Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Awards

Today is the last day of 2008 2009. A year that has seen much for the brewing industry. The big got bigger, and the small got ... well ... bigger. This could be one of those years that a few years in the future we look back and can point to things that happened and say "this was a turning point". The AB-InBev merger changed the American and global landscape in ways that we can't really imagine right now. Some Wisconsin breweries took industry-leading steps in producing, brewing and marketing beer that will be the future of global microbrewing. History has been revealed within the construct of modern trends in ways that could re-define a style. On the other hand, it could all just be an insignificant point on the timeline of the universe without any real consequence at all.

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.


  1. I would be very very sad if Hop Hearty IPA went away. As Spotted Cow was the beer that made me love beer and introduced me to a whole world of craft brews I had been unaware of, Hop Hearty IPA is the beer that got me into hoppy beers and is still my go to sessionable IPA.

  2. I agree fully on the Hop Hearty. I almost feel responsible, knowing how many times I have passed over a sixer of Hop Hearty to take a flier on something exotic that more often that not was less satisfactory.

    O'So Dank is really amazing, and has firmly put me in the knob-slobbering camp as well.

    My favorite special would certainly have to be NG's Bohemian Lager. I just couldn't get enough, and I'm happy to still find a few leftover four-packs from time to time.

  3. The Hop Hearty is going away, but I've seen their line-up/schedule for 2010 and it looks great. three new beers during the year plus the four unplugged beers.

    I haven't had the Dank yet, but the O'so folks blew me away with the Jack Lantern (?) or whatever it was called; the Lupulus Maximus (fun gimmic and a great beer); the Oktoberfest and the year rounders make them a top brewer in WI. Any kinks and quirks they had are behind them so the consistency is finally where it needs to be.


  4. Some Random thoughts: The much maligned Badger Porter looks like it's liked by some people.

    Best session APA/IPA's? I can think of 4 that I would rather have then NG HH. Kiss the Lips, Hopalicious, Wild Ride IPA and of course Bitter Woman,

    Overrated beer trend : Brettanomyces added to beer. Way overdone. A little goes along way, but some brewers think way more is better

    Worst Beer of the year: Tie between New Glarus Old English Porter and Horny Goat (pick anyone there all bad!)

    Most underrated brewery: tie between Tyranena, Lake Louie, Sand Creek, Sprecher and any brewery ignored or panned by MBR.

    I'll believe when I taste it: The hype surrounding OSO, I have had their brews and when they weren't off were very pedestrian. If they do as you say they are going to, then it will be a good addition to the scene.

    Happy New Year and looking forward to some great beers.

  5. Let me know when you're going to start a petition to keep Hop Hearty around. I'll join in a second. Clearly one of the best IPA's out there if your criteria includes being able to taste malt. Very well balanced. KTL is good but nothing stands out about it, Hopalicious is thin and one-dimensional but a darn good Pale Ale, Wild Ride (really?), at least Bitter Woman gets close to the goodness of HH. I just don't understand how NG won't have an IPA in their stable this year. Why fewer beers?

  6. Nice write up. I am very much looking forward to trying out the Dank (perhaps even tonight), and will also miss Hop Hearty. But I am in the camp who did not like Old English and will not be disappointed if it finds its way in to obscurity. Similarly I am not a fan of Lakefront. I've given them many a try, many times over, and have yet to find a beer of theirs that I would want to drink another of. Maybe the Eastside Dark, but that would have to depend of other factors.
    Looking forward to what 2010 will bring!
    (ps - check line 1, you say "last day of 2008").

  7. "Worst Beer of the year: New Glarus Old English Porter"

    I agree 100%. I would not even boil a brat in it. I know 4 people sitting on 2 packs. We should collect it all for an exchange. Even homeless people hate it.

  8. How about you pool all those brews and send 'em my way if you're so eager to get rid of them.

    I freely admit that the OEP is not for everyone. But for whatever reason it rung my bell.

    Oh. And about the NG IPA - while it IS being retired (at least for this year), the "Moon Man" scheduled to replace it IS a Pale Ale.

  9. Interesting banter about 2009 brews, breweries. I am not a fan of NG Old English Porter either--much too sour for my taste! And, while the discussion is on disappointing brews, I have not had any good luck (as if luck is needed) with Viking beers out of Dallas. I have had nothing but sourness from most, and I don't believe it's because of the way the beers are stored. Anyone else experience this with Viking??


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