I want to make this very clear, so I’m going to do it right off the bat:
This list has been created by me, Branden Andersen — AKA The Beer Detective, based on my own experiences in the craft beer industry this year. Simply because another beer or beer-related item isn’t on this list doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. It just means that I likely haven’t tried it yet.
With that said, I’m always up for suggestions. Hint.
So here we go! I’m going to start an annual tradition of highlighting the best of 2013 according to The Beer Detective. Since this is my first go at making a cumlative list, it will likely be a bumpy ride (missed styles/categories), but it should be fun, nonetheless.
Also, important to note: my sample size is smaller than I would like, so I’ll probably leave some out (Kölsh, for example…I’ve only tried a few, so I wouldn’t be able to make a full list).
Without further ado, here are my choices for THE BEST OF 2013!
It’s always best to start with the fan favorite. This year, I’m giving my best IPA award to…
Maiden the Shade by Ninkasi! (Eugene, OR)
My hometown brewery has made this for the past couple of years, but after cracking the seasonal bottle again this year, I was reminded why I am such a fan of what Jamie and Nikos are cooking up in the valley.
2) Georgetown Brewery’s Lucille IPA (Seattle, WA)
3) Worthy’s IPA (Bend, OR)
This one goes to a consistent favorite, and one that seems to do no wrong. Most of you know it by name. Some of you recognize it on sight. All of you should pick this one up the second you see it on the shelves or on tap.
Red Chair by Deschutes Brewery! (Bend, OR)
I had this beer for the first time about 2 years ago and have loved it ever since. An excellent balance of citrus and bitterness. I can never find anything wrong with it. Now, if they would only sell it year-round.
2) Pfriem Family Brewery’s Mosaic (Hood River, OR)
3) Crux Brewery’s Off-Leash (Bend, OR)
A style that is growing on me by the day (I’ve got an American Amber fermenting at the moment, actually). This year’s winner is King Kitty Red by Coalition Brewing (Portland, OR)! An excellent blend with a nice malty presence backed up by bitterness.
2) Hop Valley’s Stepchild Red (Eugene, OR)
3) GoodLife Brewing’s Red Side IRA (Bend, OR)
Who doesn’t like a clean roasted flavor with hints of chocolate and toffee? I know Three Creeks Brewing (Sisters, OR) does with their Backpacker Brown, which was only around for a little while. Small batch? Probably, but the fact it was delicious didn’t help it hanging around on taps for very long.
2) Rogue Brewing’s Hazelnut Brown (Newport, OR)
3) 10 Barrel’s Smokescreen (Bend, OR)
Stouts were my first love past trying pale ales. I would go around local bottle shops, searching for new stouts to try with different additives: oatmeal, chocolate, lactose, etc. This year, though, I tried one that will forever change the course of my stout-drinking life: Laurelwood Brewing Company’s Portland Espresso Stout (Portland, OR). I’m not going to lie and say Laurelwood is one of the best breweries around; I think they have some good stuff but they are falling into a comfortable pattern. But this stout is a must-have. A strong espresso aroma greets you to a black brew with a nicely-tanned head. The flavor is rich with chocolate and espresso—more of a dessert stout than anything. They should be on the shelf right about now, so go take a look and grab a bottle ASAP.
2) GoodLife Brewery’s Pass Stout (Bend, OR)
3) Fire Mountain Brewing’s Steam Fired Stout (Carlton, OR) and Boneyard Brewing’s Backbone Stout (Bend, OR)
I’ve been a big seasonal fan since I first started getting into craft beer. Therefore, every time the amazing season between September and January comes around, I grab a very large sample size. After all of that, the first seasonal I tasted this year is Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Fall Hornin’ (Boonville, CA)! An absolutely delicious full-bodied pumpkin ale with some flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon. I haven’t found it but one other time, but the flavor resonates with me still. Look forward to it next season.
2) Laurelwood Brewing’s Vinter Varmer (Portland, OR) [P.S. This was very close to first. This is amazing]
3) Hopworks Urban Brewery’s Abominable Winter Ale
Brewery of the Year:
To me, this is the most important one. There are so many breweries out there right now, and so many popping up, to stand out in this market is amazing to say the least. For that reason, I would like to give best brewery of the year award to…
Elysian Brewing (Seattle, WA)!
I know they aren’t all over my “best of” boards, but man do they do some fun stuff. I have a lot of their beers and never get bored of them. From their Jasmine IPA to their Immortal IPA to their Bitfrost Winter Ale, Elysian does it right, and does it right often. Congrats, and thank you Elysian Brewing.
2) Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
3) The Commons Brewery (Portland, OR)
Beer of the Year:
This is always the toughest to decide. There are so many great beers out there, and so many on the horizon. With the mass of breweries that are pumping out good beer, the consumer is left with the difficult task of trying them all out and supporting those who produce a great product. With that intro, the best beer of the year is…
Deschutes’ Brewery Red Chair NW Pale Ale (Bend, OR)!
People will likely say “Hey, it’s been done many times before. It’s good, but it’s coming from a craft brewery on the brink of being a macro brewery.”
Yeah, well, whatever. I’m no hipster. I recognize great beer when I drink it, and this one is undenyable. A perfect balance of bitterness and citrus with a light amber hue, everything about this beer is perfect and has been since I first tasted it.
If any InBev brand made this beer, I would still love it. It’s not about the brewery, it’s about recognizing a quality beer in a sea of beers ranging from amazing to undrinkable. Congrats, Deschutes Brew. You’ve done it again.
2) Ninkasi’s Maiden the Shade
3) The Commons’ Brewery Urban Farmhouse Ale
Like I said at the start, I’m sure I missed a brew or two. But, I’m excited to have this list down after my first full year of being a legal beer consumer. 2014 should be the year of expanding my palette and trying beers from all around the country. If you have any recommendations for me, I would love to hear it. Post down in the comments on this page or find me on twitter. I love to get recommendations.
So there it is; one year down, one starting now. Cheers to all of my fellow beer drinkers.
-Branden Andersen, The Beer Detective.