By William Brand
Monday, January 26th, 2009 at 12:22 pm in what's on tap.
It’s always fun to look at “best of” or “top whatever” beer lists. here’s DRAFT magazine’s “Top 25 Beers of 2008” . You can find the tasting notes and the story here.
Isabelle Proximus by Lost Abbey Brewing
- This collaborative effort was greeted with schoolgirlish enthusiasm, long lines, and a lot of attention online. Brewed at Lost Abbey with help from Avery’s, Russian River’s, Allagash’s, and Dogfish Head’s brewers, the beer was celebrated long before it was released to the public.
Orchard White by The Bruery
- This new SoCal brewery made a splash felt around the country, and its Orchard White has quickly become one of the best interpretations of a Belgian-style witbier around. The Bruery specializes in Belgians stashed in large bottles, as well as special seasonal offerings that mesmerize the senses.
DarkLord by Three Floyds Brewing
Russian Imperial stout
- This beer is so popular, Three Floyds started a festival for its annual release. This year’s celebration went beyond expectations with specialty drafts from around the country. In fact, the crowds managed to deplete the seasonal supply of Dark Lord well before the festivities concluded. Three Floyds makes a handful of exceptional brews, but this one is especially noteworthy.
Ola Dubh Special Reserve 16 by Harviestoun Brewery
- Harviestoun has long brewed its world-class old ale, Old Engine Oil. To up the ante, the brewery made Old Engine Oil Reserve, which was aged in whiskey barrels. In 2008, Harviestoun pulled out all the stops by releasing a series of old ales aged in some of the finest single-malt barrels on earth from Highland Park. We sampled them all and agreed the most enjoyable of the bunch was 16.
Blasphemy by Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
- Belgian specialty ale
Blasphemy is appropriately named: The brewers (Easeton, PA.) took their rich, complex QUAD beer and aged it in American bourbon barrels. Experimental, fringe and, yes, even blasphemous, it doesn’t really matter; this beer is unforgivably delicious.
Hopslam by Bell’s Brewing Co.
- Bell’s has a well-deserved reputation as a maker of some of America’s most beloved brews, and this one’s even more exceptional than expected. This hopped-up beast of a beer may be the best display of clean, unadulterated hops in any American beer. It only hits shelves in January and February, so get your hands on it while you can.
The Abyss, by Deschutes Brewery
Russian imperial stout
- Deschutes celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2008 and put out several commemorative brews. It was difficult to choose one beer from Deschutes this year, but ultimately we sided with the brewery’s second installment of its wildly popular oak-aged imperial stout.
XII by Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Belgian dark strong ale
- Beer enthusiasts around the country wondered if it was possible to match Firestone Walker Eleven, the brewery’s previous anniversary beer. Not to fear: XII has even more depth and outrageous complexity.
Blabaer Lambik by Brasserie Cantillon
- Cantillon has long been the brewery beer enthusiasts turn to for hard lambics, those that make the mouth involuntarily pucker a bit with the beer’s sharp acidity and incredible dryness. Blabaer is the epitome of this exotic style; unfortunately, this beer is rarely found Stateside.
The Angel’s Share by Lost Abbey
- What Tomme Arthur does at his San Marcos brewery is nothing short of inspiring, putting out beer after beer that is carefully tended to as it matures in barrels. Angel’s Share presents a jaw-dropping experience at first whiff. It’s deeply complex, but still somehow joins all of its ingredients together for a swallow that is smooth, rich, and cohesive.
Kiwanda Cream Ale by Pelican Pub and Brewery
- Any idea how good a cream ale has to be to make a top 25 list? As excellent as this one. This brewery (Pacific City, OR.) may have one of the most beautiful views in America, with a backyard that butts up against the Pacific Ocean, and that beauty soaks into the beer.
Tripel by Abdij Trappisten van Westmalle
- Our first 100-point beer, Tripel is the premier example not just of what a Belgian tripel should be, but of how to brew a beer with a lot of alcohol that isn’t heavy or overwhelming. Westmalle brewers are monks first and foremost; this is one of only seven active Trappist breweries in the world. Perhaps their devotion to the divine explains the heavenly flavors in each bottle.
Pliny the Elder by Russian River Brewing Co.
- Vinnie Cilurzo has crafted Pliny the Elder for years in Santa Rosa, Calif. Until 2008, this beer of lore was only available in the country’s top beer bars, mostly in the Bay Area and San Diego. With the installation of an upgraded brewery complete with a bottling line, however, it’s now sold in several regions around the country, much to the delight of beer fans.
Reserve Special Black Bier Ale by Dark Horse Brewing Co.
- This beer (from Dark Horse, Marshall, MI) demonstrates just how muscular and balanced a strong ale can be. While clearly powerful, the alcohol presence doesn’t burn or overwhelm the palate, and the overall malt sweetness is bold, but not sticky or syrupy.
Apricot Ale by Cascade Brewing Co.
- Cascade’s Apricot Ale (UPDATE: Cascade Brewing at the Raccoon Lodge & Brewpub in Portland, Oregon – brewed by Ron Gansberg.) takes fruit beer to a whole new level: It’s like opening a bottle of freshly packaged apricots. This is an exquisite beer that allows the fruit’s juicy quality to shine with each thirst-quenching sip.
Perseguidor (Batch 3) by Jolly Pumpkin
- Jolly Pumpkin’s special release was carefully matured in oak barrels and quickly snatched up by loyal fans eager to sample the Michigan brewery’s next great creation. This beer is a blend of four barrel-aged brews that were aged up to two years. The long wait resulted in a beer that is a complex treat for the palate.
Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
- Dogfish Head (Milton, DE.) is proud of its off-kilter ways and big beers with a lot of attitude. In 2008, the brewery installed the largest wooden vats in the nation since Prohibition, made from a hardwood most people associate with flooring, then aged this impressive brew inside. The results were amazing, as these potential floorboards lend an excellent flavor addition to a big ABV beer.
Whiskey Barrel Smoked Porter by O’Fallon Brewery
- This O’Fallon, Missouri brewery made a name for itself with beers like Wheach, but this smoked beer is something extra special. O’Fallon’s brewers obtained remarkable results when they took their GABF-gold-winning smoked porter and aged it in Buffalo Trace whiskey barrels.
Dragon’s Milk by New Holland Brewing
Russian Imperial stout
- Dragon’s Milk is a testament to the quality and care that goes into New Holland’s beers. It’s carefully aged in oak barrels, and according to the brewers, it’s the “crown jewel” of the brewery in Holland, MI. While still made in relatively small batches, this brew is increasingly showing up around the United States, even making a splash at the 2008 Oregon Brewers Festival.
Wisconsin Belgian Red by New Glarus Brewing
- This beer from New Glarus, New Glarus, WI. is a celebration packaged in a bottle, capped, then sealed with wax. It has more than a pound of Door County cherries in every bottle, and is an exceptional display of why these cherries are so popular. This beer made our top 25 list last year, and it reigned supreme again in 2008.
Woodcut No. 01 by Odell Brewing
- Odell Brewing, Fort Collins, CO., is pushing into new waters with grace and success with the Woodcut Series that began in 2008. This beer is a true masterpiece with rich flavors and aromas balanced with a wonderful American oak note.
Adam by Hair of the Dog Brewing
- Hair of the Dog is one of the Northwest’s most celebrated brewers for a reason: Every beer it releases is high-quality, and selecting one beer above the rest is no simple task. We landed on Adam because its sweetness, alcohol, and hops are incredibly well balanced, and create a drinking experience that makes you wonder about the way beer used to be. Adam is based on a recipe from the Old World, but the flavors and textures experienced seem new with every sip.
Nuova Mattina by Birrificio del Ducato
- The U.S. market has seen very little from Italy by way of beer, but in 2008, Nuova Mattina’s output was received with thunderous accolades, and the Italian saison is cream of the crop. In fact, it’s redefining the way we look at Italian beer, with the use of local spices and a clear commitment to quality in brewing and packaging. This beer isn’t cheap, but it’s worth every penny.
Pannepot by De Struise Brouwers
Belgian specialty ale
- For five years, De Struise has rented space at Belgium’s Deca Brewery to brew its beer. In that time, De Struise has become recognized as one of the world’s premier breweries, and in the last two years, we’ve been fortunate enough to get this beer on our side of the pond. This Belgian treat is perfectly balanced, with bold flavors that never overwhelm the palate.
Darkness by Surly Brewing
Russian Imperial stout
- Surly releases some of the most aggressive canned beers, but this specialty brew (in a bottle) achieves a level of quality that can’t be beat. The brewery only releases this beer once a year and it doesn’t last long, but those who find it can attest to its outstanding complexity and flavor.