Well, okay, top ten draught beers that I had in 2011. To give an idea of how vast the selections were drawn from, in 2011 I visited 22 breweries, 8 taphouses/gastropubs, and 5 festivals/benefits where I exclusively drank beer on tap. That doesn’t even include all of the everyday bars and restaurants I went to in ’11 where I had a draught. So I had quite the pool to draw from.
I repeat myself often on one of the main reasons, besides the people and experiences, that we visit breweries is the incomparable taste of draught beer. Many beers that are available in bottles and cans taste much more complex when they are on tap, and can even taste better. I was reminded of this recently when cracking open a can of Oskar Blues’ Gubna, I can stomach it on tap, but in cans it’s barely palatable to me.
So here are the best of the best, in my opinion, that I savored over the past year.
- Breckenridge Brewery’s 20th Anniversary ESB aged in Stranahan’s barrels
I had this one afternoon in the Rackhouse Pub (at Stranahans) waiting on the wife, and my only regret is that I just had a taster rather than a full snifter before I had to leave to pick her up. The body was so full and complex, with a backend taste of whiskey without the full on alcohol bite. At 7.8% ABV, it also bordered on the sessionable.
- Twisted Pine Brewery’s Hoppy Boy IPA
I had this a couple of times over the past year on tap, both at beer festivals; first at the Summer Brewfest, and later at Blues and Brews. Bordering on being a hop bomb, it was nonetheless very well balanced. It impressed me to the point of buying a sixer of bottles a few times, but wishing I could have it on draught again. Twisted Pine is on the short list of places to visit this coming year.
- Pikes Peak Brewing’s The Brits are Here! Mild
A dark, yet light tasting ale, this one surprised me in that I actually liked it. With just enough body to keep it interesting, the malty backbone and 5.2% ABV make it a perfect Summer dark sessionable beer. Honorable mention goes to their Elephant Rock Imperial IPA, a five hop wonder.
- Cigar City Brewing’s Neilsbohrium Rum Barrel-Aged Imperial Raisin Sweet Stout
This one was enjoyed at the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting held during GABF week. Mellow, with slight chocolate notes, it was one of the rare stouts that I actually liked almost as much as an IPA.
- Strange Brewing’s 100th Batch Double Take Imperial IPA
They released this during their first anniversary party, and boy was it just as good as everything else they brew. At 12% ABV, it was intensely hoppy, full bodied, and boozy; not more than one was needed while I interviewed Tim and John for my post on Strange’s first year.
- Amica’s Pizza & Microbrewery’s Nigel’s Strong Ale
Whew, that’s a lot of apostrophes. I tried this barrel aged brew at Rails and Ales 2011, about a month after we had visited Amica’s in Salida. Mike, the head brewer said he had been saving this for a special occasion and that it hadn’t been ready up until that weekend. It was well worth the wait. Rich and complex, I’m hoping they have some left or brew a new batch next time we stop in.
- Bayou Teche LA 31 Biére Pale
The good news: I discovered this beer on tap at one of my favorite dive bars in New Orleans. The bad news: it was on the second to last day that we were there last Spring. The best news: I know to look for it when we go down this year. A light pale ale with generous hops, it’s a perfect quencher for a humid stroll in the Vieux Carré or next door in Marigny.
- Evolution Brewing’s #6 Double IPA
Just a taste of this hoppy wonder at GABF made me want to book a trip to Delaware to visit this brewery. Hopefully they’ll be distributed in Colorado soon, so I can have a ghost of the taste.
- Horsefly Brewing’s American Pale Ale
As hoppy as most breweries’ IPA, this brew had a strong malty backbone to bolster the bite. The wife and I enjoyed the owners’ easygoing attitude and conversation at Rails & Ales. Look for a Western Slope trip this year to visit this family owned brewery, as well as many others in the region.
- Dry Dock Brewing’s Urca Vanilla Porter
“A porter?!” you may be thinking, “I thought you were an IPA guy!” Well, yes, but I do like a good porter at times. And while I’m usually adverse to beer with ingredients other than the traditional four, the vanilla complimented the dark malt so well that you can’t imagine it being any other way. The wife liked it so much that we took home a growler of it the first time we had it, and that has led to quite a few bombers purchased since then.
Well there you are, my picks for the best I had on tap this year. There were many notables that could have gone on this list if I wanted to make it the top 25, or even 50. Just about everything we had at Marshall Wharf in Maine could have made it, and I was strongly torn on not being able to include Andrew’s Pale Ale from Maine as well, I just didn’t get the opportunity to have it on draught when we were there. I could also have included anything from Renegade and Strange here in Denver, it’s just that the beers on this list made more of an initial impression. Wherever you’re located, you should get into your local brewery and have some fresh beer.
So what do you think? Did any of these beers make the same impression on you as they did me? Do you have your own top 10 on tap of 2011? Feel free to let us know in the comments!