By Cal Meacham
Editor’s Note: I apologize for the late arrival of my “Best of Lists” But I wanted to make sure and get to all of my tastings/viewings/listenings before the write ups.
Beer of the year
AleSmith – Speedway Stout (Bourbon Barrel Aged Speedway Stout & Vietnamese Speedway Stout)
The first time I tried Speedway Stout was the bourbon barrel version out at Hunahpu day and I was hooked. After that weekend I excitedly jumped online and found a place to order the regular Speedway Stout. The chocolate notes roll through your mouth from start to finish, like no other standard imperial stout is capable of. Roasted malts on the nose as well as a bit of coffee, this beer is so incredibly balanced that it is really hard to believe that it is the “regular edition” of the beer. It was finally out at GABF that I was able to track down the white whale Vietnamese Speedway and it was amazing. Simply put, the best coffee stout that I have had and that is by a long shot. High quality coffee is interlaced perfectly with this beer and melds well with the chocolate sweetness. AleSmith Speedway stout pummels the other “big gun” stouts such as CCB Marshall Zhukov. Do yourself a favor and track down this amazing beer!
- Founders – B.A. Honey Stuff – Founders barrel aged Honey Wheat beer was simply the best thing that I had at this years Founders Fest. Stacked up against KBS and Backwoods Bastard, Honey Stuff blew me away.
- Vivant – Barrel Aged Menage A Trois with Coffee – Vivant is quietly making great beers in Beer City USA and the Menage A Trois w/ coffee is a great example of why you should visit the tap room on your next beer trip.
- Three Floyds – Vanilla aged Dark Lords – I was lucky enough to try this amazing beer at Hunahpu Day in March and I still talk about it to this day. Dark Lords is a solid beer year after year but the Vanilla aged Dark Lords takes it to a different level with smooth bourbon, vanilla notes
- Sun King – Afternoon Delight – My second favorite beer at GABF, Afternoon Delight was aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels…..nuff said.
- Funkwerks – Tropic King – A unique Imperial Saison that packs a hefty 8% (pretty high for a saison) and combines nice fruit notes with some zip. Had a great time visiting Funkwerks out in Colorado as well.
Brewery of the Year
No single brewery this year amazed my taste buds as consistently as The Bruery did. Combining the forces of tart and stout in Tart of Darkness or blasting my taste buds with bourbon and sweetness in Black Tuesday, The Bruery consistently delivered beers that tasted like no other. The buzz out in California is about Firestone Walker and Russian River but for my money The Bruery is beer of choice. I had the pleasure of enjoying several different labels this year including: Chocolate Rain, Oude Tart, Tart of Darkness, Sour In The Rye, Hottenroth, Autumn Maple, Smoking Wood Rye, Sour In The Rye (Peach), Saison Tonnellerie, Rueuze, Trade Winds Tripel, Ichigo Highway, Beauregarde, Saison Rue, Grey Monday, Saison De Lente, 6 Geese A Laying and Black Tuesday.
- Anchorage Brewing Company – It’s wild to think that Alaska is pumping out some great craft beer, but that is exactly what Anchorage is doing with their Darkest Hour which has been fermented not only in Rye whiskey barrels but pinot noir barrels as well. A brewery to watch!
- Crooked Stave – My favorite Denver stop during my GABF trip, Crooked Stave is putting together some great brews. Interesting wild ales thrown in some odd barrels, these guys are one to watch
- Sun King – To me, Indiana could be the next great beer state. With Three Floyds and now Sun King, they are churning out some amazing beer. Tried a handful of Sun King’s brews at GABF and now I am firmly in the ISO state.
- Ballast Point – Sculpin, Victory at Sea and Sea Monster are great beers. They continue to refine their craft and are a “must grab” when I see a new label at the store. Time to hunt down the Piper Down!