We here at the Alamo Drafthouse drink a lot of beer. Over the last few weeks, we've spotlighted some of our favorite things about 2011 in film — now it's time to talk about beer. Jason Murphy, founder of the Beer Passport, shares his favorite beers from 2011.
Let me first start by saying that I normally only talk about my beverages over beverages. That being said, this is technically work so I will not be partaking in any adult beverages — but it is my hope that you will take a second to pop open your favorite brew of 2011 and drink it down as you read this. Unless, of course, you too are at work and to that I say: *raising eyebrow* “Shouldn’t you be doing something more productive with your time?” ... but I digress.
Without further adieu, I present to you the official, unofficial, best beers of 2011. You may not agree with all of them, but you have to admit they are all pretty decent in their own right!
10) (512) Black IPA
This year seemed to be the full-on coming out party for Black IPA’s. Now technically called “American Black Ale,” as to dissuade from the whole oxymoron conversation, this wonderful style takes two things I love (stouts and IPA’s) and mashes them together in an unholy union of extreme and vastly varying flavors. (512)’s Black IPA is one of their yearly seasonals — which I happened to get my hands on here at the store. Its filled with all the roasted, nutty, dark flavors that you expect in a beer this color but is rounded out by a healthy addition of Apollo, Horizon, and Nugget hops to give it a full on hop bitterness.
9) Dogfish Head Robert Johnson’s Hellhound on My Ale
Okay, so I have to admit, I feel like I am name dropping a bit with this one. This isn’t available in Texas (at least not that I know of) and I just so happened to snag a bottle at Monk’s Café in Philly back in August. All the bragging aside, this is a hell of an IPA brewed to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Robert Johnson’s birth. Clocking in at 100 IBU, brewed with 100 percent Centennial Hops and clocking in at 10.0 percent ABV, this beer is not for the casual IPA drinker. As a fun little joke, the guys at Dogfish also added a little dried lemon peel and lemon flesh as a tip of the hat to Robert Johnson’s mentor, Blind Lemon Jefferson.
8) No Label Black Wit-O
First in a triple shot of local breweries, we have No Label Brewing’s first ever seasonal. Much like Black IPA is an oxymoron, so too is Black Wit. I tend to be pretty forgiving with the rules of literature when it comes to my beer and breweries so I will let that slide. The deceivingly drinkable dark ale features loads of dark malt and some star anise. What you may not realize is this bad boy clocks in around 7 percent ABV and will sneak right up and bite you on the ass if you aren’t careful!
7) Karbach Hopadillo IPA
This may be the new kid in town but the new kid comes from good stock! With brewer Eric Warner in tow, Karbach has put itself right on the tip of all Houston beer fan’s tongues. A wonderfully balanced IPA that doesn’t lean too heavy on the either hops or malts, this beer is just plain good! I have said before that it reminds me of a toned down version of 90 Minute — or at least a version of 90 minute I could drink more than two of and not time warp to the next morning. This is a fantastic new brewery brewing fantastic beers and just another reason to be excited about the Houston beer scene going into 2012.
6) Saint Arnold Divine Reserve 11
Look, I am going to be honest here. I have never been a huge fan of Saint Arnold. I know, I know, sorry they are the hometown favorites and all; believe me I get it, but there are just so many session-able, light, refreshing, safe beers I can drink. I need some variety; I need some over the top, I NEED SOME HOPS! Well they brought it with this one! This, along with some other more unique and interesting things they are doing, has given me an appreciation for this brewery that I have not had in the time I have lived in the fair state of Texas. This beer is exciting and delicious, keep it up Saint Arnold, it doesn’t all have to be session-able!
5) Stone Belgo Anise Imperial Russian Stout
Now I am a stout fan and Imperial Russian Stouts are the cat’s pajamas — if you know what I mean. This is the first year I have gotten my hands on Stone’s IRS and to get the version with the Belgian yeast and the star anise, well it was like I got an extra Christmas last winter/spring when I had a few bottles of this. Stone’s entire “Belgo” series is a phenomenal line of beers but this one is the king of the mountain is you ask me!
4) Rogue Oregasmic Ale
We here at the Alamo love the buy local movement that has been sweeping the country over the last couple years. As a small company we try to present more homegrown entertainment than your normal national cinema groups. Rogue brewing out of Oregon embraces this spirit of local harvesting and ingredients with this wonderful organic ale brewed with 100 percent Oregon grow products. This slightly over hopped pale ale is an excellent addition to Rogue’s already stellar lineup.
3) Dogfish Head 120 Minute
Look, I like Dogfish, but honestly this is the type of thing that doesn’t get around these parts very often. For all intents and purposes, this is a Triple IPA continually hopped for 120 minutes. Sweet, hoppy, malty, alcoholic — these are all terms I would use to describe this beer. This is not a beer for everyone, I know some serious hop heads that won’t go near the stuff but, if you are not faint of heart and you don’t have anything to do with your day, pop open or get a pint of this year’s 120. You will not be disappointed.
2) Sierra Nevada Estate Ale
You only have to look back a couple spots to see me talking about our love for the homegrown movement and this ale from Sierra Nevada is another addition to the ever growing presence of beers made using those ideals. Made from ingredients grown at their brewery in Chico, CA, this IPA is killer good! It’s nicely balanced, it’s got fresh flavor and just the right hop kick to keep my hoppy needs satisfied. Sierra Nevada has been making fantastic beers for the past thirty plus years, and the Estate has become a fine addition to their ever growing lineup.
…and now, drum roll please, my favorite beer of 2011:
1) Stone 15th Anniversary Escondidian Black IPA
Boy is that a mouthful — the name and the beer itself. Like I said before, this has been the year of the Black IPA and Stone pretty much perfected it. I have to say, out of all the beers I drank in 2011, Stone has made some of my favorites (there’re two on this list to help prove this point). This beer defies my vast vocabulary, I don’t think I could find the proper words to convey how extremely excellent this beer is. Seriously, this is one of the best beers I have EVER had. I hope to someday get my hands on another bottle or two and I really wish I had kept a bottle to age for a bit.
Thanks for letting me spend some time with you all and talk about some delicious beers. Have a safe and happy holiday season!
— Jason Murphy