Saturday, 31 December 2011

Top 11 Beers of 2011

I’ve drunk a lot of beer this year. I’ve been to Rome, New York and the Czech Republic twice, plus travelled around the UK a bit. Here are the best 11 beers I've had in 2011. 

Unfiltered Budvar Dark in the cellars at the brewery. It's usually the pale 12-degree Budvar which you taste in the cold cellars, but this time we also got the Dark. Rich, roasty, deep in flavour but with more body and texture than the packaged version. Incredible. 

Unfiltered PU at Bloggers Conference and unfiltered PU in Pilsen. It was on the list last year and hopefully (somehow, anyhow) it'll be on the list next year: I love this beer. I love the story the brewery attaches to it, I love how a mug of it looks when poured with a huge head, I love the elegant body of the beer, the bite of Saaz hops. Most of all, I love the rounded, smoothness of the unfiltered version.

Avery Maharajah in Rattle n Hum. It was late and we had drunk lots already but a shared 4oz sample of this convinced Matt and I to order a pint each. It's a 10.5% DIPA with balance in it's strength, like a body building ballerina. So fruity, so juicy, such amazing hop flavour.

Ithaca Flower Power. All the fruit juice in the world seems to make this beer. Incredible hop flavours, such clarity to them rather than the beer equivalent of five people shouting at you simultaneously.

Sam Adams Lager at Burger Joint. A moment of perfection when the beer in your hand couldn’t taste any fresher. Cold and crisp and a lip-smacking hop flavour, plus a killer burger on the side.

This year I've had three different jobs. The third of them is thanks to Camden Hells Lager, Camden Pale and Camden Wheat - the beers are fantastic and they've given me the opportunity to work in the beer industry. They are now the beers I drink most often and that's definitely a good thing.

Being asked to make a beer with BrewDog is a highlight of the year. I remember reading the email proposing it and bursting with excitement. Avery Brown Dredge is the result. An imperious pilsner, bold, different and brilliant, if I do say so myself.

Troubadour Magma showed me the best of Belgium and America in one glass and I love it. I veered away from Belgian beer for a year or two but I might head back that way in 2012.

Rhubarb lambic made from a deliberately funked-up APA, brewed by Chunk. We shared one bottle; if we'd shared a gallon we still probably would've wanted more.

Dark Star Tripel, a year-old, at the Beer Bloggers Conference. Just amazing. Such a well-developed beer which still had that big hop bite and an incredible flavour of peaches and apricots. Mind-blowing stuff.

Toccalmatto Stray Dog with a pizza in Bir & Fud, Rome. Amazing, fresh beer; crisp and light pizza. Bir & Fud rocks.

The thing with all these beers is that I remember the moment I drank them as much as the taste; few flavours return to me as I think about them, but the experiences are still clear and bright. The beers were all great but the moment, the memory or the experience, is what matters most.

It’s been a great 2011 and I hope 2012 is even better!


  1. Nothing as exotic for me, but I can cobble together a good list as follows

    1) Brewdog Alice Porter - As much as I loathe Brewdog's marketing there is no doubt that they brew some stunning beers and Alice Porter is excellent

    2) Brodies Hackney Red IPA - Possibly even better then 5AM Saint and I can't think of a greater compliment then that.

    3) Acorn Simcoe IPA - My personal favourite of Acorn's many single hop IPA's this year.

    4) Saltaire Hazlenut Coffee Porter - One of those beers that always puts a smile on my face

    5) Buxton Imperial Black IPA - a late entry, but it is the best Black IPA I've ever had.

    6)Steel City CTZ - When Steel City beers are bad they are undrinkable but when they are good they are spectacularly good. And CTZ is the pick of the bunch for me.

    7)Marble Chocolate Stout - One of those beers I always make a beeline for when I see it in a pub.

    8) Barlow Jolly Roger Porter - One of the nice things about 2011 has been that other Derbyshire breweries then Thornbridge have been making waves. Buxton, Raw and Barlow have all been making some great stuff and Jolly Roger is pretty much exactly the sort of beer I like.

    9) Thornbridge Alchemy XIII - My own personal favourite of Thornbridge's new beers this year.

    10) Acorn Gorlovka Stout - Yes I know it's another dark beer but it's an excellent one.

  2. Nice list Mark, and I like your point about remembering the moment. To think, this time 2 years ago you were going to waste your life rating the beers you drank. Where's your thinking on that today?

    Happy New Year :-)

  3. The older I get the more I realise it. It is the moment that matters. Its not all about lining up different beers, notepad at the ready to give each beer your full concentration.

  4. Never had or heard of some of them. Do I feel deprived? No. But beer is personal, so sup up Mark and keep on doing so.

    A very Happy New Year to you.

  5. T_i_B - Nice list! I tried Alice Porter in BrewDog Camden a few weeks ago and it was delicious. The Brodie's beers are tasting really great - their Red is very good. And I wish i could get more beer with Hazelnut!

    Sid - Who knows what I was thinking!

    Rob - It's always the moment which matters! These beers stand out because I'm doing different things in different places as well as having great beer.

    Tandleman - Here's to a good 2012!

  6. Interesting list. Not had many of those but our list would, I think, be similarly influenced by 'the moment'. Most of the beers we get most wistful about -- the ones we sit and reminisce about drinking -- were consumed on our travels, so we were certainly tasting the holiday as much as the beer in most cases.