I know, I know. This is one of the hardest questions to answer and one beer geeks often get asked this time of year. Typically, I default to the answer, “I don't know, I haven’t had it yet this year so I must press on and drink more.” No one wants to hear that; I get it.
The perfect beer involves way more than what’s in the glass. It could be a beer celebrating an important event or the first taste of your own homebrew. Take a look at some of our favorite beers of 2011. These aren’t necessarily new beers but instead were the most enjoyable beers of 2011. This year has provided no shortage of remarkable beers in the Washington DC metro area. The addition of new breweries and brands, and another year of the ever popular SAVOR Week means the best time to be drinking beer in DC is right now.
Let’s take a look at some of the best beers of the year. We are going to do this a bit differently. You guys see our posts, tweets, check-ins, and sidewalk tirades throughout the year and are well aware of what we like. <INSERT Bell's Two Hearted rant here, for example. You all know it's coming.>. To change things up a bit, we asked a few DC beer celebrities “What was your favorite beer of 2011?"
Take a look.
Matt Heffernan of The Smoke and Barrel - Bockor Cuvee de Jacobins
2011 was a big year for me. The opening of Smoke & Barrel was something I had dreamed about since I was eleven years old. It became even more exciting when Sam Fitz and I started discussing what route he wanted to go with the beer program. Like a lot of people in recent years, my obsession with beer had led me to a fixation on sour ales, and Sam was in the same place. When we got all the beers pouring, the first thing I tasted was the Jacobins, and I thought it was incredible. It was a beer moment I will never forget, and I get to relive it weekly because we are consistently carrying so many great sours on draft.
Tim Liu of Scion - Port City Monumental IPA
It's impossible for me to pick a favorite beer from the last year, so I'm not even going to try. However, my favorite beer experience from this year was drinking a Port City Monumental IPA straight off the bottling line. There's something great about drinking a fresh beer that's made in your own backyard. Cheers to all the local brewers that are busting their asses to make that possible!
Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales – DC Brau Corruption
I have to say DC Brau's Corruption... so happy to see a nice aggressively hopped IPA in the area that is lean, sharp, and not full of crystal malt... keeps you coming back for more!
Steve Jones of Oliver's Ale – Founders’ Blushing Monk
That is a tough one… like being asked which of my kids is my favorite! I'll try and be impartial by excluding any of my own brews which makes it a bit easier. There have been so many great beers and events over the course of the year, it's crazy! The DC beer scene has moved in leaps and bounds. With that in mind, I think my favorite beer/event was my first taste of Founder's Blushing Monk at the Big Hunt for many reasons ... the beer/the venue/the occasion/the company we were in! We'd been brewing like crazy here and I decided that by way of a reward I'd take my assistant Derek to DC to bar hop around some of the venues that have been good to us since we moved into the DC market and do it in style (i.e., stay in DC, no trip back up 295 that evening). I'd mentioned to Dave at Big Hunt that I was desperate to try Founders Blushing Monk (Founders is not distributed in MD). Ever thoughtful and generous Dave informed me that he had a sixtel of said beer and wouldn't tap it until we got there. True to his word within seconds of entering the Big Hunt we had a Blushing Monk in hand. The beer was everything I had hoped it would be and we were sharing the evening with great friends at one of the coolest bars around. The perfect start to an incredible evening of craft beer!
Tammy Tuck – DC Brau The Citizen
What a difficult question! Between three big beer trips this year and the constant parade of great brews that have come to D.C., I've had some really amazing stuff. But if I had to pick a favorite moment with a beer, relevant to the year and D.C., it'd be a sample of The Citizen Belgian pale ale I enjoyed at the DC Brau tasting room last month. As a steady stream of people came in to fill growlers, buy merch or just hang out, I marveled at what an incredible year D.C. has had and what a difference it makes to have a place like a local brewery as a hub for the beer community to rally around. It was a great moment to reflect on how far we've come and get a glimpse into the great things that lie ahead. Cheers to 2012!
Bill DeBaun – Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus
Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus at Max's Belgian Beer Fest. This festival is an experience every craft beer lover should have. You probably can't pronounce 50+% of the beer names, but you'll drink 100% of them all the same.
Tim Prendergast of Meridian Pint - DC Brau Public
My most memorable beer of 2011 was a DC Brau Public that I had on the night of April 15 at Meridian Pint before the DC Brau release party. Staff members got to sample The Public at our daily staff line-up before we opened our doors. As I sampled the beer and listened to Brandon and Jeff from DC Brau explain their beer to staff, I watched a line of people form outside our door, waiting to be among the first to sample the fruits of DC's first production brewery in 55 years. It created a palpable sense of excitement and importance that reverberated throughout the room. That line eventually reached 3 blocks long and helped us kick 15 kegs (~2000 pints of beer!) in 6 hours. It was a memorable night that I'll likely never forget.
Sean Dalton of #DCBrews – 3 Stars Pandemic Breakfast Porter
A trial batch of Pandemic Breakfast Porter from 3 Stars Brewing Company was graciously sampled for us. I think I'd had two sips of the porter when I said, "You guys are gonna be huge." And even before 3 Stars has begun full-blown production, 2011 was indeed huge for them, with debuts of their stellar Syndicate Saison collaboration with Evolution in Delaware, and their B.W. Rye with Oliver Breweries in Baltimore. I loved both of these brews, true, but it's going to be the serendipity of those two small bottles of 3 Stars' homebrew unexpectedly popped open that will stay with me for a long, long time.
Michael Tonsmeire of TheMadFermentationist.com - Cantillon Zwanze 2011
Finished brewing a sour beer with my friend Nathan Zeender just early enough time to make it for the tapping of this wine grape infused, dry hopped, lambic. It is inspiring to see a brewery as committed to tradition as Cantillon still coming up with unique combinations of flavors (with the balance to pull it off).
And last but not least I will mention my favorite. It has to be the 2009 Three Floyd’s Dark Lord I enjoyed alone at home the night before I got married. I’m a firm advocate of sharing rarities with friends, but every once in a while, maybe even in a lifetime, I suppose it’s okay to drop the needle on solid old vinyl and spend two hours drinking a beer alone.
What about you? Was 2011 the year you decided to embrace the craft beer revolution? Try something amazing?
Let us know and leave us a comment.