There were so many in 2010 that, for the first time, I felt compelled to write a mid-year Top10 Best Beers list in June. In fact, only three of the beers from the mid-year mark remain on my final Best Beers of 2010 list, which I share here:
What a year for craft beer. I cannot remember another year in which so many good beers were released.
There were so many in 2010 that, for the first time, I felt compelled to write a mid-year Top10 Best Beers list in June.
But breweries did not slow down in the second half of the year. In fact, only three of the beers from the mid-year mark remain on my final Best Beers of 2010 list, which I share here:
1. Stone Brewing Company, Lukcy Basartd, 8.5 percent alcohol by volume, California
I was so wow-ed by this oddly named beer that after I took the first sip, I sent an e-mail to a friend and told him to go buy it right away. It's just a standout in every single way. It's a blend of Stone's Arrogant Bastard, Double Bastard and Oaked Arrogant Bastard. You get a fair amount of oak notes in the beer, and the hops are ever present. If you're a hophead, this is a must-buy.
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 30th Anniversary Ale -- Grand Cru, 9.2 percent ABV, California
Another hoppy blend –– this is a mix of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, Celebration (the winter India pale ale) and barrel-aged Bigfoot (a barleywine). A lot of flavors going on while piney and citrusy flavor notes dominate. It's an unmistakable a big beer, and it's almost twice the strength of an average mass-produced beer but drinkable.
3. Brooklyn Brewery, Sorachi Ace, 7.6 percent ABV, New York
This was actually my No. 1 beer at the halfway mark of the year. It's still fantastic. Completely different than the top two beers –– they are beasts that smack your palate in the face –– the Sorachi Ace is a delicate beer. It's a saison, perfect with food. It uses Sorachi hops, which gives it a hint of lemon flavor and aroma. Beautifully done.
4. Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, Our Finest Regards, 13.5 percent ABV, Massachusetts
Most of Pretty Things' brews are world-class, and this beer could be their best (last year, their Baby Tree was my 2009 Beer of the Year). It is a definite sipper, and probably best to split between two friends. Our Finest Regards, an English-style barley wine, has a sweetness from the malts that is perfectly balanced with the bitterness of the hops. It is a good beer to drink now or to save for a few years.
5. Brewery Ommegang, Zuur, 6 percent ABV, New York
Brewery Ommegang specializes in brewing Belgian-style ales, and the Zuur is no different. The Zuur is a Flanders oud bruin, or brown ale. It's slightly tart and sour, but so wonderful that after you finish the first glass, you'll want another. It smells fruity, with a little nuttiness. It's not overly sour, sometimes a trait of this style, which is great if you're not used to such.
6. Cisco Brewers, Cherry Woods, 4.7 percent ABV, Massachusetts
This was just a wonderful, fruity beer. It's barrel-aged, wheat-based and infused with wild yeast and bacteria to produce a tart beer full of cherry flavors. It's the best fruit-centric beer produced in Massachusetts.
7. Founders Brewing Company, 2009 Nemesis, 12 percent ABV, Michigan
OK, the bottle says 2009, but it wasn't released until 2010 because the brewery did not think it was ready to be released before the end of the last year. Nemesis is not a subtle beer. This wheat wine has tons of flavors: maple, bourbon, vanilla and caramel. It can be overwhelming if you're not used to this many flavors in a beer, but it's a beer worth experiencing.
8. Wormtown Brewing Company, Sweet Tat's Breakfast Stout, 8-ish percent ABV, Massachusetts
Worcester's Wormtown Brewing Company released close to 20 beers in 2010, and this is the best. It's an oatmeal stout with a lot of coffee and chocolate flavors and just a hint of vanilla. This is a draft-only beer that won't return until some time in 2011.
9. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Bitches Brew, 9 percent ABV, Delaware
Bitches Brew is probably the most well known beer on this list because it was featured on the premiere episode of Discovery Channel's "Brew Masters." It's a stout that's blended with an African style of beer, making it lighter than a typical imperial stout. And along with the normal coffee and chocolate flavors you get with a typical stout, you also get a lot of honey and some flowery notes from the African beer.
10. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, 30th Anniversary Ale -- Jack and Ken's Ale, 10.2 percent ABV, California
Yes, you're seeing this right –– two Sierra Nevada beers make the top 10 list. This is a black barley wine, a style I've never seen until this year. An American barley wine is typically very hoppy, with a huge malt backbone. The difference with this beer is chocolate malts, giving it a much different flavor than other barley wines. The mix works on many levels.
Check back next week to see my choices for the top 10 breweries of the year. Until then, log onto my blog and leave your top choices of both beers and breweries of the year.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer in Massachusetts. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.wickedlocal.com/beernut/ or follow the Beer Nut at his Twitter page at www.twitter.com/realbeernut.