As I look back on 2008 it was a down year for lots of things, but as for my beer experiences, mostly with friends and family in tow, it was a very good year. I wanted to rank some beers and events for the year, including my personal top 10 beers of 2008, all linked to my beer advocate reviews, in no particular order:
1) Devil over a Barrel - Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Imperial Oatmeal Porter, from Tyranena, wow a mouthful of words in the title, and a great beer, the best porter of the year for sure.
2) De Dolle Ara Bier, a great complex Belgian Strong Pale Ale, from a great little brewer.
3) Gouden Carolus - the Keizer, a fantastic complex Belgian Strong Dark Ale, they now brew a Pale one like this too, but I'd stick with this one. Is this better than their Noel offering? Just by a smidgen.
4) Our Special Ale 2008, from Anchor hits all the right notes for this seasonal beer, great job!
5) Saison Deluxe, from Southhampton is perfect for this style, yes I've had Fantome, Dupont, Hennepin, this beats them all, unfortunately it's not distributed in IL.
6) Dark Lord Imperial Stout, from Three Floyds, thanks to Wil at Goose got a little taste of this and it lives up to it's billing.
7) Hitachino Nest Celebration Ale, had the 2007 (produced late 2006) in summer 2008, fantastic complex ale. Saw the 2008 version recently, and am seeking the 2009, these will keep and age well for a long time.
8) Hop Hearty Ale, from New Glarus, a malty IPA which harkens back to the English style, my favorite summer ale.
9) Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, just a great version of this style, one of the few beers I liked before I knew what a good beer was.
10) Biere de Mars Grande Reserve, from Jolly Pumpkin. My sojourn of 2008 was the side trip to Dexter, MI in March to visit these folks. A husband and wife brewing team, the tiny brewery is filled with oak casks, looking more like a winery. The Grand Reserve offerings can only be gotten from the brewery on Fridays, but their regular offering are superb. The bottle I drank with a friend (as all aged for 27 months) at a burger joint was not enough to write a review, but the sourish complex malty brew was probably the best beer of 2008, thanking my foresight that I still have one left.
As for special mention, two beers come to mind. The most memorable draft offering was Wild Blue, from Goose Island, an American Wild Ale with blueberries, just great. In the bottle, it would have to be Cantillon's Saint Lamvinus, a funky fruit Lambic from a great producer which just knocks the socks off your feet.
The top beer related events of 2008 included:
- February Goose Tasting - Belgian's, included the Saint Lamvinus.
- March 50th birthday, starting at the Maproom, ending at Cafe Bernard with our best friends and some memorable food and drink.
- March 17 St. Patrick's Day at the Gage gastropub with my dad and Uncle Tom.
- April visit to the Blind Pig in Champaign.
- May stumbled into Local Option for lunch, wow beer list.
- June included a St. Louis trip with local purchases.
- June Goose tasting, Summer beers, Teresa attends.
- July my first solo Wisconsin run to Woodmans, Three Cellars.
- August the Mahr's going away party, meeting Ted & Mary at Two Brothers.
- September finding the wedding gang (May's) at the The Old Fashioned, including the bride and groom to be, the night before the wedding, getting smashed, tradition lives on! Great place, great crowd.
- Dave and Dominique's visit in September, a rainy lunch but great tour, including Piece.
- October discovering Sheffield's with Edmund.
- November Teresa attends Goose Fruit and Spiced beer tasting.
- November discovering In Fine Spirits with Barry and Betsy.
- earning my first free growler from the Goose, their Saison.
- the numerous trips to Hopleaf with Barry and Betsy.
- the many great lunches with Ed.
And the biggest event may have been the no smoking in bars law (and all indoors) starting Jan 1, 2008, a long time coming!!
Yes it was quite a beer year for the ages....and tonight for our annual New Year's celebration with Ted and Mary, we'll be at Shaw's Seafood, in Schaumburg. Don't know about their beer list, but just in case I called them, they charge a $10 corkage fee for a bottle, not bad as I will bring a bottle of maybe the best beer in the world, New Glarus' Wisconsin Belgian Red, Ya wooo!