Its kind of standard practice for me to be late with posts these days. Maybe that should be my New Year’s Resolution this year – to not start every story with “I know I’m late but…” Better late than never I guess. Anyways – there were a lot of great beers in 2015 and here are 5 that I really liked.
Smog City Brewing Co. – Infinite Wishes
By this time last year, I had enacted a firm ban on barrel-aged stouts in my cellar. The months leading up to Christmas sees a lot of big chewy stouts releases and after a quick review of my inventory I realized that I simply had too many of a style that I don’t drink very often. But by mid-January, Smog City announced the release of Infinite Wishes and I knew I would have to break my rule for this beer. Truthfully, this beer ended up being even better than I expected and its become a bit of a high watermark for spirit-barrel stouts in my mind. Everything about this beer works – starting as The Nothing, the beer is rich, chocolatey and often compared to pure melted dark chocolate. But all that richness only improves after a year in the barrel adding layers of vanilla and bourbon from the oak yet actually remaining incredibly balanced. The 2016 crop of Infinite Wishes goes on sale Sunday January 17th via brownpapertickets.com, which is incredibly helpful considering how quickly this beer sold out in 2015.
pFriem Family Brewers – Pilsner
This marks the third time I’ve written about this beer and I don’t know if there’s much more to say about it except this: My wife’s best friend lives in Oregon and is about to give birth to her first child. Naturally, my wife will be visiting her soon after this baby is born. I like pFriem’s pilsner so much that all l want my wife to bring me back from Oregon is a case of this beer. Seriously.
Jester King Brewery – Biere De Syrah
This is a late entry into this list as I actually drank it on New Year’s Eye 2015 for the first time. There’s no shortage of wine/beer hybrids these days. Many are sours that capitalize on the tannins that the wine grapes contribute to a beer, while others hope to use the tangy-sweet grapes to round out an otherwise simple malt bill. Jester King’s biere de syrah is a barrel-aged sour refermented with syrah grapes and the beer manages to walk a tightrope between beer and wine beautifully. There’s a barrel-aged sour there for sure, but the syrah grapes drape themselves over top of it and elevate the entire thing to new territory. The aroma alone is something to scream about.
Monkish Brewing Co. / Highland Park Brewing – Cart Fetish, Pushin’ Carts
I’ll admit this is a cop out but I struggled to choose any single beer from either Monkish or Highland Park to highlight on this list. Both breweries constantly one-upped themselves this year and this split-batch beer did a great job at showing off what both breweries do so well. Working from the same batch of wort, each brewery took a portion and fermented it with their own house stains of yeast and sent it off to barrels for aging. Monkish’s version showcased a saison with a vibrant and bright acidity, whereas Highland Park was rustic and earthy. Drastically different but both exceptional, I’d love to see these breweries do more collaborations along these lines.