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#DCBrews Looks Back on the Beers of 2012

You might remember that last year, the DCBeer team and some notable folks from the #DCBrews community weighed in to share their favorite beers of 2011. Well, we thought about giving you our favorite beers of 2011 again to the best of our memory, but then we said screw it, let's talk about 2012 beers instead. This post has two sections. First you'll hear from the DCBeer team, then you'll hear from those beer directors and other prominent #DCBrews folks who we reached out to. Cheers and here's to a great 2013. Thanks for reading DCBeer!

It all started when...

Andrew: So I was just thinking of how intentful Full Steam beers are...like 'em or not [Ed. Note: and he does!], they are intensely focused. I mean, they brewed a beer with the simple idea of RC Cola and a Moon Pie. Anyway. It got me to thinking that a cool end of year list might me a collection of really focused beers best of list. Something like Most Intentful/Creative Beers of 2012, Most Anticipated Beers of 2012, Best #DCBrews Events of 2012.

Nick: Everybody loves a list, so I think this is a good concept to work with.  I'm good with most creative and best events, but not sure what we'd want to do with Most Anticipated. Are we going to do a more general "Best Beers" list as well, outside of the more focused categories?  If so, we should break it up somehow...maybe a high gravity list and a low gravity list?  By style?

And then it got rolling...

Jake: The answer to all these questions is Stillwater Premium. The second best answer is Flying Dog Underdog. Good day.

Bill Jusino: Correct, though I think 3 Stars Brewing Company Pandemic Breakfast Porter deserves attention for being highly anticipated and very well made. 

Mike: Why don't we all just nominate beers and then compose the list from that. If not, how about "most creative beers within a day's drive from DC" too long a title? Thus far: Andrew - Full Steam, Jake - Premium, Bill Jusino - Pandemic, Bill DeBaun - Michelada.

Chris: If we're giving credit for ingenuity, I think Port City's Derecho Common deserves some love - nifty idea, great story.

Nick: I'm with Bill J. on Pandemic.  Or DC Brau Your Favorite Foreign Movie (partly for the story, partly because I liked it a lot).

Jake: Add to the best new beers list: Brewery Vivant's Escoffier, the first canned brett beer.

John: So that is what starts debate: first constitutes best? because there are far better Bretts.

Jake: I guess I should of added that I really liked it. A tropical funk instead of a dry one. Also falls under creative and intentful, whatever those mean. Other great beers from this year were New Belgium Shift, Williamsburg Alewerks Bitter Valentine, and New Glarus Serendipity.

David: Stone 12.12.12 worked well for me.

Mike: I'd put Mad Fox Brewing Company Praha Pils on that list. Also thought DuClaw's X-1 Imperial Chocolate Rye was damn tasty. Along the dark beer lines, Coffee Stout from Rock Bottom in Arlington won a bronze in the Coffee Beer category at the 2012 World Beer Cup, I thought this was well deserved. Was Stillwater Bronze Age this year? 'Cause that ish was well worth the eye I almost put out popping the cork.

Bill DeBaun: Since 2012 was arguably the year of Citra hops, I'm putting in a vote for DC Brau/Stillwater Middle Name Danger in there. 

Nick: Middle Name Danger seconded. Also, I think Maui Brewing came to Virginia in January/February of 2012, so their Coconut Porter goes on the list or I will cut someone.

David: I also enjoyed Devils Backbone Kilt Flasher scotch ale.

Bill DeBaun: Also Maui/Jolly Pumpkin Sobrehumano Palena'ole gets a vote from me. Really cool collaboration.

Jake: The Jolly Pumpkin version is fantastic. I have a few bottles of it, so perhaps it should make an appearance at our next get together.

Nick: Sobrehumano was ruhl tasty...but really only the sour version. What about Maine Beer Company? Their Peeper Ale is phenomenal.

JohnRodenbach Caractère Rouge was the best beer I had that was specifically 2012.

Bill DeBaun: Oh let me put a vote in for Oxbow FPA too.

Nate: How about Lost Rhino Wandering Belgian? That was a pretty nifty release in 2012.

Mike: Meh. Favorite Foreign Movie was better. [Ed. Note: Mike was a brewer on Wandering Belgian, check out the humility on this guy!]

Chris: And 2012 saw Devils Backbone make it up here, no?

Nick: So that would mean Devils Backbone VIENNA LAGER x 100000 on the list.  I forgot when they started distributing to DC area.

Bill DeBaun: Let me get some late votes in for Dominion Double D Double IPA and Monk Czech Belgian Pilsner, and from waaaay back in February, Chocolate City's The Mothership Connection

So that's the word from the DCBeer staff, including links to the stories on some of these beers. As you can see, it was a pretty varied year for our tastebuds. Now onto the rest of the #DCBrews community!

Tommy Hunter (@flyingdogtommy), Flying Dog Brewery's DC Representative: 2012 brought many tasty and boundary pushing beers to the DC beer scene.  It truly is a kick ass time to be a part of a thriving beer community.  However, my favorite beer of 2012 did not come from a DMV brewery.  I was in Chicago and thoroughly enjoyed a (When I say "a" I mean "5 or 6") phenomenal Belgian Pale Ale from Haymarket Pub and Brewery in Chicago.  The yeast and Amarillo hop flavors were explosive for a session-ish beer.  The guys at Haymarket make killer beers and I always make sure to stop by when I'm in Chicago.

Tim Prendergast (@dcchilin), Cellarman and Assistant Beer Director at Meridian Pint: Gotta be Lost Rhino Zlaty Pils, their attempt at a traditional Czech Pilsner that they brewed earlier in 2012.  Using Moravian floor-malted barley and Saaz hops, it is a simple, yet complex, showcase for extremely high quality ingredients. There's a great baking spice malt character that makes you understand why they went through the time consuming process of doing a traditional double-decocted mash. I've been obsessed with unfiltered lagers ever since.

Mike Tonsmeire (@madfermentation), the Mad Fermentationist and renowned DC Homebrewer: 

  • Allagash Resurgam, their non-fruited coolship-inoculated beer. For my palate it is the closest any American brewer has come to lambic. It shared the soft acidity of my favorite gueuze, and had beautifully bright lemon-mineral-hay aromatics. I’d had a bottle a few weeks before GABF and was blown-away. At the fest in Denver it stood out on the floor next to dozens of terrific sour beers (not to mention all of the other styles I drank). 
  • The other beer that shines in my memory of 2012 was Alpine’s Hoppy Birthday, with its sticky pine-citrus-tropical saturated hop nose, and why-not-have-another-glass 5.25% ABV. It is hard to imagine a better session beer in existence for someone, like me, who loves American hop-bombs. I’d much rather have two pints of it than one of the many delicious double IPAs out there.

Laura Harris (@fab_laura), Widmer Brothers Brewery DC Representative - My favorite beer was Widmer Brothers Marionberry Hibiscus Gose, part of the 924 series.  From the bright (and unusual) pink color from the hibiscus flowers, the bitterness of the marionberries,  to the lingering salt aftertaste, this beer was the perfect accompaniment to the brutal DC summer heat. 

Miles Gray (@kingmilesiii), Managing Partner, Smith Commons - Jolly Pumpkin "Fuego del Otoño". Proper.

Sean Dalton (@seanldalton), #DCBrews Mainstay and All-Around Good Guy: 

  • Stillwater Red Wine Barrel Aged Cellar Door - I'm an unabashed Stillwater fanboy, and I'm not alone among the folks who frequent DCBeer.com.  But when no less than Bill DeBaun himself came through with a bottle of this delight for a cookout, I was floored. The "regular" version of Cellar Door is one of my favorite beers, and the addition of the wine-influenced notes of cherry and earthy wood in this barrel-aged variety just made the beer absolutely sing.
  • More Brown Than Black - I try to avoid the Black IPA/CDA/ABA debate, since the style really doesn't do much for me, but this citrusy CDA collaboration between Stone, Ninkasi and The Alchemist was a standout.  As hopped-up as you would expect, given its lineage, the real surprise in this beer was the persistence of the roasty, nutty character of the malts. I just couldn't get enough of this beer last spring.
Bernie Van Order (@lagunitasbernie), Lagunitas Brewing Company's DC Representative: In a recent trip to Philly this past year I revisited a beer made by a good friend of mine. My pick for 2012 is Sly Fox’s Pikeland Pils. There is much lager love in and around the Philly area, and I just think this one really hits the spot. It’s got the backbone and overall balance of hop flavor. To quote a friend of mine, it’s crisp like lettuce and bright like the sun!
 
Phil Peters, Beer Director, Smith Commons: 
  • Ommegang/Duvel Rustica - I really enjoyed this beer. The Belgian golden ale style with some fruit notes made this a drinkable beer for all occasions, and who can argue with the collaboration of two great breweries with great reputations?
  • Stillwater Artisanal Ales "Of Love and Regret" - This beer drank just like it was described, and the German Barley base provided a different flavor profile than i was used to. It quickly has become one of my favorite beers despite being limited and hard to find!

Matthew "Heff" Heffernan (@beerpairing), Founder and Editor of the Soon-to-be-Launched BeerPairing.org: In 2012, I was lucky enough to have two of those rare experiences when something you've been told is incredibly awesome actually lives up to the hype.  I treasure these moments because my natural disposition is anti-hype, and I often end up not being able to enjoy a thing if 40 people, or the entire internet, have already told me how freaking spectacular it is. One was a Shake Shack burger and the other was a Westy [Westvleteren 12] (not at the same time, although I imagine that to be an epic pairing worthy of its own temple).  The beer wasn't from the recently released gift-pack, but from the self-procured collection of my buddy Pete.  He had cellared the bottle for under a year, and said that in his opinion the time had mellowed any heat perfectly.  It was everything I had hoped it could be.  The most balanced example of a quad there ever was.  One that could only be crafted with a little extra assistance from the baby Jesus.  As I sipped, I couldn't help but say a little prayer of thanks.

Bill Butcher (@portcitybrew), Founder, Port City Brewing Company: My best beer of 2012 was not a beer that I drank, but it was a beer that I poured, or rather, many beers that I poured, for many of your readers that attended SAVOR in June. We poured our Optimal Wit and Porter at SAVOR. It was great to have so many local beer aficionados come by our table to say hello. Many of them commented that after having so many whiskey barrel, fruit infused, soured, brett and other unusual beers, it was great to see our beer, and have a  taste of Optimal Wit for a familiar palate cleanser. It was like they had found an old familiar friend in our beer. That experience made me realize that a change is underway with DC beer drinkers, and locally brewed beer is becoming an important part of our beer drinking culture.

Eric Judycki (@JEWDIZZZLE), Beer Director, The Big Hunt: There have  been so many great new beers I tried in the past year that it's almost impossible to narrow it down to one or two, but like a favorite album or movie I tried to think in terms of which one I would never tire of... Blue Mountain Barrel House's Full Nelson reminded me of how a pale ale can really stand out against its competition. Awesomely heavier on the citrus notes than the average APA clearly due to the huge presence of Cascade hops, I could easily find an excuse to drink this beer on almost any occasion. Recently available in DC, I love a good many of this series; including their Local Species and Uber Pils. Also could drink Lagunitas Lucky 13.alt everyday for the next year. Super sweet with honey and floral hops, I recall that it made me smile with each sip I took. Notable mentions- DuClaw X-1, 3 Star Pandemic, Firestone Walker Wookey Jack.

Amy Bowman (@thblacksquirrel), Co-Owner, The Black Squirrel: Mother Earth Silent Night Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. The beer coming out of North Carolina has really impressed me over the years.  But if prodded to name a brewery that consistently knocked it out of the park in 2012, the Kinston, N.C.-based Mother Earth Brewing would be the one. Not that many people can point to Kinston on the map, but beer aficionados from all over the East Coast make the trek to Eastern North Carolina to visit Mother Earth Brewing.  I was one of them as well.  I found myself in downtown Kinston, with a buddy, in Mother Earth’s ethereal white-curtained tap room with a Silent Night bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout in my hand.  It’s an absolutely spectacular beer, not too boozy and extremely approachable -- kind of like the folks at Mother Earth.  After our first round of beer, the packaging manager gave my buddy and me an impromptu tour of their brewery, after which we tucked into the rest of Mother Earth beers.  We stayed bellied-up to the tap-room bar until last call, which, unfortunately for us, was 10 p.m. in lovely Kinston.

Jay Irizarry (@choccitybeer), Co-Founder, Chocolate City Brewing - Shameless Plug Alert! I have to say with honesty that my fave of 2012 was our Mothership Connection Weizenbock. High alchohol content but balanced perfectly, dark fruits and coriander, and as it aged it kept getting better and better. The complexity of the MCW kept me going back and back and back to it again, I kept finding something new. I am looking forward to this winter's batch fo sho.  

And there you have it from the #DCBrews chorus, folks. Be sure to chime in yourselves in the comments with what you agree (and disagree!) with. From our staff to you and yours, wishing you the very best in 2013! Cheers!

 
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