Showing posts with label review of the year. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review of the year. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fuggled Beers of the Year - Dark, Proper Dark

Off we head then to the end of 2020 with a quick review of the year's dark beers...

Virginia

  • Morana - Devils Backbone Brewing
  • Schwartz Bier - Devils Backbone Brewing
  • Porter - Port City Brewing
Honorable mentions: Fast Mild - Ballad Brewing Company

In years past I have refrained from putting Morana on my beers of the year list for the simple reason that I researched and designed the recipe, but as many have said throughout 2020, all bets are off now, so it is on the list. This was the 5th brewing of the beer, and in my unhumble opinion the best so far, thanks largely to open fermentation and horizontal lagering, in addition to the usual double decoction. 

Schwarzbier, the style, is one of those lager styles that just doesn't get enough love in the craft brewing scene, and Devils Backbone's nod to Space Balls is right up there with the finest examples from Germany, and regularly finds a place in the fridge. 

It wouldn't be a 2020 review of the year without Port City now would it. Their Porter is one of those beers that is just wonderful, an archetype of the style if you will, when it is served at a proper temperature, like 55°F, is so much more than the sum of its parts, it sings.

Call it bias, call it nepotism, but only Morana can be the Fuggled 2020 Dark Beer of the Year and with the ever growing list of tmavé lagers hitting the shelves, I really hope to see it packaged one day soon.

Rest of the USA
  • Dunkel - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • Irish Walker 2012 - Olde Hickory Brewing, NC
  • Tr?sten - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
Honorable mentions: Dunkel - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC; Porter - Anchor Brewing, CA.

Of my various crushes on Von Trapp beers, and I think I have a little something for all of them bar the K?lsch, the Dunkel is as solid a US made Dunkel as is possible to find, and it makes a great component of a ?ezané pivo, especially with Von Trapp's Helles. I have been known to polish off an entire 6 pack of cans in the course of an evening once the boys go to bed, it is that moreish.

I hope you are sitting comfortably, but yes a barleywine makes this list, a very dark barleywine for sure, and one that had been sitting in my cellar since 2013. I described Irish Walker as being a "cacophonous love song to malt" that was "just glorious", a very worthy contender indeed.

Tr?sten is Von Trapp's smoked lager winter seasonal, though I have to admit that I find the smoke character to be somewhat subdued. Despite that, it is a beer that I love drinking for it's fuller dark body and satin smooth mouthfeel.

A surprise perhaps for regular readers then that the Fuggled Rest of USA 2020 dark beer is....Irish Walker from North Carolina's Olde Hickory Brewing, an utterly lascivious beer, with all the temptations and delights that word implies.

Rest of the World
  • Schlenkerla Urbock - "Heller-Br?u" Trum, Germany
  • Icelandic Toasted Porter - Einst?k ?lgere, Iceland
  • Imperial Stout - Samuel Smith's Brewery, England
Honorable mentions: Schlenkerla M?rzen - "Heller Br?u" Trum, Germany.

Some beers are simply worth every penny of buying a case worth to sit in the fridge and pulling out when the mood strikes for a taste of the divine. Schlenkerla Urbock is one such beer, and having said that, I have about a half case in the fridge for such occasions.

I don't generally do coffee infused beers, but the Icelandic Toasted Porter from Einst?k is an exception to the rule. Think a fine London porter with a taste of espresso and you are very much in the ballpark of this North Atlantic wonder.

Classic. Is there any other word that best describes this imperial stout from Yorkshire? Honestly there isn't one that pops into my mind. Insanely drinkable, unlike many an imperial stout, Samuel Smiths nail this style to a tee, despite the .5% abv.

Tricky, tricky, tricky...but then push comes to shove, the 2020 Fuggled Rest of the World dark beer is the classic from Bamberg, Schlenkerla Urbock.


Pick one they said, pick one.

Ok then, the Fuggled Dark beer of 2020 is laden with bias, nostalgia, and a longing to be home in the forests of Bohemia.

Morana takes the crown.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Fuggled Beers of the Year - Darker Than Pale Lighter Than Dark Brown

How's that for a description of colours in this category? Suitably vague and broad of scope I would hope you agree.

Onwards then to the runners and riders

Virginia
  • Franconia Kellerbier - Port City Brewing
  • Rauch M?rzen - Port City Brewing
  • Alt Bier - Devils Backbone Brewing
Honorable mentions: Doppelbock - Port City Brewing; Bavarian Prince - New Realm Brewing.

As I mentioned in my last post, this year has been stellar from Port City, so it is no surprise to see them dominating the DTPLTDB category. I drank loads of the Franconian Kellerbier earlier this year, often while harvesting fresh green things from my garden, the experience was a series of delightfully rustic moments in the midst of this most odd year. 

When you compare a rauchbier to the glories of Spezial in Bamberg, you know you are drinking something, erm, special, Rauch M?rzen is just such a beer. A gorgeous drop of rauchbier that hits my sweet spot with unerring accuracy. 

Technically speaking, Devils Backbone Alt Bier was my first beer of 2020, from the zwickel at the brewpub while brewing Morana back in February. When finally Morana was on tap, and people were allowed to reserve tables in the Devil Backbone meadow, we did so. With double digit numbers of crowlers of Morana acquired, I was drinking the Alt Bier, revelling in the sense of normality with a version of altbier that could actually pass for a German beer. 

This years Virginia DTPLTDB beer of the year is Port City's Franconian Kellerbier, a beer so good it pretty uch made up all of my drinking for a couple of months in the summer.

Rest of the USA
  • Copper - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Oktoberfest - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • 40 - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC
Honorable mentions: Winter Ride - JosephsBrau, CA; Yule Bock - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC; Vienna - Von Trapp Brewing, VT.

Very much a tale of old favourites here. I wax lyrical about Olde Mecklenburg at length to anyone crazy enough to listen about the glories of decoction mashing, extensive lagering, and a commitment to making beers with malt, hops, yeast, water, and "nothing else". Whenever I have the opportunity it is Copper that takes up a fair amount of space in my fridge. 

For the second year in a row, I did a mass Oktoberfest tasting, and Von Trapp's eponymous beer is probably my favourite version of the style, though it didn't win the blind tasting. However, a ma? at Kardinal Hall on an overcast Friday afternoon brought a ray of sunshine to an otherwise grim day. 

I know you are shocked, a top fermented, American hopped, IPA made it on my list of contenders this year, but it is Sierra Nevada and they are simply one of the best breweries on the planet, and in "40" they had the perfect beer to mark such an august anniversary. 

Sierra Nevada then, in their anniversary year take the honours as the best DTPLTDB beer in the rest of the US for 2020.

Rest of the World
  • Vintage Ale 2016 - Fuller's, England
  • Oktober Fest-M?rzen - Privatbrauerei Ayinger, Germany
  • Maudite - Unibroue, Canada
Honorable mentions: Orval - Abbaye d'Orval; London Pride - Fuller's.

With the lockdown in its infancy I decided to hit the cellar for some of the old ales, barleywines, and other assorted heavy hitters that had been lingering for a while. From those DTPLTDB beers the 2016 iteration of Fuller's Vintage Ale was the standout beer, and I am eyeing at least one more bottle of it before the year is out. 

Sure, I know Ayinger's autumnal festbier is not strictly speaking an Oktoberfest lager, it is though the one German lager of that season that I look forward to most, chewy, fully bodied, warming, echt lecker.

I renewed acquaintances with Maudite early in the year for an Old Friends post, such a nice beer, one that I have had a couple of times since, when the urge for a well brewed dubbel strikes (admittedly something of a great conjunction in my lager driven world). 

Not only was it the standout cellar beer of 2020, Fuller's Vintage Ale 2016 is the standout DTPLTDB beer of 2020 from the rest of the world. A worthy taker of the accolades.


Decisions, decisions...As ever it is tricky for me to choose one, but in reality given the amount of it I drank earlier in the year, and the fact I drove 60 miles round trip to pick up several unexpected 4 packs, the winner of the Fuggled DTPLTDB Beer of the Year is Port City's glorious Franconian Kellerbier, and I look forward to indulging in more in 2021.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Fuggled Beers of the Year - Pale

January 2020 promised much.

Potential work commitments would mean trips to Texas, New York, South Carolina, Canada, and Rome. With work trips come opportunities to try local beers, either as part of the horror of conference "networking happy hours" or when heading out for dinner in the evening. When I travel by myself I tend to deliberately make my dinner choices based on beer lists.

We all know what happened instead, lots of Zoom meetings.

Despite being largely stuck in central Virginia, this year has been pretty good on the beer front. I have tried beers from new-to-me breweries, made a point of supporting local bottle shops, often to the tune of a case a week at the beginning of lockdown, and where local breweries have had clearly laid out booking systems and strict mask requirements I have been happy to sit in their beer garden with the family and enjoy beer, sunshine, and happy toddler banter (Bertie, the younger of the twins, is a glorious gobshite).

Up until last year my annual review had often been a single post, and I thought this year would be a return to that format, but when I started thinking about all the beers I have had, it was clear that I could break things up a bit. Thus, we begin the review with pale beer and in keeping with last year, my top three each from Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the world.

Virginia

  • German Pilsner - Port City Brewing
  • Helles - Port City Brewing
  • Downright Pilsner - Port City Brewing
Honorable mentions: Our Daily Pils - Basic City Brewing; Euphonia Pilsner - New Realm Brewing.

This year has been stellar on the lager front from Port City up in Alexandria. I have long been a fan of their Downright Pilsner, which is modeled on Bohemian pale lagers. The Helles is their regular summer seasonal, and when the season is right a regular in the fridge. German Pilsner is part of their monthly Lager Series, which has been an absolute boon for this lagerboy in 2020. Choosing just one of the three is seriously difficult, but given that I drove a 60 mile round trip for another beer, and was thrilled to find a stash of German Pilsner in the shop I went to, it is a worthy Virginia Pale Beer of 2020.

Rest of the USA
  • Captain Jack Pilsner - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Helles - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • Alexandr - Schilling Brewing, NH
Honorable mentions: Pilz - Live Oak, TX; Helles - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC; Bavarian Pilsner - Von Trapp Brewing, VT; Pilsner - Von Trapp Brewing, VT; Pils - Edmund's Oast Brewing, SC; Rewind Lager - Birdsong Brewing, NC.

You get the feeling I mostly drink lager? I can't imagine what gives you that impression. There are several beers in the honorable mentions that I would happily drink exclusively for the rest of my days if need be, especially the Edmund's Oast Pils. Of the three finalists though, the Helles from Von Trapp is a near fixture of my drinking life, it is simply perfect and always welcome. Olde Mecklenbburg are, as you well know unless you live under a rock, are one of my favourite breweries. Whenever Mrs V and I go through Charlotte, we stop and stock up on beer, and the Captain Jack Pilsner will take up at least half of the purchase. So good is Captain Jack that it is Mrs V's beer of choice if I have any in the fridge and she fancies a beer. Alexandr from Schilling was the icing on the cake. My first trip to a pub to see someone other than my wife was to see my best mate at Kardinal Hall. We sat in the beer garden, suitably socially distant, with litres of beer, and just had a perfect afternoon. This desítka from New Hampshire was a revelation, and I a convert to another brewing from New England. The Rest of the USA Pale Beer of 2030 then is...drumroll gents...Schilling's glorious Alexandr.

Rest of the World
  • Plzeňsky Prazdroj - Plzeňsky Prazdroj, Plzeň, Czechia
  • aU - Mahr's Br?u, Germany
  • Jahrhundert Bier - Privatbrauerei Ayinger, Germany
Honorable mentions: Icelandic White Ale - Einst?k ?lgere, Iceland; Pils - Mahr's Brau, Germany; Helles - Schlenkerla, Germany; Weihenstephaner Festbier - Weihenstephan, Germany.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post I was supposed to have visited Canada and Italy this year for work, and at least for the Italy trip I was hoping to try Tipopils in its native climes to see if it better than the tired, flaccid beer I had in Baltimore in 2012. Even so, there have been plenty of good international beers to enjoy. A couple of weeks ago I popped into Kardinal Hall and had a few litres of Prazdroj in their beer garden, draft Prazdroj is a rarity in these parts, and the keg had just gone on, so it was fresh too, each litre went down with inordinate ease, goodness me I love this beer. Mahr's Br?u's delightful aU turned up in Beer Run in February, so naturally I snaffled the lot and indulged in what has become in many ways the archetype of the perfect lager in my world, and when Andreas Krennmair nails his homebrew clone recipe, I plan to start making it too, I just love the rusticity of it. Last up is Ayinger's Jahrhundert Bier, a full bodied pale lager that makes a wonderful nightcap, the bitterness is just enough to take the edge off the malt sweetness, but I find I can only drink a couple of bottles of an evening, hence the ideal nightcap. I feel almost guilty for not making Prazdroj my internsal pale beer of 2020, but Mahr's Br?u's aU is simply too delicious and warm fuzy feeling inducing to come second in a year so in need of comfort.


For sure I say this every year, but deciding on a single beer to be the Fuggled 2020 Pale Beer of the Year is a difficult task, and this year is no different. For all its machinations and peregrinations I have enjoyed some absolutely outstanding pale beers (yeah, yeah, I know you are saying "pale lager" to yourselves) this year. The stand out though has to be Schilling's divine Alexandr (and not only because it has a magnificent name). I haven't had many Czech style pale lagers that in an instant take me back to life in Czechia, but this one did so. If you have it available somewhere near you, go get it, it is damned good stuff.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Fuggled Review of the Year - Drinking Dens

Moving on from the beers of the year to the places in which I drank them, and with an utter absence of ceremony, I give you...

Virginia
  • Beer Run - Charlottesville
  • Port City Brewing - Alexandria
  • South Street Brewery - Charlottesville
Honorable Mention:

Kardinal Hall - Charlottesville

Rest of USA
  • Barley House - Cleveland, OH
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewing - Charlotte, NC
  • Fraunces Tavern - New York City, NY
Honorable Mentions:

Scholz Biergarten - Austin, TX; Gordon Biersch Brewing - Atlanta, GA; Bar America - San Antonio, TX; Hofbr?uhaus Cleveland - Cleveland, OH

Rest of World
  • U Slovanské lipy - Prague, CZ
  • Hostomická nalévárna - Prague, CZ
  • Brauerei Spezial - Bamberg, DE
Honorable Mentions:

Schlenkerla - Bamberg, DE; Airbr?u - Munich, DE; Brauhaus Ernst August - Hannover, DE; Pivovarsky klub - Prague, CZ; Cromarty Arms, Cromarty, Scotland

Given that this was the first time I had visited many of these cities, it is no wonder that there are so many new pubs on this list. I own the fact that I am an abysmal beer tourist, I simply don't plan my trips around breweries, tap rooms, and pubs, I find out where I am going and then arrange the booze around that. One thing that is clear though is that I definitely have a soft spot for places in the US that harken back to central Europe. My final three boozers though for 2019 are:
  • Beer Run - Charlottesville
  • Olde Mecklenburg Brewing - Charlotte, NC
  • Hostomická nalévárna - Prague, CZ
This is actually a much harder decision than choosing the various beers of the year. Beer Run is basically my local and I love a couple of hours just sat at the bar talking with the staff. Since Mrs V and I started stopping at the 8 acre biergarten that is Olde Mecklenburg, our trips to South Carolina have a genuine thing to look forward to with the driving, the thought of a couple of jars of quality Germanic lager in a proper beer garden after 5 hours of driving is a delight. My one afternoon with Evan in Hostomická nalévárna back in October will probably be my favourite individual session for many a year, it was simply perfect. However, I don't feel I can base my decision on a single visit, and so the Fuggled Drinking Den of 2019 is Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, a more perfect place to drink great pilsner, superb altbier, or cracking hefeweizen is hard to imagine.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Fuggled Review of the Year - Dark

On third day of Christmas, we move on to the undeniably dark beers of the world, porter, stout, dunkel, tmavé, et al, including some brown ales simply because you can only see though them by holding them up to the light, ah the delights of capricious whimsy. Here are the runners and riders for today.

Virginia
  • Porter - Port City Brewing
  • No Veto Brown - Three Notch'd Brewing
  • Schwartzbier - Devils Backbone
Honorable mentions:

Britchin' Brown - Stable Craft Brewing;

USA
  • Dunkel - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • Dunkel - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Narwahl 2018 - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC
Honorable mentions:

Dunkel - Hofbr?uhaus Cleveland, OH; Porter - Sierra Nevada, CA/NC; Tr?sten - Von Trapp Brewing, VT

Rest of World
  • Altbairisch Dunkel - Brauerei Ayinger, DE
  • M?rzen - Schlenkerla, DE
  • Fabián 14° tmavé - Pivovar Hostomice
Honorable mentions:

Oatmeal Stout - Samuel Smiths, England; Black - Belhaven Brewery, Scotland; Urbock - Schlenkerla, DE

Some absolutely glorious beers there, and that is just with the honorable mentions, several of which came very close to breaking into the top three in each regional category. As a devotee of the dark beer arts, I could happily drink just the honorable mentions and be a happy camper, imagine then the ecstasy of only being able to drink the top three. Cutting 9 down to an ultimate three then was insanely difficult as there have been plenty of occasions where I have preferred, for example, Devils Backbone Schwartzbier over Port City Porter, it's so often a question of context.

  • Virginia - Porter, Port City Brewing
  • USA - Dunkel, Von Trapp Brewing
  • Rest of World - M?rzen, Schlenkerla
Carrying on the theme of context, it is that factor that decided the winner of the Fuggled Dark Beer of 2019. Drinking a legendary beer in a legendary brewpub in a legendary beer town just cannot be beaten, and so obviously the winner is Schelnkerla M?rzen. As I mentioned in my post about drinking in Bamberg, I have loved rauchbier since I first have bottled Schlenkerla in Prague, and I drink a couple of litres of it every month still to this day, so having it on tap was a nigh on religious moment. I didn't expect though for the divine itself to be even more divine, but it was, and I savoured every drop of that holy communion.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber, Red, and Brown

On this Boxing Day, or St Stephen's Day if you insist, we move up in the colour charts to the rather broad notion of amber, red, and brown beers, which here I am defining as anything that you can actually see through without being held up to the light. With no further ados being necessary, let's jump straight on in.

Virginia
  • Vienna Lager - Devils Backbone Brewing
  • Satan's Pony - South Street Brewery
  • Hydraulion Irish Red Ale - Three Notch'd Brewing
Honorable mentions:
Fast Mild - Ballad Brewing; Oktoberfest - Port City Brewing
USA
  • Copper - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Oktoberfest - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
  • Bigfoot 2019 - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC
Honorable mentions:
Bauern Bock - Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, NC; Troeganator - Tr?egs Brewing, PA
Rest of World
  • David's Not So Bitter - Spey Valley Brewery, Scotland
  • Lager - Brauerei Spezial, DE
  • I.P.A. - Isle of Skye Brewing, Scotland
Honorable mentions:
O'Hara's Red - Carlow Brewing, IE; Oktoberfest-M?rzen - Brauerei Ayinger, DE
Bringing the list of amber, red, and brown beers down to just three was actually pretty simple as in each regional category there was a standout beer across the year, so kind gentlefolk I give you the final three...


  • Virginia - Satan's Pony, South Street Brewery
  • USA - Copper, Olde Mecklenburg Brewing
  • Rest of World - Lager, Brauerei Spezial
Picking just one though is much harder, however there is one that achieved something special this year. I am a big fan of rauchbier, Schenkerla in particular, and so when I was sat in a side room at the Brauerei Spezial in Bamberg on my second, or possibly third, half litre of Spezial Lager it dawned on my that this would be my local and my tipple if I lived there. Such a lovely beer, and I am sure the location helps, but it was complex enough to be interesting, moreish enough to sit and enjoy several of, and so damned well made that I could find no fault in it. As such, it is worthy to be declared the Fuggled Amber, Red, and Brown Beer of 2019.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale

It has been almost a decade since I wrote multiple blog posts for my annual review of drinking. When I was in my thirties, and new to this beer blogging malarky, I even broke down the annual review into seven individual posts. In more recent years passim I have stuck to a single post, list style for pale, amber, dark, pub, and brewery categories. This year though I have travelled a lot more than I have for many years, thus have a lot more options for all the categories and a post for each is, in my unhumble opinion, warranted.

As usual I will decide the top three applicable beers from Virginia, the USA, and the rest of the world, as well noting any honorable mentions. From those finalists I will pick the ultimate winner of the category, and we start today with pale beers.

Virginia
  • Downright Pilsner - Port City Brewing
  • My Personal Helles - South Street Brewery
  • Weekend Lager - Alewerks Brewing
Honorable Mentions:
40 Mile IPA - Three Notch'd Brewing; Lagerboi - Champion Brewing; Striped Bass - Devils Backbone Brewing; Saison - Reason Beer; Helles - Port City Brewing
USA
  • Pilz - Live Oak Brewing, TX
  • Captain Jack Pilsner - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Helles - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
Honorable Mentions:
Celis White - Celis Brewery, TX; Southern Gothic - Sierra Nevada, CA/NC; Allagash White - Allagash Brewing, ME; Czech Pilsner - Gordon Biersch Atlanta Airport, GA; Lager - Firestone Walker, CA; Play Action Pils - Victory Brewing, PA
Rest of The World
  • Fabián 10° - Pivovar Hostomice, Czech Republic
  • EPA - Inveralmond Brewery, Scotland
  • aU Ungespundet Naturtrüb - Mahr's Br?u, Germany
Honorable mentions:
B?evnovsky Benedict - B?evnovsky Klá?terní Pivovar, CZ; Albrecht 10° - Zámecky pivovar Frydlant, CZ; únětické Pivo 10° - úněticky pivovar, CZ; Jarl - Fyne Ales, Scotland; Tennent's Lager - Tennent's, Scotland; K?nig Pilsener - K?nig-Brauerei, DE
Come on admit it, you're really shocked by the prevalence of pale lagers, whether they be helles or pilsner. I have said it many, many times on here, as well as on various social media outlets, lagers are just my thing, and pale lagers are the style of beer I drink more than any other. To whittle this list down further, the regional winners are:
  • Virginia - My Personal Helles, South Street Brewing
  • USA - Helles, Von Trapp Brewing
  • Rest of World - Fabián 10°, Pivovar Hostomice

The overall winner was pretty much decided after four mouthfuls of beer, and I am sure it comes as no surprise that the Fuggled Pale Beer of 2019 is Pivovar Hostomice's simply majestic Fabián 10°. If I may get on my soapbox for a moment, why American brewers seem unwilling to brew sessionable lagers in the vein of the Czechs is frankly a mystery. Sure I get the fact that the Untappd tickers and braggers are unlikely to rate it very highly, but when done to such a high level of craftsmanship, there is simply no better type of beer on the planet. Fabián 10° hits all the right high notes, loads of Czech hop character, with all the fresh lemon zest, spice, and floral notes that implies, behind that sits a decocted malt backbone that no amount of modified malt can replicate, even if a brewer follows a brew by numbers approach to brewing.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Beer and Breweries of 2018

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me.....time to get my review of 2018 done and dusted while she continues with tiling the kitchen backsplash. Of course, you dear reader as someone who doesn't work in a seemingly growing number of brewery marketing departments know that the 12 Days of Christmas run from December 25th to January 5th inclusive. As has become a tradition in these here parts at Fuggled, I'll be highlighting the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Virginia, the rest of the United States, and also the rest of the world. From said august list I'll pick the Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year, which comes with a quite immeasureable financial prize, as well as my Champion Brewery of the Year, with a prize equal to that of the champion beer. So onward to the runners and riders, so to say...

Pale
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery Shake Your Teal Feather Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Southern Gothic
  • Rest of World - Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10°
  • Honorable Mentions - Rothaus Tannenz?pfle, Gordon Biersch Czech Pilsner, Sierra Nevada BFD, Schlenkerla Helles, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
I think this category will always be dominated by pilsner style lagers, while it is true that stouts were my first beery love, pilsners are the highest form of the brewing craft that I can conceive of. With nowhere to hide, getting a pilsner right is the make of a truly great beer craftsman. I have to admit though that the champion pale beer would have been much harder to choose had my employer not decided to send me to a conference in New Orleans. It was during that trip that I reacquainted myself with Koutská 10°, a beer that I have missed more than any other single beer from the Czech Republic in the nine and a half years since Mrs V and I swapped Europe for Virginia. It is simply perfection.


Amber
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Tumbler
  • Rest of World - Fullers ESB
  • Honorable Mentions - Alewerks Tavern Brown Ale, Sierra Nevada Winter Warmer Lager, St. GeorgenBrau Kellerbier, Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest, Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, Stable Craft Brewing Britchin Brown
This autumn was all about brown ales, so stretching the definition of "amber" a wee bit to the darker side admittedly. The kick started with Sam Smith's Nut Brown Ale, and then just kept on going. If only American taprooms, brewpubs, and other beer outlets didn't serve the stuff at the temperature of penguin feet. The highlight of my brown ale kick was getting word from the guys at Three Notch'd that No Veto was back on tap after something of a hiatus, and then confirming that it tasted better than ever, once you leave it to sit for a bit and lose its chill. A worthy winner then.


Dark
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd Mild Marker 20
  • Rest of US - Anchor Brewing Porter
  • Rest of World - Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout
  • Honorable Mentions - Guinness Original, Murphy's, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, JosephBrau Winter Brew, Sierra Nevada Stout

Having mentioned beery loves earlier on, the dark beer of the year is very much a harkening back to my early days of beer drinking, indeed Guinness was my first legal beer, and I pretty regularly pick up 12 packs of the CO2 carbed versions of the black stuff. The highlight of several such cases this year was the 200th Anniversary Export Stout, apparently brewed with black patent malt rather than roasted barley. I am not sure what difference that makes, but the beer itself is a luxurious mix of coffee and chocolate, with a silken body, and roasted bite in the finish that is the very epitome of a great Guinness, let alone a great stout.


Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018

There really was no doubt what would be the Fuggled Champion Beer of 2018 was there? Rolling back the years to my old life in Prague, Pivovar Kout na ?umavě Koutská 10° was a veritable revelry of nostalgia, great beer, and a longing to return to the Czech Republic and drink it in its native land once more. In an era of craft beer where novelty ingredients (aka "silly shit"), murk, and one offs seem to be the order of the day, it is good to know that out there are breweries making a handful of beers, and making them seriously, seriously well. I would argue that any drinker incapable of appreciating the simple perfection of Koutská 10° should just give up on beer right now and go find some other fetish for their affectations.

Fuggled Champion Brewery of 2018
  • Virginia - South Street Brewery
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Rest of World - Schlenkerla
Their name has popped up in every single category, whether as a regional winner or an honorable mention, they are in my opinion the most dependable craft brewery in the United States, and as such I am willing to go outside of my comfort zone and try beer styles I usually avoid with other breweries - yup looking at you double IPAs and co. Following on from 2017, Sierra Nevada Brewing have indeed kept up the good work and are very worthy winners of the Fuggled Champion Brewery for 2018.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Beer and Breweries of 2017

A bit late admittedly, though there are mitigating circumstances involving trips to the emergency room with my twin sons, but as they say, never late than never eh? I have somewhat rationalised this year's lists by having just a single 'Virginia' entry rather than splitting it into central VA and the rest of the commonwealth as in years passim. With that, let's dive on in.

Pale
  • Virginia - Devils Backbone Czech 10
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Nooner
  • Rest of World - Rothaus Tannenz?pfle
  • Honorable mentions - Pilsner Urquell, Three Notch'd The Ghost, New Belgium Dayblazer, Black Sheep Ale


Admit it, you're shocked that my three choices here are all pilsners. If you are then clearly you haven't been paying enough attention. Anyway, all three are wonderful versions of my favourite pale lager style, all crisp, clean, painfully easy to drink, and so beautifully made it makes you wonder why people bother with dumping random shit in the fermenter. Choosing just one is tricky, but when it comes down to it, having a desítka in Virginia puts DB's lovely Czech 10 ahead by a short nose.

Amber
  • Virginia - Port City Oktoberfest
  • Rest of US - Olde Mecklenburg Copper
  • Rest of World - Minipivovar U Medvídk? Oldgott Barrique
  • Honorable mentions - Schlenkerla M?rzen, Fullers 1845, O'Hara's Irish Red, Three Notch'd Hydraulion


Whenever Mrs V and I, and I guess from here on in for a few years, the twins as well, head to South Carolina I always make a point of getting some Copper from Olde Mecklenburg Brewing in Charlotte, NC. Copper is an altbier that unlike many that claim to be of that style over here isn't made with caramel malts in place of the traditional Munich malts. It is as close a genuine altbier as you will find brewed in the US, and I love the stuff.

Dark
  • Virginia - South Street Brewing Munich Dunkel
  • Rest of US - Anchor Brewing Porter
  • Rest of World - Riegele Noctus 100
  • Honorable mentions - Sierra Nevada Porter, Sierra Nevada Stout, Guinness 200th Anniversary Export Stout, Three Notch'd Oats McGoats, Sv. Norbert Dark Lager


While in Columbia for Thanksgiving, I stocked up on beers that I rarely, if ever, see here in Virginia and it is one of those that walks off with the title of Fuggled dark beer of the year. Anchor Porter is a beer I had heard much about but never actually seen in the wild. When I popped open a bottle to go with my dinner one evening I was blown away with just how complex and beautifully made it was, especially given it's comparatively lightweight 5.6% abv - one I will be stocking up on whenever I am in SC for sure.

Fuggled Beer of the Year

Of my three category beers of the year, the one that walks away with the overall Fuggled Beer of the Year will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that knows me. I will quite openly admit to the fact that I enjoy drinking beer, I am not much of one for visiting breweries and sampling their wares before moving on to another brewery and repeating the experience. If I do flights it is to find what I want to drink for the rest of my session. When I found out that my friends down at Devils Backbone were making a 10° Czech style pale lager I was excited to try it, and it was simply one of the best examples of the style I have ever drunk, up there with the likes of Kout na ?umavě and Zlatá labu?. Being able to sit in the Devils Backbone brewpub with friends, enjoying superb food, and the perfect desítka to wash it all down with, was sublime. Well done Devils Backbone, the Fuggled Beer of the Year is Czech 10, please make it again!!

Brewery
  • Virginia - Three Notch'd Brewing
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Rest of World - Guinness
  • Honorable mentions - Devils Backbone, AleWerks, Fullers, Olde Mecklenburg Brewing,
I am sure I have said this many a time, but I am a terrible beer tourist, and as such I don't tend to go off on brewery sampling trips. I am also a rather conservative drinker in the sense that I tend to find breweries that I trust to make quality beers and I stick to them. Given the price of a six pack these days, there is no way I am splashing north of $10 for a six pack without knowing that I will be enjoying every beer. There is one brewery that in my world stands heads and shoulders above all overs at the moment and I think I have drunk more of their beer this year than any other brewery. Congrats then to Sierra Nevada Brewing for being the Fuggled Brewery of the Year for 2017, keep up the great work!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Beers and Breweries of 2016

Jól is upon us. Today is my last day at work for this year. What better time to take a quick look back at the beers and breweries that have made my drinking life all the richer this year? As in years passim I am sticking with highlighting the pale, amber, and dark beers from Central Virgina, the rest of Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the world that I have enjoyed most, as well as breweries that have impressed me in some way this year. As ever this list is utterly subjective, so let's start shall we?

Pale
  • Central VA - Devils Backbone Meadow Bier
  • Rest of VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Rest of World - Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted
  • Honorable mentions - Champion Shower Beer, South Street My Personal Helles, Three Notch'd Road Soda, Cromarty Brewing Happy Chappy, Fyne Ales Jarl, West St Mungo Lager, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Fuller's London Pride (cask)
2016 has been a good one for this central Virginia based lager drinker (the only downside being that Three Notch'd didn't release their lovely Of.By.For Pilsner this year). My local clutch of brewers all seem to be churning out the kind of pale lagers I like, crisp, clean, packed with hop bite, and not crazy on the alcohol. Meadow Bier from Devils Backbone has been a revelation, and would compete with Rothaus Pils as my favourite iteration of a German Pilsner right now. Port City's Downright Pilsner makes it onto my list of best pale beers for the 5th year in a row, it really is that damned good. Now sure it's not likely to please a total Czech lager purist, dry hopped with Saaz as it is, but to this lover of all things Bohemian I can give it no higher praise than my belief it would sit very well among the lagers being brewed in the Czech Republic, and they know a thing or two about brewing lager. This year's Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest really had a high bar to meet after last year's version. Lighter in colour, but still packed with the glorious flavours of Munich malt and Record hops, it was great drinking, and I drank lots of it. The one top fermented beer on this list is one of the influences on Three Notch'd Bitter 42, and when I was home in Scotland over the summer I made sure to drink as much of it as I could get my hands on, and finally found a place with it on tap - Beinglas Farm Campsite since you ask. Bitter without being puckering, malty without being too sweet, moreish in the extreme, it is a simply great beer.


Four superb beers, it really is difficult to single one out, but making this list 5 times in a row, winning gold at the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup for the Pilsner style, and being the perfect expression of the simple delight of well made lager, Port City Downright Pilsner it is.

Amber
  • Central VA - South Street Satan's Pony
  • Rest of VA - Port City Oktoberfest
  • Rest of US - River Rat Broad River Red Ale
  • Rest of World - Isle of Skye Red
  • Honorable mentions - Cromarty Brewing Red Rocker, Schlenkerla M?rzen, Adnams Broadside, Fullers 1845, Fallen Brewing Dragonfly
Amber beers are always the most challenging category for me as I tend not to drink that many copper to red beers, being more of a pale or dark drinker. Having said that the four winners have been companions to pleasant afternoons, wonderful lunches, and enjoyable evenings. Satan's Pony from South Street is kind of my fall back beer if the magnificent My Personal Helles isn't available, nicely balanced, just bitter enough to not be sweet, and low enough gravity to make a couple of pints acceptable - I would love to see it on their beer engine, without any silly additions like cinnamon or gorilla snot (seriously why adulterate a beer just because it is going into a firkin? Another Port City beer makes the list, and their Oktoberfest is one of the few I will drink every year, mainly because in common with the Downright, they get the details spot on making the beer clean and crisp, just as a lager should be, and Port City's Oktoberfest is as eagerly imbibed in my world as the Sierra Nevada. On the rare occasions I head down to South Carolina to visit Mrs V's family, I now make sure to pick up at least a six pack of Broad River Red, again it is immensely easy to drink, and always something to look forward to. Isle of Skye Red was an integral part of one of my highlights of 2016, being sat in a pub in Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland, eating freshly caught langoustines in the Chlachain Inn, served from a sparkled beer engine, it was gorgeous.


Another 4 excellent brews, but this time the winner is easy to pick out. Isle of Skye Red Ale gets the nod, and if you're ever in the north west of Scotland and see it on cask, be sure to try it, and if you can get a dish of langoustines at the same time even better!

Dark
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Oats McGoats
  • Rest of VA - Port City Porter
  • Rest of US - Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin
  • Rest of World - Cairngorm Brewery Black Gold
  • Honorable mentions - Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter, Fullers London Porter, Guinness Original,
Mmmmm.....dark beer. I love porter, stout, mild, brown ale, schwarzbier, dunkles, and tmavé - all things generally dark, I like. Three Notch'd Oats McGoats has done something that I once considered impossible, it has replaced Starr Hill's magnificent Dark Starr Stout in my affections. If Starr Hill were to ever bring it back I would not really be all that interested in Oats was available. Smooth, creamy, roasty, and dangerously drinkable, Oats is one of those perfect winter beers, supped beside the fire whilst reading a good book and listening to an opera. Port City have swept the board with my rest of VA picks this year, and that is testament to their all round superb brewing skills, they make classic beers, they make them well, and the make them consistently well, Porter is just another example of their genius. Velvet Merlin from California's Firestone Walker is another oatmeal stout, and one that has just enough of trace of some lactic character that it isn't overly slick, six packs tend to disappear quickly. Cairngorm's Black Gold was another integral part of a great night's drinking in Scotland, in the Climbers' Bar at the Kingshouse Hotel. Beautifully conditioned, served at the right temperature, sparkled of course, I still remember that night with great fondness.


It probably comes as no surprise then that my dark beer of the year is Cairngorm Black Gold, the name says it all.

Fuggled Beer of the Year

Picking a single beer of the year from my three winners is pretty difficult, but the winner is the one which was an integral part of a night a great drinking, in a great bar, surrounded by great people, and lots of craic. I refer of course to that night in Glencoe, fuelled by beer and the occasional drop of Talisker and Balvenie.

Congratulations to Cairngorm Brewery, Black Gold is the Fuggled Beer of 2016.

Brewery
  • Central VA - South Street Brewery
  • Rest of VA - Port City Brewing
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Brewing
  • Rest of World - Fullers
  • Honorable mentions - Guinness, Three Notch'd,
Deciding on a brewery of the year for 2016 is actually quite difficult, especially given that Port City have taken the best of the rest for Virginia for all three beer categories. However, the other breweries have been regular features of my drinking this year. I have drunk more South Street beer than anything else in 2016, the My Personal Helles has been my go to beer for quite sometime, it is simply delicious, the brewery is a 2 minute walk from my office, and the bar staff know me well enough now that I rarely have to ask for another beer. When drinking at home, Sierra Nevada and Port City are both regulars in the fridge, whether that's Pale Ale or Downright Pilsner respectively, I never turn down a beer from either brewery. Fuller's might not have taken any of the gongs for best beers in the rest of the world, but with honorable mentions in each category they are most certainly one of the most consistently excellent breweries in the UK, and one that I am always happy to see on tap which side of the Pond I am on.


Mainly because I drink there so damned often, and they are brewing a beer that I can happily drink lots of and not grow tired of it, the Fuggled Brewery of the Year for 2016 is South Street Brewery - well done Mitch and crew, keep doing what you're doing, and keep brewing My Personal Helles!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Beers and Breweries of 2015

The Christmas tree is up and decorated, the salmon and beef for Christmas lunch have been bought, the tin of Quality Street chocs awaits opening and tipping into a fancy bowl for me to raid for the caramel barrels, so it must be time for a review of 2015. I have grown rather attached to my pale, amber, and dark beers from Central VA, rest of VA, rest of USA, and rest of world approach, thus I will not abandon it.....

Pale
  • Central VA - South Street My Personal Helles
  • Rest of VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Rest of World - Pilsner Urquell
  • Honorable mentions - Three Notch'd Ghost of the 43rd, Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils, Cromarty Happy Chappy, Hi-Wire Lager, Rothaus Pils
It has been a great year for this lagerboy (on a side note, I sometimes get the urge to have a t-shirt made up with the slogan 'What's wrong alehead, not got the palate to appreciate lager?'). South Street's My Personal Helles has become my go to lager when I fancy a pint in Charlottesville, one I wouldn't worry too much about if it was all I had to drink for months on end. Port City continue to make the best regularly available pilsner in the USA, bar none, and it graces my fridge often. But the winner of the Fuggled Pale Beer of 2015 is Pilsner Urquell. Now available in brown bottles, cold shipped from the Czech Republic, and just delightful drinking. The crowning glory though this year was that a local bar had nefiltrovany Prazdroj on tap a few months ago. Sure it was $7 a pop, but it was worth every single golden drop, as I raved about here.


Amber
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Hydraulion Red Irish Ale
  • Rest of VA - Mad Fox Altbier
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Rest of World - Fullers Vintage Ale 2009
  • Honorable mentions - Yeungling Traditional Lager, Orval
Another collection of really good beers to choose from for the amber beer of the year. I drink Hydraulion fairly regularly, it's easy to get in to and stay with. Mad Fox's Altbier was a revelation when I was up there with my parents a few weeks back, once I got over disappointment of the Mason's Dark Mild not being on tap. It made me wish more American breweries made Altbier and got it so emphatically right. I have been drinking through my various Fullers Vintages this year, having come to the conclusion that storing them for a 'special occasion' is pretty much a waste of time, and each vintage has been lovely, with 2009 my favourite so far. If truth be told, the Fuggled Amber Beer of the Year was sown up months ago. I am not sure if I was on my second or third 12 pack of Sierra Nevada's collaborative Oktoberfest, but I knew that I would be drinking a lot of that beer while it was available, I think I ended up with about ten 12 packs all told, and several pints on tap, simply delicious.


Dark
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Oats McGoats Oatmeal Stout
  • Rest of VA - Port City Porter
  • Rest of USA - St. Boniface Bull's Head Mild
  • Rest of World - Pokertree Seven Sisters Black Treacle Oat Stout
  • Honorable mentions - O'Hara's Leann Follain Whiskey Barrel Aged, Skye Black, Starr Hill Dark Starr, South Street Back to Bavaria, Three Notch'd Method to My Madness Mild
Regular readers of Fuggled will know that I love drinking milds, porters, and stouts. Through the American Mild Month project I enjoyed several very nice milds this year, including a crowler of the St Boniface beer brewed for that event, which made it's way to central VA through the family of the St Boniface brewer, and was enjoyed with gusto one Saturday afternoon. I still remember well the first time I had Port City Porter, in a restaurant in Alexandria where I had several pints before looking at the ABV, a 7.5% drop that tasted like it was 5%, fantastic. Another Three Notch'd beer that I drink regularly, especially in the damp of cold of autumn and winter, Oats McGoats is silky smooth and moreish, all the more so once it gets to the proper temperature. However, the 2015 Fuggled Dark Beer of the Year comes from the north of Ireland. I only had one bottle of Pokertree Seven Sisters, brought over by Reuben of Tale of the Ale, and it was a revelation, one that I am hoping to recreate in my homebrewing at some point.

Fuggled Champion Beer

If the Amber Beer of the Year was sown up months ago, then the overall Fuggled Champion Beer for 2015 was also practically decided at the same time. Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest was everything I look for in a beer, superbly made, flavourful, on point for the style, and drinkable beyond measure. I drank a lot of this beer, often from my 1 litre Paulaner glass, often demolishing a 12 pack in a single afternoon. I drank it, I cooked with it, I revelled in every single drop. I wish I had stocked up more before it disappeared from the shelves of supermarkets and bottle shops. There was no finer beer I drank this year.


Breweries
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Brewing
  • Rest of VA - Port City
  • Rest of USA - Sierra Nevada
  • Rest of World - Fullers
  • Honorable mentions - Plzeňsky Prazdroj, South Street Brewery, Hi-Wire Brewing

Looking back at last year's review of the year, I noticed that 3 of the 4 breweries listed here were listed then as well. This tells me several things, but most importantly that I value breweries that produce consistently well made and tasty beers, that have a solid core range that I am happy to drink anytime, and also that I am out of kilter with many a craft drinker in that I am happy to stick to a single brewery rather than taking a scatter gun approach. At one point earlier this year, I was worried that I wouldn't have drunk enough beer to warrant my annual trawl through the pale, amber, and dark delights that constitute my drinking habit. It wasn't that I had inexplicably given up on beer rather that I found my self drinking almost exclusively Three Notch'd beer, hence they are again the Fuggled Brewery of the Year. Whenever I see their wonderfully simple tap handle in a pub I know what I'll be drinking, and I know I will not be disappointed, what more can you ask from a brewery?

Yes 2015 was a good year for drinking, here's hoping 2016 is just as good.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Beers, Breweries, and Pubs of 2014

I toyed with the idea of following the format of the Golden Pints this year, but almost pissed myself laughing at the thought of nominating an 'American Cask Beer' of the year, such is the parlous state of beer's finest, and most natural, form of presentation on these shores. So, I figured I'd stay with my tried and tested categories of pale, amber, and dark, further divided by region - Central Virginia, the rest of Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the World. I am also including brewery and pub categories this year. So without further ado.....

Pale
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Grey Ghost American Pale Ale
  • Rest of VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  • Rest of World - Cromarty Happy Chappy
  • Honorable Mentions - Timothy Taylor Landlord, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted, Three Notch'd 40 Mile

This year was really difficult to decide from the two front runners here, both of which I drank plenty of, though on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Three Notch'd are pretty much my go-to brewery these days, their core lineup is excellent and that always makes me sure to try their more experimental stuff, because I have trust in the quality of their beer overall. When we were in Scotland over the summer, I think I drank more Cromarty Brewing beer than any other, as they blend the hopping of the New World with the sessionability of the British tradition to make beers which are the best of both worlds. As such, the Fuggled Pale Beer of 2014 is Cromarty Happy Chappy, a simply magnificent beer that I am still working on producing a decent clone of so I don't have to wait until I next get to Scotland to enjoy more of.

Amber
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd Hydraulion Irish Red
  • Rest of VA - Ardent American Mild
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest
  • Rest of World - Kelburn Dark Moor Mild
  • Honorable Mentions - Greene King The King's English IPA, Skye Red, Cromarty Atlantic Drift, McEwan's Scotch Ale
Much easier this year was choosing my amber beer of the year, even though it is more of a dark amber than some beers, but there we go. I polished off several pints of Kelburn Dark Moor while sat in the Bon Accord one afternoon in Glasgow. There is only one word to describe this beer, delicious.

Dark
  • Central VA - Devils Backbone Schwartzbier
  • Rest of VA - Lickinghole Creek Enlightened Despot Russian Imperial Stout
  • Rest of US - River Rat Hazelnut Brown
  • Rest of World - Skye Black
  • Honorable Mentions - Isley Brewing Tall, Dark, and Hopsome, Black Isle Oatmeal Stout
If you are a regular Fuggled reader, I hope you are sat down. My dark beer of 2014 is something that most people I know wouldn't even consider me liking. Enlightened Despot is a Russian Imperial Stout aged in Pappy van Winkle barrels. One day in early summer, Mrs V and I went to Lickinghole Creek Brewing and sat with a large block of farmhouse Cheddar, freshly baked crusty bread, and we sat and drank this unctuous potent brew in the peace of the Virginian countryside. It was quite simply, divine.

Fuggled Champion Beer

My overall best beer of 2014 was a revelation, a beer that I just wanted pint, after pint, after pint of, and several times on my trip home to the Highlands I did exactly that. Whether sat in the Cromarty Arms, the Castle Tavern, or the Phoenix, the very site of a Cromarty Happy Chappy pump clip was enough to make up my mind.


Breweries
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd
  • Rest of VA - Port City
  • Rest of US - Sierra Nevada
  • Rest of World - Cromarty
  • Honorable Mentions - Hardknott, Fullers, Lickinghole Creek


This is actually pretty simple, even though there are some great breweries on that list, producing magnificent beers. It is simple because it all comes down to which brewery I trust the most to produce the kind of beers I like drinking, flavourful, balanced, moreish. That brewery is Three Notch'd.

Drinking Holes
  • Central VA - Whiskey Jar, Charlottesville
  • Rest of VA - Mad Fox, Falls Church
  • Rest of US - Flying Saucer, Columbia, SC
  • Rest of World - Bon Accord, Glasgow
  • Honorable Mentions - Tin Whistle (Charlottesville), The Brixton (Washington DC), Castle Tavern (Inverness)


I was only at the winning pub for a matter of hours, but it was love at first pint. I wrote about the Bon Accord here.

So there we go, that was the highlights of my drinking in 2014, not a bad way to mark my 900th post on Fuggled.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Beers of the Year

In years past I have written multiple 'Review of the Year' posts, across various beer styles, and then colours. This year, I am feeling somewhat lazy and am writing just the one long post highlighting what I think have been the best pale, amber, and dark beers from Central Virginia, the rest of Virginia, the rest of the US, and the rest of the world. So without further ado....
Pale Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Blue Mountain Classic Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest US - Samuel Adams Alpine Spring
  • Rest World - Oakham Citra
Overall Pale Beer of the Year: Oakham Citra, which I wrote about here.


Amber Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
  • Rest VA - Port City Oktoberfest
  • Rest US - Highland Gaelic Ale
  • Rest World - Timothy Taylor Landlord (bottled)
Overall Amber Beer of the Year: Timothy Taylor Landlord, one of the best beers in the world. End of.


Dark Beer of the Year:
  • Central VA - Three Notch'd No Veto Brown Ale
  • Rest VA - Mad Fox Mason's Mild
  • Rest US - Green Flash Double Stout
  • Rest World - Fullers London Porter
Overall Dark Beer of the Year: Three Notch'd No Veto, probably the beer I drink most of, when not bashing Session 42.


From those three Beers of the Year, this year's Fuggled Champion Beer of the Year is...

Timothy Taylor Landlord. 

I have come to the conclusion that there are insufficient superlatives to describe the bottled version of Landlord. Simply one of the best beers on the planet in my opinion and one which is so insanely difficult to get hold of on this side of the Pond that it astounds me that it never makes the 'Best Beers in the World' lists (oh wait, it's not a boozy hop bomb and/or Belgian). I never tire of drinking it, and in many ways, Session 42 is something of an homage to it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Blogs

I am making a slight change for my review of this year's best blogs. Rather than being best in Virginia, the US and the World, it will be the best from North America, UK/Ireland and the World, mainly because the blogs I read are pretty evenly split between the three categories. The regional top blogs in my world this year are:
  • North America - A Good Beer Blog
  • UK/Ireland - Boak and Bailey's Beer Blog
  • Rest of the World - Beer Culture


Whether it's researching Albany Ale or hosting an annual photography competition, Alan's blog is always an interesting read and often rather enlightening.


Boak and Bailey have always been interesting, and they are wonderful pub crawl company into the bargain, but this year they really seem to have 'upped their game'. Lots of fascinating posts about the milieu that eventually led to the creation of CAMRA as well as an ode to the working man's club have raised many a smile for me and brought back a fair few memories...


There are very, very few people in the beer world that I look up to, whose friendship I value and whose opinions I regard in the very highest of terms, one such person is Evan Rail. Evan doesn't perhaps blog as often as some of us, but each and every post this year has been worth reading, absorbing and sharing with friends, colleagues and others who love beer. The only downer is that I haven't shared a pint with him in Pivovarsky klub for far too damned long now.

Difficult though it is to single out one blog from some very excellent writers, but it must be done. Earlier this year the winner wrote a series of posts about the origins of Pilsner Urquell which I consider to be essential reading for anyone with an interest in beer history, as such the winner is:
  • Evan Rail - Beer Culture
If you have never read Beer Culture, head on over and then go buy his extended essays on Amazon, Why Beer Matters and In Praise of Hangovers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Dark

I guess I probably drink more dark beers than anything else, whether they be milds, brown ales, stouts, porters or one of the various dark lagers, the only exception is Black IPA generally speaking. Of the many dark brews to have crossed my lips this year, the highlights are:
  • Virginia - Champion Brewing Pacecar Porter
  • Rest of US - Oliver Breweries Ape Must Never Kill Ape
  • Rest of World - Sinebrychoff Porter


Champion have been open for a grand total of about 9 and half weeks, indeed their official grand opening was last Friday night. Mrs V and I popped over on the first night of the soft opening and I loved the Pacecar Porter at first taste. Roasty, nutty, chocolatey and deliciously smooth. The Charlottesville area has a seriously encouraging new brewery to add to the existing clutch doing great stuff. Pacecar is, in my opinion, Champion's best brew and I look forward to drinking a lot more of it.


In May I went to DC to attend a conference for my previous employer, when a colleague and I got bumped from the meet and greet networking dinner as more potential clients decided to come than expected. With a sudden free night, my colleague and I jumped into a taxi and headed to the legendary ChurchKey, positioned ourselves at the bar and I ordered the 3.3% abv 'Belgian' Mild they had on tap, polished it off and ordered another, and so on for a good 6 hours. That beer was Oliver Breweries' Ape Must Never Kill Ape Belgian Mild, described as:
"English pale malt, dark crystal, chocolate, carafa 3, Belgian biscuit and caramel vienna. Bittered with Kent Goldings and Czech Saaz, finished with Fuggles and German Tettnanger then fermented with Belgian DeKonick yeast and cold conditioned with vanilla beans"
Or as I put it, bloody marvellous.


The bottle had sat in my cellar for three years before I finally decided to open it and try the first warm fermented Baltic Porter I had ever tried. As I said about it on Ratebeer:
Pours an inky black with a steady schmeer of light brown foam. The aroma is rich dark chocolate, with traces of spice and a very faint sherry note. Tastewise, rich malty sweetness and a riot of chocolate and coffee fight it out and yet find balance with a subtle but firm hop bite.

As ever I have to pick just one of the lascivious dark beauties, and the winner is the one I want to spend another night with...
  • Oliver Breweries' Ape Must Never Kill Ape
What more could you want from a beer than to spend an entire night drinking it, pulled through a beer engine, and then be able to function the next morning?

Picture credits: Ale Must Never Kill Ape label taken from Untappd, Sinebrychoff from this All About Beer article.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Amber

Continuing my traipse through a year's worth of drinking brings me to the amber category, or to define it more tightly, anything darker than a pilsner but lighter than a brown ale - how's that for obfuscation? Having set out my rather liberal criteria there, here are the year's highlights:
  • Virginia - Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
  • Rest of US - Oliver Breweries' Best Bitter
  • Rest of World - Timothy Taylor Bottled Landlord


There really is no getting away from the fact that I drink a lot of Devils Backbone Vienna Lager, it is essentially my go to beer. If a pub has it on tap there is a very good chance that I will drink nothing else for the rest of the night. When I went to Baltimore and stumbled across the Union Pub in DC, it was Vienna Lager that encouraged me to stay a while. When my mate Mark and I went for our pub crawl on Saturday, it was Vienna that made me consider staying for more than a solitary pint at Trinity Irish Pub, though the pub's charms soon got to me as well. Now that it is available in bottles, you can find said bottles in my fridge fairly regularly.


Back in September I went to Baltimore with my best friend and we drank a lot of beer from Oliver Breweries, whether at the Pratt Street Ale House homebase or at the Wharf Rat. Most of the beer that I drank was Stephen Jones' simply flawless, moreish best bitter. The only sad thing with this beer is that I can't get it in Central Virginia, yet - hopefully something that will change. Failing that, I can see another weekend in Baltimore before my mate heads off on his next assignment with work. At least this time I will know exactly what I want to drink.


What can I say about Landlord that hasn't been said already? Except that whenever I see it over here and can get hold of it then it is a complete no-brainer. Simple yet complex, clean yet flavourful, bottled Landlord could easily be the finest beer ever made, anywhere on the planet.

Three beers that share a characteristic that I prize highly in the beers I drink, simplicity married with tons of flavour. Of these three my amber beer of the year, largely because of how excited I get when I have the chance to drink it, is:
  • Timothy Taylor Bottled Landlord
A classic, simple as.

The pictures for Oliver Breweries' Best Bitter and Timothy Taylor Landlord are taken from their websites respectively.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Pale

It's that time of year...piles of food, booze and pressies all wait their turn for opening, the Doctor Who Christmas Special on the tele, accompanied by a large slab of Stilton and a bottle of port...and yes it's time for the annual Fuggled Review of the Year. As in years past I will choose my favourite pale, amber and dark beer of the year, from a list of the best beer I have drunk this year from Virginia, the rest of the US and the rest of the World. I will as ever also hail the blog I consider to have been the most interesting this year, and in adding a 'p' to review I will take a quick look forward to 2013.

Let's start then with the Fuggled Pale Beers of 2012:
  • Virginia - Port City Downright Pilsner
  • Rest of US - Highland Brewing St Terese's Pale Ale
  • Rest of World - Williams Brothers Scottish Session Ale


Port City is one of my favourite breweries in Virginia all round, especially their porter, but when I saw they had bought out a pilsner as a seasonal brew my interest was piqued. I love pilsner, it is probably my favourite style of beer (competing regularly with stout for that accolade) and so a brewer that makes a good pilsner is a brewer I like. Downright Pilsner has everything going for it, 43 IBUs of pure Saaz goodness, 100% pilsner malt, unfiltered and simply gorgeous. The first 6 pack I bought went in an evening (is it just me or does '6 pack' sound more impressive that the reality of 3 and bit half litres?). When Mrs V and I had our Czech-Slovak party, it went down a storm. Hopefully this will see the light of day again next summer, and with advance warning I will be buying plenty this time round.


This may be something of a surprise for those that follow Fuggled regularly and/or have the dubious pleasure of going to the pub with me. You see, I am known to grumble about the amount of pale ale taking up taps at the bars I drink in, so for my favourite pale beer from the rest of the US to be a straight up Pale Ale might shock. St Terese's Pale Ale from Highland Brewing was originally picked up whilst in South Carolina, I had never noticed it before and curiosity got the better of me. It was a revelation, not some insane hop bomb but a nicely drinkable pale ale that refreshed and kept me interested to come back for more, which I did several times. Strangely I have yet to see St Terese's in Virginia, so when Mrs V's uncle and partner came up from North Carolina earlier this month, I made sure to stock up...


Another beer that I picked up on the strength of having enjoyed a brewer's other wares, in this case being a fan of Fraoch and William's Brothers 80/-. There really is no better way to sum up this beer than how I described it when I wrote about a Wiliams Brothers jag I was on earlier this year:

if I hadn't read the label I would have thought is was a lager, pale golden topped off with a firm white head. The nose has lots of spice, earth, hay and a touch of grain in the background. The taste is a riot of malty complexity with a very firm hop bite and lots of fruity flavours, the finish is clean, crisp and distinctly lageresque. Suffice to say I loved this beer straight off the bat, and was back at Wine Warehouse a week later to get more.

From this veritable bevvy of hot blondes, I can choose but one to crown Fuggled Pale Beer of the Year, and it is:
  • Williams Brothers Scottish Session Ale
At 3.9% this pale golden ale is simply irresistible and the more we see of this kind of beer in the world the better.

Picture credits: St Terese's Pale Ale pic taken from the Highland Brewing website, and the Scottish Session Ale pic from BeerMelodies.com

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