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I hope your New Year’s resolutions didn’t involve beer. Or at least not drinking less of it, because 2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year, with talented breweries on the rise and new ones about to hit D.C. Of these five to watch for, three produce in small batches of large bottles only, which means that unless you’ve got a ravenous thirst, these are beers for sharing, for pouring around the dinner table and talking about what’s in your glass. And that’s the best way to learn.
- Jolly Pumpkin are among the American masters of barrel-aging and wild yeast, and their dry, stanky, farmhouse-style ales like Bam Biere and Oro de Calabaza are two of my favorite saisons (pictured above, at right). They arrive in D.C. in tiny, intermittent shipments, sometimes months apart, so let me know if you spot them. Having tried their sweet-tart La Roja and their foamy, heavily spiced and oaked Luciernaga (The Firefly) over the holidays, I can say that Jolly Pumpkin is one of the few American breweries whose beers I will always buy, no matter the bottle, whenever I find them.
- Sierra Nevada is the granddaddy, and their ubiquitous pale ale is the most important beer in America. Which is why it’s great that they’re still creating exciting new recipes, like their deep-hued Torpedo IPA and their perennial favorite of mine, the Summerfest lager. 2010 marks the brewery’s 30th anniversary, marked by a collaboration with beer personas like Brewers Association President Charlie Papazian, and a new seasonal golden bock.
- Bruery founder Patrick Rue was just a (very talented) homebrewer when he incorporated in 2008, and already his beers have found cult status as well as shelf space in D.C.’s most serious stores. They specialize in Belgian-style beers like their Orchard White or their wild-yeast-afflicted Saison Rue, but they also brew a mean loaf of dark rye.
- Pretty Things is a husband-and-wife team about whom I’ve already rhapsodized, with special attention to their rosemary-smoked Babayaga stout. They’re not available in D.C. yet, but they’re expected to join us this spring.
- Lagunitas’ near-perfect IPA, the summer seasonal A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’, was the #3 beer of 2009, and had the list been longer it also would have included their 2009 Correction Ale, a pale ale with an orchardful of grapefruit flavor despite a modest 6% abv. Between these newcomers and go-tos like their New Dogtown Pale, they’re growing into a serious can’t-miss brewery. My resolution this year is to try everything they put out.