Hi everybody. This year, over Christmas, Mitch and I got to spend time with our good friend (and Mitch's long-time friend) Tyson Baldwin, who happens to be the assistant brewer at Seven Seas Brewery in Gig Harbor, WA. This was during when the Westoverts were putting together our end-of-year lists, and I asked Ty if he would make us a Top-Ten-Beer list. (He is a serious beer nerd and burgeoning expert.) He said he would (and look! he did)!
Just when you think you had the Westovarian figured out, we go and get a little legitimate. Okay, here's Tyson:
TYSON’S TOP 10 BEERS OF 2013
Note: To all who care this is a list of beers that I have discovered in 2013 for the first time. This is not necessarily a list of newly created beers from 2013 but beers that I have stumbled upon during my adventures in the craft beer world. You see the brewery’s name, the beer’s name and then the beer’s style. I’ll throw you some beer-nerd facts (if I can find them or remember them) and then a little ditty on why its great. Also, if you care about the arbitrary stat of beer IBU’s then sorry, you won’t find them from me because I don’t care about that, ask me why if you do care. Enjoy fellow beer enthusiasts and grab a pint if you stumble upon any or all of these masterfully crafted ales.
1) Black Raven: La Petite Mort (Strong Belgian Style Dark Ale)
Malts: 2-Row Barley, Crystal, Rye, Special B
Hops: Magnum, Styrian Goldings
Yeast: Belgian Ardennes
Named after the French term for a sexual orgasm, ‘la petite mort’ or ‘a little death’, is astutely named. I for one have been in love with this style for a long time and Black Raven nails it. With a full-bodied balanced mix of dark fruit like raisin and plum as well a caramelly middle without being too much or too sweet and an nice spicy bite toward the end; this delectable fluid has quite the journey for the imbiber of fine beer. As uniquely as Black Raven crafted this one of a kind (of a style) I have to say it hits the top rung.
2) Brouwerij Verhaeghe: Duchesse de Bourgogne (Flanders Red Ale)
‘Lagered’ Ale, Aged in Oak Casks and blended with a previous batch
Water source: and ancient French Aquifer that has a superb mineral content for the crafting of beer
Sour beer is not for everyone. That said this is one of the most unique sour beers that I have tasted. The Duchesse is a smooth and well balanced Flanders ale (balance being typical to the Flanders). This ale is extremely drinkable and has a nice blend of roasty/toasty malt character to it toward the back end and a fun collection of fruit esters and a touch of vanilla that might go unnoticed. Superb!
3) Cascade: Kriek (Kriek)
6+ months lactic fermentation and aging in oak barrels
8 months fermented with fresh Bing and sour pie cherries
Krieks are a weird style within the brewing world and I have found very few to be exemplary. Although Krieks can be hard to describe I find Cascade Brewing has made a mark that home brewers should seek to hit if they find the urge to go crazy in their experiments. With a tart beginning and a nice rounded and yet distinct cherry character and a smooth toffee and chocolate undertone this beer is a great pair with a dark unsweetened chocolate bar… which I did try, and loved.
4) 7 Seas: Barrel-Aged Port Royal Export Style Stout (Specialty Stout)
Their year round Port Royal Export Style Stout aged 8 months in Maker’s Mark Bourbon Barrels
Although I work for 7 Seas Brewing and it might be a cop-out to add one of our beers to the list I just have to say I stopped drinking this beer because I wanted more people to taste this elixir and knew that if I had another I would have limited the supply. It’s our normal year-round stout that we plopped into Maker’s Mark barrels that helped to infuse a nice ethanol and whiskey character as well as a nice vanilla blend to the already great roasty full-bodied bear of a stout. Not to toot our horn but this was good, especially for being our first barrel project.
5) Rueben’s Brews: Roasted Rye IPA (Dark Rye IPA)
Malts: Rye, Roasted, Carmel, Chocolate
These last few years I have tried to explore Rye beer. Had bad, few good, but i’d have to say this was the best of the new. With this beer one can get a hint if chocolate layered under a nice roasted back bone and a prominent foreplay and after play of the tangy and earthy character of rye and the fun floral bitter of the hops. Another journey all who care about good beer should take.
6) Firestone Walker: Wookey Jack (Black Rye IPA)
Malts: Pale Malt, Malted Rye, Dash of Cara-Rye, Wheat from Briess, De-Bittered Black Malt (Weyermann - Germany/Patagonia malting - Chile), Dash of Wookey dust
Hops: German Magnum, Citra, Amarillo
Firestone Walker Brewing is Godsend to the world of craft brewing. I could put any one of their beers I have tried from them on this list but this was a new one for the year. The Wookey is in the style realm that I like to call the Cascadian Dark Ales. But, there’s a fun twist that is not usual to the usual take on the style. Rye, again Rye. I have fallen in love with Rye’s flavor and F’in Dubs has truly made something magical. There is a lot going on in this beer and part of me does not want to describe it… so, I won’t. Do yourself a favor and buy one.
7) New Belgium: Pluot (Specialty Sour)
Yeast: Brett Claussenii
New Belgium has a very special place in my beer-heart. I lived in Fort Collins for 10 months and got to spend many hours exploring their spectrum. Conclusion is that I generally do not prefer the majority of their staple year-round brews. Their Lips of Faith series however is another story. The creative mind and machine behind these fast-paced and wonderfully creative ales are in the least genius. Pluot does not overpower. Pluot does not make you taste the over ethanol bite. Pluot does not make you cringe at its apricot or plum character. Pluot does not make it a chore to summit a 22 in one sitting, by one’s self. Pluot treats me. Pluot should treat you. Grab it while you can!
8) Black Raven: Second Sight (Strong Scotch Ale)
Malts: 2-Row Barley, Crystal, Special B, Chocolate
Hops: Magnum, Mt. Hood
I have been to Scotland and I have indulged in their fine beer craft. America has disappointed me. It was not until this year that I found a Scotch Ale brewed by American brewers that came anywhere near what I once experienced in Scotland. Again Black Raven hits the list. This ale has that nice rounded character that is so easy to drink that I have dreamt about. Ever so slightly one might perceive a smokey character but there is a nice pit fruit and slight chocolate and carmel hint to this wonder of America. Black Raven, you've done it again.
Honorable Mention: These beers make the list for one reason, they are to damn good not to be present. These are out of the ‘main’ list for the fact that I have had previous versions of them before. All that to say, these are new-ish and should be mentioned.
9) 7 Seas: Hop Prophet (100% Wet Hop Ale)
Hops: Cascade and Simcoe, picked from the vine driven from Yakima and plopped into the brew.
I know, my own brewery again. Stay with me… this beer is the only beer that I have had that I have forsook all other beer for. I didn’t drink anything else except for what I had to during work. This beer captures the essence of the completely fresh hop. We did not mix it with other pelletized or dried hops, no, the hops you get are the hops from the vine. And you can tell with its unique earthy and citrusy back bone to the floral and non-danky fresh and pungent aroma. The malts lend to a velvety and smooth ride and all in all the emphasis on these unique hops has me still envious of my previous self who got to drink it earlier in 2013.
10) Deschutes: Jubelale (Winter Warmer)
Malt: Pale, Crystal, Extra Special, Carapils, Roasted Barley
Hops: Nugget, Cascade, Willamette, Styrian, Tettnang, East Kent Goldings
Deschutes every year that I have cared about good beer has made the Jubelale. This years version of this winter warmer was fantastic. I would not be honest if I didn’t say that I appreciated last years slightly better than this years but this year’s version was unique all its own. Well rounded with a roasty/toasty side to the nice earthy and well balance hop conglomeration. It is ready to ease your cold winter heart and sure to bring a smile to your face. Make sure to share this one for it’s worth it.