The (tad late) 2016 Beer of the Year blog
It may be a month into 2017 as I write this, but when it comes to end of year Best-Of lists it's better late than never.
I didn't get out as much as I would have liked last year and meagre resources also meant I didn't experiment outside my comfort zone nearly as often as I wanted. But that seems to be changing, as my last two beers I enjoyed at the bar were a Peanut Butter Stout and an Oatmeal Brown Ale.
So there's hope for this IPA guy.
But oh, those IPAs...
So let's start there, with 16 India Pale Ales that I especially enjoyed (usually repeatedly) last year:
Juicin (Sawdust City); Aromatherapy (Beyond the Pale); 60 Minute IPA (Dogfish Head); Bronan (High Road); Boots Electric (Manantler); Liquid Swords (Manantler); Handshake (Green Flash/Alpine); Sculpin (Ballast Point); My Bitter Wife, Octopus Wants To Fight and Karma Citra (Great Lakes); Fat Tug (Driftwood); Headstock (Nickel Brook); Ransack the Universe (Collective Arts); Moralite (Dieu du Ciel/The Alchemist); and Hop Hunter (Sierra Nevada).
|Octopus Wants to Fight IPA|
Winner: It could only be GLB's Octopus Wants to Fight, the reigning Mid-Summer Beer of the Year. I pined for this beer, I wrote about this beer and I drank many of these beers. An easy choice in the toughest category.
|Epic Hop Zombie IIPA|
Winner: A tough one this year, but I have to go with the beer that travelled 14,000 kilometres to my apartment door. Hop Zombie from Epic Brewery of Aukland, New Zealand was an orange marmalade delight.
There were three finalists in the Black IPA category: Black Knight (Halo), The Dark Prince (Manantler) and a late entry, Collective Art's Black IPA.
Winner: Black IPA (Collective Arts)
There were five Session IPA's which floated my boat this year: All Day IPA (Founders); Daywalker (Rainhard); Even Keel - Mango (Ballast Point); Steady Horse (Manantler) and The Lumbersexual (Covered Bridge).
Winner (and repeat champion): Daywalker (Rainhard)
For the Triple IPA category I included any beer billed as a double with an alcohol content of 10 per cent or higher. That meant the always fantastic Cockpuncher from Indie Ale House (possibly the best name in beer) had to compete against New Zealand's Four Horsemen of the Hopocalypse (Epic/Liberty/Hallertau/Fork & Brewer); Ruin Ten from Stone and two iterations of Life Sentence from Great Lakes: the original 2015 version made with Chinook hops and the Southern Hemisphere (2016) version, made with Pacifica hops from New Zealand.
Winner: Life Sentence (2015) from Great Lakes.
|Juicin' from Sawdust City|
Winner: Juicin' (Sawdust City)
The Red IPA is another newish style making the rounds this year. Think of it as a hopped-up Irish Ale. Just two hit the sweet spot for me. G'Knight from Colorado's Oskar Blues and Red Racer India-Style Red Ale from Vancouver's Central City.
Winner: G'Knight (Oskar Blues)
I always like me a good ESB and I found a couple last year. Equilibrium from Burlington's Nickel Brook and Coast to Coast, a collaboration between Flying Monkeys (Ontario), Garrison (Nova Scotia), Trou du Diable (Quebec) and Phillips (B.C.).
Winner: Equilibrium (Nickel Brook)
One of my favourite categories has always been the American Pale Ale and there were six that knocked my socks off in 2016.
|Naughty Neighbour from|
Naughty Neighbour (Nickel Brook); Monogamy Chinook (Bellwoods); Simcoe Lollihop (Manantler); Grunion (Ballast Point); Rhyme and Reason (Collective Arts) and Pouch Envy (Refined Fool.
You have to be better than excellent to go up against Naughty Neighbour, (my 2015 Beer of the Year), but Grunion from San Diego's Ballast Point was up to the task. But in the end I went with the tried (many, many times - I'm drinking one as I write this) and true.
Winner: Naughty Neighbour (Nickel Brook)
There were several categories with just one finalist, which was not because there weren't more worthy beers, but because I didn't get out much.
Saison: Takes Two to Mango (Indie Ale House)
Belgian IPA: La Formidable (Beaus/Gigantic)
Wheat Ale: Grandstand Hoppy Wheat (Left Field)
Brown Ale: No Agenda (Epic)
Kolsch: Absent Landlord (Cowbell)
Golden Ale: 24 Carrot Golden Ale (Stone/Goldenberg/Monkey Paw)
Sour: Warp & Weft Berliner Weisse (Bellwoods)
Quadrupel: Trappiste 10 (Rochefort)
Belgian Ale: Legendary Muskoka Oddity (Muskoka)
I had my share of delicious Imperial Stouts in 2016, with seven making the cut, including a beer with my face on the label (Legends from Manantler) and a beer I lined up for an hour or so on a cold November day: Bourbon County (Goose Island). The finalists are:
|Legends Imperial Stout|
Winner: I know, I know. Legends has my face on it. But I'm going with Bourbon County-Vanilla Rye (Goose Island).
In the Sweet Stout category I chose between three worthy candidates:
Aphrodisiaque (Dieu du Ciel); Half Bastard (Nickel Brook); and Sweetback Milk Stout (Rainhard).
Winner: Aphrodisiaque (Dieu du Ciel)
Three Porters made the grade as well:
Smoked Porter (Stone); Stranger than Fiction (Collective Arts); and Grand Cuevee Porter Baltique (Le Trois Mousquetaires).
Winner: Grand Cuevee Porter Baltique (Le Trois Mousquetaires)
Two Pilsners made the cut: Long Dong Pilsner (Great Lakes) and the legendary Pilsner Urquell.
Winner: Long Dong Pilsner (Great Lakes). Again.
Best Double Play (IPA & APA)
Great Lakes could have several IPAs (Octopus Wants to Fight, Karma Citra, My Bitter Wife) to pair with their excellent Canuck Pale Ale, while Headstock and Naughty Neighbour are both regulars in my fridge. I'll add an international representative as both Sculpin (IPA) and Grunion from Ballast Point were the bomb.
Winner: Nickel Brook (Headstock & Naughty Neighbour)
Best Triple Play (IPA, IIPA & APA)
Great Lakes is nominated again with Octopus, Canuck and Robohop and Nickel Brook has Headstock, Naughty Neighbour and the most delicious Immodest as competition.
Winner: Great Lakes (Octopus/Canuck/Robohop)
I wanted a category to honour the foreign breweries that have supplied me with fantastic beers over the past year. In any other year Stone, the San Diego County brewery that can do no wrong, would win this easily. but they were not even my favourite U.S. brewery in 2016: that prize would go to Ballast Point. But the champ has to be Epic, the New Zealand brewery that sent me free beer from the other side of the world. Just because I asked.
Winner: Epic Brewery
The Brewmaster category has the usual suspects of Ryan Morrow (Nickel Brook/Collective Arts) and Mike Lackey (Great Lakes), but I have added two more this year: Luke Nicholas (Epic) and Jordan Rainhard (Rainhard).
Winner: Mike Lackey (Great Lakes). About time.
Brewery of the Year
My three finalists in this category are the creme-de-la-creme of Ontario breweries:
Great Lakes, Nickel Brook and Rainhard.
Winner: It can only be Great Lakes.
That leaves only the top prize: Beer of the Year. I narrowed this list down from pretty much every beer I have already mentioned to eight wonderful brews:
Octopus Wants to Fight, Karma Citra and Robohop - all from Great Lakes; Hop Zombie from Epic; Naughty Neighbour and Headstock from Nickel Brook; Absent Landlord from Cowbell; and Bourbon County Vanilla Rye from Goose Island.
Winner: The one. The only. Octopus Wants to Fight IPA (Great Lakes).