As 2011 begins, I felt compelled to post my two cents on my favorite beers of 2010. Every industry seems to give their own opinion of their “best of” list every year. It may even be cliché, but I think it’s fun. It gives me a chance to look back at all the great brews that came around over the past 12 months.
In creating my list, I had 22 beers that I felt were Top 10 worthy. From there, the list was narrowed down to ten. That was slightly more challenging. Ranking the final ten took almost 30 minutes. Some are available frequently, some annually and some are much harder to acquire.
With that, here are PhillyBeerAmbassador’s Top Ten Beers of 2010:
#10- Founder’s Porter. Available frequently both on tap and bottled. A perfect example of a classic porter, Founders simply makes my favorite porter of the year. A great balance of sweet and hoppy bitterness, the coffee and dark chocolate flavors work great together.
#9- Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA. An annual release, available on tap and bottled. I was able to sample this during Philly Beer Week in June. This high-alcohol Imperial IPA has an extra full-bodied mouth feel and a good balance of hop flavors and maltiness. It’s almost syrupy mouth feel came close to some cordials I’ve had over the years and contributed to my enjoyment of this brew. Some may cry “sacrilege”, but I enjoyed it more than “Younger”. Dogfish made some awesome brews this year, but this one stood above the others. They may brew it annually, but this was the first year I’ve tasted it.
#8- Russian River Pliny the Elder. Available periodically on tap only. A great double IPA with tons of pine-flavored hops. Absolutely a “hop bomb”. Hop lovers rejoice. Along with the hops, there are also hints of grapefruit. There is also a strong malty backbone. Some hunting and waiting may be required, but Elder is worth seeking out when it’s around.
#7- Stone Russian Imperial Stout. Available annually in bottles and on tap. The best example of a traditional Russian Imperial Stout this year. It has a great balance of sweet malt flavors, hops, coffee and chocolate flavors with a heavier mouth feel. I’m sure I’ll always track this down when they brew and bottle it. It’s great fresh, and I bet the bottles will be even better a few years down the line.
#6- Troeg’s Nugget Nectar. An annual release coming up soon. This is another beer for hop lovers; it’s an IPA with an IBU count of 93. That means there’s tons of hoppy bitterness. Nugget Nectar was one of my biggest surprises of the year. I tasted and reviewed it back in February. At first, I thought it was good. Then, I was compelled to get another bottle here, another there… At that point, I realized it was a great beer. I can’t wait for this years’ batch.
#5- Port Brewing Wipeout IPA. Available periodically, most recently in December. I tasted Wipeout for the first time in the spring. It was another great surprise! Lots of citrus and fruit flavors made it an excellent IPA. One of the best things about this beer is its $5.75 price tag for a 22 oz. bottle. It just proves that awesome beer can be had for a great price. Take that wine lovers! (No offense wine lovers, I like good wine, but your hobby is more expensive) I’ll probably grab a bottle or 2 of Wipeout almost every time I see it.
#4- Russian River Supplication. Available once in a while. This was my first experience with a sour style beer, and I didn’t like it right away. With lots of berry notes and a high level of tartness, it was something unique. My second tasting was enough to convert me to a sour beer lover. Wine flavors are prominent since it’s aged in Pinot Noir wine barrels. It bites back with astringency making it very refreshing. Supplication doesn’t even taste like your average beer, to the point where it’s almost weird calling it a beer. But it is a beer… and it’s great!
#3- Founders KBS, Kentucky Bourbon Stout. Available annually on tap and in bottles. Being Founders’ second showing on this list should help show the quality of their product. They have so many great beers, but KBS is awesome. It gets rave reviews from me because I really like bourbon stouts. There were other contenders, but KBS is the best of the bunch. It’s thick and syrupy with a huge sweet bourbon profile. While tasting good anytime, it tastes best with some dessert, like cheesecake, or on a cold night to take the chill off. KBS is warming with a high alcohol content, and it’s awesome!
#2- Cigar City Hunahpu. Tasted during Philly Beer Week. Not readily available, but rumor says it may be brewed again 2011… Here’s hoping. This beer had such a unique group of ingredients, and was exceptional. It’s a full-bodied imperial stout brewed with vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa nibs. It’s aged on pastille and ancho peppers. So smooth, creamy and complex with a tiny bit of spice. It may have earned the #1 spot if it wasn’t so impossible to find. It’s my list and I can dock points for teasing me with something I can’t get. A truly delicious beer with an amazing recipe.
And my #1 beer for 2010….
#1- Flying Fish Exit 16. Brewed once for Flying Fish’s Exit Series, it was available in bottles and on tap. I first tasted it on April Fool’s Day, 4/1/10, and knew it was a Beer of the Year contender. It’s full of tropical fruit flavors like grapefruit, mango, tangerine and papaya. The fruity flavors reduce any hoppy bitterness to almost zero. It also has a very bright, dry flavor similar to a good champagne. Exit 16 was spectacular super-fresh and I made sure to bring bottles to as many gatherings as possible to expose the greatest number of people to its awesomeness. Between myself and the people I enjoyed it with; I wouldn’t be surprised if we went through 2 full cases. That’s 24- 25.4 oz. bottles. That’s a lot of beer tasted by a lot of people.
I’ve said it here before, but being a limited release, I sure hope Flying Fish earned enough money and earned enough critical acclaim to move Exit 16 into their regular rotation. Truly an amazing beer and my #1 favorite of 2010. Congratulations, Flying Fish… You deserve it!
So, that concludes PhillyBeerAmbassador’s favorite beers of 2010. Thanks to everyone who read once in a while or on a continual basis. If you know anyone who might enjoy reading, please recommend my Facebook page so they can “Like” it. They’ll then hear about new postings as they happen.
Happy New Year!