BEER TREK 2012: New Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere

The continuing saga of Michael 'fezz' Nazarec at large in the world of beer, hunting down new and varied species of the fermented ambrosia in its natural habitat: breweries, brewpubs, beer bars, restaurants, train stations, airports and beer festivals.
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Current Posts: fezz's picks: the Top 12 of 2012; Back to Brussels, London Calling; Get Lost in Maastricht; Amsterdam and Beyond; In Bruges and Ghent; Mussels in Brussels; Brussels Beer Weekend #14; Further Adventures in the Beer-o-Sphere; Calgary's Best & Wurst; A Wee Peak at Vancouver Craft Beer Week 2012; A night out in Denver; Drinking Beer in L.A.

fezz's picks : Top 12 Beers of 2012

I did some traveling this past year, which allowed me to try some distant brews, but I also have the great fortune of living in Vancouver, British Columbia, somewhat of a centre itself when it comes to beer and an ever-fermenting beer culture. So these are my picks, two six packs of the best brews I found in 2012, in no particular order, but all outstanding in their own unique ways...

Smoke & Mirrors Imperial Smoked Ale
Coal Harbour Brewing Co. Vancouver, BC 
I closed my eyes and was transported back to medieval Bamberg, Germany, home of this rauch style of beer. Big, deep, dark, malty with a heavy smoke presence that blends, balances and completes this bold brew. Engaging yet smooth, not for the light-hearted either, know you're getting into a big beer here. I've been lucky enough to enjoy this beer on tap and from the bottle, impressive both ways. Wonderful with any kind of barbequed meat or even a spicy rice dish or even a lamb risotto.

Son of the Morning Strong Golden Ale
Driftwood Brewing Co., Victoria, BC
This is another big, bold beautiful beer. It is golden hued pale yellow, floral and aromatic, full of subtle and gorgeously balanced spices, complex malt overtones and enough hidden hop to dry out the finish. I wish they brewed this year round, this Belgian strong is a strong and wonderful limited release.
Share this golden ale with some sharp blue cheese, or an aged cheddar.

Hoppy (Happy) Lovin' Christmas
Mikkeller Brewing Co., Copenhagen, Denmark
A Christmas IPA made with ginger and pine needles, you say? A truly well balanced brew, add a smack of grapefruit from wonderful hopping. Big head, spicy nose, some fruitiness, surprisingly uncomplicated and smooth. Enjoyed this with a very tasty Thai meal at Thai Pagoda in Canmore, Alberta, where owner Peter will guide you through his extensive beer list, hands down the best in town.
Twice As Mad Tom India Pale Ale
Muskoka Brewing Co., Bracebridge, ONT
A twice dry-hopped double IPA that is copper-hued amber in colour, but bold and balanced at the same time. Floral aromatics lead to a steady bitterness marching through your palate, with warming malts and English characteristics, this is a well considered and marvelously hopped pale ale. I hear the cask version is exceptional.

Hopwired India Pale Ale
8 Wired Brewing Co., Marborough, New Zealand
Made entirely with New Zealand malts and hops, this is a special brew. A malty sweetness is well tempered by a rich combination of hops both fruity and citric, tropical and earthy. Full white head, pours rich amber, aromatic and inviting, this brew is a delicate palate warmer, as well as smoothly balanced, all leading to a coyingly spicy and definitely  'more-ish' finish.

 Pray for Snow Winter Ale
10 Barrel Brewing Co., Bend, Oregon
 Eight different malts were used in the making of this seasonal, plus herbal, spicy and citric hops, all aged in brandy barrels for several months picking up nuances of oak, vanilla and candied fruit. Dark ruby in colour, rocky but quickly dissipating head, fruity aromatics leads the palate to some roasted malt, hints of chocolate, wood, subtle spices, all well balanced and hinting at the brandy hidden in this complex winter warmer.

Uncharted Belgian IPA
Lighthouse Brewing Co., Victoria, BC
Another great Belgian style ale from the island. This unfiltered abbey style incorporates two yeasts, and packs an amazing punch taste-wise, crossing over from Tripel malts to IPA strength hops. Pouring golden amber and slightly cloudy, the nose is citric, the palate hop laden and earthy with juicy malt tones permeating all. It shows off a tall white head in a tulip glass, offers estery notes on the tongue and elicits a smooth and well balanced spiciness all the way to the finish. 

Oude Gueuze Tilquin a l'Ancienne
Gueuzerie Tilquin, Rebecq-Rognon, Belgium
Twenty years ago I discovered the Bier Circus in Brussels, with an already amazing cellar. Now in a new location but still concentrating on some of the best brews in Belgium, this last trip I was offered a Tilquin, a fairly new Wallonian blender using both Flemish and Brussels-area lambics, combining  them to perfection in this bottle conditioned treat. Big head, slight cloudiness, citric and sour nose, full on sour palate smoothing out to a complex yeatiness, tarty tones and a dry finish. This corked, cloudy amber, sour joy was sublime. 

Straffe Hendrik Quadruple 
Huisbrouwerij de Halve Maan, Bruges, Belgium
11 %
A jet-black, complicated, malt forward brew, boasting hints of chocolate, coffee, figs, prunes, caramel, very intense and chewy.  Well balanced, delicately carbonated, this big beautiful brew finishes dry but displays some fruity sweetness and yeastiness. It hides its strength well in its complex character. I was told at the brewery that one batch was aged in Bourgogne wine barrels for a whole year, packaged in corked bottles and sold only through the local newspapers. The staff each got a glass, but the entire stock was sold out in three days.

VanderGhinste Oud Bruin
Brouwerij Boctor, Bellagem, Belgium
This is a top-fermented beer blended with lambic and aged in oak for 18 months resulting in this specific West Flanders old brown. Reddish brown in colour, with a thick mousse head, a fruity nose initiates, some slight sourness and semi-sweet malt follow, combining for a complex yet thirst quenching brew, a slight bitterness drying out the the wonderfully tangy and tart finish.

Trainwreck Barrel Aged Barley Wine 2012
Philips Brewing Co., Victoria, BC
Mahogany brown in colour, thin tan head leaves some lacing, boasting nutty, dark fruit aromas, huge malty architecture underpinned by perfect bitterness to uphold the complexity: notes of sherry, vanilla, oak with hints of dark sugars, very warming but the alcohol is balanced in the deep dark malt here, amazingly smooth for a brew of this strength. Something to settle down with on a long winter's night.

Pigs Ass Porter
Harvest Moon Brewing Co., Belt, Montana
Opaque deep brown, tawny head leaves good lacing, bready nose, plenty of body without a sharp bite, medium bodied, smooth palate of caramel, chocolate and black malts, roasted, creamy with hints of chocolate, nuttiness, nice drying hops in the long finish.
 It was wonderful to find this in a wilderness of mainstream lagers, went great with barbeque and spicy butter chicken too!


Happy New Beers to one and all for 2013!