It's awards time.
We've already given out Most Improved Retail Selection: Barriques in Madison. With the hiring of a beer specialist, and the subsequent surrender of the beer buying to David Sanborn, Barriques has turned their Fitchburg location into a great "singles" bar.
Best Experimental Beer: Grumpy Troll Iced Maggie. An "ice cured" IIPA that took advantage of the multiple sub-zero days that froze Wisconsin last winter.
Best Beer Bar (Madison): The Malt House, Madison, WI. Yeah, I know, I initially derided it's lack of anything to do, but it's singular focus on beer (and now scotches and whiskeys and bourbons), its dedication to reasonable prices, and its workday ambiance make it a mecca for beer buffs passing through the city.
Best New Release: Furthermore Oscura. More iced coffee than espresso mud, it showed a great playfulness and exceptional skill to pull off a flavorful, different summer brew. It is a beer that will distinguish Furthermore for a long time.
Best Seasonal: Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout. A big, bold flavorful beer that is like drinking a cherry cordial with immense malt complexity. We should consider ourselves lucky that we can get this here in Wisconsin. It's only a pity that Central Waters doesn't package this in a 22oz bomber or, even better, a caged and corked 750ml bottle.
Best Special Release: Lakefront Bridge Burner. A different kind of beer for Lakefront, it is a great effort from a brewery that has a lot of flexibility to experiment in the upper end now that their everday lineup is firing on all cylinders.
Best Year-Round Release: Rowland's Calumet Oktoberfest. Always available. And, to my mind, the single best beer you can find every single day of the year anywhere in the world. And, no, I'm not exaggerating.
Best Beer 2008: Ale Asylum Mercy Grand Cru. Is it a blonde? A tripel? A quad? Who cares!? It's great. Big and bold and flavorful, it is great to finally see Ale Asylum start to unleash some of their Belgian beers on the public.
Best Brewery 2008: New Glarus Brewing Company. They just keep getting bigger, but they just keep getting better, too. Unlike other breweries that struggle to maintain quality as they get bigger, New Glarus has not missed on a single beer all year. The Unpluggeds were unparalleled and the new Alt really shows that New Glarus has something to add to the worldwide beer conversation.
Best Brewpub 2008: Please vote for Best Brewpub in the poll to the left there. Polling will be open until February 28, 2009, then we'll tally it up and announce the results.