In any event, at least we got some good beer, right?
Best Experimental Beer: Brewed in 2008, but released in 2009, Furthermore's Thermo Refur was a hodgepodge of style, technique and ingredient that worked (or didn't work) really, really well. It was the first in a theme repeated throughout the year about temperature and taste. This beer really likes warmer temperatures - treat it with respect and you just might like it. But, then again, you might not.
Best New Release: O'So Dank. OK, I haven't published my review of it yet, but trust me, if you think I slobber on the knob of Furthermore and New Glarus you'll accuse me of taking it bending over from O'So next year. I'm sorry. Was that too graphic? The leaps and bounds that O'So has made this year has vaulted Marc and company into the top of the Wisconsin brew chain. The improvement is obvious to anyone who has been to a beer festival lately; the lines for these guys rival the lines for some of the best in the region. And the adoration is well-deserved - they're making some really unique, challenging, and fun beer. This beer reminds me of a really hoppy Bridge Burner. Technically a "special release" since it's the first anniversary beer, I put it here in the hopes that they will make this every so often just for me.
Best Seasonal: Ale Asylum Ballistic. OK. Technically a "new release" but it will be a seasonal for them, so there. My favorite quote from my interview with Otto regarding the likelihood of an imperial IPA: "Probably not. Our take on the style would have to be so brutally hopped it wouldn’t tickle the taste buds so much as beat them into submission." Not more than 6 months later Satisfaction Jacksin is on the shelves beating our taste buds into submission.
Best Special Release: Tyranena Dirty Old Man. Rye? Check. Whiskey? Check. Porter? Check. Practically everything I love combined into one beer? To quote myself: "I'm all over that like a fly on shit." I can be so poetic.
Best Year-Round Release: New Glarus Hop Hearty IPA. New Glarus now lists this under "Beers we have known and loved" which leads me to think that it will not be brewed next year. That makes me very, very sad. So, a "new release" that's technically a "special release", a "seasonal" that's technically a "new release" and a "year-round" that isn't going to be made any more. Should I just stop labeling the awards and call it "Beer I Liked This Year Award #X"?
Best Beer 2009: New Glarus Old English Porter. Sorry everyone. You either love it or hate it. And, well, I loved it. It made me re-examine the very nature of a whole style of beer. It caused me to write seemingly endless words about porters, what porters are (and are not); it caused numerous comments both for and against. Poured at 55 degrees, its complex interaction of sour, roast and smoke make this not just one of the most unique beers in Wisconsin or the United States, but truly one of the best beers in the world.
Best Brewery 2009: Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI. All year Lakefront has impressed. The Imperial Maibock tasted fresh and inspired, the IPA was a fantastic summer thirst-quencher, the Holiday Spice was pretty darn tasty. And the Local Acre. We haven't actually talked about the Local Acre yet, but we will very, very soon and we will be talking about it in a lot of detail. In fact, so much detail you'll probably be posting here to stop talking about it. And, I won't stop talking about it. It is the future of the brewing industry. And not to minimize the work of others (like Dave Anderson at BrewFarm and Paul Graham at Central Waters and Bo Belanger at South Shore and Kirby Nelson at Capital who also have put in a lot of work that we will talk about in nauseating detail), but Russ Klisch deserves to be recognized for his dedication to this project and his environmental and local-centric ideals.
Best Porter 2009: O'So Nighttrain. The readers (who may have been directed here by someone up in Plover, not to point fingers ;) voted for O'So and I can't say that they are wrong. The Nighttrain is a fantastic, full-bodied, chocolate and espresso punch.
Best Brewpub 2009: vote in the poll on your right in the coming days and results will be tabulated in March.