Best Beers of 2011

Craft Beer Christmas


It is now time for me to hand out my awards for the best craft beers that I had in 2011. (Even the Brew & You column is not immune to the siren call of the “year end best of” list craze.)

Each beer year brings new delights and chances to sample rare beers. This year I had my first taste of Dark Lord from Three Floyds, Chocolate Rain from The Bruery and Pliny the Younger from Russian River. As good as those beers were, they get enough press. So here, in no particular order, are my favorites from the year that was.

CismonTAPS Saison – I have had two versions of this beer the regular (if you can call it that and the aged on Conundrum wine barrel version) and both impressed with sparkle and brightness.

Ballast Point Victory at Candy Cane Cove – Mint in beer can usually create a toothpaste taste, but this had a lovely chocolate balance to it.

Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale – I love the Citra hop and this really accentuated all that I love about it. Just a tropical fruit punch of an IPA.

Tallgrass Velvet Rooster Belgian Tripel – This is one of two canned entries that caught my eye. A mixture of spice and vanilla coated my tongue wonderfully.

Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard Ale – Just a big bruiser of hops and malts with an alcohol kick to it, but all three components worked for me.

Beachwood Thrill Seeker IPA – This new brewery is pumping out some great hop bombs, but this one tops my list. Big and herbal with a load of bitterness.

The Bruery Humulus Wet – I had many Bruery beers to choose from, but this wet hopped beer stuck in my mind the most. Effervescent with a wonderful aroma.

Cascade Apple Pie – A slightly tart sour from the masters in Portland. If I have any Cascade sours, they make it onto my year end list.

BrewDog Punk IPA (5.6%) – My IPA tastes are leaning toward the lighter, citrus side and this canned Scottish IPA is both.

Brùton Bianca – This Belgian white beer was spicy and peppery with a hint of flowery tea notes too. Ended with a dry citrus finish.

Eagle Rock Brewery Populee – A mash-up of the popular Populist IPA and the holiday strong ale Jubilee. The hops really undercut the heaviness of the Jubilee to make a really interesting brew.

I cannot leave out El Segundo Brewing and Golden Road from being mentioned. Both have had a tremendous year with a line-up of great beers that I simply cannot choose one over the other. Solid from top to bottom.

Makes me glad that there is another year of beer to enjoy. Cheers to 2011 and 2012!

Your Homework this week is to put a bottle of great craft beer under the tree (or into a sturdy stocking) and not just for the craft beer geek on your list. Everyone deserves a great beer at Christmas.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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