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In these last days of 2010, thinking about New Year’s resolutions made me realize I didn’t quite follow through on one from last year. The Super List, my plan to thumb through my beer journal at the end of each month and post a list of beers I deemed worthy of a “super” rating, dropped off by late spring. So instead of just one year-in-review post about the best beers of 2010, I’ve decided to play catch up on my last six months of drinking.
Below are the beers that blew my socks off in June. I’m always interested in what others think of the beers I pick, so if you have had any of them and feel so moved, hit me in the comments.
Three Floyds Alpha King Pale Ale (Three Floyds tasting at The Brickskeller) – This wasn’t the first time I’d had this inspiration brew for the annual Alpha King Challenge, which names one brewer and their beer ruler of hops for a year. The 6.5%-abv deep amber, caramel-colored beer was spicy, citrusy, and had a burning hop presence with a nice fiery finish. I am not usually a fan of Warrior hops, the variety used for bittering this pale ale, but Alpha King had a malty backbone that balanced the extreme hop bite.
Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine (Three Floyds tasting at The Brickskeller) – This big beer is a much more predictable pick for my “super” rating than it’s royal kin. The 10.5%-abv amber brown, cream-headed beer reminded me of orange slice candies soaked in grain alcohol (and that’s a very good thing). It was strong, intensely citrusy, and had a peppery after taste. I suggest sipping, or at least not having this true behemoth with a lot of other beers on the same night. Allagash Bourbon Barrel Belgian Style Stout (at Lupulun ReunuLess tasting at The Brickskeller) – This experiment involved Rob Tod taking Allagash Black, his popular Belgian-style stout, and aging it in Jim Beam barrels for eight months. The dark brown, thick tan-headed beer smelled like a German chocolate cake, with lots of cocoa, vanilla, and coconut. It tasted as it smelled with a hint of something savory, perhaps Worcestershire sauce. It was complex and delightful and I hope Allagash decides to bottle some.
Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken’s Ale (At Lupulin ReunuLess tasting at The Brickskeller) – This 9.2%-abv opaque black imperial stout smelled wonderfully smoky. The collaboration brew between Fritz Maytag, who turned Anchor Brewing Company into the craft icon it is today, and Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, tasted sweet at first and then had a complex roast character with hints of dark chocolate and coffee liqueur. It was full-bodied and perfectly balanced. Nothing less should be expected from such legends of the craft.
Cantillon Fou Foune (on draft at ChurchKey) – This hazy, pale gold-colored apricot lambic from Cantillon, a Brussels brewery known for sour beers produced by spontaneous fermentation, was beautifully sour and superbly dry. Greg Engert expertly hand-picked this refreshing 5%-abv beer for me as the perfect antidote to a night of extreme beer tasting at Savor.
Allagash Curieux (Allagash / Bruery Brunch at Pizzeria Paradiso) – I am a big fan of this beer, and as it seems, just about anything Rob Tod puts in a bourbon barrel. Allagash’s Tripel Ale aged in fresh Jim Beam barrels for eight weeks, Curieux is a glowing gold, cream-headed beer that is crisp but full-bodied and malty. This 11%-abv subtley sour beer has a touch of vinegar in the after taste. It is likely that the food pairing, a sweet potato cheesecake in warm bourbon sauce, helped me see the beer in such high regard. But it could have just been all the bourbon.
Founders Cerise (in bottle at Delilah’s, Chicago, IL) – Cherry beers either go very right or very wrong. I discovered this beauty when Bruce and I stopped into the famed Chicago beer bar to wet our whistles in the gap between a wedding ceremony and reception. The 6.5%-abv hazy pink-orange ale had faint apple crisp notes in the nose. But what sealed the deal was its intense, not overly sweet flavor of dark, deliciously tart Michigan cherries.