Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Top 10 Beers of 2017

Once again I find myself looking back at my last 365 days and I am in awe of some of the great beverages I have had the privilege to enjoy. This will mark my 4th installment of my Top 10 Beers list and it has been fun to go back and select only a choice 10 beers that I consider the best of 2017.

I am never satisfied with the number of reviews I do as I always wish to do more, but this was a pretty solid year for me and as with all of my Top 10's, some great beers had to be left off the list. As with every year, I adhere to some ground rules...

  • The beer had to be reviewed on the blog in 2017. If I had it at a bar, a bottle share, fest, etc, then it doesn't qualify.
  • No re-reviews...they had their chance!
  • Multiple beers from one brewery are allowed. Frankly, if the brewery makes that many good beers (in my opinion) then I'm not going to fault them for it.
In addition to the 10 best, I also want to toss in some other categories  just to make things a bit more fun. As always, thank you for the continued support of the blog, but let's get to the fun stuff!

Most Disappointing Beers of 2017

While I understand that I am in no way, shape, or form allowed the right to expect a brewery to satisfy my needs, I will still say that we are all guilty of having lofty expectations which are inevitably shot down in glorious fashion. We've all been there: You read about the beer, you buy it, you drink it, and you are left slightly empty inside. Hey, it happens, we're all human, This is not to say the beer still isn't good in it's own right, but these are a few that just didn't quite scratch the itch I had.

Stone/Abnormal/Paul Bischeri & Patrick Martinez Neapolitan Dynamite
I have a hit and miss relationship with Stone. Some of their beers leave me wanting more while others have gotten the highest of praise from me. In this case with their ice cream inspired stout, I was a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece that was eaten by Curious George. Only this time, there was no Man in the Yellow Hat to take me to the hospital.


I applaud the fluffy milk chocolate taste, but all other Neapolitan flavors were either too subtle or too artificial. I thought it was a solid effort, but it did not execute as well as it could have.

Barreled Souls Bourbon Barrel Aged Stay Puft
I want to preface this with my full endorsement for Barreled Souls Brewing out of Saco, ME. It is one of my go-to stops when I am up in The Pine Tree State and I have enjoyed all of their offerings. Stay Puft is an Imperial Stout brewed with marshmallow and graham crackers, which sounds amazing. Throw it in a bourbon barrel? Hell yes! The result? Meh.

At the time of the review, I theorized that the barrel had killed off the flavors of the base stout as I barely got any marshmallow or graham crackers. Some alcohol was left from the bourbon, but the flavors just weren't there.

I can now personally say that after a visit to Barreled Souls last month for their Stay Puft beers and variants, I am patting myself on the back after having the base beer as it was an AMAZING beer without the barrel aging. So, while I hate being right (pfff, no I don't), it turns out my instincts were correct about the BA version.

Worst Beers of 2017

As I disclaim each year, I don't purposely seek out bad beers nor do I try and purposely be cynical in a review. I'm also not putting breweries on blast or trying to be mean for the sake of being mean. If I highlight the good, I'm going to highlight the bad. It's my opinion and mine alone. So, let's read some hate!

Other Half & The Veil Coir Boiz
 Both Other Half and The Veil have made some tasty beers, but this collaboration was a disaster.

I've found coconut to work best in porters and stouts, but not so much in IPA's. Coir Boiz was not an exception to the rule as this was not only an affirmation of my beliefs, but just a bad-tasting beer.

The coconut was overly sweet, metallic, and tasted like sun tan lotion. The creamy mouthfeel and moments of citra juice couldn't resuscitate this IPA from certain death.

Peak Organic Ripe
One of the last beers I reviewed in 2017 turned out to be the worst beer of 2017. While it pains me to dub this the worst beer of the year from a brewery that I love, the numbers simply do not lie.

A double IPA with no genuine hop flavor, but did have plenty of vegetable juice, seltzer water, and burnt popcorn to go around. I really hope this was just a bad can or bad batch because this beer is not indicative of what this brewery is capable of doing.

The Best Comeback of 2017: Other Half Brewing

If you have read my Top 10 of 2015 and 2016 lists, then you saw Other Half Brewing make multiple appearances in my "Disappointing" category. I have found their offerings to range from mediocre to ok at best, but never really got the hype. The year 2017 finally opened my eyes to Other Half as I reviewed eight of their beers (their own and collaborations). With the exception of their aforementioned Coir Boiz, OH really seemed to nail it as I rated five of their beers a 9.0 or higher.

Check out the links below to my 2017 OH reviews and I hope they keep churning out some great stuff in 2018. If you live in the area, go check them out, and if you don't, then work out a trade for these guys.

Twice Baked Potato
Fully Loaded Baked Potato
Two Hundred Thousand Trillion
DDH Double Mosaic Dream
DDH Mylar Bags
DDH Double Mosaic Daydream

Honorable Mentions

When compiling the best of the best, some worthy beers are unfortunately left behind. Here are a few that JUST missed making the Top 10.

Monkish Foggier Window
Citra, Nelson, and Galaxy hops blended beautifully as this Double IPA shined with the white wine and grapefruit from the Nelson and the juice/dank bomb from the Galaxy.

Monkish beers are very hard to come by, so I am glad to have been able to try a few this year. The price is getting steep to acquire these, but hopefully I can bring you some more Monkish reviews in 2018 because they are churning out some of the absolute best IPA's on the planet.

Firestone Walker Bravo
The craft beer world has exploded in the past decade and hundreds of new breweries are opening every year. It's easy to forget that Firestone Walker's barrel aged beers were held in the highest regard. It's a testament to the brewery that they still produce some of the best BA beers you will ever taste and Bravo was another home run.

It's a barrel-aged Brown Ale, but it didn't taste like anything standard for the style. I didn't care since the final product tasted so good anyways. Loads of sweet, sticky bourbon, dark fruits, and plenty of barrel character made Bravo worthy of high praise and proved why this was always part of their anniversary beers.

Other Half Double Dry Hopped Double Mosaic Dream
Other Half really impressed me in 2017 and
DDH Double Mosaic Dream was arguably the highlight.

It was a complex DIPA with juicy hops, but also dankness, and lots of spicy, herbaceous qualities. To top it off, I even got some Saison barnyard funk out of this. This one fired on all cylinders and was an example of OH killing it last year.

Shakesbeer The Tempest
A small contract brewing operation out of Hingham, MA, Shakebeer only has two beers to their name, but hot damn if the one I had wasn't a panty dropper.

A lot of IPA's I had in 2017 did not match the complexity that The Tempest had as it provided juicy mangoes, oranges, black pepper, mint, tree sap, and dankness all in one can. It one was of my favorites and definitely one of the biggest surprises of last year.

AAAAAANNNNNDDDDD Drumroll please.........

We have reached the time where I unveil the absolute best of the best of 2017. I hope you have enjoyed reading about them as much as I have had drinking them. As always, I want to thank everyone who follows the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and chooses to like and comment on each post. I truly do appreciate all feedback I receive and am humbled by all contributions by all readers. Here is to another great year of beer in 2018. Cheers!

The Top 10 Beers of 2017

10. Barrel House Z & Vitamin Sea House Call
Cream Ales usually aren't my thing, but even I can't deny how great this collaboration was. Carton's Regular Coffee was once my favorite Cream Ale, but House Call officially took the title in 2017.

A rum barrel aged ale with raisins and vanilla imparted big marshmallow and whipped cream dessert flavors with some quad-like dark fruits all while masking the 9%+ abv and actually making for a highly drinkable experience.

BHZ is a unique operation worth visiting and hopefully you can also check out Vitamin Sea later in 2018.

9. New Holland Dragon's Milk
I get it. I am immersed deep enough in today's scene to know which breweries and beers are the most sought after and what it will cost you to acquire such rare brews. The problem with obsessing over small batch beers that are harder to find than Waldo in a field of candy canes is that you will miss out on greatness right in front of your face.

Dragon's Milk nails all of the requirements of a big, bourbon barrel aged stout and is just as good as any hard-to-get, special release from a smaller operation, but the great thing is that it is sitting on your local shelf right now and nobody cares.

Cherry, vanilla, roasted malts, sweet bourbon, dark fruits, and the list goes on. This beer might be one of the more unappreciated stouts I have ever come across.

8. Trillium and Prairie TRILLBOMB!
You might require a shot of insulin to go along with this imperial stout, but those willing to ride out the sugar overdose will find an incredible stout at the end of the rainbow.

The thick feel and chocolate overload made for a mouthful of brownie batter on each sip with a heaping dose of vanilla and coffee to go along with it.

This was basically a Trillium coffee stout being given the Prairie Bomb treatment, but hey, it was clearly a match made in heaven.

7. Baxter Wicked Dark
Flavored and barrel aged stouts get most of the attention, but when a standard, unflavored stout comes along and knocks your socks off, then you know you have something special.

An abundance of dark chocolate, coffee, cherries, and black licorice flooded the mouth at every turn and produced a stout packed with intense flavor and a thick, unforgiving mouthfeel that coated everything in sight.

Baxter's Wicked Dark outdid many BA stouts I had this year and that alone is worth a hearty pat on the back.

6. Angry Chair Woke
Hey, speaking of flavored stouts (great segue). Maple is now the new big thing when it comes to stouts and Angry Chair Woke is a superb example of how it is done right.

Maple syrup, coffee, vanilla, marshmallow, lactose sugar, and everything else that is part of a balanced breakfast made me wish it was socially acceptable to throw back a 10% stout each morning.

Angry Chair has a lot of hype, and with beers like this, it is easy to see why.

5. Austin Street Anniversary DIPA
On a trip to Maine I stopped by good ole Industrial Way to hit up all of the breweries. Almost as an afterthought, I stopped into Austin St and was immediately enamored with their 2nd Anniversary Double IPA. When I opened my growler at home and sipped on this sweet, sweet nectar, I fell in love all over again.

Mounds of pure hop juice, delicious bitterness, and a bounty of tropical fruits hit all the right notes and made for one of the most complex and delicious Double IPA's I had in 2017. Up until this beer, Austin Street was merely ok in my book, but this converted me to a believer.

4. Trillium Double Dry Hopped Stillings Street
Part of one of my "Versus" series, DDH Stillings absolutely obliterated it's non-DDH kid sister in aroma, taste, body, and anything else you can possibly think of.

A Nelson nuke if I've ever seen one, DDH Stillings brought forth an overwhelming amount of white wine, grapefruit, and orange sherbet. Not to be forgotten, the palate was also flooded with an appetizing bitterness that made for a complex, and nearly perfectly balanced IPA.

3. Exhibit "A" Swordfish
Here's another from the files of "I went to the brewery the day after the anniversary party". My initial experience with Swordfish was lukewarm at best when I had my sample at the brewery. Still, I took a growler home and let it sit for two weeks. The result? Just a pure whiskey orgasm.

Vanilla, toffee, caramel, and an uncanny amount of coconut from the barrels were only some, SOME of the flavors that came off of this intense Barleywine. The whiskey had no alcohol burn and it was just pure taste from the spirit and some hefty rye spice. This is one that NEEDS to be brought back.

*EDIT*: I have been informed that this is in fact on draft right now. SO GO GET IT!!!!!

2. New England Brewing Imperial Stout Trooper
Coming in just before closing time, IST was one of my last reviews of the year, but that only made me kick myself for sitting on this one for so long.

It's an unflavored stout, but the taste offers up so much more than just standard stout qualities of roasted malts as this was a dessert beer for the ages with tons of chocolate, coffee, and vanilla. The flavors and body were so fluffy and comfortable on the tongue it made you never want to stop drinking despite the 9.5% abv. Again, this is an unflavored stout.

Get your hands on this beer you must.

1. Dogfish Head Oak-Aged Vanilla World Wide Stout
In today's world, the latest stout from the most trendy brewery will bring people in droves to a 10 A.M. release with people lining up at 4 A.M. two days before with their three beer mules in tow just hoping to get their hands on their one bottle allocation to trade away immediately. So, why do we do this when perfectly similar, or even better options are available on your local shelf? Who can explain our behavior these days? That being said, if you are looking for a mind-blowing, automatic, systematic, hydromatic Imperial Stout, then Dogfish Head's take on their classic World Wide Stout is one you simply cannot miss.

The standard WWS was a bit too hot for my liking despite still producing rich stout qualities. This version however left me nearly speechless and was an easy choice for the best beer of 2017.

A complex aroma and taste of chocolate, coffee, tobacco, char, massive amounts of vanilla, smoke, and smooth, refined alcohol made it more complex than any beer I had last year. It's a 15% stout great for dessert, or just for sipping on for hours during the colder nights. Dogfish Head has been an innovator for years with their high abv beers, and now they have given me the best beer of 2017.

I'll see you in 2018. Cheers!

Hop in the Delorean, time circuits on, rev it up to 88mph, and relive the past "Best of" lists...

Top 10 Beers of 2014
Top 10 Beers of 2015
Top 10 Beers of 2016

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