Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Best Philadelphia Beer Awards!

A quick preface - I've limited the selections to only domestic beer this year.  All selections pertain to beer that is available in the Philadelphia area beer market.

Best Local Beer
    First Place: McKenzie Saison Vautour - The draft version resembles Saison Dupont, only with an ester boost.  Such a great beer. 
    Lightly haze of gold with small white head that sticks around for a while. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of caramel, citrus, wet hay, vanilla, gently roasted grains, earthiness, barnyard, and a hint of dry, slightly tart rye.
    Flavor is of the mentioned aromas with a beautiful taste citrus, caramel, spice, and vanilla cream. Beautiful beer.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, chewy, dry, and spicy. This is such a cool beer. I could drink this one all night.

    Second Place: Tröegs Flying Mouflan

    Appears a hazy dark brown sugar with small streams of lacing that quickly rises to the top of the light tan head. Scattered spots of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of brown sugar, pine sap, herbs, and grapefruit.
    Taste is of brown sugar, pine needles, citrus, herbal tea, and a bit of cocoa nibs.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, chewy, bitter with hops and sweet malt that feels sweet and warming.


    Third Place: Iron Hill Dubbel Trubbel


    Appears a dark, chestnut toned amber with a fluffy, off white head that sticks around. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is excellent with complex notes of vanilla, cherry, tart juice, and hibiscus flowers on top of a mild raisin aroma.
    Taste mimics the aromas with a flavor that I couldn't have drawn up better myself. This is a beer lover's fantasy with the oaky vanilla and spicy red wine notes pulling through.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, mildly oaky, sweet, tart, and well balanced.
    This brew is just outright addictive. It almost reminds me of a young Flanders Brown Ale but without the acetic, over the top tartness from a bacteria introduction.


    Appears a dense black with a fluffy tan head that slowly fades. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of ripe fruit, cocoa, espresso, caramel, and nuts.
    Taste is of mentioned aromas with major flavor jumping out. I love the complexities.
    Mouthfeel is chewy, spritzy, sugary, n bitter at the same time. This is clearly the best Philadelphia brewing beer I've had.


    Fifth Place: Stoudt's Double IPA

    This one has got 'em. BIG and BOLD ones! Hops, that is! Pours a golden orange with a frothy white head that sticks around. Lacing is scattered throughout the glass for the duration of the drinking. The smell is fantastic as you get that full aroma of hops with some maltiness behind it. Smells like someone took a few hand fulls of hops and dumped them in a juicing machine, took out that concentrate and dumped it right in here.
    Tastes awesome! Full bodied, rich and creamy, citrusy and peachy hop flavored IPA with a strong malt backbone for balance. Hides the alcohol too, I might add. This one will definitely creep up on you if you're not careful. Mouthfeel is terrific as well as she swirls throughout my mouth with balanced intensity and perfect carbonation, leaving me asking for more.




    Local Brewery of the Year
    First Place: McKenzie Brew House - Again, the team of Ryan Michaels and Gerard Olson have cranked out some of the region's finest beers.  The anchor beer of the brewery, Saison Vautour, has been the GABF Gold Medal winner in the Saison category for 3 of the past 4 years.  With the newest batch of wonderfully experimented barrel aged beers yielding such fine products as Oer Faute, and St. Romain makes McKenzie the sure fire winner for our Local Brewery of the Year Award for the second year straight!  Congrats Ryan & Gerard!

    Second Place: Tröegs Brewery - Tröegs continued it's drive of it's Scratch series beers, resulting in quite a few delicious treats.  The addition of the Splinter Series drew enough attention for local beer enthusiasts to continue the demand for more!

    Third Place: Iron Hill West Chester - Although I personally didn't get out to West Chester as much as I had hoped, the West Chester crew of Larry, and Jean kept things fresh and interesting by keeping a continuous flow of new and interesting beers flowing.


    Local New Beer of the Year

    First Place: McKenzie Oer Faute - This is the La Faute that was aged in a French red wine barrel and dosed with the McKenzie house "bugs".
    Appears a dark amber with a fluffy, off white head that seems to stick around before slowly fading into a mild cap. Sticky bits of streaked lacing are left all around the glass.Smell is of dark fruit, red cherries, cocoa powder, vanilla, honey roasted nuts, with a hard lean towards tartness coming in the form of earthy, leathery, balsamic vinegar, cooked wild mushrooms, and citrus.
    The flavors pull together as the beer reminds me a little of a balsamic vinegar infused with a pinot noir that one would enjoy enough to carbonate and have with a meal. For the record, I adore balsamics...so, I really dig this beer. I believe it's something of a rare gem.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied with carbonation, and tartness doing it's proper job to really open up the palate and senses for more beer exploration. With a winner like this around, why bother to explore the other options?
    In many ways, this reminds me of a young Oerbier Reserva...and the hauntingly similar name was not intended to draw that parallel.

    Second Place: Tröegs Splinter Blue - Appears a light gold with a small white cap that quickly fizzles out into a gentle film and mild collar. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of funky, tart cherries, earthy, leather, apple, brett, with a ghost of the original wheat beer.
    Taste is of the aromas with the tart cherries, and brett becoming the champions of this beer.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, tart, a touch of lactic burn leading to a dry finish.
    Pretty damn nice!


    Third Place: McKenzie St. Romain Strong Ale - Appears a deep amber with a fluffy, off white head that slowly fades into a soapy, thick collar. Lots of sticky lacing is left around the glass.

    Smell is of vanilla, caramel, brown sugar, wild brett, leather, funk, red wine, and cream.
    Taste is of the aromas with a ripe fruit, funky brettiness, vanilla, and caramel.
    Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, warming, sweet tart, fizzy, smooth, and semi-dry.


    Fourth Place: Yards Barrel Aged Olde Bartholomew - Appears a transparent amber with an orange hue and a small beige head that quickly fades out into a mild film. Little spots of lacing droop down into the glass.
    Smell is of obvious bourbon, oak, vanilla, caramel, and biscuity malt.
    Taste is of the aromas with caramel, roasted nuts, vanilla, and bourbon being the standout with some ripe fruit, and sugar blasts pulling through.
    Mouthfeel is full bodied, warming, on the sweeter side but not really cloying.
    Pretty nice beer!




    Fifth Place: Victory Dark Intrigue - Appears a rich, black with a dark brown edge. A thick tan head slowly fades into a gentle 1/8" head and an intense collar. Scattered lacing is webbed around the entire glass.
    Smell is of roast, oak, vanilla, bourbon, caramel, butterscotch, and cocoa.
    Taste is of the aromas with bourbon and vanilla standing out with cocoa, roasted nuts, and creme brule sweetness highlighted with vanilla, cream, and burnt sugar.
    Mouthfeel is full bodied, sweet, sticky, and mildly boozy yet balanced.





    Other beers of note on the local front:
    Roy Pitz Brewing - Daddy Fat Sacs IPA
    and
                                                                     Prism Brewing - Bitto Honey IPA












    Most Anticipated Upcoming Local Brewery?
    ...Easily, it's Tired Hands Brewing run by Jean Broillet of Iron Hill and Weyerbacher fame.  Jean's new brewery will be featuring beers that are hop-centric, and Belgian/French Farmhouse inspired.  I got a chance to check out a few of his offerings, including a very nice, & tasty Belgian Pale Ale (shown at the left), along with a few saisons that are bound to garner interest from the local beer community and homegrown beer geeks, alike.  Best of luck, Jean!






    Best Non-Local Beer

    Appears a turbid dark russet brown with a dark tan head tan that slowly fades into a small collar. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.

    Smell is of molasses, brown sugar, caramel, creme brûlée, vanilla, port, bourbon, and complex cocoa infusions.
    Taste is of the aromas with sweet bourbon based bread pudding... Very beautiful.
    Mouthfeel is full bodied, sweet, cake like, yeasty, dessert drink for the ages that I would put up there with the finest bourbons, brandy, or ports.


    Second Place: New Holland Dragon's Milk
    Appears a hazy dark brownish black with a small tan head that fades into a film. Spotty lacing is left around the glass.
    Smell is of oaky lactose with cocoa, caramel, and vanilla.
    Taste is of the same aromas perhaps just knocked down a notch.
    Mouthfeel is silky and creamy with mild carbonation. Perhaps one of the silkiest beers I've ever had.






    Third Place: Prety Things Baby Tree
    Appears a dense dark copper edged mahogany. A small light tan head slowly fades into a mild cap. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.Smell is if heavy prunes, brown sugar, vanilla, raisins, and mild spice. Now that I look at the bottle...Quad with dried prunes - duhhh.
    Taste is of the same aromas with sweet sugary cake flavors doused in brown sugar.
    Mouthfeel is sugary, full bodied, and sticky sweet with raisin cinnamon rolls resounding along the palate.




    Appears a near black with dark brown edges when held to the light. The tan foam leaves scattered bits of lacing around the glass.
    Smell is of cocoa, vanilla, Espresso, caramel, and toffee.
    Taste is of the aromas with more of a coffee flavor that is perfect for a digestif.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, sweet, syrupy, and chewy






    Fifth Place: Sam Adams Imperial Stout
    Appears an opaque, dark black with a small dark tan head that slowly fades away. Scattered spots of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is smokey with cocoa, brown sugar, and licorice found amongst the mix.
    Taste is of the mentioned aromas with more of a prune, and fig flavor coming through in the flavors.
    Mouthfeel is full bodied, sugary, and bitter.






    Best New Non-Local Beer

    First Place: Hill Farmstead Arthur Saison
    ...trying my best not be be biased here, but I really struggled with coming up with a better selection.  Shaun Hill is a virtuoso when it comes to brewing Saisons.  This particular one has notes of Saison Dupont but a bit more complex with some more phenolic Belgian yeast esters pulling out some peppery, citrus, and chewing gum esters.  It's a lovely beer that I would recommend everyone checking out.  I look forward to sharing a glass of this with each of you in the near future!





    Second Place: Southern Tier 2XIPA
    Appears a semi transparent light gold with a small white cap that quickly fades into a gentle collar. Tiny streams of carbonation slowly rise to the top of the glass. Spotty bits of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of biscuits, caramel, herbal hops, spices, berries, pine needles, and citrus.
    Taste is of the aromas with spicy oak and vanilla cream flavors pulling through. A touch of white wine flavors are found in the there
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, spritzy, spicy, and herbal. This would be the perfect compliment to spicy Chinese, or Thai food. Great deal on a case for his brew! That 8.2% is very well hidden.


    Third Place:  Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
    Appears a hazy ligt gold with a small white cap that slowly fades into a chunky head. Scattered lacing is left around the glass.
    Smell is of pumelo, lemon zest, herbs, cut grass, and shiitake mushrooms.
    Taste is of the aromas with a sticky hoppy goodness and a fresh doughy flavor that makes for an interesting spin on a Belgian Pale.
    Mouthfeel is medium bodied, sticky, semi sweet, and gently herbal in the finish.





    Fourth Place: Lost Abbey Deliverance
    Appears a near black with a thick, off white head that slowly fades into a chunky cap. Scattered bits of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of caramel, vanilla, oak, coffee, cocoa, bourbon, toasted nuts, brown sugar, and molasses.
    Taste is of the mentioned aromas with a caramel, vanilla, and a hot brandy flavor that just seems a tad odd with a hint of astringency. Complex but a bit clustered.
    Mouthfeel is medium-full bodied, warming, creamy, and a tad thin in the finish.
    Not bad but certainly not my favorite Lost Abbey beer.




    Fifth Place: Oskar Blues Gubna Double IPA
    Appears a hazy gold with an off white head of fluff that slowly fades out. Scattered streaks of lacing are left around the glass.
    Smell is of citrus, cut trees, pine sap, and cooked malted grain.
    Taste is of the piney, resinous, citrus, with toasted, biscuity malt, and honey coming to the forefront.
    Mouthfeel is full bodied, chewy, with plenty of juicy carbonation. A touch of booziness found in the finish.





    Best New Non-Local Brewery in the Philly Market
    Hill Farmstead Brewery - Again, really trying not to be biased with this selection but I can't think of a better brewery outside the region that has had the local impact that HFB has had.  The amount of demand has been outrageous and when the kegs have gone on tap, beer geeks have been aware of grabbing it fresh.

    Runner up: Stillwater Brewing - Brian Strumke is the traveling brew show, collaborating with talented brewers to make kick ass beers.

    Best Bars
    I can't select just one...there's too many great options now in the Philly area. 
    Suburbs have Capones, TND, TJ's, and now Station Taproom
    The City has The Devil's Den, City Tap House, Memphis Taproom, Eulogy, Schmidt's Brauhaus, and Kite and Key. 
    Make your own pick - I've thrown in the towel!

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