2016 is soon to become the year that was, and now is the time for looking back, reflecting, and making numbered lists about things.
This is a numbered list about beer.
This list is in no particular order, with no particular purpose other than to point out that the beers listed within are beers that I drank and made enough of an impression on me that they are included in this piece. These beers may or may not have been released for the first time in 2016, but they were definitely in my glass at some point during the year. Call it a “best of” if you want - I won’t get mad.
Anyway, enough of that foolishness - on to the list!
Austin Street Brewery – Florens
This American IPA from the crew at Austin Street sticks in my memory, even in a year where IPA - specifically New England IPA - was the majority of what I drank. There is no doubt that juicy, hazy IPAs are in vogue; to my mind, Florens is one of the best examples of the style. It is loaded with aromatics and presents with notes of grapefruit and citrus. It is aggressively hopped without being overly bitter or punchy, leaving you wanting another sip, not a glass of water.
Allagash Brewing Company - Farm to Face
This beer is memorable in a way that only the Presidents of the United States of America can describe. Millions of peaches, peaches for me. Farm to Face is a sour ale made with a ludicrous amount of peaches added. Allagash never fails to impress with their 375ml special releases, and in my opinion Farm to Face is the standout among the many amazing beers in that group. Brewed and fermented as a pale ale, then refermented with lactobacillus and pediococcus on peaches that do not come from a can. The peaches come in fresh from a local farm and they come in bunches. Three pounds of peaches per gallon of beer is the ratio in Farm to Face; it’s a fact made obvious once you open the bottle. The taste, aroma and finish are all loaded with peach flavor. Try this beer. It can be tough to find, but hit the streets and seek it out.
Dirigo Brewing Company - Dirigo Lager
2016 may go down as a year of sadness and disappointment, but on the very bright side, longtime brewer Tom Bull is back at it, making tasty lagers for the masses to consume. Bull’s new venture, Dirigo Brewing Company, opened this fall on the banks of the Saco River in Biddeford and have been cranking out tasty German-inspired ales and lagers ever since. The Dirigo Lager is crisp, clean and refreshing, the hallmark of a true lager. Brewed in the traditional German style, fermented and conditioned cold for a refined taste, Dirigo Lager is quickly becoming a go-to beer for me.
Gneiss Brewing Company - Sonnenschein
(Disclosure: Yeah yeah yeah, I really like this one so shut up about it.)
This summer at Gneiss, we made a Kolsch and it was good. That is the short story. The longer version is that after being inspired by a trip to Germany in 2015, our head brewer Dustin Johnson set out to recreate the crisp, clear German ale known across the city of Cologne as Kolsch. Kolsch is a unique beer in that it is a fairly recent style for German standards, first originating in the early 1900s; brewed like an ale but fermented like a lager, the end result is a clear, pale straw-colored brew that has a beautiful clean malt flavor with a balanced finish. The Gneiss take on the style - Sonnenschein (the German word for sunshine) - is quite true to style and really shines as an example of what everyday German-style table beers can be. Sonnenschein is truly a go-to beer, and it is one that we at Gneiss hope to be able to make a lot more of in the future.
Foundation Brewing Company - Burnside
What can I say? There is just nothing all that sexy about brown ale. Sure, I have had a lot of tasty brown ales in my day, but very rarely do they stand out in my memory. Until Burnside, that is. Burnside is everything a brown ale should be and more. The layering of malt flavors both sweet and roasty with a present-but-not-too-pushy hop bitterness makes for a full-flavored drinking experience that usually leads to large gulps and copious refills. Burnside is in no way designed to be a session beer, but that’s not to say that it isn't possible to drink three or four of them in a sitting. In fact, I’m here to tell you that it definitely is.
So that’s my list. Is it a complete list of the best beers of 2016? Heavens no. Is it a list of beers that I drank at some point and then thought of when I sat down to write this? Very much so, yes. Take from it what you will, but at the very least go drink these beers, and all the other beers that I didn't put on the list.