It’s time to write my “Best of 2009” wrap-up post, looking back over the past year to come up with “The Brew Site Best”: those beers and breweries and festivals that really stood out for me personally. (Which is my disclaimer to say that in no way am I proclaiming these to be the “Best of All Time” or willing to get into fisticuffs over.)
I drank a lot of good beer last year, and weeding down the list of the ones that really wowed me was difficult. Predictably there are a lot of Oregon brewers represented here, because I happen to live in Oregon and we have good brewers and fresh beer available.
My criteria for coming up with this list was: first, what were the really good beers I reviewed; of those, what really stand out in my mind; of those, which were the Wow beers—the stand-up and take notice, revelatory beers. All subjective, mind you. The only other criteria was that I wrote a review of it last year.
Here’s my Best Beers of 2009:
- Drifter Pale Ale: Widmer’s new addition to their regular line-up, stunningly delicious, and heralding the trend this year in (Oregon) beers: big hoppy character without just being bitter.
- HopHead Imperial IPA: Bend Brewing’s GABF-award-winning beer, the first they ever bottled. Big and juicy in the hops without being over the top.
- Full Sail 21: Full Sail’s anniversary Doppelbock, perfectly balanced and I called it “world class.”
- 2008 Bourbon County Stout: Goose Island’s granddaddy of barrel-aged beers, I just discovered it last year. It’s just as much “bourbon” as “beer.”
- Widmer Snow Plow: The understated classic that surprises me every time, simply a freaking great milk stout.
- Red Chair IPA: The first of several Deschutes beers on this list, Red Chair is hop forward but in the trend of “not-bitter”: there’s a ton of hop character in the beer that you can taste.
- Black Butte XXI: The way-too-drinkable second showing of Deschutes’ double Black Butte Porter, with chocolate and coffee and partially aged in bourbon barrels.
- Smashed Pumpkin: Shipyard Brewing’s Imperial Pumpkin ale, strong but a good pumpkin showing.
- Cherry Oak Doppelbock: I pre-emptively declared this beer one of the best of 2009, and I stand by that declaration. Widmer shows everyone how it’s done with this beer.
- Life & Limb: The notable collaboration beer between Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, a big, rummy dark beer that gets as much kudos from the bottle design as for the beer itself.
- The Abyss 2009: This was probably my most predicable choice; of course I would pick The Abyss. This year’s vintage is—I believe—the one where Deschutes locked it all in, and it reflects that experience and maturity.
If I pick just one beer from that list, it would be… hmm… the Cherry Oak Doppelbock. The biggest factor I’d have to say that it possessed is that it surprised me completely.
I visited a number of breweries this past year, but I only wrote up “real” reviews on the ones listed below, so that was my criteria for this list. Like the beers, it’s not a knock against the other breweries I’ve been to, just what I happened to write up and found memorable.
- Barley Brown’s Brewpub: (See also my notes on their beers.) One of the very few breweries in all of Eastern Oregon, located in Baker City. Great food and great beers.
- Double Mountain Brewery: Hood River’s newest brewpub, with a funky old-school vibe and some fantastic beers.
- Stone Brewing: A visit to Stone’s brewery, restaurant and beer garden is always a treat, and this year the garden itself had really, er, blossomed from when I was there last (it was still under development).
- Steelhead Brewing: Nice brewpub over in Eugene (Oregon) with decent beers and really good food.
In addition, I visited Pizza Port Carlsbad not long after Christmas, but I haven’t yet written up my review of it.
If I pick just one of these? It’s tough and a toss-up between Barley Brown’s and Double Mountain… but I think the edge goes to Barley Brown’s, for the fantastic beer deals (and the great beer) and the even better food.
This is a misdirection: I only attended one beer festival last year, so by default it is named the Best. Fortunately it was a really good festival, as well.
- The Little Woody: Bend’s very own, very first barrel-aged beer festival. All the Central Oregon brewers participated and it was a really good first effort.
I threw this category in here just to share some stats. Last year, the top 2009 posts were:
- Drifter Pale Ale
- The Beer Hacker: Brewing on the cheap
- Hop Hound Amber Wheat
- Received: Stone Vertical Epic 09.09.09
- Bend’s pub scene is growing
- American Macro Week 2: Keystone Ice
- The Beer Hacker: Brewing on the cheap: Costs by style
- Oregon Beer Week: The Oregon beer tax
- Recipe: Cream Ale
- Recipe: Coconut Cream Stout
The top search terms used to get to The Brew Site were:
- pumpkin ale recipe
- best cheap beer
- golden monkey beer
- simcoe hops
- cheap beer
- pumpkin beer recipe
- costco beer
- delirium nocturnum
- buying beer online
- oregon beer tax
Overall, Google Analytics tells me I had 180,189 visits for 2009. That seems pretty good to me.