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


Special Post-Boxing Day Edition of the Twelve Days of Christmas: Jester King Black Metal Stout Aged in an Oak Whiskey Barrel

December 27, 2011

Mr. JK is quite the generous soul. Mr. JK was being his usual generous and jolly self during Christmas 2010 when he gave Tilting Suds an oak whiskey barrel and some ‘raw’ spirits to age in the barrel. I barreled the whiskey just before Christmas, 2010. The liquor was clear when I poured it in the barrel; It was also as smooth as jet fuel. On New Year’s Eve, 2010, I poured off a bit to sample it. It had taken on some color but was still harsh firewater, nearly undrinkable. I sampled it again on Saint Patrick’s Day and Independence Day. Each successive sample took on more color and flavor, but the firewater aspect hardly mellowed at all. I decided that I would leave the whiskey in the barrel until after Thanksgiving to give it time to cool off, so to speak. This was a tactical error on my part. While my plan to mellow the whiskey was a sound one, what I did not count on was the Angels being so parched that their share would drain nearly the entire barrel.  After just under a year in the barrel, between evaporation and the oak absorbing the liquid, what started as 1500 ml of whiskey* was reduced to this: Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Jester King Wytchmaker Rye IPA

July 6, 2011

Having tried Jester King’s Wytchmaker Rye IPA on tap a few times, and being somewhat underwhelmed by it, I was not especially enthused to crack this bottle open.  Holy Crap was I wrong about that!  The bottled Wytchmaker Rye IPA was great, one of the better beers I have tried in some time.  It pours a cloudy burnt orange with a fluffy head and the mouthfeel is creamy and chewy and was complex with the pungent citrus, mango and piney hops offset by the rye and caramel malts.  This is a beer I would give to a wine snob who claims that beer is unsophisticated, as the interplay of flavors is fantastic.   Definitely a contender for Beer of the Year, 9.5/10.

In addition to making a kick ass beer, Jester King needs to be applauded for taking a stand against beer protectionism in Texas.  The full story is here, but the short story is that Texas law makes it difficult for out of state breweries to sell their beers here, particularly if the beer is a one-off beer.  Jester King understands that making good beer available to Texas beer drinkers, no matter where that beer is brewed, will only serve to increase the thirst for good and interesting beer in Texas.  Good for them for taking a stand against a bad law, even though the law may serve their interests in the short run.


Jester King Black Metal Stout

July 2, 2011

I never listen to heavy metal, unless I am in the car with my brother-in-law, Jeff.  Jeff is a serious metalhead, although you’d never know it by looking at him.  He keeps his hair closely cropped, usually sports polo shirts and khakis, and generally appears to be a typical suburban dad.  Take a quick scroll through his Ipod, however, and all you see is Lynch Mob, Alice in Chains, Metallica, Dokken, Van Halen, Megadeath, et al.  I have only recently got him listening to Bruce Springsteen, although I suspect he finds Bruce to be on the mellow side.  He steadfastly refuses to listen to Dylan.  I have even tried the native son gambit on him, as Jeff is from Minnesota like Dylan, but no luck so far. Read the rest of this entry »


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