Featured Contributor: Don Manfredi @
So it is that time again when we look back at the best of the previous year. I am no different, and am happy to use this tradition as a reason to write a blog post. Of course those of you that are familiar with SommBeer know that some of us have rules. For my 2015 list, the rule is that it had to be a beer that I tried for the very first time in 2015 (could include aged variants of previously tried beers so I could include a 2012 Backwoods Bastard). If you follow SommBeer you may also know that I had a pretty good year knocking some whales off my list which makes 2015 a great year for me to look back and create a top ten list. Of course you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs meaning I had my share of beers that left me dazed and confused. I will include a not top ten in this post to point out my misses. Please note that the not top ten are mostly based on styles that I tried and did not like or beers that the brewer just got a little too creative with for my tastes. My not top ten is intended to be tongue in cheek and should be taken in the spirit it was intended and not as a slam on any of the fine breweries that made this list.
Since I like to get bad news first, my not top ten, or bottom ten, or my “slumped shoulder event beers”, or beers that make me glad my local sells singles or beers I am thankful I only asked for one from someone in my ever-expanding beer network…you get the picture.
Three Floyd’s Deesko
This is the first beer from Three Floyd’s that I did not like. This is purely based on the style; a Berliner Weiss, which is tart. I figured if anyone could make a BW that I liked it would be 3F but even they can’t make me like tart beers. I did choke the whole thing down hoping it would get better, but as a sales coach of mine once told me “Hope is not a strategy”.
Bells Planet Series Neptune
Should have read the label closer – broke my own important rule – there is cayenne pepper in this beer! Why? Choked it down and still have one left. Going to age it until the apocalypse and see what happens.
Jolly Pumpkin Calbaza Blanca
This is another style miss. Label has the word “tart” on it, but I thought…well I don’t know what I thought. Held my nose and hammered it, then drank a shot of espresso to cleanse my palate, and went back to the comforting arms of an IPA.
Atwater Cherry Stout
Too thin and too sweet, two sips and in the sink it went. Any resemblance to a beer was purely coincidental.
Founders Blushing Monk
Why did I fall for this? I can’t stand Rabaeus but figured that Belgian yeast can fix a lot of things. Nope. Couldn’t quit on this one though, but glad it was a draft at a bar and not a 25-ounce bottle.
Stone Brewing Company Japanese Green Tea IPA
I like green tea. I like IPA. Two great tastes that taste great together…nope. Would have put soy sauce and ginger into this beer but I had already dumped it before I thought of a way to make it even worse.
Founders Big Luscious
Man I should have taken the label suggestion to enjoy with friends and family literally because this was way too sweet to drink alone. I managed to keep going thinking that something would change as it continued to warm up and it did;it tasted like cherry NyQuil when it got closer to room temperature. I got one of these aging for the next time I catch cold to see if it works like the “nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing stuffy head so you can rest medicine”.
Odd Side Ales Beautiful Disaster
The name of this beer was half right. Dumped it.
Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
Not all beers taste better after being aged in a bourbon barrel. Kinda tasted like a boiler maker with burnt toast blended into it. Dumped it.
Bells Planet Series Venus
WTF? ‘Nuff said and yes, I dumped it.
Editorial: Was it just me or did most of the Planet Series underwhelm? Mars, Saturn, and Uranus were just ok and Mercury without the broken glass would have been better, but overall really not good. And it is looking more and more like we traded getting 2015 Black Note for the planet series and the 30th Anniversary Stout…ouch!
Now my ten best:
Wolverine Brewing Company Massacre
Don’t let the “Lager” designation fool you. You can do a lot with lagering and the folks at Wolverine have it down to a science. Their name reminds me of a sports team that I despise, but this was a really good beer.
2012 Founders Backwoods Bastard
I can take or leave fresh Backwoods Bastard but put it in a cellar for a while and it turns into a beer that totally works for me. In fact I am aging some in my basement in an effort to “recapture the magic”.
Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught IPA
Killer DIPA from quite possibly my favorite brewery. Got two and traded my second one for my number one beer of 2015. Don’t regret the trade but would love another one of these soon.
Troegs Nugget Nectar
Another out-of-state star. This is a hopped up amber ale that is worth the hype. Delicious.
Russian River Brewing Company Pliny the Elder
Not going to say too much about this one, except it led to my first ever post for SommBeer, and that it is a pretty good DIPA.
Brewery Vivant Wizard Burial Ground
Most of the time I am not a fan of beers from Vivant. Based on my love of Belgian styles, Vivant should be right in my wheelhouse but there is something about many of their beers that just doesn’t sit right with me. Taking a flyer on a Bourbon Barrel Aged Quadruple seemed like a risk worth taking and I certainly regret only buying one of these because it was amazing.
Lagunitas High West-ified Imperial Coffee Stout
Only got one of these bad boys and would probably trade a non-vital organ (or one I have two of) for another one. This is an incredible bourbon barrel (rye barrel actually) aged RIS. Pretty confident that it had to be a “can’t miss” when you consider how amazing Lagunitas Cappuccino and Imperial Stouts are. Adding more coffee and aging it in a rye barrel could only make it better and it did.
Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust
Best IPA on the planet. I know why this sells out the same day it is released. Just can’t say enough about this beer, but I did say a little more in a previous SommBeer post.
Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
Got a five-ounce pour during the only time I stood in line for beer all 2015. This beer was worth every annoying second listening to hipsters talk about their beards while I waited for it. Really pulling for this one to come back out as a backstage series in bottles. I will drive my car through the window of the store and do a smash and grab to get it if I have to. Just kidding, I will crash into the delivery truck and steal it before they get to the store…
The Alchemist Heady Topper
Without a doubt, Heady Topper killed them all in 2015. This beer has absolutely ruined me for DIPA’s. I tried to be positive when I wrote about this for SommBeer, mentioning that we had a lot of great beers in the state of Michigan that people in Vermont could not get. It is true we have some great in-state beers, but I could be tempted to move to Vermont tomorrow and leave all our beers behind for year-round access to Heady Topper.
So there you have it, winners and losers from 2015. I have a few beauties lined up for the remainder of the holidays (Speedway Stout, Alpha Kong, and the rumor of a Dark Lord to share) so if any of these move an incumbent out I will update this post. Cheers to a great 2015 and to an even better 2016! Great time to be a beer drinker.
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