Best Beers of 2011

December 31, 2011

I had a good 2011 when it came to beer. I probably drank less beer by volume than any year in recent memory, but the quality of the beer I did  drink was much better than in years past. I decided this year to not drink beer just for the sake of drinking beer, but to drink only if the choices were genuinely appealing. No more knocking back a Shiner Bock just because that was the best beer available at the taqueria; I went with water (or sometimes soda) if that was the case.

Drinking only good beer meant less time spent like this

My 2011 Best Beer list is Texas-centric. There are two reasons for that: First, I live here now, and these beers are readily available to me. Second, Texas is home to some damn fine brewers, although most are relatively unknown outside the state. Texas is the best kept secret of the craft brewing world, but the better brewers are starting to get some attention elsewhere.

Here are the best beers I had in 2011:

8.5 Scores:

1. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

2. Deschuttes Black Butte XXIII

3. Super Des Fagnes Brune

4. Dogfish Head Burton Baton

9.0 Scores:

1. Real Ale 15th Anniversary Russian Imperial Stout

2. Ithaca Excelsior Thirteen Anniversary Ale

3. Saint Arnold Divine Reserve No. 11

4. Mikeller Chipotle Porter

9.5 Scores:

1. Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA

2. Real Ale Barrel Aged Empire IPA

3. Real Ale Sisyphus 2009

If forced to choose one beer as the best of 2011, I’d go with Jester King’s Wytchmaker Rye IPA. That is one tasty beer. Jester King has a busy and creative 2012 planned, so much so that it would not shock me if one of their new beers knocked out the Wytchmaker to take the title in 2012. On the other hand, at the beginning of 2011, I had not even heard of Jester King, so there may be some as yet unknown brewer who will take the crown. We will have to see how 2012 plays out.

*Photo courtesy of Aaron Goldfarb, Author of How To Fail


My Most Memorable Crap; Also, Jester King-Mikkeller Collaboration, Drink’n in the Sunbelt

October 14, 2011

Late Summer 1987, and I am backpacking around Europe with Pete S. We had Eurail passes and we were not going to let them burn holes in our pockets, so we were rolling arond Western Europe like Patton racing towards Germany.

Our trip took us to Copenhagen. I pulled out my dog eared copy of “Let’s Go:Europe” and start reading about Copenhagen. Per the advice of Let’s Go, we saw the statue if the Little Mermaid. I dutifully took a picture of it, but that was a total waste of time. We decided to go to the Tuborg Brewery for a tour of the works, and then the free beer samples at the end.

On the way to the brewery, we passed a small sandwich shop. Let’s Go had advised trying these open faced fish sandwiches that Denmark was famous for, and the window of this shop was filled with them. Pete and I popped in and each grabbed a sandwich. As we sat down, I noticed that the mayonnaise on my sandwich looked just a touch off, just a wee bit nasty, just a tiny bit rancid, but as you all know, I am an idiot, so I just wolfed the thing down. Pete, to his credit, looked at the sandwich, and asked, “Are you sure about this?” Having already finished my sandwich, I said “it’s fine.” Pete took a few bites, thought better of it, and dumped the sandwich.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mikkeller Chipotle Porter

February 19, 2011

Now this is a BEER!  Intensely flavored, aromatic, and beautiful to look at, this is the type of beer you drink on special occasions.  In my case, the special occasion was digging into the big pot of venison chili (using chipotle peppers, of course) which I recently cooked up.  The Chipotle Porter pours a deep rich brown with a cappuccino colored head.  Dark chocolate and smoke fill the aroma, and the flavor is smokey, with some espresso and just a hint of heat from the chipotle peppers.  Just a fantastic beer, 9/10, and rumor has it that a barrel aged version is going to hit the shelves soon.


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