many, in fact, that for the first time I had to alter my approach. In the past, certain beers with variations would have been limited only to either the base beer or the best variant; in 2015 though there were a number of instances where each individual entry deserved to be included and so in a few key places I had to condense the variants and make special mention of each one in a given entry. It was the only way that I would be able a) to keep the list at 100 and b) to make room for other equally worthy entrants.
Given how difficult it was and how many incredible beers I had to choose from I decided to expand the honorable mentions section. In any other year these beers would have been shoo-ins for the top 100 but they faced an unrivaled collection of competition and just missed the cut.
Oskar Blues Death By Coconut
Neshaminy Creek Concrete Coffee Imperial Coffee Vanilla Porter
Neshaminy Creek Bourbon Barrel Aged Punkless Dunkle
Green Man La Mas Negra
SingleCut Beersmiths Billy Full Stack Double IPA
Bell's Expedition Stout
Stone Stochasticity Project - Master of Disguise Imperial Golden Stout
Small Town Brewing Not Your Father's Root Beer
Small Town Brewing Not Your Father's Ginger Ale
|100||Terrapin Beer Company||Terrapin Tiramisu-Hoo (2015)|
|99||Cigar City Brewing||Blueberry Muffin Brown Ale|
|98||Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company||Biere De Creek|
|97||Great South Bay Brewery||Hog Cabin Maple Bacon Porter|
|96||Central Waters Brewing Co.||Brewer's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (2014)|
|95||Ormond Brewing Company||Big Daddy Love's Red Wheat Wine|
|94||Cigar City Brewing||Cervezas Frescas: Horchata Ale (Nitro)|
|93||Terrapin Beer Company||French Toasted W-n-B Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout (2014)|
|92||Lagunitas Brewing Company||ScareCity #3: High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout|
|91||Country Boy Brewing||Country Western Vol. III|
|90||Bolero Snort Brewery||Bergen County Bull Stout|
|89||Country Boy Brewing||Barrel Aged Jalapeño Smoked Porter|
|88||Tired Hands Brewing Company||Saison Hands|
|87||Spellbound Brewing||Spellbound Fruit Beers (Mango Pale Ale & Peach IPA)|
|86||Ballast Point Brewing Company||Victory At Sea Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter|
|85||The Lost Abbey||Veritas 015|
|84||Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing||What The Butler Saw (Lady #6 with Fresh Cucumber and Ginger)|
|83||Tampa Bay Brewing Co.||Reef Donkey APA|
|82||Founders Brewing Company||ReDANKulous Imperial Red IPA (Backstage Series)|
|81||Founders Brewing Company||Founders Blushing Monk (Backstage Series)|
|80||New England Brewing Co.||Gandhi-Bot Double IPA|
|79||Toppling Goliath Brewing Company||PseudoSue|
|78||Alpine Beer Company||Duet IPA|
|77||Boulevard Brewing Co.||Bourbon Barrel Quad (BBQ) (2014)|
|76||Prohibition Pig||Multi-Grain IPA with Galaxy Hops|
|75||Boulevard Brewing Co.||Imperial Stout X: Coffee (2014)|
|74||The Rare Barrel||Soliloquy|
|73||The Bruery||4 Calling Birds (2011)|
|72||The Lost Abbey||Box Set Track #10 - Bat Out Of Hell (2015)|
|71||Tomoka Brewing Co.||9 to 5 Brown Porter|
|70||Brasserie Cantillon||Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus (2012)|
|69||Angry Chair Brewing||German Chocolate Cupcake Stout|
|68||Spellbound Brewing||Spellbound Gingerbread Brown|
|67||Hill Farmstead Brewery||Society & Solitude #5|
|66||Avery Brewing Company||Raspberry Sour|
|65||Toppling Goliath Brewing Company||Pompeii|
|64||Firestone Walker Brewing Co.||Helldorado (2015)|
|63||The Bruery||Levud's Batch No. 1 (2015)|
|62||Dogfish Head Craft Brewery||Beer For Breakfast|
|61||Kane Brewing Company||Apiary Mead|
|60||The Bruery||Atomic Kangarue|
|59||The Bruery||Humulus Terreux (2015)|
|58||Weyerbacher Brewing Co.||Sunday Morning Stout|
|57||Tomoka Brewing Co.||Black Drink Coffee|
|56||Trillium Brewing Company||Melcher Street IPA|
|55||Newburgh Brewing Company||Newburgh C.A.F.E. Sour|
|54||Alpine Beer Company||Hoppy Birthday|
|53||The Bruery||Beret (2015)|
|52||Knee Deep Brewing Company||Simtra|
|51||The Bruery||Humulus Lager|
|50||The Bruery||3 French Hens (2010)|
|49||The Bruery||Tart Of Darkness with Cherries & Vanilla|
|48||The Bruery||Arrrggghhh! (2015) Preservation Series|
|47||The Bruery||6 Geese-A-Laying|
|46||Tomoka Brewing Co.||Tom Yum Thai Gose|
|45||The Bruery||Or Xata (2015)|
|44||Ormond Brewing Company||Breakfast Brown|
|43||The Alchemist||Focal Banger|
|42||Smog City Brewing||Steamfunk 100% Brett IPA|
|41||Tomoka Brewing Co.||Bangin Blonde|
|39||Hill Farmstead Brewery||Edward|
|38||Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.||Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale - Barrel Aged (2015)|
|37||Kane Brewing Company||Tequila Barrel Aged Cortijo|
|36||Kane Brewing Company||Evening Bell / Vanilla Evening Bell|
|35||Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company||The Shape Of Hops To Come|
|34||Brouwerij Het Anker||Cuvée Van De Keizer Blauw (Blue) (2014)|
|33||Bugnutty Brewing||Molly Brown|
|32||Avery Brewing Company||Black Eye (2014)|
|31||The Hop Concept Brewing||Dank & Sticky IPA (The Hop Freshener Series)|
|30||Funky Buddha Brewery||Sweet Potato Casserole|
|29||Hill Farmstead Brewery||Table Dorothy|
|28||Westbrook Brewing Co.||Mexican Cake (2015)|
|27||Russian River Brewing Company||Blind Pig IPA|
|26||Surly Brewing Company||Darkness|
|25||Surly Brewing Company||Abrasive Ale|
|24||Avery Brewing Company||Uncle Jacob's Stout (2014)|
|23||Lawson's Finest Liquids||Sip Of Sunshine|
|22||The Bruery||5 Golden Rings (2012)|
|21||The Bruery||Blue BBLS (2014)|
|20||Kane Brewing Company||Hop Lab: Triple IPA|
|19||New England Brewing Co.||Coriolis|
|18||Pelican Pub & Brewery||Mother Of All Storms (2012) BBA|
|17||Kane Brewing Company||One Thousand Four Hundred Sixty|
|16||Great South Bay Brewery||Hoppocratic Oath|
|15||Hill Farmstead Brewery||Everett Porter|
|14||Kane Brewing Company||Port Omna Buffalo Trace, Blood Orange, Mole Coffee Et. Al|
|13||The Bruery||Sour In The Rye (2015)|
|12||Other Half Brewing Co.||Green Diamonds Double IPA|
|11||New Glarus Brewing Company||Raspberry Tart|
|10||Avery Brewing Company||Tweak (2014)|
|9||Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company||Buffalo Trace Aged Leon (2015)|
|8||Modern Times Beer||City Of The Dead (2014)|
|7||Kane Brewing Company||Mexican Brunch|
|6||Firestone Walker Brewing Co.||Firestone Anniversary Ales 18 & 19|
|5||Neshaminy Creek Brewing Company||Jack Daniels & Glenfiddich Barrel Aged Concrete Pillow|
|4||Other Half Brewing Co.||All Green Everything|
|3||Founders Brewing Company||Founders CBS Imperial Stout (Backstage Series)|
|2||Russian River Brewing Company||Pliny The Younger|
|1||The Bruery||Black Tuesday - Reserve (2015), Grey Monday, Mocha Wednesday|
The top ten of this list doesn't represent merely the best beers that I've had in 2015 but arguably the best that I have ever had. No coffee beer has stupefied me the way City of the Dead did and no breakfast beers will ever approach Kane's Mexican Brunch and Founders' CBS. The quality of the barrel aging that went into Neshaminy Creek's and Firestone Walker's entries here is exceptional and I think that it's safe to say that All Green Everything and Pliny the Younger are the absolute best IPAs I have ever had.
As for #1? I met the triumvirate of beer zeniths. Black Tuesday is still my all-time favorite beer but the indomitable destruction that is the Reserve version left me speechless. The other days of the week iterations in Grey Monday and Mocha Wednesday take the beer to new heights and unimaginable places of delicious decadence. Simply put, I would cry tears of joy and thanks at the end of my days for having been able to try any one of them and yet, in 2015, I tried them all.
I know better now than to say that nothing can top this year but it'll be damn tough even to approximate 2015 for me in terms of beer.
Cheers and may 2016 be as good a beer year for you all as 2015 was for me!