Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Drink Local

Draft Magazine has released their list of the Top 25 new beers of 2012:

As beer editor, my desk’s always covered in bottles. Beers from around the world cycle through for panel tastings, and just when I make room for my laptop, more bottles arrive. Of course, I’m not complaining: There aren’t many jobs where you can crack open five saisons at noon and call it “work.” But, elbow room aside, that’s not to say it isn’t challenging, especially as the year comes to a close and I’m faced with picking the top 25 beers of 2012. Just 25?

We feel for you pal. Must have been a stressful experience.

To narrow it down, this time around we tweaked the rules: We focused only on bottled or canned beers that were released or made available for the first time in the United States this year. With the criteria set, we dug into our notes. We remembered some of the stunning new Belgian releases that arrived from Chimay, St-Feuillien and Westvleteren. We reminisced about the way Hangar 24 and Stone elevated the IPA with ingredients from the farm. And, most of all, we couldn’t forget the variety of exceptional farmhouse ales, from Cigar City’s Cucumber Saison to Ranger Creek’s smoke-infused Small Batch Series No. 2. It didn’t take long before a clear set of front-runners emerged, all defining the new look of craft beer.

Looking at this group as a whole, it’s evident that innovation is on equal footing with classic styles. Some releases reminded us that beer doesn’t have to be fancy to be awesome, while others weren’t just outside the box; they were nowhere near it. Brewers formed new partnerships that furthered the relationship between beer and the worlds of food and farms. Fruits, vegetables and specialty grains like oatmeal and rye reimagined old styles. Brewers perfected novel techniques, and found new ways to harness the power of wood aging and smoke. This list is about groundbreakers, and these are the top 25 new beers of 2012.

Being a bit of a beer geek myself, I was interested to see how many of th top 25 I had tasted in the past year. At first pass, it looks like all of about ONE. Part of that is because many of the these beers are limited releases, but a bigger factor is that many of the breweries listed here are not available locally. While a list of the Top 25 new beers of 2012 from across the country is interesting, a regional breakdown would likely be far more relevant to beer drinkers in various parts of the country.