Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2016 Lines

Here are the lines for Saturday's tasting:

Treehouse Alter Ego                  5:2
Trillium DDH Sleeper Street      3:1
Heist CitraQuench'l                    4:1
Toppling Goliath Pompeii           5:1
Tired House Alien Church          6:1

German Pilsner 
Firestone Walker Pivo Pilz      7:2
Sixpoint The Crisp                   4:1
Victory Prima Pils                    4:1
New Glarus Two Women        9:2
Metropolitan Flywheel             6:1

Coffee Imperial Stout
Perennial Sump                            3:1
Dieu Du Ciel! Peche Mortel          7:2
Terrapin Wake n Bake                   4:1
Beachwood System of a Stout      4:1
The Bruery Share This                  7:1

Friday, February 12, 2016

Top 50 Breweries in the World (according to me)

I try to post this list once a year in late winter.  More than anything else, it always interests me to see how breweries change in my opinion and how new breweries enter the fray.  My criteria is that I have to have consumed at least 3 beers from a brewery.  I give favor to brewers that can do a wide variety of beers well.  Without further ado, the list with comments at the bottom.  The parenthesis show last year's ranking.  Who do you think I am missing on the list?  Any ratings you disagree with?

1. Side Project Brewing (2)
2. Brasserie Cantillon (3)
3. de Garde Brewing (15)
4. Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen (16)
5. Tired Hands Brewing Co (11)
6. Perennial Artisan Ales (4)
7. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (10)
8. Hill Farmstead Brewery (9)
9. Firestone Walker Brewing Co (14)
10. Jester King Brewery (18)
11. Cigar City Brewing (5)
12. Westbrook Brewing Co (44)
13. Toppling Goliath Brewing Co (1)
14. The Bruery (13)
15. 3 Floyds Brewing Co (12)
16. Trillium Brewing Co (40)
17. 18th Street Brewery (NR)
18. Goose Island Beer Co (8)
19. 4 Hands Brewing Co (31)
20. Casey Brewing and Blending (NR)
21. Crooked Stave Brewery (6)
22. Tree House Brewing Company (NR)
23. The Lost Abbey (17)
24. 2nd Shift Brewing (NR)
25. Russian River Brewing Co (20)
26. New Glarus Brewing Co (32)
27. Allagash Brewing Co (36)
28. Funk Factory Geuzeria (42)
29. Alpine Beer Co (7)
30. Surly Brewing Co (29)
31. Central Waters Brewing Co (19)
32. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (28)
33. Evil Twin Brewing (27)
34. Wicked Weed Brewing (38) 
35. Hair of the Dog Brewing Co (22)
36. The Alchemist (NR)
37. Modern Times Beer (NR)
38. Forest & Main (NR)
39. Midnight Sun Brewing Co (30)
40. Off Color Brewing (NR)
41. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel (24)
42. AleSmith Brewing Co (26)
43. FiftyFifty Brewing Co (39)
44. Fremont Brewing Company (NR)
45. Omnipollo (NR)
46. Terrapin Beer Company (NR)
47. Stone Brewing Co (21)
48. Avery Brewing Co (37)
49. Founders Brewing Co (47)
50. Mikkeller (41)

Others receiving votes:  Olde Hickory Brewery, Al's of Hampden/Pizza Boy Brewing, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co, De Struise Brouwers, Cascade Brewing, Anchorage Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing Company, Maine Beer Co, Lawson's Finest Liquids, Prairie Artisan Ales, Deschutes Brewery and Funky Buddha Brewery

Dropped out:  Bell's Brewery (23), Kuhnhenn Brewing Co (25), Bullfrog Brewery (33), Cascade Brewing (34), Prairie Artisan Ales (35), Dark Horse Brewing Co (35), Destihl Brewery (43), Upland Brewing Co (47), Six Point Brewery (48), Olde Hickory Brewery (49), Maine Beer Co (50)

-A new #1 with Side Project, which is very well deserved
-After drinking across more of their portfolio, de Garde was well deserving of the huge jump with great diversity
-Westbrook probably made the overall biggest jump.  Great diversity with some home run beers
-Toppling Goliath fell hard after 2 years at number 1.  This brewery has really lost it's identity over the past 18 months
-Trillium was another big jumper just crushing it with their hoppy portfolio
-There are 4 new entries on the list in the 18-25 range.  All very deserving and likely to continue to move up the list
-Crooked Stave dipped big time, I think their quality has taken a hit in the past 12 months
-Hard to argue if Alpine should even be on the list with their merger with Green Flash. They are living historically and will likely fall off next year
-Another set of new breweries to the list in the upper 30s, mostly fanboy breweries for me
-Founders is hanging on for dear life with a couple of really nice releases this year in their backstage series
-For the "Other receiving votes" section, I had a really hard time with the 45-50 range, may bump the list up to 100 breweries next year
-Bells has been completely stagnant for years now, hard to tell how far they would fall in a list of 100

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Best Beers of 2015!

My list of best beers poured into my mouth during 2015:

1. Side Project Pulling Nails Blend 2 – My favorite series from my favorite brewery
2. De Garde The Broken Truck – My breakout brewery of 2015, beyond the Bu’s
3. De Garde Nectarine Premier – Juice in a glass
4. De Garde The Anniversary – The end of the De Garde run, almost as good as Broken Truck
5. Side Project Le Saisonnier – So much wine barrel greatness from Side Project
6. 18th Street Bitch's Bank – Some of my favorite stouts come from this brewery
7. Casey Oak Theory – Oaky and Gueuze-like
8. 4 Hands Madagascar – This beer is deserving of the hype and easier to obtain.  A GTMW Standout
9. Olde Hickory Omega Point – Blurring the lines between barleywine and old ale equals perfection
10. Side Project Frambois du Fermier – By far my favorite of this series
11. Westbrook AB Siberian Black Panther – Apple brandy barrel complemented this beer perfectly
12. Drie Fonteinen Armand’4 Oude Gueuze Herfst – This was my favorite of the 4 seasons
13. Drie Fonteinen Armand’4 Oude Gueuze Winter – The most unique of the bunch
14. Toppling Goliath Hopsmack! – My first hoppy beer on the list and took out some big competition for the best beer in the DIPA category at Great Taste of Cottage Grove
15. BottleLogic Fundamental Observation – Vanilla heaven
16. Hill Farmstead Le Sarassin – I am overly critical of this brewery.  Went head to head with Stenciled Pages and beat it out
17. SARA Stenciled Pages – Nuanced and beautiful, everything I am looking for in a saison
18. Tired Hands Parageusia 1 – Oaky, white wine, gueuze like.  The best of the series
19. New Glarus R&D Vintage – Got in line over and over again at GTMW to drink this beer.  One of the best American Gueuzes
20. Tired Hands Parageusia 3 – Super funky, one of the most odd sours I have ever had, loved every second of it
21. Westbrook Barrel Aged Mexican Cake – I had the bourbon and double barrel versions both this year.  The barrel adds much needed body
22. Perennial/Side Project ProCATStination – Two of my favorite breweries combined to make a perfectly balanced Saison
23. Drie Fonteinen Framboos – Hype may have hurt this one a bit, jammy goodness
24. Forest & Main Hapi – I love everything from this brewery and this dry hopped, barrel aged saison is a culmination of their greatness
25. Allagash Farm to Face – Peach heaven in a bottle

Monday, January 26, 2015

Top 50 Breweries in the World (according to me)

Here is a list of what I view as the top 50 breweries in the world.  I included last year's ranking in parentheses, which only included 30 breweries.  Interesting to see how some of these have moved around.  I thought about putting a few thoughts after each brewery, but I will spare you the reading and let you run through the list. Who do you think I am missing?

1. Toppling Goliath Brewing Co (1)
2. Side Project Brewing (NR)
3. Brasserie Cantillon (2)
4. Perennial Artisan Ales (17)
5. Cigar City Brewing (5)
6. Crooked Stave Brewery (8)
7. Alpine Beer Co(NR)
8. Goose Island Beer Co (9)
9. Hill Farmstead Brewery (3)
10. Sante Adairius Rustic Ales (NR)
11.Tired Hands Brewing Co (NR)
12. 3 Floyds Brewing Co (11)
13. The Bruery (4)
14. Firestone Walker Brewing Co (21)
15. de Garde Brewing (NR)
16. Brouwerij Drie Fonteinen (NR)
17. The Lost Abbey (NR)
18. Jester King Brewery (29)
19. Central Waters Brewing Co (7)
20. Russian River Brewing Co (6)
21. Stone Brewing Co (19)
22. Hair of the Dog Brewing Co (NR)
23. Bell's Brewery (12)
24. Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel (NR)
25. Kuhnhenn Brewing Co (14)
26. AleSmith Brewing Co (10)
27. Evil Twin Brewing (16)
28. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales (NR)
29. Surly  Brewing Co (13)
30. Midnight Sun Brewing Co (26)
31. 4 Hands Brewing Co (18)
32. New Glarus Brewing Co (27)
33. Bullfrog Brewery (NR)
34. Cascade Brewing (NR)
35. Prairie Artisan Ales (NR)
36. Allagash Brewing Co (NR)
37. Avery Brewing Co (NR)
38. Wicked Weed Brewing (NR)
39. FiftyFifty Brewing Co (NR)
40. Trillium Brewing Co (NR)
41. Mikkeller (NR)
42. Funk Factory Geuzeria (NR)
43. Dark Horse Brewing Co (20)
44. Westbrook Brewing Co (NR)
45. Destihl Brewery (NR)
46. Founders Brewing Co (15)
47. Upland Brewing Co (28)
48. Six Point Brewery (23)
49. Olde Hickory Brewery (30)
50. Maine Beer Co (24)

Dropped out: Boulevard Brewing Co (22), Brasserie de Rochefort (25)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Best Beers of 2014

So this list is simply a list of my favorite beers poured into my mouth in 2014

30. Prairie Pirate Bomb! – This beer is the epitome of the peppered stouts and rum barrel adds subtle sweetness
29. Side Project Le Saisonnier – Just so juicy, dry hopped, wine barrel is spot on. So good.

28. Side Project Black & Wild – Sour stouts are not an easy style to pull off, more sweet than roasty, this one was perfect
27. Alpine Great – I will always be a sucker for barleywines.  This one was light on the barrel, but had the thick molasses goodness I am looking for
26. 2nd Shift Blueprint LSD – This was the best find at #GTMW this year.  I love this brewery, will always go back to them
25. Mikkeller BA Beer Geek Vanilla Shake – The regular version of this beer is amazing, adding vanilla and barrel aging takes it up a notch
24. Cigar City 5 Beers for 5 Years Gose – Margarita in a bottle! I actually traded for a second because I loved the first so much
23. 3 Floyd’s Murda’d Out – Popped this beer we had purchased from our Michigan Beercation and it definitely did not disappoint
22. De Garde Currant Gin Bu – Such jammy goodness.  Gin was hidden.  This brewery is fantastic
21. Midnight Sun Berserker – This is exactly what I am looking for in a big stout.  The chocolately mouth goes on forever.
20. Side Project Peche du Fermier – This was my personal favorite of the Fermier’s we tried. The peach was mellow, but carried through the mouth the best
19. Girardin 1882 (Black Label) – My second favorite Gueuze to date, great from front to back
18. Central Waters Sixteen – They completely hit it out of the park with their most recent anniversary beer
17. Funk Factory Door Kriek – As close as any US brewer has come to mimicking Belgian counterparts. My personal favorite Kriek
16. Bullfrog Le Roar Grrrz Druiven – What is a Druiven? Who knows, but it makes a nice compliment to a great sour
15. Alpine Chez Monus – This funky peach brew even snuck in some acetone notes, really well done
14. Firestone Walker Feral One – I am in love with the Barrelworks series from FW and this was their first release from that series
13. Tilquin à L'Ancienne Oude Gueuze – Best in show at the Great Taste of Cottage Grove, my favorite Gueuze on the market
12. Toppling Goliath King Sue – I am surprised a hoppy beer made it on the list, especially in the top half. This beer is that good
11. Bullfrog Le Roar Grrrz – Another brewery that is reaching levels of Belgian greatness. Really impressed
10. Goose Island Proprietors (2013) – Coconut in this base beer makes the perfect compliment
9. Jester King Aurelian Lure – Got to try many of the fruited Jester Kings and this one was the stand out
8. Tired Hands Emptiness is Eternal – This beer blew me away.  Well balanced sour/saison on persimmons
7. Perennial Barrel Aged Sump Kyoto – The regular version of this beer is amazing, the Kyoto adds more acidity which makes it even better
6. Side Project Pulling Nails #1 – The 4th beer from SP and they aren’t even done! The blending of wine barrels is absolute perfection
5. Crooked Stave Persica Blend 1 – Another stonefruit beer on the list, the peaches go great with the CS yeast blend
4. SARA Westly – Double the apricots and time in barrels as the original version helps this beer achieve full potential
3. Drie Fonteinen Hommage – One of the most anticipated beers of the year, thanks Chad for hooking me up! Raspberries and cherries make this beer almost perfect. Definitely band aide notes that are not bad, but interesting
2. Perennial Coffee Abraxas – First perfect 5 out of 5 beer this year. These guys know base stouts on coffee and this blend was perfect even without the barrel
1. Side Project Fuzzy – This beer had everything I loved in wild caught yeast, the heavy spice that is complemented in perfect balance with peach. Bravo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Gueuze Results

Gold Medal – Bruery Rueuze
Silver Medal – Tilquin à L'Ancienne Oude Gueuze
Bronze Medal – Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic
Other Participants: Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black) & Drie Fonteinin Oude Gueuze

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Oude Gueuze Tilquin à L'Ancienne
Silver Medal – Bruery Rueuze
Bronze Medal – Girardin Gueuze 1882 (Black Label)

In case you were wondering, a Gueuze is a blend of oak aged lambics most commonly ranging from 1-3 years old.  So breweries will take different batches of aged lambics, combine them together to hit a flavor that is consistent from year to year and then age the combined product prior to bottling.  These beers are commonly brewed with wild caught strains of yeast and are always sour!

Let’s start at the top.  Bruery Rueuze won in the most landslide victory in Great Taste of Cottage Grove history.  Rueuze took 13 out of 15 first place votes (the two first place votes it missed came from the Board of Directors).  It was definitely the most different from the other 4 beers.  The Bruery has a pretty distinct yeast blend that is absolutely fantastic.  It is more tart with less balance in my opinion, definitely more in line with typical American wilds.  The second place best was from Tiquin.  Interestingly enough, this brewery sources wort (the starting point for beer, which is basically sugar water prior to the yeast being added) from a number of Belgian breweries and then uses their own local yeast.  Tilquin was able to pack in the most flavor while keeping everything in balance.  I thought Cantillon and Girardin were both fantastic and really close.  Cantillon was a bit more mellow up front with the tart notes finishing out the back, while Girardin had a bit more flavor throughout.  Surprisingly enough, Drie Fonteinin came in dead last.  Far too much sweetness with this beer that doesn’t have enough to keep it in check.

My Ballot
1) Tilquin 2) 1882 3) Cantillon 4) Rueuze 5) 3F

The Takeaway
None of these beers are cheap, so if you are looking to explore the style, plan to spend some money.  The Bruery has a fairly large distribution footprint, so look for Rueuze as their early winter offering (it started landing on shelves recently).  This is definitely an Americanized version of the style, but it really is fantastic along with pretty much their entire sour line up.  In Wisconsin, we are lucky enough to have Tilquin on the shelf most of the year.  If you haven’t tried this beer yet, do it now.  It is a great representation of the style and not terribly hard to get your hands on.  The last three are the most difficult to track down.  You will occasionally see tappings of both Cantillon and Drie Fonteinin, these events will definitely be worth a stop!  The Girardin is rarely seen in the US.  If you are willing to drop some money, head over to www.belgiuminabox.com.  You may have to check in regularly to find a time when all of them are in stock, but get some friends together and place a large order, you will not be disappointed.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Great Taste of Cottage Grove 2014 – Pale Ale Results

Gold Medal – Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue
Silver Medal – Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Bronze Medal – Black Husky Pale Ale
Other Participants: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust & Maine Brewing MO

Board of Director Votes (includes @jagatelife, @chadmeindl, @Badger_Alum1, @ahrensjeremy and @rjjturner)
Gold Medal – Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale
Silver Medal – Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue
Bronze Medal – 3 Floyds Zombie Dust

The Gold and Silver winners were definitely in a different league than the rest.  The Board of Directors flipped the two and it was very difficult to choose which was the best.  I thought Sue had some spicy notes that I was a little surprised by and was a bit more forward.  Everything about Fort Point was potent, balanced and wonderful.  Black Husky took home bronze and was the outlier of the group.  Less hoppy and really malty, which was popular amongst the popular vote (while the board rated it last).  Mo was solid, but underwhelming compared to the other brews in the category.  Lastly, Zombie Dust is a really good beer, just not worth the hype or energy required to track down.  It has a great nose and is much more malty, but that beer lives on hype.

My Ballot
1) Fort Point 2) Sue 3) Mo 4) Zombie Dust 5) Black Husky

The Takeaway
Trillium Fort Point and Toppling Goliath PsuedoSue are really remarkable beers and the epitome of the style.  Do whatever you can to get your hands on these beers because you will not be disappointed.  If hear Zombie Dust is going to be on tap or can easily pick it up, go ahead and enjoy.  Otherwise this beer is not worth any additional resources to find.  Maine Mo is solid and reasonably priced, definitely worth picking up if you see it at the store.  I would say avoid the Pale Ale from Black Husky and get yourself some Spoose Joose.