The Beer Nut: My 10 favorite beers of 2009
The end of 2009 is approaching, and it is time to look back at the year in beer.
It was a strong year for craft breweries, with brand-new beers hitting the shelves almost on a daily basis.
Here's my choices for the top 10 beers released in 2009.
1. Pretty Things' Baby Tree (Cambridge, Mass.)
Here's how I would describe Baby Tree in one word: phenomenal. This Belgian-style quad brewed with dried plums caught my attention from the first sip, and I can't get enough of it. The flavors are incredible, and it has almost a creaminess to it. Despite the high alcohol (8.6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV)), it is an easy beer to drink. Not only is this the best beer of 2009, it's on my personal top 20 list of all American beers.
2. Stone's Ken Schmidt/Maui Brewing/Stone Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter (Escondido, Calif.)
A lot going on in this beer, a collaboration between Stone and Maui Brewing Company (Hawaii) and homebrewer Ken Schmidt. This beer combines so many of my favorite things that I could not help loving it. Big coffee notes blend well with hints of macadamia nuts and coconut. Despite all of the different flavors, they all work well together. At 8.5 percent ABV, this is a sipper.
3. Dogfish Head's Squall (Rehoboth Beach, Del.)
Squall is a bottle conditioned and unfiltered version of Dogfish Head's popular 90 Minute IPA. This beer is brewed with several different hops, including Simcoe, Cascade and Amarillo. This 9 percent ABV double IPA has a big piney flavor from the hops, balanced nicely with sweet malts. Squall was a pleasure to drink for this hophead.
4. The Bruery's Saison de Lente (Placentia, Calif.)
The Bruery is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries, and the Saison de Lente is just one example of how wonderful a job they do with their beers. This 6.5 percent ABV saison was their spring seasonal, and it is refreshing. There are hints of fruit, as well as some funk from wild yeast. There is some tartness to this, and the smell is incredible. It really is an easy drinking ale.
5. Brooklyn's Local 2 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Brooklyn Brewery just keeps producing great beers inspired by almost every country. The Local 2 is a Belgian dark ale, coming in at 9 percent ABV. It's a dark beer, with hints of chocolate in the aroma, which carry over into the flavor. There is tons of spiciness in this. Despite how dark it is, it comes off as a lighter beer. One of the more drinkable beers for its alcohol percentage.
6. Cisco's Pink Lady (Nantucket)
You know, I didn't feel manly when I first bought something called Pink Lady, but once I tried it, I didn't care what the name was; it's just a pleasant beer to drink. It's a Belgian-style witbier, with a twist. Not only does it have the typical flavors of a witbier (coriander and bitter orange peel), it has the added addition of cranberries. It's also aged in oak chardonnay barrels.
7. Founders' Double Trouble (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Founders' newest double IPA, which comes in at a hefty 9.4 percent ABV, is full of grapefruit flavors from the hops. It's extremely bitter. Although this is a beer brewed for hop heads, Founders does not forget to give it a strong enough malt backbone to make this one drinkable, despite the bucket loads of hops.
8. Brewery Ommegang's Adoration Ale (Cooperstown, N.Y.)
Adoration Ale is Ommegang's take on a Belgian-style Christmas ale. They do a fantastic job. It's on par with almost any Christmas ale being brewed in Belgium today. When you take a sip of this beer, the 10 percent ABV warms you up right away, but the flavors of nutmeg - and even a little chocolate and other spices - makes this a tasty after-dinner beer.
9. Victory's Helios (Downington, Pa.)
Helios is not only one of the best beers of 2009, it is also one of the best bargains. You'd be hard-pressed to find a 22-ounce bomber this good for such a good price (usually $3.99 a bottle). Helios is a really good saison. It's tangy, and has some peppery notes. This is beer to pair with lots of food try it with some roast chicken and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
10. Southern Tier's Mokah (Lakewood, N.Y.)
I went to a beer festival last year where they were pouring a blend of Southern Tier's Choklat and Jahva, their two high alcohol stouts and thought, "Wow, this would be a great beer." Apparently, the brewers over at Southern Tier thought that, too, when they brewed Mokah, a chocolate and coffee infused imperial stout. It's 11 percent ABV, but the deep coffee and sweet chocolate flavors do a great job of hiding it. If there was a perfect beer to drink as a dessert, Mokah is it.
Whew, this was a tough list. My initial list started at more than 20 beers, and I narrowed it down to 13 before finally coming in with the top 10. There really were so many great beers brewed this year.
Next week I will feature the top 10 breweries of the year.
Norman Miller is a Daily News staff writer. For questions, comments, suggestions or recommendations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 508-626-3823. Check out The Beer Nut blog at http://blogs.townonline.com/beernut/.