Every December since 2008, we've looked back at all the beers we've had during the year so we can pick our Beer of the Year. Our method for picking the HBG Beer of the Year is unscientific. We don't limit our picks to beers we've reviewed as a group, which is probably a good thing since we don't review beers much anymore. Nor do we limit our picks to Indiana beers; indeed, you'll see that this year's list of favorites includes a mix of beers from Indiana and elsewhere. We also don't limit our picks to new releases; some of us inevitably pick old favorites just because we want to. And we each have different tastes, so we always end up choosing a wide variety of beers each year.
So here's how the process works--
Each of us picks our top five beers along with three beers in the "honorable mention" category. To rank the beers, we award 5 points for each first-place vote, 4 points for each second-place vote, 3 for each third-place vote, 2 for each fourth-place vote, 1 for each fifth-place vote, and 0.5 for an honorable mention.
And which beer ended up in the top spot? You'll probably be happy to see that it's an Indiana beer, but you might (or might not) be surprised by the brewery. This beer won our votes by a pretty substantial margin, which means that almost all of us were impressed by this beer.
This year's Hoosier Beer Geek Beer of the Year is...
Bloomington Brewing Company's 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat
We first had 10-Speed at the Tomlinson Tap Room during one of our monthly Pint Nights. Most of us hadn't had any BBC beers beyond their flagship brew, Ruby Bloom Amber. We were wowed when we finally tried 10-Speed; it was laden with tropical fruit notes and was crisp and refreshing. We're not exaggerating when we say that Three Floyds Gumballhead now has a rival for the best well-hopped wheat beer in the state. At a later Pint Night, we had a cask version of 10-Speed that was dry-hopped with Mosaic hops and infused with grilled pineapple. We adored this version of 10-Speed and were left wishing we could get it year-round. Come May 2014, when 10-Speed is released again (well, we hope it'll be released again), 10-Speed will be in our beer rotation through the spring and summer.
This is the first year we've picked a BBC beer as our beer of the year, and we're guessing that it may happen again in the future based on our experiences with their beers. Our congratulations go out to the BBC crew!
Other Indiana beers received votes from us in our 2013 Beer of the Year poll. Specifically, offerings from Bier, Black Acre, Flat12, Fountain Square, Iechyd Da, New Day Meadery, The RAM, Sun King, Three Floyds, Union, and ZwanzigZ pleased our palates this year.
So without further ado, here's our list of all beers that received votes, ranked in order of points received. Indiana breweries are in italics, along with the city in which the brewery is located. The states/countries for non-Indiana breweries are also listed.
The Top Five:
1. Bloomington Brewing Company 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat - Bloomington
2. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine - Illinois
3. (tie) Perennial Abraxas (Imperial Stout) (2013) - Missouri
Sun King Afternoon Delight (Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Doppelbock) - Indianapolis
5. Stiegl Grapefruit Radler (look for #TeamRadler on Twitter; join the team now!) - Austria
The Rest of the Best:
6. (tie) Flat12 Corsair Gin-Barrel-Aged Cucumber Kolsch - Indianapolis
Three Floyds Alpha King (American Pale Ale) - Munster
8. (tie) Baxter Stowaway IPA - Maine
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout (2013) - Illinois
Union Brewing Company Miami Weisse (Berliner Weisse) - Carmel
11. (tie) Black Acre Citra Pale (Pale Ale) - Indianapolis
Founders Sweet Repute (Wheatwine) - Michigan
New Glarus Berliner Weisse - Wisconsin
Prairie Standard (Saison/Farmhouse Ale) - Oklahoma
Rivertown Ville de Rivere Gueuze - Ohio
16. (tie) Against the Grain Bo and Luke (Imperial Stout) - Kentucky
Iechyd Da Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout - Elkhart
18. (tie) Black Acre Hop Pun DIPA - Indianapolis
Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne (Flanders Red Ale) - Belgium
The Bruery 3 French Hens (Belgian-Style Strong Dark Ale) - California
The Bruery Melange No. 3 (American Strong Ale) - California
New Glarus Serendipity (Fruit Ale) - Wisconsin
Oskar Blues Ten Fidy (Imperial Stout) - Colorado
Urban Chestnut Berliner Weisse - Missouri
25. Sun King Shake Up (Berliner Weisse-Style Ale/Fruit Ale) - Indianapolis
26. (tie) The Alchemist Heady Topper (Imperial IPA) - Vermont
Bier Pumpkin Porter - Indianapolis
MKE O-Gii (Witbier) - Wisconsin
New Day Gin-Barrel-Aged Shelby Blue Ribbon (Strawberry/Rhubarb Mead) - Indianapolis
30. (tie) Flat12 Lebowski's Kolsch - Indianapolis
Fountain Square Hop Your Face (Imperial IPA) - Indianapolis
Jackie O’s Chuma-Lungma Honey Nut Brown Ale - Ohio
Local Option Bierwerker Schmetterling Gose - Illinois
Local Option Bierwerker American Muscle New World DIPA - Illinois
Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s (IPA) - Colorado
Pipeworks Ninja v. Unicorn DIPA - Illinois
The RAM Double Down (Imperial IPA) - Indianapolis/Fishers
Sun King Dominator Doppelbock - Indianapolis
Sun King Grapefruit Jungle (IPA) - Indianapolis
Sun King Malus Pi (Fruit Ale) - Indianapolis
Sun King/Three Floyds Royal Brat (ESB) - Indianapolis/Munster
Three Floyds Evil Power (Imperial Pils) - Munster
Three Floyds In the Name of Suffering (Black IPA) - Munster
ZwanzigZ Fastenbier Rauchbier - Columbus
In our list, IPAs and Pale Ales are certainly well-represented, and so are Berliner Weisses. This latter choice reflects our belief (albeit not a universal belief among us) that a beer doesn't have to be "big" to be flavorful.
Here are the votes from each Knight of the Beer Roundtable:
It's always challenging to pick just five beers, but here are the ones that left me with the best beer memories of 2013:
1. Bloomington Brewing Company 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat. The tropical notes, crispness, and sweet notes in this beer combine to produce a stunner. The cask version of 10-Speed that was dry-hopped with Mosaic hops and infused with grilled pineapple is amazing and now has a place in my top five beers of all time. BBC is a brewery that definitely deserves your attention.
2. Union Brewing Company Miami Weisse Berliner Weisse. Berliner Weisse is one of my favorite styles. Union's offering was unique because it was from a cask. Ever had a Berliner Weisse with a silky mouthfeel? If you haven't, go to Union and give Miami Weisse a try.
3. Black Acre Citra Pale Ale. Black Acre has become my favorite brewpub, and I know I'm not alone in that opinion. Their house beers are always high quality, no matter the style. And if you crave Three Floyds Zombie Dust like I do, you'll find a more-than-worthy rival in Black Acre's Citra Pale.
4. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout. I'm elated to finally have Oskar Blues in Indiana because Ten Fidy is my go-to imperial stout. Why? Because it's hefty without being boozy; it's flavorful yet smooth; and it's packed with lovely chocolate notes. I always have room for a 4-pack in my fridge.
5. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. I don't like barley wines, but I love this one. The aging of this beer in a second-use Bourbon County Stout barrel imparts nice chocolate undertones to the bready malt to produce a winner.
- Local Option American Muscle DIPA. I may not be metal enough to have the bartenders at Local Option treat me nicely, but damn, is this beer amazing! Next time I visit Local Option, I'll have to wear my Motorhead t-shirt to the pub.
- Sun King Shake Up. Another Berliner Weisse-style ale on my list. Tart, refreshing, lovely. Please make this every summer, Sun King . . . please.
- Stiegl Grapefruit Radler. What's not to like in a grapefruit soda/lager hybrid? Join #TeamRadler before it's too late, kids.
1. Flat12 Corsair Gin Barrel Cucumber Kolsch
2. Sun King Afternoon Delight
3. Bloomington 10-Speed on cask w/ grilled pineapple
4. Against the Grain Bo and Luke
5. Stiegl Grapefruit Radler
- Local Option Schmetterling Option Gose
- Three Floyds In the Name of Suffering
- New Glarus Serendipity
1. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
2. Baxter Stowaway IPA
3. Rivertown Ville De Rivere Gueuze
4. The Bruery 3 French Hens
5. Bier Pumpkin Porter
Honorable mentions: Jackie O's Chuma-Lungma Honey Nut Brown, Sun King's Malus Pi
Every year we do this I always struggle with trying to narrow down beers to just five. I had the pleasure of having some really amazing beers this year. I always struggle with "what was the best beer I had this year." Do you rank it based on style or creativity? What about for volumes sake? The beer I consumed the most this year probably needs to be on the list, doesn't it? Here is my list:
1. Three Floyds Alpha King
This beer takes number one for the simple reason of how fantastic a beer it is. I consumed more of this beer this year than any other, and almost always had a sixer in my fridge. This beer is as good as it has ever been, and for me is going to remain at the top spot as long as I drink good beer.
2. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
Yes, an InBev product made my list. This year's Bourbon County Coffee Stout was one of the very best beers I've ever had. In all aspects of what I look for in a beer, it was almost perfect. This beer had an amazing beginning, middle, and end. The fresh-packed smell of coffee, zero alcohol burn, and toasted chocolate marshmallows was a real winning combination.
3. New Glarus Berliner Weisse
I've always had an affinity for the Berliner Weisse style, and I seek them out if I can get my hands on them. I've had my fair share of beers in the style, but from my first sip of this beer I knew it was something special. Everything in the beer worked in harmony and the first sip was every bit as good as the last. New Glarus always brews amazing beers and this one did not disappoint.
4. Iechyd Da's Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout
I've really been super impressed with all of the beers I've had from Iechyd Da out of Elkhart. This sweet stout was not cloying or over the top sweet, but a very nice and refreshing take on a milk/sweet stout. I'm already looking forward to hitting them up many times at Winterfest this year.
5. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
Another InBev product on the my list....(Man, is this guy an asshole or what?) I love English Barleywines and we sadly do not get many here in Indiana. We get some American Barleywines that are really malty DIPA's, but this beer was also nearly perfect to me. The base of the beer was chewy, dark fruits with notes of molasses and figs rounded out with vanilla and oak from the barrel aging. The toffee and caramel back bite gave this beer a near palate overload from start to finish.
- ZwanzigZ's Fastenbier Rauchbier. I am continually impressed with the beers coming out of Columbus's ZwanzigZ, and this smoke beer is no exception.
- Pipework's Ninja vs. Unicorn DIPA. A welcome surprise when I found a bottle in Chicago. This is a citrus lover's DIPA.
- Flat 12's Lebowski's Kolsch. I thought there was no way this beer was going to work, but I'll be damned if it was fantastic and very memorable. More so than that was that I loved the beer.
I’m not sure which is tougher… picking out my five favorites of the year or remembering what all I had tasted. Between festivals, tailgates, parties, etc., I have sampled a lot of beers. So I am limiting my top five to beers I consumed a glass, can, or bottle of. And here are the beers that stand out in my mind.
1. Bloomington Brewing Company 10-Speed Hoppy Wheat dry-hopped with Mosaic and infused with fresh grilled pineapple: Set up in a firkin Tomlinson Tap Room, the infused hoppy wheat was love at first site. The regular hoppy wheat is good. It is definitely a competitive alternative to that other hoppy wheat beer from Indiana.
2. Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine: King Henry is probably my favorite beer of all time. Big boozy beer in a bourbon barrel? Yes please. Bourbon County Barleywine is not as well balanced and blended as King Henry, but damn it is good. Enjoyed on tap at Shoefly.
3. Founders Sweet Repute Wheatwine: Big boozy beer in a bourbon barrel? Yes please. Whoa! Déjà vu! A seriously sweet beer that was happily consumed at Mass Ave Pub.
4. Black Acre Hop Pun Double IPA: I have a hard time drinking at any other place than Black Acre. Their house-brewed beers are great. Their guest list is great. And it is two blocks from my home. The Hop Pun DIPA is one of my favorites of Black Acre’s and it stands out the most right now.
5. New Glarus Serendipity: I get that people like Wisconsin Belgian Red, but it would not make my top five any year. It’s just not for me. So I was not expecting to enjoy Serendipity. But the blend of fruits in this beer makes for a refreshing, flavorful beer. Not often that a fruit beer stands out for me. I want to go to the Old Fashioned in Madison, Wisconsin and drink another glass of Serendipity. And then go and buy a case. Seriously good.
- Oskar Blues Deviant Dale’s: Welcome to Indiana, Oskar Blues! The Deviant Dale’s found a reserved spot in my beer fridge.
- Sun King/Three Floyds Royal Brat ESB: Both breweries receive accolades for their crazy beers. But both do “regular” beers well. And this ESB fits the bill. I love a good ESB.
- Sun King Shake Up: I mention this because this is the second fruit beer that stands out in my memory. I can’t drink a pint glass at a time. A snifter would do. A fun beer that should be served every year at the State Fair.
Yikes. I had a hard time narrowing down my picks for this year. My ground rules for picking were only limited to full pours of any beer I had this year.
1. Perennial Abraxas (all variations) - This got my top spot for a couple reasons, the main being that I could have let it and its variations (Coffee, Barrel Aged) dominate half my list, so I compromised.
2. Bloomington 10-Speed - I’ve been so impressed with Bloomington lately. They’ve really been on fire with a wide range of styles and outstanding quality.
3. Stiegl Radler (Grapefruit) - I wanted to drink this more than anything else most of the time. #TeamRadler
4. Urban Chestnut Berliner Weisse - I crave this beer on regular intervals. While I generally love this style anyway, this particular beer held a perfect balance of tart and sweet.
5. MKE O-Gii - I picked up a 4-pack of this while visiting Madison, Wisconsin this summer. This monster beer is infused with Rishi Tea and comes in at 9%.
Oh, honorable mentions too:
- The RAM Double Down
- Sun King Shake Up
- Sun King Dominator Doppelbock
#1: Afternoon Delight (Sun King Brewing): GABF was not wrong to award this beer a gold. SK does bock beers right, and throwing this one in a Pappy Van Winkle barrel highlights all the right flavors.
#2: Abraxus (Perennial Brewing): Dark and delicious, the cinnamon finish made my heart sing.
#3: Stiegl Radler (Stieglbrauerei zu Salsberg): I know this beer is getting a lot of hype right now, AND THERE'S A REASON FOR IT. It's summertime in a glass; refreshing, slightly sweet, slightly tart...and a low ABV for responsible consumption (whatever that is).
#4: Duchesse de Bourgogne (Brouwerij Verhaeghe): Perfect sour gateway beer. Easy and smooth, perfect blend of sweet and tart.
#5: Heady Topper (The Alchemist): No comment necessary.
Honorable mentions: Grapefruit Jungle (Sun King brewing), Hop Your Face (Fountain Square Brewing), Serendipity (New Glarus)
1. Bloomington 10-Speed - I didn't have the pineapple version, but I was completely surprised by how good the regular was at our Bloomington Brewing Company pint night at Tom Tap. Right up there with Gumballhead, maybe better!
2. Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine - Reminiscent of King Henry in a good way. All of the great things about bourbon without so much alcohol.
3. Prairie Standard - My first introduction to this great Saison brewery left a lasting impression. Clearly they are masters of the funk.
4. The Bruery Melange No. 3 - Another example of a great blended beer from The Bruery. Expensive, but surprisingly worth the $30+ price tag. Expertly blended and complex.
5. New Day Gin Barrel Aged Shelby Blue Ribbon - Normally I don't vote for things I had at a beer festival, but I may have drunk a pint's worth. The combination of gin flavors with strawberry and rhubarb was incredible.
Honorable mentions - Against the Grain Bo and Luke, Iechyd Da Breakfast Cookies Milk Stout, Three Floyds Evil Power
Past winners of the Hoosier Beer Geek Beer of the Year Award:
2012: Fountain Square Workingman's Pilsner
2011: Three Floyds Zombie Dust
2010: Brugge Brasserie's Spider
2009: Broad Ripple Brewpub's Monon Porter (on cask)
2008: Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper (2007)