Thursday, December 28, 2017

Top 10 Best Beers of 2017

Welcome to the 9th annual installment of the Top 10 Best Beers of year! Really, this should be the 10th annual Top 10 list, but I didn’t do one in 2008, which was my first year of doing beer reviews.
If you’re watching this on YouTube you know this was the year I made my return to video beer reviewing after a year-and-a-half absence. I decided that if I was going to return to YouTube I was going to change up my reviewing style completely and review beers to the BJCP guidelines instead of my own personal preferences. Not everyone seems to be crazy about this new approach, but I like it. I kinda wish I had been doing my beer reviews like this since the beginning. But that’s a subject for another sermon.

Just like every other year, the rule that I go by for compiling this list that only beers that I reviewed for the first time in calendar year 2017 were eligible. Even though I scored a lot of beers pretty highly this year (especially the ones I reviewed for YouTube), many of them were re-reviews to BJCP specs so they weren’t even eligible to make this list. Which is kind of a bummer because there were a lot of re-review beers that I scored a 46 or higher. In fact, I gave two beers a perfect 50 score, but they were both re-reviews so they don’t count (Samuel Adams Hefeweizen and Cigar City Good Gourd). 

That being said, there were still plenty of excellent beers I reviewed for the first time this year. Pretty much all of them were text-only reviews. In previous years I would read excerpts from my reviews, but I don’t think that method really conveys why I liked the beer as much as I did. So this year I’m just going to summarize my thoughts on each beer and why I put it on this list. I’ll have a link to the text version of this list in the description box below, so check that out and you’ll be able to read my full in-depth reviews of each of these beers to understand why I rated them so highly.

This is the year that I officially became tired of IPAs. I wouldn’t say I’m sick of them, I mean I’ll obviously still buy and drink them, but they just don’t wow me the way they used to. So if I’m putting a standard IPA on this list you know it’s gotta be good. There’s not much to say beyond the fact it’s citrusy and piney and tastes great. If you like a good IPA you’ll like this beer.

Man, I love a good witbier. It’s hard to find authentic Belgian Whites even remotely fresh here in the States, and American breweries tend to make their brews a little too Americanized for my tastes. But this one is legit Belgian style all the way. A perfect blend of the fruity yeast esters and coriander and orange peel spices; plus it’s really refreshing and totally sessionable. Plus it’s probably available in your local supermarket. That they didn’t dumb-down the recipe for a mainstream audience is impressive.

I used to hate the Kolsch style, but in the past few years I’ve really come to appreciate. It’s one of those weird hybrid ale/lager styles and the recipe is pretty similar to a pilsner, but it’s got these little nuances to it that once you really develop your palate and you learn about zymurgy and brewing history, you realize how great a beer of this style can be. What’s really interesting about this particular review was that I first reviewed a really old bottle of it and it was alright, but then I found out the local craft beer bar had it on tap and I rushed over there and got a growler fill of it and the difference was amazing. Full of flavor, delicious and really drinkable. Your beer store probably doesn’t have this fresh, but a legit craft beer bar might – so try it if you can find it fresh (or any authentic German kolsch for that matter).

I’ve never really considered Sapporo that great of a brewery. They’re kind of the Budweiser of Japan, and if you go to a Japanese or Chinese restaurant here in America you’ll probably find their flagship lager. But this year they reached out to me and sent me a few fresh cans of their beers, and this one is their take on the German Schwarzbier style and I was amazed how well it conformed the style guidelines. In fact, all three beers they sent me scored well over 40 but I liked this one the best. 

IPA isn’t the only style I’m kind of over; sour/wild beers don’t really do it for me as much anymore either. The idea behind this beer was to take a standard American pale ale and do it wild. It doesn’t sound like that would work at all, but in the hands of the right brewer anything can be done and this is proof of that.

I don’t know how to pronounce this beer, but I do know that it’s awesome. I had never had a 3A Czech Pale Lager before, but this is one of the most popular examples of the style in the Czech Republic and I can see why. It’s very similar to Pilsner Urquell (which I also love), but it’s a little lighter, and damn if it’s not delicious and really drinkable. I got this sent to me straight from Prague, so thanks to Max Bahnson for sending it to me for my BJCP video beer reviews.

If you know me you know I love a good German wheat beer. Usually I prefer a regular hefe over a dunkelweizen, but this one was fantastic (you know – banana bread, clove, smooth, refreshing – all that stuff). I can’t believe I’ve never had a Tucher beer before. I’m sorry I waited so long. 

Okay, so I’m not completely sick of IPAs if I put two of them on my Top 10 list. And I’m kind of playing hometown favorite here because this beer is brewed only a few miles from my house and literally right around the corner from my work. It really impressed me because Brew Hub is a contract brewery and they only have a few beers they make under their own label and none of them have been all that great. So I didn’t have high expectations for this beer, but as soon I tasted it I was amazed. I mean, it’s on par with an IPA that would come out of those major San Diego breweries. In fact, it actually won a gold medal at this year’s GABF for “Best Session IPA.” I disagree that this should be considered a session IPA at 5.8% ABV, but I do agree that it’s a medal-winning beer.

A friend of mine who works in the beer industry gave me this bottle just to see what I’d think of it. I’m not sure if he thought this was just another run-of-the-mill beer I could use for a standard review, or if he thought it was great and wanted to see if I agreed. Either way, it turned out to be a World Class imperial stout.
It seems like I don’t get too many standard imperial stouts anymore. I mean there are obviously plenty of stouts that have chocolate, coffee and all that stuff in them. Or they’re barrel aged (or both). But this beer is just straight, to-spec, imperial stout; so it’s big and bold with a lot of roasted malt and hops and alcohol and everything is just perfectly balanced and the beer is really drinkable. I almost gave this a perfect 50, actually.

So this might be a really controversial pick for the best beer of the year. If you don’t live in Florida you’ve probably never seen or heard of Central 28 Brewing (they’re about halfway between Orlando and Daytona Beach). Hopefully that’ll change soon because if they can make all their beers this good they’ll be going places.

So this is technically more of a “grisette” than a traditional saison, and it seems to be overtly Americanized with the hop character, but when I was judging it I found that it conformed to the style guides for a saison really really well. What I really love about it is the wicked estery yeast character. Lots of banana and spice and some citrusy hops make it smell and taste delicious. 

This is a perfect beer for Florida and warm weather beer nerds. It’s only 4.5% ABV so it’s definitely sessionable, and it comes in cans instead of bottles so it’s portable and durable. Definitely the kind of beer you want to take to the beach, or the park, or camping or wherever. It kinda reminds me of a Stillwater beer, but if Stillwater made a beer that actually conformed to a style guideline.

I find myself picking up a six pack of this to keep in the fridge. Everyone I’ve given it to seems to like it. If you can find it definitely buy it. It’s fairly cheap, too. So with all these factors in mind, you can probably tell why I’m ranking this my number one beer of 2017. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS (anything that scored over a 40):
Australian Saison D’Hérétique
Ayinger Weizenbock
Cigar City Guayabera Citra Pale Ale
Coors Original Banquet Beer
Coppertail Independent Pilsner
Czech Rebel Beer
Destihl Synchopathic
Destihl Wild Sour Series: Syncopathic Apricot
Full Sail Session Dark Lager
Hourglass Morlock Milk Stout
JDub’s Poolside Kölsch
Kulmbacher Edelherb Premium Pils
Mikkeller California Dream
Oskar Blues G'Knight Imperial Red IPA
Pair O’ Dice Clearwater Honey Cream
Perrin The Hypocrite
Prairie Flare
Prairie Prairie Hop
Samuel Adams Session IPA
Samuel Adams Tropic of Yuzu
Sapporo Premium Black
Sapporo Reserve Beer
Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue
Toppling Goliath Tsunami Pale Ale
Victory Home Grown New American Lager
Weltenburger Kloster Barock Dunkel