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The Beer Thinker: The Best Beers Of 2013 That I Can Remember

I know what you're thinking - I've gone so long that you barely remember me. Well, then let's get re-acquainted.

I've been on a year-long bender called new-to-fatherhood. Most days, it's like being drunk and hungover at the same time. It didn't leave me much time to keep up with the ever-quickening pace of new craft beer releases, but I did manage to break the seal on enough new brews to provide a strong field of contention for my favorite beers of 2013.

This is by no means a complete list. There were some great beers I had in the past year that I wasn't in a position to take notes on, or that I went back to later and found it hard to figure out what grabbed me the first time. So, I guess this is better described as my favorite beers of the year that I actually remember and had time to jot down a couple notes about - enjoy!

Lake Effect Bitchin' Blonde: Bohemian-style Saaz hops, typically used in pilsners, star in one of the most refreshing beers I had all year. Possibly my favorite summer beer of 2013.

Spiteful I Hate My Boss Coffee Stout: The closest you'll get to a latte in the form of a beer, and I mean that in the best possible way. The coffee flavor is pretty dominant, but the contrasting creaminess is what makes it different from other coffee stouts, which are often richly chocolatey at their best, and bracingly bitter at their worst.

Goose Island Gillian Farmhouse Ale: Part of the Goose barrel-aged wild ale series, which I think should get just as much attention as Goose's Bourbon County rock stars. Gillian is highly carbonated with a flavor almost reminiscent of a strawberry shortcake or some other kind of fruit spring/summer dessert. I tried it a few months ago, but have another I'm planning to crack open New Year's Eve - it's that close to champagne.

Perennial Barry Rye: A lot of people would say this is not nearly the best Perennial has to offer, but there is so much going on. It's a tart and somewhat sour stout, not especially fruity, but with a subtle blackberry finish. It was the most unique stout I had in a year of many coffee and cherry stouts.

Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout: The second-most unique stout I had all year advertises pecans. Dominant flavor for me was caramel, and I spent half the bottle trying to figure out if pecans actually do taste like caramel (I still don't know). Barrel-aged, but incredibly smooth, with a build-up in sweetness on the long finish, and absolutely no alcohol burn. The "Wheaton," by the way, is former Star Trek actor/blogger Wil Wheaton, which is either a selling point or a buying obstacle to overcome - I'm not sure which.

Revolution Gravedigger Billy Barrel-Aged Wee Heavy Scotch Ale: Aged in a Woodford Reserve barrel, it's another one of those aged beers (the best kind) where you don't really notice the alcohol level (almost 10%), but get much more of the warm woodsy burn of the bourbon. You pretty much have to get this at the Revolution brewpub, though tasting events occasionally have it.

Metropolitan Afterburner: Hands down the best beer I've had in the last 12 months. A nearly perfect example of the Marzen (think Oktoberfest) style, with honey and caramel as stand-out flavors and a fresh-baked aspect I've finally decided is a little like angel food cake. Really simple and straightforward, a great argument against seeking out the next big berry stout or massively hopped IPA, but also so far from just being a palate cleanser. It's a limited edition, though surprisingly sold in six-packs, and was still on a couple store shelves as of early December.

One final note: I still haven't mastered beer tasting, though I feel like I'm getting closer to recognizing the different flavors that were intended, or at least the ones that the brewers and the experts agree have resulted, than I was almost two years ago when I started this adventure. I still think of myself as a vastly under-educated beer drinker - but an expert beer thinker.

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Previously in The Beer Thinker:
* Tapping Lincoln Square
* Size Matters
* Lagunitas Changes Everything
* Make Beer, Not War
* Collaboration Brewing
* Summer Brew
* Mothership Goose
* The Pumpkin Is A Fruit, An Ale And A Lager
* Barreled Over
* Craft Favorites

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Dan O'Shea was thinking about craft beer way too much for someone who wasn't writing about it. Now, he's writing about it. He welcomes your comments.



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Posted on December 31, 2013


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Cricket vs. Brexit.
POLITICS - Charter Schools Complicit With Segregation.
SPORTS - USA Gymnastics Bans Illinois Coach.

BOOKS - The Randomness Of Harvard Admissions.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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