Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Best and worst of 2008: Pliny and light lager

By William Brand
Friday, December 26th, 2008 at 4:21 pm in Uncategorized.

It’s that time of the year again, the sodden end of 2008. Here’s a question to ponder this weekend: What’s the best beer you tasted this year and what’s the worst.

My best, also goes to near the top of my all-time great list is Pliny the Elder in bottles. This is simply awesome double IPA: 80 percent, 100 IBUs. And Russian River got it right in bottles. Is the bottled version or the tap version best? That’s a taste test I haven’t tried. They’re pretty close, I believe and that makes bottled Pliny my “best of” this year.

Worst beer this year?  Haven’t tasted any of the “lime” beers, Bud Light Lime, etc.  But I did try a sample tall can of . ‘Nuf said.

Anybody else? Comments welcome. Let’s talk.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • RichWalt

    Best: Six pack of Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA while back heast. Strong flavor and hoppiness knocked me out.
    Worst: Bud light with Clamato added. Couldn’t get through one tall boy.

  • jeff

    BEST BEERS: I couldn’t limit to just one so my top five in no particular order are

    1)Pliny the Younger: on tap at Barclays, absolutely phenomenal ipa. My favorite ipa of all time
    2)Three Floyds Dark lord Stout: excellent hard to find imperial stout out of Indiana
    3)Deschuttes Abyss: another excellent imperial stout
    4)Firestone 12: followed by the 10 made for a devastating combo
    5)Surly Darkness: another excellent imperial stout out of Minnesota

    1)Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: I’m sorry I am a huge fan of bourbon and of thick as molasses stouts. However, this foul tasting concoction was very difficult to sip, let alone consume a whole bottle. I know I may be in the minority but I almost had to pour half of it down the drain. I would drink straight bourbon over this any day of the week.

  • William Brand

    Ahh yes, Bud Light wth Clamato. How could I forget. The taste buds reel and revolt.
    HJeff…those are great, great beers. Haven’t tried the Surly Darkenss. will have to look for it next time I’m in the Midwest.

    Don’t like Goose Island Bourbon Coiunty Stout? Well, that’s the great thing about beer, there are many; choice is wild and varied.

  • jeff


    Really tried to like the Goose Island as I am a big fan of the Founders Kentucky Bourbon Breakfast Stout. The initial sips and tastes were fine but the aftertaste was just too much for me. But hey to each is own that is what is great about beer. You can have the rest of my four pack if you want set up a trade of something……

  • discdude


    At least 5 or 6 different varieties of Bell’s Brewery (out of Michigan) beer while in the mid-west. Folks, this stuff would give any California brewery a run for the money. And they put out a great variety of styles, from porter to double IPAs to java stout to double cream stout, all terrific. Unfortunately it’s not available out here. Maybe some day…


    Just had it…Kirkland beer. A 24-pack in a box with the Kirkland Costco label containing an amber ale, pale ale, hefeweizen, and a German lager. Brewed by Gordon Biersch in San Jose. I’m sorry, it’s just bad, I don’t care how little it costs. Tell me I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

  • jeff


    You are absolutely right. Bell’s brewery has a lot of excellent beers. The expedition stout, kalamazoo milk stout and hop slam ipa are all top notch. You can sometimes find them on liquidsolutions or if you are really in need of a Bell’s fix.

    I would also suggest anything from Three Floyds brewery in Indiana if you are in the mood for a Mid-West brewery that is comparable to Bells. Their beer menu is diverse with eveything from a Scottish ale to a malt liquor to a milk stout to an imperial stout to an ipa. As always they are not available in California but if you are ever in the Mid-west seek them out. Cheers.

  • Derrick

    I tried Pliny the Elder this year and heard so much hype about it, I expected a let down. But this amazing beer lived up to the all the hype. My second favorite this year was the much maligned (at least here) Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. That just leaves more for me.

    Most overpriced? Sam Adams Chocolate Bock. It’s good, but hardly worth 15 bucks for a 750 ml bottle.

    Worst beer I had this year? Baltika9. I know a lot of people rave about this one, but you could simply get a Schlitz Malt Liquor with all that syrupy sweet alcohol bomb goodness.

    Bud Chelada is pretty bad, but is such an intense experience, you have to give them a lot of credit. If fizzy, pink, spicy, clam tasting skunky beer with funny things floating around in it is your idea of refreshment, this Bud’s for you!

  • craig

    in a nice pub with good company …any reasonably priced micro can be my favorite…1$ sierra…1.50$ racer 5…2$ west coast ipa to name just a few

    any pint over 4$..but one especially sticks in my craw..6$ a pint at “buffaloe bill’s” in’s DOWNTOWN HAYWARD for christ sake…i also hate any pint that is “x” amount…but when you pay it is “x” amount plus tax…i leave that place in a hurry…

  • GG

    “But I did try a sample tall can of . ‘Nuf said.”


  • Chris

    I would have to add The Dissident to the best list.

    If we are talking over-priced pints… we paid $23.60 for two pints of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at the Tap Room in Pebble Beach. And they weren’t the freshest pints either. My full rant is here.

  • William Brand

    Sorry to hear about the Gordon Biersch at Costco. Damn. I’m a big fan GB fan, I’ve always liked their Blonde Bock and their spring seasonal — GB Dunkelweizen — was outstanding. Oh well, that’s business, huh.

    About Bud w/clamato. I’ve never tried it, but it now goes on my worst beer list.

    Also, I love the idea of a great beer on a cold night in a good pub. What could be better. When I was a cub reporter in Boulder (Colorado),. there was a pub across the street from our newspaper — Tom’s Tavern. The main beer was Coors, horrid beer. But the place was warm and friendly and I spent many a snowy night in there playing shuffleboard and swilling Coors. I still have warm thoughts about Tom’s Tavern.

  • William Brand

    The quote from Derrick needs to be recognized… About Bud w/clamato…

    “f fizzy, pink, spicy, clam tasting skunky beer with funny things floating around in it is your idea of refreshment, this Bud’s for you!”


  • Ashton

    Worst: Anything on nitro … Rasputin cries!
    I keep a Bud light with Clamato in the fridge for those that want ‘whatever’. Fair Warning!
    Pliny the Younger, as always.
    Moonlight Death and Taxes, as always.
    Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
    Stone Imperial Russian Stout (if you’re nearby, vintage casks tapped on Sundays!)
    Goose Island Bourbon County Stout! Just bought another 4-pack.
    Oskar Blues Ten-Fiddy. Best beer in can evah!

  • brewnot

    I can’t call it the worse beer of the year. I will call it the most disappointing beer. Mainly because I enjoy everything else from this brewery.

    Flying Dog’s Double Pale Ale.

    I have seen it advertised in some magazines for some time. I have not been able to find it. Today I found it in BevMo somewhere around Fairfield off 680. I picked up a 4 pack.

    Like I said, most Flying Dog beers appeal to my beer sensibilities. Nice balance, not over the top. Pale Ale, elegant. Amber Lager (AKA Steam), wonderful. Baltic Porter, Robust, balanced and tasty. IPA, nicely hoppy and drinkable.

    The Double Pale Ale label was promising. Describes a hoppy beer balanced with a rich malty finish. Instead I get the kind of nasty, rough and gotta choke down bitterness.

    Bitterness on the tip of the tongue and burns out the malty finish.

    It reminds me of cheap scotch. Drink cheap scotch and you think “Why?” Drink good scotch and you think “Ah yes, that is good.” Beer bitterness is the same to me. I like hoppy done right = heaven. Done wrong, not pleasant.

    Flying Dog needs to tweak this one before you should buy it.


  • Phil_L

    My BayArea(ish) Beers of the Year.

    Valley: Fat Freddies, Uber Hoppy, Dec 12, Phil’s Wild Mild. I so hope Steve gets things going in 09
    Schooners: Le Woody
    21A: Hop Crisis, Tasty, Lower Da Boom Barrel Aged.
    Russian River: Supplication
    Rodger Davis: Rye Wine and Denogonizer
    Moonlight – Reality Czech.
    Drakes Zatec
    Linden Street Black Lager
    NorthCoast: Old Raspy and Old Stock Brandy.
    SpeakEasy: Double Daddy

    Do you have bad beer in the Bay Area?

    RE: Goose Island Burbon, 07 was way better than the 08 vintage – and to who ever noted the Founders Kentucky Breakfast – Oh yeah! that’s an awesome beer!

    See you for SF Beer Week!

  • Phil_L

    oh – forgot Marin Grand Funk, and the IIPA’s at Moylans.

  • craig

    we do have bad beer in the bay area …and they are quit easy to find…(unfortunatiy)..but being the season of “good will towards man”…i will not mention any names….cheers and “happy year of the ox”

  • Ryan K

    Have to agree that Pliny is (atleast my) best of ’08. My how my tastes have changed, first had it on tap at the Carlsbad Pizza Port and hated it. But this was just at the start of my craft beer drinking experience, now I can’t get enough of it!

    Also have to throw in Deschutes – The Abyss ’08 and Firestone Walker 12, both amazing. Few bottles of these being aged, so we’ll see how they fare next year too!

    Happy Holidays to all. William, finding this site this year has opened my eyes (and mouth) to a number of great new beers, I thank you for that sir!

  • William Brand

    Ryan, your choices aer impeccable. The Abyss, FW 12. Amen

  • AC

    Marin Brewing; Eldridge Grade Double IPA (named after a lung torturing Mt. Tam trail)
    SpeakEasy; Hunters Point Porter (why isnt this in bottles yet)
    GreenFlash; Double IPA, Red, and Stout(Good stuff through and through)
    Sequoia Brewing; General Sherman IPA
    Unibroue; Maudite (truthfully, anything theses guys make)

    Budweiser, American Ale(nice try but kind of weak)
    Bison Brewery, IPA (may be just a bad bottle but overly carbonated)
    Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale, (now I know why this was 1/2 off, where is the falvor?)

  • William Brand

    Eldridge Grade :White Knuckle” Double IPA is a true champ. Every time I go to Marin Brewing and it’s on, I order it without blinking. A great beer. Ditto with the redst of the list. Great list.

    I didn’t include Bud Ameican Ale, because I think it was an honest attempt to make a decent ale. Loath all pumpkin ales, except Great PUmpkin from Elysian in Seattle and I can just barely tolerate Punkin Head from Dogfish.

  • Pingback: Pliny the Elder!()

  • craig

    pliny is getting a lot of “buzz”…but when on tap side by side such as at the “dublinder” & “the hop yard”..i take “blind pig” every time…they taste simaliar..but it is stiill posssible to function after a “blind pig” session…

  • William Brand

    Yeah, the difference betwwen 5 percent (Blind Pig) and Pliny, 8 percent is quite a leap. That;s the one problem with Pliny, it’s so drinkable, but it’s strong.

  • jeff

    Or take even the next step and get yourself some Pliny the Younger. Devilishly drinkable at 11%.