Monday, January 26, 2015

Top 50 Breweries in the World (according to me)

Here is a list of what I view as the top 50 breweries in the world.  I included last year's ranking in parentheses, which only included 30 breweries.  Interesting to see how some of these have moved around.  I thought about putting a few thoughts after each brewery, but I will spare you the reading and let you run through the list. Who do you think I am missing?

1. Toppling Goliath Brewing Co (1)
2. Side Project Brewing (NR)
3. Brasserie Cantillon (2)
4. Perennial Artisan Ales (17)
5. Cigar City Brewing (5)
6. Crooked Stave Brewery (8)
7. Alpine Beer Co(NR)
8. Goose Island Beer Co (9)
9. Hill Farmstead Brewery (3)
10. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (NR)
11.Tired Hands Brewing Co (NR)
12. 3 Floyds Brewing Co (11)
13. The Bruery (4)
14. Firestone Walker Brewing Co (21)
15. de Garde Brewing (NR)
16. Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen (NR)
17. The Lost Abbey (NR)
18. Jester King Brewery (29)
19. Central Waters Brewing Co (7)
20. Russian River Brewing Co (6)
21. Stone Brewing Co (19)
22. Hair of the Dog Brewing Co (NR)
23. Bell's Brewery (12)
24. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel (NR)
25. Kuhnhenn Brewing Co (14)
26. AleSmith Brewing Co (10)
27. Evil Twin Brewing (16)
28. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (NR)
29. Surly  Brewing Co (13)
30. Midnight Sun Brewing Co (26)
31. 4 Hands Brewing Co (18)
32. New Glarus Brewing Co (27)
33. Bullfrog Brewery (NR)
34. Cascade Brewing (NR)
35. Prairie Artisan Ales (NR)
36. Allagash Brewing Co (NR)
37. Avery Brewing Co (NR)
38. Wicked Weed Brewing (NR)
39. FiftyFifty Brewing Co (NR)
40. Trillium Brewing Co (NR)
41. Mikkeller (NR)
42. Funk Factory Geuzeria (NR)
43. Dark Horse Brewing Co (20)
44. Westbrook Brewing Co (NR)
45. Destihl Brewery (NR)
46. Founders Brewing Co (15)
47. Upland Brewing Co (28)
48. Six Point Brewery (23)
49. Olde Hickory Brewery (30)
50. Maine Beer Co (24)

Dropped out: Boulevard Brewing Co (22), Brasserie de Rochefort (25)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Beers of 2014

So this list is simply a list of my favorite beers poured into my mouth in 2014

30. Prairie Pirate Bomb! – This beer is the epitome of the peppered stouts and rum barrel adds subtle sweetness
29. Side Project Le Saisonnier – Just so juicy, dry hopped, wine barrel is spot on. So good.

28. Side Project Black & Wild – Sour stouts are not an easy style to pull off, more sweet than roasty, this one was perfect
27. Alpine Great – I will always be a sucker for barleywines.  This one was light on the barrel, but had the thick molasses goodness I am looking for
26. 2nd Shift Blueprint LSD – This was the best find at #GTMW this year.  I love this brewery, will always go back to them
25. Mikkeller BA Beer Geek Vanilla Shake – The regular version of this beer is amazing, adding vanilla and barrel aging takes it up a notch
24. Cigar City 5 Beers for 5 Years Gose – Margarita in a bottle! I actually traded for a second because I loved the first so much
23. 3 Floyd’s Murda’d Out – Popped this beer we had purchased from our Michigan Beercation and it definitely did not disappoint
22. De Garde Currant Gin Bu – Such jammy goodness.  Gin was hidden.  This brewery is fantastic
21. Midnight Sun Berserker – This is exactly what I am looking for in a big stout.  The chocolately mouth goes on forever.
20. Side Project Peche du Fermier – This was my personal favorite of the Fermier’s we tried. The peach was mellow, but carried through the mouth the best
19. Girardin 1882 (Black Label) – My second favorite Gueuze to date, great from front to back
18. Central Waters Sixteen – They completely hit it out of the park with their most recent anniversary beer
17. Funk Factory Door Kriek – As close as any US brewer has come to mimicking Belgian counterparts. My personal favorite Kriek
16. Bullfrog Le Roar Grrrz Druiven – What is a Druiven? Who knows, but it makes a nice compliment to a great sour
15. Alpine Chez Monus – This funky peach brew even snuck in some acetone notes, really well done
14. Firestone Walker Feral One – I am in love with the Barrelworks series from FW and this was their first release from that series
13. Tilquin à L'Ancienne Oude Gueuze – Best in show at the Great Taste of Cottage Grove, my favorite Gueuze on the market
12. Toppling Goliath King Sue – I am surprised a hoppy beer made it on the list, especially in the top half. This beer is that good
11. Bullfrog Le Roar Grrrz – Another brewery that is reaching levels of Belgian greatness. Really impressed
10. Goose Island Proprietors (2013) – Coconut in this base beer makes the perfect compliment
9. Jester King Aurelian Lure – Got to try many of the fruited Jester Kings and this one was the stand out
8. Tired Hands Emptiness is Eternal – This beer blew me away.  Well balanced sour/saison on persimmons
7. Perennial Barrel Aged Sump Kyoto – The regular version of this beer is amazing, the Kyoto adds more acidity which makes it even better
6. Side Project Pulling Nails #1 – The 4th beer from SP and they aren’t even done! The blending of wine barrels is absolute perfection
5. Crooked Stave Persica Blend 1 – Another stonefruit beer on the list, the peaches go great with the CS yeast blend
4. SARA Westly – Double the apricots and time in barrels as the original version helps this beer achieve full potential
3. Drie Fonteinen Hommage – One of the most anticipated beers of the year, thanks Chad for hooking me up! Raspberries and cherries make this beer almost perfect. Definitely band aide notes that are not bad, but interesting
2. Perennial Coffee Abraxas – First perfect 5 out of 5 beer this year. These guys know base stouts on coffee and this blend was perfect even without the barrel
1. Side Project Fuzzy – This beer had everything I loved in wild caught yeast, the heavy spice that is complemented in perfect balance with peach. Bravo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Gueuze Results


Gold Medal – Bruery Rueuze
Silver Medal – Tilquin à L'Ancienne Oude Gueuze
Bronze Medal – Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic
Other Participants: Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black) & Drie Fonteinin Oude Gueuze

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne
Silver Medal – Bruery Rueuze
Bronze Medal – Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black Label)

Analysis
In case you were wondering, a Gueuze is a blend of oak aged lambics most commonly ranging from 1-3 years old.  So breweries will take different batches of aged lambics, combine them together to hit a flavor that is consistent from year to year and then age the combined product prior to bottling.  These beers are commonly brewed with wild caught strains of yeast and are always sour!

Let’s start at the top.  Bruery Rueuze won in the most landslide victory in Great Taste of Cottage Grove history.  Rueuze took 13 out of 15 first place votes (the two first place votes it missed came from the Board of Directors).  It was definitely the most different from the other 4 beers.  The Bruery has a pretty distinct yeast blend that is absolutely fantastic.  It is more tart with less balance in my opinion, definitely more in line with typical American wilds.  The second place best was from Tiquin.  Interestingly enough, this brewery sources wort (the starting point for beer, which is basically sugar water prior to the yeast being added) from a number of Belgian breweries and then uses their own local yeast.  Tilquin was able to pack in the most flavor while keeping everything in balance.  I thought Cantillon and Girardin were both fantastic and really close.  Cantillon was a bit more mellow up front with the tart notes finishing out the back, while Girardin had a bit more flavor throughout.  Surprisingly enough, Drie Fonteinin came in dead last.  Far too much sweetness with this beer that doesn’t have enough to keep it in check.

My Ballot
1) Tilquin 2) 1882 3) Cantillon 4) Rueuze 5) 3F

The Takeaway
None of these beers are cheap, so if you are looking to explore the style, plan to spend some money.  The Bruery has a fairly large distribution footprint, so look for Rueuze as their early winter offering (it started landing on shelves recently).  This is definitely an Americanized version of the style, but it really is fantastic along with pretty much their entire sour line up.  In Wisconsin, we are lucky enough to have Tilquin on the shelf most of the year.  If you haven’t tried this beer yet, do it now.  It is a great representation of the style and not terribly hard to get your hands on.  The last three are the most difficult to track down.  You will occasionally see tappings of both Cantillon and Drie Fonteinin, these events will definitely be worth a stop!  The Girardin is rarely seen in the US.  If you are willing to drop some money, head over to www.belgiuminabox.com.  You may have to check in regularly to find a time when all of them are in stock, but get some friends together and place a large order, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Pale Ale Results


Gold Medal – Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue
Silver Medal – Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Bronze Medal – Black Husky Pale Ale
Other Participants: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust & Maine Brewing MO

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Silver Medal – Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue
Bronze Medal – 3 Floyds Zombie Dust

Analysis
The Gold and Silver winners were definitely in a different league than the rest.  The Board of Directors flipped the two and it was very difficult to choose which was the best.  I thought Sue had some spicy notes that I was a little surprised by and was a bit more forward.  Everything about Fort Point was potent, balanced and wonderful.  Black Husky took home bronze and was the outlier of the group.  Less hoppy and really malty, which was popular amongst the popular vote (while the board rated it last).  Mo was solid, but underwhelming compared to the other brews in the category.  Lastly, Zombie Dust is a really good beer, just not worth the hype or energy required to track down.  It has a great nose and is much more malty, but that beer lives on hype.

My Ballot
1) Fort Point 2) Sue 3) Mo 4) Zombie Dust 5) Black Husky

The Takeaway
Trillium Fort Point and Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue are really remarkable beers and the epitome of the style.  Do whatever you can to get your hands on these beers because you will not be disappointed.  If hear Zombie Dust is going to be on tap or can easily pick it up, go ahead and enjoy.  Otherwise this beer is not worth any additional resources to find.  Maine Mo is solid and reasonably priced, definitely worth picking up if you see it at the store.  I would say avoid the Pale Ale from Black Husky and get yourself some Spoose Joose.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Doppelbock Results


Gold Medal – Capital Autumnal Fire
Silver Medal – Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
Bronze Medal – Troegs Troegenator
Other Participants: Spaten Optimator & Vintage 30 Point Bock

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Troegs Troegenator
Silver Medal – Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
Bronze Medal – Capital Autumnal Fire

Analysis
It is worth noting that there are different variations of the Doppelbock and we did not consider this when picking contestants.  Our biggest concern was staying in the same general ABV range.  It was very interesting how these 5 beers separated into two categories.  Three of them had very classic German flavors, while two seemed to have cleaner yeast strains with more emphasis on the grains to provide flavors.  Capital was far and away the best of the German style doppelbocks with far more depth of flavor than what the other two were able to accomplish.  The two non-German-tasting-beers were surprisingly enough from Troegs and Ayinger.  Both of these beers had a bit of sweetness that rounded out the back rather than the hanging German yeast flavor.  Both of those two beers achieved much better balance.  And these two beers placed 2nd and 3rd amongst popular vote and 1st and 2nd with Board of Directors.  I thought the Troegs was the better of the two and 4 out of 5 of the Board of Director’s agreed.  Capital and Ayinger actually tied the popular vote, but Capital won the tiebreaker.

My Ballot
1) Troegenator 2) Celebrator 3) Autumnal Fire 4) 30 Point 5) Optimator

The Takeaway
Definitely a lot of variety in this style of beer so find what you like best.  If you like the traditional German flavors, get yourself some Autumnal Fire and you won’t be disappointed.  Unfortunately the footprint for this beer is pretty small, but you can probably find Optimator in any market and that one is perfectly sufficient.  My personal preference is the Americanized versions and the Ayinger is really impressive and also should be available in most markets.  Troegs has fairly limited distribution, but if you live or have access to the Ohio/Pennsylvania market seek this beer out even if you aren’t a fan of the style.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Homebrew Brown Ale Results


Gold Medal – Third Tier Coffee Oatmeal Cookie
Silver Medal – Attwood Over The Line Brown Ale
Bronze Medal – JerBear Brown Hugs
Other Participants: Third Tier Cognac Oatmeal Cookie & Otsego Cookie Squasher

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Third Tier Coffee Oatmeal Cookie
Silver Medal – JerBear Brown Hugs
Bronze Medal – Attwood Over The Line Brown Ale

Analysis
Full disclosure, myself and a fellow Board of Director are Third Tier Brewing so were responsible for 2 of the beers submitted.  All brewers decided to vote and were counted towards the final tally based on an agreement amongst all of us.  The two Oatmeal Cookie beers were variations of the same beer.  I am a little surprised no one else went the coffee route because it was the most obvious addition to the style I could imagine.  The Cognac version was definitely a mess and needed some time to come together, the coffee was a crowd favorite.  The other three homebrews took more traditional approaches.  You could place all three on a spectrum: Brown Hugs was the heaviest and most boozy, while Squasher came in just a hair thin.  Over The Line fell right in between these two, which is most likely why it came in second.  It had a nice solid base which carried through the mouth

My Ballot
1) Brown Hugs 2) Coffee Oatmeal Cookie 3) Over the Line 4) Cognac Oatmeal Cookie 5) Squasher

The Takeaway
We chose Brown Ales because they are a fairly non-descript style.  I would almost never buy a brown ale at the store unless it had an interesting twist on the style.  That is what we were trying to accomplish with the Oatmeal Cookie variants.  I was very impressed with what the traditional approaches were able to accomplish especially Brown Hugs, which had such great balance with the booziness and just a touch a sweet to cut it off in the back of the mouth.  Overall, a very impressive showing by all homebrewers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Barleywine Results


Gold Medal – Evil Twin Freudian Slip
Silver Medal – Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (2012)
Bronze Medal – Centrals Waters Kosmyk Charlie's Y2k (2012)
Other Participants: Great Divide Old Ruffian & AleSmith Old Numbskull

Board of Director Votes (@jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy & @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Evil Twin Freudian Slip
Silver Medal – Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (2012)
Bronze Medal – Centrals Waters Kosmyk Charlie's Y2k (2012)

Analysis
The barleywine category is how we finished off the night and as usual with the last event, things tend to get a little hazy towards the end of the night.  First off, it is worth noting that both the Bigfoot and Y2K had a couple years of age on them.  Interestingly enough, these two barleywines are considered the hoppy version of the style.  Overall, it is not surprising both of these beers fared well with both the general consensus and Board of Directors.  The surprise of the night easily belongs to the gypsy brewers, Evil Twin.  Beers that have great balance always fair the best in these blinded tastings and that is what Evil Twin was able to accomplish.  Freudian Slip and Bigfoot actually tied for the general vote, but Evil Twin won on a tiebreaker.  I was the only person that appeared to be a huge fan of Old Ruffian; the only thing I wrote on my scorecard was “heaven.”  Rounding out the backend was Old Numbskull, which was just a mess.

My Ballot
1) Old Ruffian, 2) Freudian 3) Y2K 4) Bigfoot 5) Old Numbskull

The Takeaway
I am not going to write “Told You So” (whoops I just did), but I am a huge fan of what Evil Twin is doing.  Keep checking in with them and get some Freudian Slip if you like barleywines.  If you like hoppy beers, definitely pick up both Sierra Nevada Bigfoot and Central Water’s Kosmyk Charlie’s Y2K.  The great thing about Bigfoot is you can pick up a 4 pack, have 2 this year and one for each of the following 2 years.  Since Central Waters switched to bomber format on the Y2K, I would say grab 2 so you can drink one now and age the other.  I always encourage people to try both fresh before aged versions of a beer!  Otherwise, keep the Old Ruffian on the shelf for me and avoid the Old Numbskull especially at a not so great price point.