Greetings brethren’s of beer. As this year comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment and look back at the beers reviewed this year on the Tap Trail, and see how they all stacked up. There was no shortage of good beer here, and I didn’t even get to post full reviews of every single new beer consumed, only so much time! I did want to analyze the ratings of the beers I did get to review, and hand select my top five beers. To do this, I converted some of the simple ratings of each category being out of 5 points, to more closely follow the BJCP Judging Guidelines, the raw numbers are all the same, they just get skewed / weighted to follow the BJCP. So Appearance: 3, Aroma: 12, Taste: 20, Mouthfeel: 5, Overall: 10. Doing this didn’t change many rankings, but it did help to classify what beers were truly World Class (45+ Points), Excellent, etc…
We’ve got one more rather large beer event this year, Elizabeth Station’s Darkest Day is on December 21st and will be featuring some killer Imperial Stouts and Barrel Aged beers, some of which could easily supplant themselves into the top five, hell one of them already IS in the top five beers of the year for me. This event is going to be one amazing way to celebrate the winter solstice, holiday fun, and round out the year in beer.
I will be heading back home to my motherland of beer next week, Colorado of course. Home to Odell, Avery, Funkworks, Grimm Brothers, Oskar Blues, Ska, Dry Dock, Bull & Bush, Crooked Stave, Vindication, Odd 13, and many more breweries that a near and dear to me. I may churn out a review or two whilst in the air on the way home, but I will more likely be reveling in the trip that was.
Let’s see how we stacked up this year, the top 5 are ranked below, from 5 to 1, cheers!
A much more pronounced barrel character brings about notes of vanilla, oak, cinnamon, white oak whiskey barrel, Bourbon, char, burnt caramel, toasted coconut, dark bitter chocolate, dark cherries. Tastes like a dark chocolate Almond Joy covered in sea salt and caramel, chased with a shot of Eagle Rare. Just such an amalgamation of flavors, all well within balance with no single flavor dominating or overpowering the rest of the melange, very well done. Though really, this is a chocolaty, boozy, coconut laden masterpiece in a glass.
Aromas start to fill the room as soon as the cap is taken off. Big hit of charred malts, chocolates, cocoa, vanilla, caramel, bitter coffee and espresso. Lightly sweet undertone of quality maple syrup comes across as well, very nice depth without being overly sweet or bitter. As it warms there are greater waves of vanilla, cinnamon, bitter cocoa nibs, and freshly roasted coffee, really great. The bourbon barrel really comes to the forefront but it is incredibly balanced and rich. Great notes of vanilla, caramel, cream, oak, charred white oak barrel, cinnamon, brown sugar, molasses, and a resounding round note of Vermont maple syrup. This definitely errs on the sweet side of the spectrum but it is ridiculous just how balanced this beer is, especially considering its high ABV.
Taste is predicated on the dark & rich side of the spectrum, dominated by chewy coffee and chocolate notes, as it warms the caramel and vanilla begin to awake. Finishes with a salty, tart kick to it. This is like slowly eating a dark chocolate covered salted caramel whilst sipping on a fantastic cup of dark roasted coffee, with a Bourbon back. Just fantastic. A great depth of flavors showcasing chocolate, caramel, coffee, vanilla, oak, balsamic vinegar, chewy and delicious.2. Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett — 46.4 / 50 Points — Outstanding/World-Class
Immense depth of flavor, lots and lots going on. Starts very acidic, tart, and bright, with notes of cranberries, raspberries, cherries, tart apple. Rolls into a bit of a Brett showcase with a bit of barnyard and funk, fresh hay and horse blanket. Moves to a roasty, deeply rich and almost charred finish. Very nice finish of roasted coffee beans, unsweetened chocolate, bitter tobacco and leather. Good bit of light oak and vanilla sweetness from the barrel on the finish. A total amalgamation of flavors here.
A nearly perfect score for this beer, this isn’t just one of the best beers of this year, it is easily one of the best beers I’ve had, Top-10 without a doubt. Right off the bat this is one of the best liquids I have ever smelled, never mind beer, this smells like you’ve been out picking raspberries all day long, you’ve now got a whole 6 gallon bucket filled full of them, you take a couple big handfuls and shove your face, nose first into them. It is amazingly fresh, vibrant, bright and delicious. You’re covered in fresh raspberries, that is what this beer smells like. Don’t let your mind wander too far off, but hopefully you get the picture here. Unsurprisingly this beer tastes almost exactly as it smells. Very raspberry forward and focused. Though as it warms there is an amazing vinous and slightly tannic quality that arrives and develops. This really helps tie everything together. On the finish there is a drying and slightly sweet vanilla component thanks to the oak. Just a tremendous depth of flavors on this one, raspberry, oak, red wine, vanilla, caramel, lacto, tart, clean, refreshing.
What a fun year in beer, I look forward to another tremendous year next year, I will be adopting the BJCP scoring going forward. As always if there are any beers you would like to see reviewed on the Tap Trail, shoot me an email or beer mail and we’ll get it consumed and reviewed.