So I decided to take a different approach to this post and do what I do best --- make a list. Here you'll find (in no particular order...actually that's a lie, it'll be chronological order) the best "unique" beers I drank in 2013. By "unique" I mean beers that were new to me. So while there are great beers out there like Firestone Walker Parabola and Ballast Point Victory at Sea, those are beers I've had prior to 2013 and therefore ineligible for this list. Conversely, all of the beers I'm listing below will be ineligible for next year's list as well (unless there is a significant change to the taste and recipe of said beer).
So without further ado, here are Rob's Best Beers of 2013!
Three Floyds Brewing - Zombie Dust
Not much has to be said about ZD. It's a highly regarded IPA that doesn't come to California. But I got hold of a bottle and from the instant I opened it (before it even was poured into a glass), I was in love. The aroma alone permeated from the bottle and had me salivating. It's now one of those beers I permanently want.
Central Waters Brewing - Bourbon Barrel Barleywine (2012)
Here is a beer that nailed the bourbon aspect. Everything from aroma to taste to aftertaste meshed perfectly with this heavy (11.2% abv) brew to create the perfect sipping beer after a long rainy day. Having a year old version I think helped mellow out the alcohol bite and bring forth the bourbon characteristics (vanilla, toffee, wood). I have a 2013 in my fridge now that I'll be drinking soon.
Almanac Brewing - Barrel Noir
Similar to Central Waters BBBW, here was a beer that did a great job of balancing the barrel-aged aspect with a traditional stout. That's likely because the blend of styles (traditional stout & Belgian dark ale) worked well in keep this 10% abv beer surprisingly light.
Founders Brewing - Curmudgeon's Better Half (2012)
As I previously wrote in this post, I thought this beer was incredible. It's a shame that I only had the one bottle because it's something I'd like to try again despite it being a couple years old at this point.
Ballast Point Brewing - Even Keel
Not all of my favorite beers were double digit abv behemoths. This lil guy clocked in at only 3.5%, but man oh man did it pack a hop punch. Somehow, the guys at Ballast Point made was tastes like an IPA (or at the very least a dry hopped pale ale) and brought the alcohol down to something that you can drink all day long. I had this on draft in their homebrew mart and wish to god that it came in 12-pack cans for some good summertime drinking.
The Bruery - Imperial Loakal Red
Another beer I previously wrote about, this one stood out to me because The Bruery isn't know for making hop-forward beers. Yet, this impreial red ale had all the characteristics of a huge hop-bomb (aroma, taste, tongue-tingling after effects), while still maintaining a strong malty backbone. They really should re-release this one.
The Bruery - White Chocolate (2012)
From the same entry as Loakal Red, I was astonished with how great this beer smelled. And the taste was even better than the smell...which is saying a lot. It's important to note however that this was the 2012 blend. The 2013 (released later in the year) was horribly funky and off-tasting. So much so that The Bruery issued refunds and pulled it from it's shelves. I really hope they get this one right in 2014. I miss it dearly.
Ballast Point Brewing - Homework Series Batch 1
Much like Loakal Red, here was a literal attempt at making a hoppy red ale. What was equally as impressive as the beer was Ballast Point's choice to put the recipe for the beer on the back of the bottle. Having started as a homebrew supply store, they went back to their roots and created the Homework Series - a line of small-batch beers distributed locally and encouraging the drinker to replicate the beer on their own. Clever, tasty, and informative!
Goose Island Beer Co - Bourbon County Brand Stout (2012)
On a completely random day in early summer I found myself with a day off. I also happened to notice one of my favorite bars tapping this well-known, but hard to come by, imperial barrel-aged stout. With one half-pour (all the bar was offering), I immediately understood the hype behind it. The chocolate notes were only outdone by the bourbon booze. This beer had a kick, but not a burning one that you might associate with a 15% abv beer. Instead, it was smooth sipping and the desire for more. Thankfully, the 2013 vintage saw bottle release here in Los Angeles and I quickly snatched up some.
Revolution Brewing - Very Mad Cow
Earlier in the year, I had a bottle of Mad Cow. It was a good, somewhat forgettable milk stout. Nearly 8 months later, I had Very Mad Cow. It was great, and entirely unforgettable. The difference in aging their milk stout on Woodford Reserve barrels for 7 months created a whole new, layered beer. At 9.5% abv, it's not the strongest beer on this list. But it's one of the tastiest. The bourbon is perfectly blended into the milk creating an almost vanilla/chocolate milkshake concoction. This is another beer that I deeply wish I had more of.
There are the first 10 beers for 2013 that stood out to me. I have 10 more ready to go for the next post. Before that though...I need a beer.