A traditional Irish Dry Stout, the shout-out to St. Patrick with the name and label of this beer was an awesome touch. For a non-nitro Irish Dry Stout, this one is particularly awesome--snag a bottle if you see it!
74 Samuel Adams Black & Brew Coffee Stout
One of the newer beers on the list, the Black & Brew Coffee Stout was included in the Samuel Adams Winter Variety Pack along with such classics as the Sam Adams Holiday Porter and Old Fezziwig Ale; it definitely warrants its place in the collection. Smooth and creamy with delicious coffee flavors and toffee/caramel notes, the Black & Brew became a new Sam favorite for me late last year.
73 Flossmoor Station Dean's Beans Coffee Stout
Yet another awesome stout (and another coffee one at that!), Flossmoor Station's offering had a tremendous espresso flavor that kicked hard but went down smooth. Arguably their second best beer and one of the top coffee stouts I've ever had.
72 Milwaukee Brewing Louie's Demise
Among the phenomenal beers on tap at Milwaukee Brewing were a few oddball standouts. Louie's Demise--a scottish ale with a VERY strong flavor profile--was insanely good and a VERY big beer. Definitely an off-the-beaten-path type of brew but one worth sampling to expand your palette!
71 Milwaukee Brewing Devil's Advocate
Much like the previous entry on the list, the Devil's Advocate was a wickedly powerful beer that seemed to defy categorization. A Belgian Strong Ale, this one packed a wallop of flavor and was definitely a powerful awakening for my palette!
70 Dogfish Head Urkontinent
A quintessential Dogfish Head brew, the Urkontinent was released as a collaboration with search engine powerhouse Google last autumn. I sampled it on October 1st when we visited the brewpub in Rehoboth Beach for my wife's birthday. It was a delicious and immensely diverse dark brew with a panoply of powerful flavors vying for attention. Its ingredients list is expansive and reflects the global unity that Google seeks to create through its products. Scope out the full list here: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/brewpub-exclusives/urkontinent.htm
69 Uinta Punk'n Ale
I had a few new pumpkin ales this past year thanks to Cloverleaf Tavern's PhD program. The Uinta was a spice-heavy, delicious offering that reminded me more of Southern Tier's Pumking (the pinnacle of pumpkin ales, in my book) than some of the more pumpkin-centric brews on the market. Definitely one to keep an eye out for later this year!
68 Founders Apricot Swarm
Having had Dogfish Head's Aprihop earlier this year and finding it unpaletteable (arguably the only brew from them I've ever truly disliked), I approached Founders' Apricot Swarm with extreme caution. What I found was a ridiculously delicious beer that serves as the PERFECT spring and summer quaff. The apricot flavor was balanced perfectly by the light body and light effervescence of the beer. Something I look forward to trying again someday!
67 Yards General Washington's Tavern Porter
A brew that is part of a stellar lineup called the Yards Ales of the Revolution series, GW's Tavern Porter is reminiscent of porters of old; one could easily imagine ponying up to an 18th century pub and ordering a pint of this dark beauty. If you're in Philly, make a point to seek out the Yards brewery and order a flight of these Revolution(ary) beers!
66 Appalachian Brewing Susquehanna Stout
Appalachian Brewing was another gem in a year filled with a diversity of brewpubs and breweries. I had been in a good groove with trying new stouts and I hoped that the Susquehanna would not disappoint. Far from it! This one went down as one of the best stouts I've ever had let alone in 2011. If it weren't for such stiff competition, this one would definitely have finished in the top 30 or higher.
65 Fuller's Vintage Ale 2010
Fuller's Vintage Ale was one that I splurged on during a trip to State Line Liquors in Elkton, Maryland. It was extremely pricey for a single bottle of beer but having read of its ever-changing but consistently impeccable nature in the 1,001 beers book, I knew that I had to procure one for myself. I still haven't figured out how I feel about the old ale style of beer but I know that the 2010 Vintage Ale was a memorable brew.
64 Samuel Adams Sample A Oaked Ale
The Boston Beer company will host samples of proposed additions to their lineup from time to time. I was fortunate to be at Cloverleaf one night when they were sampling two such brews. I had a difficult time choosing which one I liked more as they were both incredible but this oaked ale reminded me of a Stone brew that I had had earlier in the year and based on that alone, I knew that I loved it. The strong oak and vanilla notes made this one of the tastiest beers I had.
63 Samuel Adams Sample B Maple Wood Porter
The other beer available for sampling that night, the Maple Wood Porter blew me away with its sweet maple syrup flavor coupled with its dark malt and caramel body. Absolutely a homerun for Sam Adams and a brew that I hope to see sometime in the future!
62 Captain Lawrence Nor'Easter
Captain Lawrence wound up being one of my favorite breweries in 2011 due in large part to the consistently tremendous quality of their beers. I had sampled quite a few on my first visit to the brewery but the Nor'Easter was one that I bought to enjoy at home. A beast of a winter warmer (a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, to be specific), this brew chimes in at a healthy 12% abv and was aged in bourbon barrels thus offering that little extra something that made it rise above the rest. Strong dark fruit notes coupled with the sweet bourbon flavor to make this beer truly exceptional.
61 Fordham Brewing Scotch Ale
I visited the Fordham Brewing Company based upon a recommendation by Beer Whisperer Nicole during a trip down to Dogfish Head. I was EXTREMELY glad that I did. I will be reviewing that trip and experience in a single entry later on but what I will say now is that they had a huge variety of beers available for sampling...and the scotch ale wasn't technically even one of them! After speaking with Dan and Katie (two Fordham employees on staff that day) about the beers they made throughout the year, I fell in love with their description of and fervent affection for their Scotch Ale. I was bummed that it was slated for a release that would be months away but was thrilled beyond words when they managed to find a warm bottle sitting beneath the bar. Though they were extremely reticent to share it with me because they were afraid that it wouldn't be in prime condition and would thus not represent the true character of the beer, my enthusiasm convinced them that it would be fine. Not only was the beer INCREDIBLE (even in its warm state), it wound up exceeding the hype that had been built up about it. It became my all-time favorite Fordham beer and it's one that I look forward to enjoying fresh on tap later this year!
60 Captain Lawrence Saison
In my experience, saisons have tended to vary from "decent" to "complex and richly delicious." The Captain Lawrence offering falls into the latter category with a fresh, earthy flavor profile that serves as exemplar of the best the style has to offer. I wish only that I had snagged a bomber to bring back with me. I suppose there's always a trip in 2012 to rectify that mistake!
|The Lancaster Brewing Company Variety Pack|
59 Lancaster Country Cream Ale
2011 was a year of many themes, one of which was the "awesome beer miscellany" category, which was comprised, in part, of incredibly creative beer packaging. When I visited the Lancaster Brewing Company last year, I saw this variety pack and knew right away that I wanted it, as much for the clever packaging as the awesome beer. Sadly, the Country Cream Ale was not included in it but I was able to sample it at the brewpub. Arguably the best cream ale I have ever had, it was smooth and delicious...almost dangerously so. I could see myself drinking far too much of it purely because of its silken texture and easy quaffability!
58 Lancaster Hop Hog India Pale Ale
Based upon the sheer quantity of IPAs that I had in 2011, I've found that I have developed quite a discerning palette with regards to the style. Basically, I know on first sip whether an IPA is good or bad and, in many cases, I can tell based solely on an inhalation pre-taste. The problem with this is that it has become increasingly difficult for me to grade IPAs fairly as I tend to score them based on the beer's quality in isolation as well as its standing in its particular category (for example: a winter warmer might be decent in and of itself but if it's among the best in its style, it will get a higher grade). Since I have had so many IPAs, it has become harder to grade them fairly...unless they are incredibly good, like the Hop Hog India Pale Ale. Definitely in my top 15 favorite IPAs and worth scoping out if you're a hophead!
57 Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (Cask Conditioned)
Dogfish Head's Indian Brown Ale, like most of its brews, offers a unique twist on a tried-and-true style. The cask conditioned version was insanely delicious as it smoothed out the wrinkles found in the standard version and enhanced the dark, sweet flavors with the oak and vanilla notes that came from the cask. A beer that transcends the time of year, the cask conditioned Indian Brown Ale is a beer for all seasons. If you're lucky enough to try it, consider yourself blessed!
56 Matt Brewing Saranac Vanilla Stout
I enjoyed this phenomenal stout thanks to the generosity of Beer Whisperer Nicole who brought me back a variety of beers from the Utica-based brewery when she visited it late last year. I had never heard of a vanilla stout and was thus excited to try it; it did not disappoint. The vanilla flavor weaved itself perfectly with the traditional maltiness of the stout and I can only imagine how much more amazing this beer would be if aged in bourbon barrels!
55 Water Street Black IPA
Just as I was falling in love with Black IPAs, I visited the Water Street brewpub in Milwaukee. They offered one as part of their specialty beers and it made my interest blossom into full-blown infatuation. The perfect blend of hops and dark character, this is one of the best beers I had on my trip to the northern midwest!
54 Appalachian Brewing Water Gap Wheat
I've had plenty of wheat beers and hefeweizens in my time. Unfortunately, most of them are unforgettable...but not the Water Gap Wheat. The flavor profile of this beer was awesome and it kept enticing me to take a sip even as I sampled the other beers on the table. Probably the best of its kind that I have ever had.
53 Dogfish Head Coco Loco
I was excited to try the Coco Loco because I had just recently found out about the Maui Coconut Porter. I think I saw something about it on a Travel Channel or Food Network show that was centered on the Hawaiian islands. I managed to find and purchase the Maui porter thanks to Brewforia.com but I had to wait a long time for the beer to come back in stock and to ship. During that time, I visited the Dogfish Head brewpub and saw that they had a coconut based beer on tap. The Coco Loco was my first foray into coconut beers and it filled me with excitement for the potential of this ingredient. I love coconut and getting to enjoy it in a beer was a wonderful treat!
52 Empire Brewing Wheatwine
The only wheatwine I have ever had, I found Empire Brewing's offering to be complex and delicious. I'm not a huge barleywine fan so I was intrigued by the possibility of a wheatwine. I wound up enjoying it a great deal and felt that it offset the often overwhelming thick body and syrupy nature of typical barleywines.
51 Empire Brewing Barleywine 2010
Out of all of the things that I dislike about barleywines, this brew had NONE of them. It was sweet but not overly so with a mature fruit body that took center stage. Far and away the best barleywine I've ever had and one of the strongest beers of 2011 for me at 12.50% abv.