Last month I listed 10 of the best beers I had in 2013. This month I continue to do the same. To put into perspective just how special these selections are, by my count I had 244 different beers over the course of 12 months. Some were beers I had already tried in previous years and thus ineligible for this list, but the vast majority were beers I tried for the first time. I think that number just goes to show how great and grand the craft beer world is expanding.
Here are the 2nd batch of beers I deemed noteworthy last year. Being chronologically listed, this group starts about mid-way though the year just after 4th of July.
Beachwood Brewing & BBQ - Melrose
I had had this beer early in 2012 from a growler before Beachwood started brewing their beers, so I felt it worthy to include on this list since it now sees semi-regular distribution in southern California. In my opinion, it's one of the best IPAs in the country. Better than Pliny. Better than Heady. Better even than my first beer on this list, Zombie Dust. On that note...pretty much every IPA that Beachwood makes is in the top tier of IPAs. They need to bottle more beers!
Tap It Brewing - IPA
This is another upper echelon IPA that few people know about. It won the coveted IPA category at 2012's GABF and has since been bottled and distributed to southern California. For some reason, I can only ever find it at my local Whole Foods. I'm not complaining though, as I pick up a 6 pack anytime it's in stock and enjoy drinking and sharing this lesser known gem.
Hardywood Brewing - Gingerbread Stout (2012)
Well, I'll just say it --- this was probably my #1 favorite beer of 2013. I didn't drink it until late August, so this 2012 vintage had about a year's age on it (the 2013 was released in October), but that time spent aging must have been the perfect length. This 9.2% spiced-stout was exactly what it's namesake says - a gingerbread cookie in a stout. Flavors of cinnamon, graham cracker, and slight bits of ginger made drinking this beer like having a desert in a glass. Yet despite it's rich characteristics, it was not at all cloying or overtly sweet. It was a perfect balance of decadent and refreshing. I have since managed to get my hands on another 2012 version as well as a 2013 & a bourbon barrel-aged one as well.
Alpine Brewing - Bad Boy
I was lucky to get myself a taste (and growler) of this limited, coveted, respected double IPA from this limited, coveted, respected brewery. While down in San Diego with friends, we made a detour to the out-of-the-way Alpine Brewing to sample what we had heard were some of the best IPAs in the country. Our journey did not disappoint. Along with Duet, Nelson, and Pure Hoppiness, we were treated to a plethora of outstanding IPAs. But if there was only one that I could take with me...then it was Bad Boy, a bi-annual double IPA release that goes fast once its brewed. Thankfully, we were able to get a taste at their brewpub and a couple growlers to take with us. I only wish this place were easier to get to, because I'd go there all the time for whatever they have on tap.
Societe Brewing - The Pupil
This is the only beer on the list that is brewery-only. I had it when a bunch of friends headed to San Diego for a bachelor party weekend. It was one of the many, MANY beers we tried over the course of 4 days, and it stood out as an exceptional IPA. Having visited the brewery with a group of a dozen guys, there were several growlers filled with The Pupil that we took back to our vacation house with us. If there's any indication of how well received this beer was...not a single growler made it through the next day.
Firestone Walker - Velvet Merkin
If Gingerbread Stout was my #1 beer of 2013, then Velvet Merkin was barely behind it. This was Firestone Walker's newest Reserve Series release and it was a complete home run. I briefly wrote about it in October and it's impact on me has only grown. After having just one, I immediately sought out as many as I could find to share and save alike.
Firestone Walker - XVI Anniversary Ale (2012)
I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that I loved this beer. Velvet Merkin was a major component of this annual blended beer from Firestone Walker. Traditionally, I drink these anniversary beers on the following year's Thanksgiving holiday. I feel like with so much blending and barrels being put into these beers, allowing them to sit for a year helps in allowing the beer to have a more cohesive taste as a whole. I was pleasantly surprised that XVI Anniversary Ale was the best iteration I've had yet from this series.
Beer Engineers - Leadbelly Peanut Butter Porter
This is a beer that I had heard about several years ago. It wasn't until recently however that I found someone with access to it to send me some. And I am so glad that I did. Despite being 12.5% abv, I felt as though I could have drank the entire 4 pack in one sitting. The peanut butter flavor was present in both aroma and taste. There was a richness to it that you'd expect from a beer based on an ingredient like peanut butter. Yet, it never felt too sticky or sweet. Instead, it had a saltiness to it that combined with the malt base to really make it feel like drinking a peanut-butter cup dessert. Since having this beer, my new goal has been to track down and try every other peanut butter based beer that I can find.
Nantahala Brewing - Noon Day
Just as winter was coming and IPAs were fading, I was sent this lower abv (6%) beer from North Carolina. I was completely taken by surprise at the crisp and fresh flavor that Noon Day presented. The hops gave out a perfect grapefruit-like taste and the malt balanced a nice sweetness to the piney resin aftertaste. I hadn't expected to like this beer mainly because I knew nothing about it. Now, it one that's on my radar anytime I head back east.
The last great beer of 2013 was one that had a lot of hype behind it in the beer world. Mexican Cake has been heavily sought out the past year or so since it's initial release mainly due to it being an imperial stout brewed with vanilla, cacao nibs, cinnamon, and a generous helping of Habanero peppers. While I am a fan of the first three ingredients, I am not a fan of chilies in beers. However, the manner in which Westbrook brewed this beer created an incredible taste that only brought forth the Habaneros in the aftertaste in the back of my mouth and throat. There was little to no heat associated with it and instead only spiciness in the traditional "spiced" sense. Although I'm still not a pepper-beer fan, I am a Mexican Cake fan and working on obtaining more of this beer soon.
So there you have it. 20 beers for 2013. Almost a month into 2014 and I already have a list of a dozen new beers that I've tried and noted. While none particularly stand out just yet, only time will tell I suppose.