Oh yes, the annual RateBeer.com awards are upon us. Every year in January, beer nerds come out from the woodwork, run a regression analysis, compute multiple methodology, average the cosign – plus tangent – and come up with these pretty rad rankings. Bon appetite.
I believe its a bit more simple than I made it out to be, but the rankings are up and that means the chatter begins. I have always been a staunch supporter of the RateBeer rankings. In fact, they have led the way on a number of significant beer tours around this great globe. Lets see how they did this year.
Here are the top performers in each category and some notes about NW people performing well:
Best Beer: (Click here to see list)
Närke Kaggen Stormaktsporter – If you have had this beer, kudos to you. I have looked, believe me. From Belgium to the Netherlands, you aren’t going to find it. Someday, someday. It is interesting to see Westvleteren 12 unseated. Perhaps the lore of Michael Jackson has finally left the building. For the NW – Deschutes Abyss came in at a very impressive #17. Hair of the Dog’s Matt and Adam both made the Top 100. Surprising that Adam still topples Fred.
Top Beers By Category (Click here for the list)
I am not going to spend a lot of time on these, you can review them here. Suffice it to say that the only showings from the NW were from a sake producer out of Oregon and a surpirsing top spot in dark lager for Rogue’s Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager. Yikes. While expected, its so sad to see this repeated each year. Russian River whooped some ass, once again.
Best Beer in USA (Click here for the list)
Russian River Pliny the Younger – By now, we are all familiar with this hop monster. Though we would prefer to see something with a bit more complexity, its a deliciously unmatched hop beast. As for the NW, Deschutes Abyss at #13 and Hair of the Dog Adam #43 are all that made it. Strikeout, Washington.
Best Brewer in World (Click here to see list)
Three Floyds Brewing – I like em; hell i love em. But are they really the best? Their lengthy list of offerings and impressive showings in multiple categories (stout, IPA, pale, etc.) probably gets them the spot. My choice would have been the #2 on the list – Founders Brewing Company. Great to Hoppin Frog, Akron, OH, at #17. Great work Fred! Oregon did incredibly well: Rogue #21, Hair of the Dog #24, Deschutes #49, Cascade Brewing #57, and Upright Brewing #92 (wow). Washington = Elysian #92. I was actually surprised not to see Black Raven Brewing on this list. I think this is a testament to the fact that Black Raven is not yet bottling. Upright is probably smaller in production, but they send bottles into various states. I think thats the ticket here (plus great brewing).
Best Beer Bars in World (Click to see list)
The Kulminator – Its probably the most deserving, considering their iconic collection of cellar aged beers. Kudos to them for keeping this epic collection rolling. Our visit to Kulminator in March could not have been more eye-popping. The most amazing thing on this list – Avenue Pub at #8!!! Congratulations to Polly, the bar’s owner, who has worked her ass off to deserve this recognition. This is the only must see in New Orleans. This is typically a strong category for Washington – perhaps the only one where they typically overtake Oregon. This year they did the same, but only 2-0. Uber Tavern was #14 and Brouwers Cafe was #22. This is a bit of a drop for both of these two. The list also booted Naked City Taphouse, who made a daring showing last year. Nothing in Oregon made the list.
Best Brewpubs in World (Click to see list)
Brouwerij de Molen – The Windmill strikes again! This place has climbed up and up the list and I will agree that it deserves this spot. In a remote area of Holland, Bodegraven’s only beer spot is hidden inside a windmill. Inside you can enjoy excellent food, phenomenal beer and a pretty incredible bottle shop with a collection of US brews that makes me jealous in Seattle. This is a must see for anyone in Northern Europe. Great to see Walking Man make the list at #10. We finally got out there this past summer and thoroughly enjoyed this sunny spot. Deschutes Brewing was #18, Cascade’s Racoon Lodge was #48 (and will be bumped next year for the new Barrel Room) and then there is Pelican Brewing at #26. 26? Cmon man. If you have ever been to this magical surfers cove, you would spit at anyone that left this out of their Top 5. Go visit.
Best Beer Store in World (Click here to see list)
Het Oude Schooltje – Struise Brouwers @ The Old School – Ummm, I’m confused. I was in Oostvleteren and never saw this place! Kill me now. This is my own fault and I’m stuck with the consequences. Next time. Great to see some Washington guys on here as well: Malt & Vine #27 and Bottleworks #29. Oregon got showings from The Bier Stein in Eugene and Belmont Station in Portland, who fell all the way to #44.
Best Restaurant in World (Click here to see list)
Ebenezer Kezars Restaurant and Pub – This is on my list and will be visited in June when we do a brief NE trip. Tucked away in the Maine mountains in the little town of Lowell – this gem awaits. Is it shocking to anyone else that despite the NW’s extremely well-received culinary presence and beer presence, we cannot produce one beer restaurant in the Top 50? What about Brouwers Cafe? Ebenezars is just a pub, too.
Best Breweries to Visit in World (Click here to see list)
Picobrouwerij Alvinne Den Bier- en Proefzolder – Yes, yes and yes x 1000. This is the single greatest beer visit of my entire life. If its a little strange that we have yet to speak about this visit here on BB.com, its because I am intimidated. Timperial and I have feared drafting this inconic article for just about a year. Alvinne is located in a large barn-like space off a highway in Belgium. We arrived after closing on St. Patricks day and were awarded with private drinking stock from the owner. An unprecedented adventure. I was so glad to see Hair of the Dog Brewing on here as well at #2. Alan Sprints has done an incredible job putting together their new taproom, which is a must for any visitor to the NW. Great to also see Upright Brewing (Portland), who has a very cool tasting room where you can grab some schooners and some tunes for a few hours. Rogue, Bridgeport and Hopworks also made the list. A complete zero for Washington.
Ugh. Washington has to take a failing grade this year. I am really disappointed to see so many of the stalwarts take drops. It was very encouraging to see the locations do alright, but what about our beer?!
In short, most of our beer stays here. I think you can somewhat blame that on our alcohol regulation rules, because they facilitate a healthy market at home. But, you can see that the Oregon brewers making a name for themselves are selling bottles.
Forget Rogue and Deschutes – they are pretty big. But, think about Hair of the Dog, Hopworks and especially Upright. These guys all have bottle sales that go across state borders. That stuff helps.
In the near future, we hope to see bottles from great upstarts like Black Raven Brewing, Schooner Exact, Fremont Brewing and more. Hopefully, we can start to show the world why Washington beer is so damn good.
I have been dubbed Timperial Stout for one simple reason: I love my beers deep, dark and mysterious. Lucky for me, the people over at Brouwer’s Cafe have created a night to honor that holy opaque beverage we call stout. I’d be remiss to not mention it and provide my take on how one would work up a game plan for such an event. I’ve posted the list below, that was so thoughtfully provided by the folks over at Seattle Beer Week. In this case, it has proven very helpful that two members of the SBW collective get a paycheck from Brouwer’s. After each selection I have provided some commentary. I’ve tried to be brief, but you know…I love this stuff.
Allagash Black is delicious and unique, but it’s not all that rare so I’d skip it here and get a bottle at the bottleshop if you’ve never tried it.
Avery Black Tot on the other hand…pretty damn rare. This is the third release in Avery’s Barrel-Aged Series and is an imperial oatmeal stout aged in Gosling’s rum barrels. I’m sure this wont be cheap, but I’d bet it’s worth every penny.
Avery Czar is, in my opinion, one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there, but for this event, “regularly available” = “skip it”.
Avery Meph Addict is Avery Mephistopheles with coffee added. I have never had (or seen for that matter) this one, so rare…yes. The original Meph is a beast of a brew. I recommend you tread lightly with these fellas, they are over 15% abv.
Avery Mephistopheles – See above
Beer Valley Black Madness – I’m either unaware of this beer or this is a mix up on words. Beer Valley makes Black Flag Imperial Stout and Leafer Madness Imperial Pale Ale, but I’m not so sure about Black Madness. The SBW site lists “Black Madness” again for the Firkin-Firkin event at Elysian, so I could be misinformed, or not informed at all as the case may be.
Big Sky Bottleworks 11 is going to be showing up at special events at Brouwer’s for a few years to come now I’d assume, considering the beer was made and kegged exclusively for them (Bottleworks, Brouwer’s, same difference). Never-the-less, it’s a very intriguing beer with some intense sour and vinous notes. Worth a taste if you missed out on the bottles.
Big Time Old Rip – Bill Jenkins knows how to make a beer folks. If you don’t make it to the U-district with much regularity, you may have never had this one. Go for it, drink local.
Boulevard Nitro Dry Stout – Boulevard out of Kansas City, MO has been doing a lot of experimenting lately. They seem to be really making things happen, and everything that I have had of theirs so far has been quality. They are still fairly new to the Seattle market…I can’t say that I’ve seen a lot a kegs come through. I would never get this because I don’t like dry stouts, but if you are into Guinness, Murphy’s, Beamish, Moylan’s Dragoons, etc, check it out.
Chuckanut Export Foreign Stout – The words “Export Foreign Stout” are not very commonly used, but they basically indicate a “bigger” stout, built for long journeys on boats and such. Considering the many recent accolades being tossed in Chuckanut’s direction, when I see that brewery name on something I want to try it. Seems like a great starter to the evening to me.
Dick’s Woodford BBN Oak Cream Stout – I, sadly, don’t know a lot about this one, but the words “oak” and “cream stout” get me excited. Worth a try, and possibly a bit more manageable in the abv category.
Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout – This one is extremely high on my list of best beers on planet Earth. ‘Nuff said. Oh, except beware of the strength – 18%.
Double Mountain Imperial Chaos is a draft only imperial stout from the impressive folks down in Hood River, OR. I’ve never had this one, but I have continually been impressed by 2x Mountain. I think I’ll be trying this one.
Elysian Dragonstooth Stout – One of the best single stouts in Washington, if not the country. Very underrated in this area, possibly due to its permanent availability and therefore lack of hype. Even still, I wouldn’t get it at an event like this. Get a bottle at Whole Foods and take it home.
Firestone Walker Parabola 10 is my number one on this list. I will scratch and claw to get it. It is a 13% imperial stout that was blended from all sorts of different barrels, vintages, what-have-you. It’s probably least rare this year then ever before in its existence, but still, very rare.
Firestone Walker Velvet Merkin is a fairly traditional oatmeal stout with a really great name. Decent beer by one of the premier breweries in America. I’d look for it on another day.
Full Sail Imperial Stout – Full Sail might be one of the largest breweries in the North West, but they still make really good beer, especially those in the Brewmaster Reserve series. This is not Black Gold, so it’s not barrel aged, but it’s a great beer. Worth getting on any other day, but there are better choices on this list.
Glacier Jack Daniels Impy Stout – Glacier is without a doubt one of Alaska’s finest. Sadly, even though we are the closest neighboring state, we don’t see all that much of their work. If this is in any way even close to matching the quality of their Big Woody Barleywine, this will be amazing. Get it!
Great Divide Espresso Yeti – Yeti, like Avery Czar, is one of the best regularly available imperial stouts out there. The espresso version is not as good in my opinion, but it’s a must try for all coffee junkies.
Green Flash Espresso Stout – I think this might be a keg only one-off brew. Sounds rare. Green Flash makes great beer. I’d go for it!
Hales Machete – This puppy is brewed right down the street from Brouwer’s. I give them a big “f%&@ yeah!” for the name but I think I’ll have to skip this one, only because of better options.
Hitachino Espresso Stout – This is the best espresso stout I have ever had, but you can get it in the bottle pretty easily. Not appropriate for this event.
Laughing Dog Dogfather – This is one of the best beers to come out of Idaho. I will skip it only because I still have a few bottles in the cellar, but it’s worthy of a purchase.
Left Hand Oak Aged Imperial Stout – This one is released annually in the bottle, and can sometimes be found during the “off-season” at local bottle shops. This beer is really freaking good, but get a bottle.
Lost Abbey Serpents Stout is Tomme Arthur’s idea of a Belgian stout. If there is an actual Belgian brewed stout out there that is this rich and delicious, I have yet to find it. Alvinne Podge is about as close as I can think of. If you have never had this beer you need to get it. This is fairly commonly available in bottles so I’d skip it here.
Mad River BBN Export Stout – A quality California brew, but not up to par with some of the competition.
Moylan’s Ryan O’Sullivan – I don’t often think of this beer when I ponder the great impy stouts of America, but I should. It is a high quality brew, but yet again, a bit too common for this event.
Odin Sour Stout – believe it or not, I have yet to taste the nectars produced by Odin. I know, it’s crazy. I don’t know much about the sour stout but I must admit I’m intrigued. This night just might be my first dance with Odin.
Oskar Blues Ten Fiddy – One of the very few, if not only imperial stouts released in a can. That’s pretty damn cool, and it’s delicious to boot. If I was at Brouwer’s on a regular day, I’d get it, but not tonight.
Port Brewing Old Viscosity – This beer is great, but not as good as its older brother. Go with the older.
Port Brewing Older Viscosity – Regular readers will know that I’m mildly obsessed with this beer. It’s chocolate covered pretzels to a T. Get this and be like the stout fella above…meditate for a bit – you will go places. I will most likely only get this one late in the evening, well after my better judgment has evaded me. This is only because I have had it a bunch of times already.
Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper is a good impy stout, but it’s a bit thin for my liking. I’d skip it.
Porterhouse Nitro Oyster Stout – This is a low abv dry Irish stout. Sorry but…not interested.
Porterhouse Nitro Wrasslers 5x stout – Sorry Ireland, your stouts are boring.
Sierra Nevada Fritz & Ken – This was recently reviewed glowingly on this site by yours truly. It’s a damn good beer with a damn good story to tell.
Southern Tier Jahva – This is a member of the ST Imperial series, which should read “AMAZING”! Easily one of Beer Blotter’s favorite breweries in the world. Their stouts are impeccable. This one is just slightly less impeccable than the Oat below, so get that one.
Southern Tier Oat – See above.
Stone I.R.S. – This beer is very unique. I have never had an impy stout with such a strong tobacco flavor, which is a good thing in my opinion. Like Ten Fiddy, I’d order this in almost any other situation, but not tonight.
Victory Storm King – You might have heard that this was the first impy stout I ever tasted. I owe it a lot. Luckily for me, it’s one of the country’s best, so I started off on the right foot. I’d get it if I didn’t already have a bunch in the cellar.
Walking Man Black Cherry Stout – Beer Blotter finds this beer to be like soda. If that sounds good to you, hop on board. Not so much for me, but I do love Walking Man.
Waterstreet Stout – Skip is gone. I have little faith.
In summary, since that was probably a bit of a task to read, I offer my top 5, in order of importance.
5) Double Mountain Imperial Chaos
4) Avery Meph Addict
3) Glacier Jack Daniels
2) Avery Black Tot
1) Firestone Walker Parabola