A big thank you to a number of people who helped make this blog a success. Thank you to my brother Kevin for setting up the website for me and for making it so easy to manage. Thank you to my guest writers Eric Talve, Kevin Scott, Chris H., Peter Modest and Chet Maplewood for their contributions to the site. Great posts and insight from other geographic areas. And of course thank you to my followers for reading! 20,000 page views since the website began! I will resume posting more often in 2015 and have a ton of new content.
I'd like to name a few highlights from this year.
1. Lots and lots of Heady Topper.
I had the opportunity to enjoy Heady Topper a whopping 16 times this year. A big thank you to Cathy, Harry, and Tyler for being able to acquire some for me. As everyone who reads this knows, this is far and away my favorite beer, and is really in a class of its own. The perfect DIPA.
2. Bourbon County
This year, I was able to enjoy many of the bottles of BCBS that I purchased in 2013. My grocery store kept it stocked until August which was nuts but allowed me to buy it every once in a while for a special occasion. From Black Friday to today, I was able to acquire 6 BCBS originals, 4 coffees, 4 barley wines, 2 Backyard Rye and 1 Vanilla rye. Quite a good year!
3. Tap Takeovers
As I mentioned up above, I went to tap takeovers for The Bruery, Firestone Walker, Founders (twice!), Stone and Goose Island (3 times). My favorite was The Bruery. Not only was it on my 25th birthday, but it was the largest Bruery tap takeover outside of their Orange County taproom ever! I had the chance to try about 10 different things through the flights my big group ordered, and loved almost all of them. Grey Monday and Chocolate Rain were the two big winners. Parabola night and KBS night were both two big takeovers which were so much fun. The Stone night also let me meet Greg Koch, founder and CEO of Stone. We enjoyed a beer together and talked about his brewery a bit. Such a cool experience. It is always great to be able to put together a group to go try some world class beers. I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Looking forward to more great ones in 2015!
4. Home brewing
My roommate and I finally embarked on the adventure that is home brewing. Our first batch, which I documented in a few posts, was an English style brown ale. All reviews from friends and family were positive, and we are still enjoying the remaining bottles from our stash. The second beer I held out on writing about since it was such a disappointing experience. We tried to brew a Robust Honey Porter with our own additions to make it a Christmas beer. We added cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and allowed the beer to ferment for about 2.5 weeks. After testing the alcohol levels we sampled the beer and were surprised how harsh the cinnamon flavor was. Not wanting to waste our brew, we got extra creative and added spruce to the tank. Well, it turns out that a little bit of spruce is nice, but when you throw in two branches into a five gallon tank, it smells like liquefying 1000 car air fresheners. We bottled about 1 gallon and tried another drastic step. We created a tea-bag full of coffee beans and tried to mellow out the spruce. Sort of worked but we only bottled one gallon of this next batch. In all, we bottled 2/5 gallons and made Mike P. officially hate his own Christmas tree. Whoops! Our third and final batch of the year has been a success so far. We brewed a Belgian style Tripel, and added tangerine peel during the boil. We sampled it on Sunday and it has fermented to about 9% ABV and tastes delicious! We are looking to bottle New Years Day. Next up is a cider, then perhaps an IPA. Many more homebrews to report soon!
5. NYC Craft Beer Festivals
I attended two of the NYC Craft Beer Festivals this year. I went in the spring and fall, and enjoyed both very much. I was able to sample rare and new beers alike, and got to meet some local brewery owners and distributors. I still keep in touch with some and look forward to attending one or two of these next year. If you have the opportunity to attend, make sure you buy the VIP level tickets early. You get in an hour before general and the tickets are usually only $15-20 more. Totally worth it not to stand in line for every beer!
6. My Favorite Stores
Carmine Street beers celebrated their first anniversary this year which I wrote an article about. They also held a BCBS release party in November and will be hosting some really cool things in January. City Swiggers had a great selection as always, as did Top Hops, Good Beer, the Pioneer a Grocery Store, Whole Foods and Key Foods. In MA, Medfield Wine Shoppe had many great new selections and recommendations. Palumbo Liquors had a great year and have expanded their craft selections tremendously. And it Fort Myers the Total Wine had a great selection of local Florida beers I rarely find.
7. My favorite bars
Upright Brew House had a strong year, with many new world class beers on tap and in bottles. Many of my readers know about Upright and the great things Jay, Rob and Ali are doing. Amsterdam Ale House, Beer Authority, Rattle n Hum, Alewife, Ginger Man and One Mile House also had some great selections this year.
8. Top new beers tried
It is a tough thing to just a few. I tried a number of new beers this year through tastings, festivals and flights but these are some of my highlights. See below the article for some pictures.
Heady Topper (see above section-hard to believe this was the first year I had it!)
Jacks Abby Kiwi Rising, Mass Rising, Vanilla and Coffee Framinghammer
Dogfish Raison D'Extra
Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla
Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee 2013
-Tart of Darkness
-Sour in the Rye
Firestone Walker Parabola and Stickee Monkee
2011 Southern Tier Pumking
9. Expansion of my beer cellar
I was able to expand my cellar collection to close to 75 bottles, and have a number of rare beers stored away for future vertical tastings. I plan on doing a post at some point in early 2015 about my cellar, as well as how to begin your own cellar collection.
10. What does next year hold?
I am excited for 2015 in the beer world. I have grown my beer cellar and have some great vertical tastings planned for next year. Additionally, there are some great events coming up for tap takeovers, events at beer stores and craft beer bars, and new releases coming out. Again, thanks to all my readers for a tremendous 2014, and I look forward to reviewing more and hearing about your tastings in 2015!