Top 10 New Craft Beer Releases for 2010
2010 was a great year for craft beer. It was also the year I launched this blog. As the year comes to a close, I want to look back at the 650 or so beers I tried and start an annual tradition by assembling a list for the best of the best. Some of these beers are so rare I consider myself lucky to have had the chance to try them while a few are still on shelves across North East Ohio. Many are high-ABV monsters while a few are delicate and dainty 5%-ers. Whatever their differences, on thing is clear – all of these beers are amazing. They stood out in a year that many could argue was the best for American craft beer in a hundred years. Here’s my picks for the best new beers of 2010 – enjoy the list and I wish you, dear reader, a beery hoppy New Year.
10. Tröegs Splinter Blue
This beer was heaven on earth for this lover of the funk. With some wonderful tart wheat, funky brettanomyces and even some berries and cherries, one of the smoothest wild ales I’ve ever had! This was a limited release from Tröegs using Dreamweaver Wheat as the base and was around 1,000 bottles total, so I probably won’t taste this again anytime soon. Bummer – I would drink this often if available.
9. Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor (Batch 5)
The other fantastic American wild ale I had this year, Perseguidor is more traditional and less fruity than Splinter Blue and focuses more on notes of vinegar, wood and sour apples. This Perseguidor was a 700-bottle release on a cold January and is reported to be a blend of La Roja Grand Reserve, Luciernaga Grande Reserve, and Bam. A few more bottles in the cellar should give me a few more years of savoring the flavor!
8. Mikkeller Beer Geek Bacon
How is this beer possible? A smoked stout with notes of coffee, chocolate and bacon! Yes, it’s true, and, more so than any other smoked beer, this comes off as breakfast in a bottle with deep notes of smoked ham, campfire and roast. Truly a work of art that shows extreme beers can have balance too! What’s better, there are still a few bottles hiding out around town, so you may stumble into one.
7. Lost Abbey The Angel’s Share Grand Cru
Wow, talk about complexity. This beer is another blend, but not a sour – instead, a mix of bourbon, brandy and cab franc barrel aged barleywines from Tommy Arthur’s personal stash. Huge notes of sweet brown sugar, plums, figs, caramel, wood, bourbon and brandy, vanilla, toffee blow my taste buds away. There is so much going on, and this is easily one of the best barleywines I’ve ever had. But it doesn’t come cheap at $25/375ml. Luckily, some great friends hooked us up with a nice taste and I’m currently hunting down another few to cellar!
6. Surly Abrasive Ale
Abrasive Ale is easily the best Double IPA I came across this year. Huge notes of grapefruit are juicy and lush, while some Amarillo hops are used in a perfect manner. What a great tasting and smelling beer – only eclipsed by the look and mouthfeel of this gem. Surly only makes this a few times a year and you can only buy this in the Twin Cities. That being said, a fresh batch just came out and maybe someone who loves you in Minnesota can send you a four pack!
5. The Bruery Oude Tart
Anyone who has enjoyed a beer or two with me knows Flanders beers have a special place in my heart. And this is the best one I’ve ever had. It’s sour and reminiscent of tart cherry and lush green apples. There’s a touch of spice, namely from the oak – vanilla, brown sugar, and red wine like tannins. And a wonderful acetic tone brings it all home. A rare beer but not unobtainable, this was only available at the Bruery for a few weeks but there will be another batch in the future and it may even be sent to Ohio. If you have the chance, give it a try!
4. Goose Island Night Stalker
So, I just noticed that this is only the second beer on this list that was for sale in Ohio, let alone at every Heinen’s in the area. A masterful stout that doesn’t shy away from the hops – this was great fresh but has even grown more and more succulent with age. Huge notes of chocolate and coffee pair up wonderfully with sweet caramel malt and some orange and grapefruit hoppy notes. This is the base beer for Bourbon County Stout, dry-hopped like crazy, and it simply rocks – it’s the one and the only Bourbon County beer that was sent to Ohio. Snatch up if you see it, as it won’t be made again in 2011.
3. Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
So, it’s interesting to note that all of the top three beers I had this year have vanilla beans in them, but they all come off as such different beers. This one from Cigar City in Florida took a nice base Russian Imperial Stout and aged it on cacao nibs, ancho and pasilla chilies, cinnamon and vanilla bean. Sounds crazy, but it’s elegant and not overly spiced. As it warms, so many great tastes come out and make this one to seek out. A new batch will be released in March in Tampa, so get your plane ticket now!
2. Tröegs Splinter Black
What a great beer from Pennsylvania based Tröegs. This huge American stout has notes of fresh oak and some chocolate and a nice touch of vanilla as well. I compared this to Andre the Giant in a ball gown – not just for the funny visual but also for the finesse that Tröegs displayed in toning down one of the most ‘brute squad’ styles of beer out there. Cocoa, coffee, toast, caramel and vanilla make this sweet and complex without venturing into dessert beer territory. Thanks again to Chris Trogner for bringing this and Splinter Blue to Cleveland Beer Week. Sadly, another beer we won’t see again.
1. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
Easily the best new beer I had this year, the Vanilla Bourbon County enhanced the base Bourbon County beer in a way I never thought possible. It’s just one of those beers that taste like heaven. Huge bourbon, wood and vanilla notes dance with chocolate and coffee in perfect step. This was amazing on cask and just as good in the bottle. Hopefully Goose Island will release this again and maybe, just maybe, Ohio will have raised our lousy ABV cap a point or two so we don’t miss out. At any rate, this beer is worth seeking out – trade, travel or throw down about $40 on the auction site. You won’t regret it!
Cheers to all the great beers of 2010 and here’s looking forward to the best that 2011 will have to offer!
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