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Your Beermonger: Beers of the Year, So Far

Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway)

We’re already well past the halfway point of 2012, which I didn’t even realize until the other day. That got me thinking about the new beers I’ve had the opportunity to try and in some cases stock this year. Between new brews arriving at Arrowine, random bottles brought by friends and customers, and festivals like SAVOR I get to try more different beers than the average bear. Here are my top five for the first half of 2012:

Stillwater Premium: The instant I tried Premium earlier this year I was blown away, and I still don’t expect anything to knock it off of its spot. Brian Strumke at Stillwater Artisanal Ales is in my opinion just about the smartest brewer in the country right now, and Premium is a masterpiece. Essentially a riff on the classic ‘macro lager,’ Premium uses many of the same grains and hops found in beers with TV ad budgets. The twist is that Strumke ferments Premium with two strains of wild Brettanomyces yeast and somehow the whole thing comes out of the bottle an elegant, funky joy to behold. If we get lucky, we’ll see another release of Premium before the year’s out.

The Alchemist Heady Topper: Word of mouth has made this Imperial IPA a sensation among beer geeks everywhere. Most often compared to Russian River Brewing’s legendary Pliny the Elder, Heady Topper is one of the punchiest and most drinkable hop hits out there. If you can get your hands on any of these 16oz. cans of goodness, don’t hesitate.

Williamsburg Alewerks Caledonia: This is a pretty recent addition to the list, but it just struck me out of nowhere. Labeled as a “Scottish-Style IPA,” Caledonia is just about every great British beer you’ve ever had in one bottle. At 4.5% ABV, Caledonia has a classic grassy English Pale Ale note and easy feel with just a touch of malt. Caledonia is still available, at least for now.

Mother Earth Double-Wit Blackberry: I mentioned this in my SAVOR recap, and it’s still holding up in my memory. Mother Earth’s beers aren’t available up here unfortunately, but it was nice to be able to try this one. The fruit was balanced with the rich yeast and wheat character, will all of the elements coming together just right to make this more than just a gimmicky ‘fruit beer’ — this was an elegant beverage.

Port City Downright Pils: Alexandria’s Port City brewery came through big-time with this special brew. Using one malt and one hop variety, Downright is a textbook clean, snappy Pilsner with just the slightest hint of extra hop bite to set it off. Downright had been out of stock for the past few weeks, but it’s just coming back to the market now so get at it while the weather’s right. Who knows — maybe we’ll get to see this one year round.

Until next time.

Cheers!

Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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