Beverage Lab Best of 2011

2011 was a pother banner year for craft beer. I attended more events and drink many more different brands/styles of beer at more places than ever before. I guess that’s the tough job of a beer blogger. Nevertheless I have a new list of Best Of’s this year. Let’s get to it.  

Best Bar of 2011

This years Best Bar goes to Bailey’s Taproom in Portland, OR. When we ventured out there for the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference, we stumped upon this piece of craft beer heaven. Not only are the best beers in town her, what gave this bar the edge was their digital tap board. This board (as mentioned in a previous post) not only displays what beers are on tap, but shows you how much beer is left in the keg via a status icon. Once that beer is done, it is removed form the list and a tweet is sent out saying the beer is gone and being replaced by beer X. To get nerdier, they integrated it with Untappd and Foursquare to tell you who is drinking here. They put the avatar of the person who checked in on the board for all to see. Too cool.

Runner up goes to a new semi-local favorite, Amesbury Ale House. Only a 20-25 min drive from Portsmouth, the Ale House has the best tap list North of Boston and south of Novare Res (most of the time). What draws me to the Alehouse over Novare besides proximity is the amount of variety on the taps, and the food is great. The great atmosphere in the little town of Amesbury is culture shocked by craft beer, and it’s here to stay.

Best Event of 2011

This category included the beer fests and tastings I participated in. It should be pretty obvious that my favorite event of the year was the Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland, OR. Any craft beer lover needs to go to Portland, and don’t worry, no matter how long you spend there you will never cover all that is going on out there. Just ask the over 100 citizen bloggers covering the more than 40 breweries in Portland alone! I learned a lot at the conference as well. I took away a sense of blogging community as opposed to competition. Craft beer is about love and more so differing opinions. I made a lot of friends and connections that I hope will last as long as I blog (forever?) and then some. I hope bloggers reading this consider attending the 2012 Conference in Indianapolis!

Runner up goes to the Dewsbury CAMRA Festival. This was my first beer festival out of the USA. I was visiting family out there and was whisked away to city hall to a great beer fest of all Real Ales. It was beyond fantastic mingling with locals and drinking fantastic UK Real Ale. An experience I will never forget.

Best ExBeerience of 2011

Being a local blog, I feel a sense of pride when the local brewery asks to collaborate with me in any way. To start off the year, they asked me to be the official blogger of Kate the Great Day. That was my first taste of the Press Pass life, but I felt I contributed a lot of great things to that day, including the live streaming bar camera, which showed the craziness of the Portsmouth Brewery streamed to thousands across the world.

In July, before making my way to Portland, OR, I was given the opportunity to sit in on an entire day of brewing with Portsmouth head brewer Tod Mott and Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head. I didn’t know what to expect and sure as heck didn’t expect to spend all day there talking about beer with 2 of the biggest brewers, both locally and world wide. You can check out the recap of the day here. It was cool to be a fly on the wall watching the Gruit be made and then tasting it weeks later when it was all done. Sam is an all-star, there is no doubt about it, and those who haven’t sipped the creative genius that is a Tod Mott beer, you are missing out. I’ll definitely never forget this ExBeerience.

Best Beers of 2011

There is no singular beer that wins the crown this year, in fact, no beer should win the whole year. Out of the hundreds of unique beers I have tried this year, I picked the 5 that I get excited to talk about and are first to come to mind when I think of a great beer.

Burnside Brewing Oatmeal Pale Ale– Had this beer when I was over in Portland OR. This style is quite new and knocked my socks off. The oaty/malty feel of an Oatmeal Stout, with an easy drinkability of a pale ale. The closest I could find to this was from Elm City here in NH, but I still look back to the time I spent at Burnside.

Bells Java Stout– this is probably the best coffee stout I have ever had. I put this up against Founders Breakfast Stout and this one seems to have the edge over it because it is so darn smooth. Fresh ground coffee from start to finish.

Rising Tide Polaris– If I had a favorite brewery category, Rising Tide would be right there at the top. There is rarely a brewery where I genuinely enjoy all the beers they produce. This limited release takes their Ursa Minor Weizen Stout and ages it in bourbon barrels. It’s like adding gold to more gold, it can only get better. I am proud to call this brewery a local brewery, only 40 minutes north in Portland, ME.

Deschutes Hop in the Dark CDA– The epic name battle between Cascadian Dark Ale and Black IPA rages on more than ever this year, and I found the best one. Call them what you want to call them, Hop in the Dark is the king of Black IPA/CDAs. This one has more maltiness to it than most of the beers in the same style which made this one immensely enjoyable. I brought one back from OR and it was gone within a week. Deschutes, if you ever read this, please send me some :).

Throwback Fat Alberta– Last but obviously not least is Throwback’s Fat Alberta Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout. When the brewery opened down the road from me I took a tour and they gave us a super secret taste. This stout not only made me day dream about it forever, it converted my non stout loving fiancĂ© to make an exception to the rule. At its core, you get the roasted peanut and chocolate taste, and then it makes you think of anything from peanut butter pie or Reese’s cups. This was only released once this year in a limited supply, 2 bottle per person fashion. Here’s to hoping this beer makes a guest appearance on a tap in town. This has been a great first year for Throwback and it is only going to get better.

Phew, what a year. I want to thank all of those that made 2011 a great blogging experience. I have met a lot of new people and will continue to collaborate and contribute as much as I can. Take a look on the right hand side for the blogs you should be following if you are not. The ones listed are truly game changers not just in the craft beer blogging world, but in the craft beer world as a whole. See you in 2012!

Cheers everyone!