We’ve entered that dead man’s zone between Christmas and New Year’s; a week long sugar- and family-hangover that floats heavy over the couch while you sit and watch sequels of Christmas movies and ponder the impending death of another year-full of dreams. Hm. So to distract you, here’s another arbitrary end-of-the-year list! Llalan’s Top 12 Beers of 2012:
12. Edmund Fitzgerald Porter from Great Lakes Brewing. Since I’ve moved back to Ohio, this brewery has played a large role in my evening imbibing. Last January I was reminded that even the coldest Midwestern storms can be warmed by this beer — itself a tribute the power of The Lakes’ fury. One of the best porters on the market, which I continue to buy regularly despite the risk of having the Gordon Lightfoot song pop into my head.
11. Left Hand experienced a brief flurry of attention when their Milk Stout came out in Nitro bottles. At a favorite bar, the manager passed around a pint of freshly poured Nitro, which rolled and cascaded like a draft Guinness. I overcame my unease at sharing a glass with eight virtual strangers and decided yes, it was worth it.
10. Flying Dog has long been one of my favorite breweries, and not just for Ralph Steadman’s inexplicably terrifying label art. Their biting Raging Bitch Belgian IPA has clawed its way to the top of the pack, despite the gaping wide comic opening it allows my sweet mother.
9. I think Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA will be on my Top Whatever list as long as it’s still brewed. While many of this brewery’s beers are too experimental for my comfort, this will always remain a solid favorite.
8. Despite winning the Freakiest Label Art Contest hands-down, Founder’s Red’s Rye PA is a winner. Dry and bitter, it is close to my heart. And I originally tried it because I knew number seven below was so amazing.
7. Founder’s Double Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Breakfast Stout is not only amazing but also wins The Coolest Label Art Contest, which suggests one should really have this for breakfast. I once ordered this on a meet-up with an ex and he said, “This — as your third beer?” and then shrugged like that explained it all.
6. Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA was given one of the top awards a beer can get this year — the Silver for IPAs in the (confusingly named) World Beer Cup 2012. And an Emmy for its role in The Wire.
5. and 4. are from a brewery you can trust to always brew great beer, Lagunitas. Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (which seems to have been named in such a way as to provide tipsy drinkers an easy line to start flirting at their bartenders with. I’m sure it never gets old) and Lagunitas Red are different styles but both backed by the familiar Lagunitas backbone of hops.
3., 2., and 1. Most winningest brewery of the year is Sierra Nevada! They are a big operation now; big enough that I almost forget their Pale Ale was one of my first favorite craft beers. But they have so much more to offer! Their Torpedo Extra IPA is the Pale Ale’s more aggressive, stronger older cousin, the one that makes high school teachers’ eye twitch when they realize there’s more of this family to come through. At 7.2%, it’s not messing around, and is just strong enough for my friend to grin broadly and proclaim “I’ve been torpedoed” at the end of the night. Their Narwhal Imperial Stout should have been noted in last month’s Stout Challenge, but frankly, we had plenty. Strong, creamy, very Imperial. One of the best IS’s I’ve ever tried. Lastly, Celebration, the one and only holiday beer I will drink. Leave your nutmeg at home, honey, this is where the party’s at. Ben and I have gone through three cases now, always bought on the pretext that we probably won’t drink it all straight away, but it’s more economical this way. Right.
So forget the champagne — raise your beer of the year and toast the arrival of 2013! Can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.