Another beer year is over for Victoria's craft beer lovers. I think there were more releases this year than any other. This year saw Lighthouse really get into the seasonal bomber release game. 2011 was the year Hoyne Brewing starting releasing some beers. It also signaled Vancouver Island Breweries intention to release more seasonal beers. What were the top 10 (new) beers for 2011 in the eyes of a beer snob? I only listed new releases.
Singularity 2010 by Driftwood. This massive stout monster overwhelmed many palates and I'm sure caused a few hangovers. Flavours were unfathomable and epic in nature. Umami, bourbon, vanilla, nail polish and dark chocolate all appeared together in the same bottle.
2. Uncharted Belgian IPA by Lighthouse. This was a blended beer of Belgian tripel ale and southern hemisphere IPA. The Uncharted came a close second because it was something completely different. It also produced a few cool casks.
3. Deckhand Saison By Lighthouse. Everything a good saison should be: spicy, with cloves, barnyard and Belgian yeasts. Luckily this one has been picked up by BCLS and is currently available almost everywhere.
4. Grow Hop Centennial by Phillips. Actually the whole HopBox idea from Phillips was brilliant. A PNW single hop variety favourite, Centennial, gives hopheads what they need.
5. Hoperation Tripel Cross by Phillips. This was a revamping of the uber-sweet Surly Blonde Ale. What do you get when you uber-hop a Surly? I still super sweet Belgian style IPA. It was spicy, fruity with tangerines and pepper. Despite its sweetness, I liked it.
6. Navigator Dopplebock. I reviewed this in contrast with the Phillips Instigator; there was no contest. The Navigator had it all: rich caramel and toffee malts, thick sherry tastes and a dark fruity nose.
7. Overboard Imperial Pilsner by Lighthouse. I am starting to sound like a broken record. But dang! Massive tastes of banana bread, spicy hops and faint florals made this brew a hit.
8. Bird of Prey by Driftwood. This one wins for pure ambition alone; releasing a sour ale into an emerging beer scene - crazy. But it got all the beer geeks excited. The tart cherry and raspberry vinaigrette flavours were very approachable.
9. Iceberg Strong Pale Ale by Spinnakers. Spinnaker beers often slip by unnoticed, but this gem caught my attention. Yes it had a bit too much vegetal and soapiness, but the hops were phenomenal. Massive amounts of floral, pine played off an unbalanced lineup of honey and grass malts.
10. Double Shot Porter by Swan's. Heavy with the dry coffee grounds and bittersweet chocolate, this brew kept you awake and longing for more.
I could only pick 10 beers for my list. Certainly some of you will disagree with me. Get your own blog and write it up or leave your comments below.
Other honourable mentions (in no particular order)
Spinnakers Low Gravity Ale. For a low ABV brew, it was nice. Cereal malts, thin whole wheat toast and a nice herbal/mineral hop slap at the end.
Moon Under Water Best Bitter. I love this truly session ale. Other than homebrew, I have drank this caramel and citrus hop beverage more often any other.
Double Barrel Scotch Ale by Phillips. The flavours of wood, vanilla, sherry and peat were very long lasting
Cuvee D'Hiver by Driftwood. Locally grown malts turned into a peppery, lemony brew with a mouthpuckeringly dry finish. Yum.
Kolsch Style by Spinnakers.This was added at the request of Mrs Left4beer. Another light sessionable ale.
Spring Rite by Driftwood. Local malts with tart and sour Brett goodness, who could ask for more?
Krypton Rye PA by Phillips. Another HopBox win. A good hoppy IPA with added dry rye graininess.
Double Decker IPA by Vancouver Island Brewery. While not the biggest hop menace; it is an English style. The brew was tasty and signaled an intention of VIB to release more seasonals. Ditto for their Dough Head Gingerbread Ale.
Old Sarsaparilla by Phillips. This was something different and refreshing. Lots of herbal, spices made this release an unique treat.
My apologies if I forgot anyone; I probably did. There were so many great new releases this year.