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Top 25 Favorite Beers of the Year

Here’s something I’ve never done before. This is a list of my favorite beers of 2012. Many are new releases, while some are just new to me. It’s in order of my personal preference, not the score. Just because I give a beer 95 points, doesn’t mean I want to drink it all the time. There are a few surprises on the list, with four breweries making it on twice. Two of which I have been very critical of in the past. But alas, we are only talking about A beer, not an overall catalog. Let’s get to the list!

1. Russian River Consecration

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If I was pressed to say what my favorite beer in the world is, it’ll probably be Russian River Supplication. This is a close second. The flavor, complexity, and balance are mind blowing. I’ve said it before, but once again, I believe Russian River is the best brewery in the nation.

2. The Bruery Tart of Darkness

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Sour stout? That sounds awful. It wasn’t. In fact, it blew my mind. It was surprisingly thin and drinkable with high carbonation. And boy, was it sour. It was the most acidic beer in that entire Beer Club. It had the flavors of a stout, but completely different in all the other ways. Can you tell that I like sours?

3. Fremont Cowiche Canyon Organic Hop Lab #1

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This was simply the best IPA that I had all year. Well balanced with huge flavor and just the right kind of hops for a flavor profile that makes me giggle like a school girl. I’ve been a huge fan of this brewery in the past and once again, I think they are one of the best in Washington.

4. New Belgium Red Hoptober

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I’ve been pretty critical of New Belgium in the past. Most of their beer is pretty meh for me. I absolutely loved this one. There’s just something about a hoppy dark red ale that appeals to me. Lovely hop flavor, but it works so well with that dark caramel malt profile. It’s a little sweet, a little hoppy, and just a damn fine beer to enjoy anytime.

5. Midnight Sun Berserker

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This monster weighs in at nearly 13% ABV. It tastes closer to 8%. Oh, it also has maple syrup, molasses, and aged on bourbon barrels. That’s all well and fine, but how about the balance? Just ridiculous. Nothing over-powers anything else. This beer is a true work of art and the best imperial stout I’ve ever had the privilege of tasting.

6. Nebraska Melange A Trois

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I don’t often get to enjoy this brewery as they don’t distribute in Washington. If you ever get the chance to try them, make the time. This is a gorgeous Belgian ale aged on French Chardonnay barrels.

7. Timmermans Oude Gueuze

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This is another beer from the sour Beer Club that I hosted. I’ve had very limited experience with Lambics, especially Gueuze. I was expecting a super funky beer that everyone would hate. Instead, it was delightful, refreshing, and complex. It brought a little bit of the funk on the nose, but the palate was lemony. So good.

8. Lost Abbey Carnevale

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a better domestic Saison than this one. Great beer with an American hop approach that gives it an enhanced citrus character. Amarillo works really well in this beer.

9. Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies

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I love Deschutes and I love their Bond Street series of beer. The series is all about the hop and it’s been awhile since they’ve released a new one. Not only is it just a delicious IPA, it’s also an unusual one. It only has Pilsner malt and flaked oats, which gives it a light and cracker-y malt profile instead of the more caramel like malts we generally see in an IPA out here. How about the hop? It’s not just Cascades, it’s an heirloom variety fresh from the farm.

10. Boulevard Stingo

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I honestly thought I was going to hate this beer. I’m not a huge fan of British style beer, but man, did this wow me. It will surprise you by how drinkable it is. It even has a tart-ness to it. It delivers plenty of dark malt goodness, but stays pretty dry on the palate.

11. Fremont 77 Select

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This is the second appearance from Fremont on this list. Both IPAs. They know their hops. Let’s try this on for size: a 4% IPA, also with a Pilsner malt base that features Warrior, Calypso, and Cascades. This is the best session beer around, and don’t be shy because of the hops. It’s wonderfully balanced.

12. Stone More Brown Than Black IPA

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This was a wild beer. It’s got Super Galena, Nelson Sauvin, Delta, Galaxy, and Citra hops. As you can imagine, it’s one of the most interesting hop profiles I’ve ever tasted. It works so well with their more brown than black IPA malt profile.

13. Real Ale Sisyphus 2012

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Another brewery that I rarely get to try is Real Ale out of Texas. They make one of my favorite Barleywines. I’ve never had one quite like it. The malts aren’t quite as dark and it has a certain “brightness” to it. You can even see how light the color is compared to most in the style.

14. American Caboose Oatmeal Stout

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When Skip Madsen opened up his new brewery, Washington beer lovers were in for a treat. He’s a literal legend in Washington brewing and his return to the scene brought us a quintessential IPA. But my favorite is this oatmeal stout. It hits every note perfectly and I can’t think of a better stout in this fine beer state.

15. Full Sail Phil’s Existential Alt

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This beer is part of a new “Brewers Share” series from Full Sail. It allows a brewer to make whatever beer they want and they get to choose a charity for a portion of the proceeds. That’s awesome in itself, but this beer is absolutely delicious. It’s like a light ale or heavy lager, but with dark malts. I can’t think of a better beer to drink on a rainy afternoon in Washington.

16. Silver City Saint Florian

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Speaking of good deeds, this brewery also donates a portion of this beers sales to the benevolent firefighters fund. Now this is what we think of as an IPA in the Pacific Northwest. It’s got a fairly big hop profile, but it doesn’t destroy your palate. One of my favorite Washington IPAs.

17. Firestone Walker Ā§ucaba

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It’s funny that the two Barleywines to make it on this list are both a bit unusual. While the Sisyphus was lighter and brighter than most, this is darker and inkier than most. This has this toasted nut and chocolate thing going on that’s just beautiful.

18. Silver City Deluxe Spring Lager

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Here’s another beer from Silver City. This is simply a delicious lager that delivers drinkability and flavor. If you are one who thinks lagers are boring, then this is the beer for you.

19. Jester King Black Metal

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Another Texas brewery that doesn’t distribute out here in Jester King. This beer seems to be a bit controversial for some reason. This brewery uses a Belgian farmhouse strain of yeast in their beer. Many feel it doesn’t work in this one. I disagree. This would be a really good imperial stout with an American style strain, but the Belgian gives it an interesting flavor component.

20. Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale

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You probably either love this beer or hate it. I love it. It’s certainly one of the most controversial beers of the year. I love smoked beers, so perhaps that’s why I like it so much. I can see how it’s over-the-top for many people, but that’s okay, more for me.

21. Ninkasi Nuptiale

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This is the only beer that I’ve rated under 90 points (89) to make it on the list. You know, I don’t always want a complex big beer. Sometimes a light cream ale hits the spot, and I’ve never tasted a better one.

22. HUB Secession CDA

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This beer is so “Pacific Northwest” it’s not even funny. It’s named after the idea of Cascadia and features organic malts and hops. It’s also one of the best “American Black Ales” that I’ve had. It’s a bit aggressive on the hops, but still manages great balance.

23. Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout

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In my mind, the only other beer to share the title of best chocolate beer is the Boulevard Chocolate Ale. This is so chocolaty it’s just not fair.

24. New Belgium Tart Lychee

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The second appearance of New Belgium. This is one of those beers that I usually scoff at. Some crazy combination that New Belgium and Dogfish Head love to do and I usually end up hating. This one works. It’s a wild ale, and you already know how much I love the sour and funk, with lychee fruit (delicious), cinnamon sticks, and Partially aged on oak. It’s fruity, tart, and complex.

25. Chatoe Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale

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My favorite pumpkin beer of the year. I love these darker malts that play so well with the spices. It’s a bit pricey, but worth it.

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