Before we get to anything, an update on our renovation: The draft station is tantalizingly close to ready.
At the moment, I’m at the mercy of a countertop for our back bar that would let us get the last of the plumbing done. A couple of target dates from the countertop folks have come and gone, so I’m not committing to anything beyond getting word out far and wide when the beers are flowing.
Now then, it’s time bring back the Beermonger Beers of the Year. For those new to the fun, this is an unscientific list of six beers that stood out to me this year for one reason or the other, with the main reason being they were really, really good.
Here there are, numerically listed but in no particular order:
6. Anderson Valley Black Rice Ale: There aren’t too many beers that I devote entire columns to, but that’s what I did for this one back in September. I still dig this dry, flavorful, low-ABV beer for being something unique in a market clogged with too many versions of the same styles.
5. Commonwealth Brewing Company Cimmerian/Schilling Beer Company Modernism (tie): Commonwealth’s Cimmerian Czech-style Dark Lager is a great example of all the things the Virginia Beach brewery can do really well. We burned through a ton of cases at Arrowine while it was in stock, and I personally took down plenty at home. You can find some back on the market right now; maybe even on tap at Arrowine in the next week or so. If my countertops show up…
Schilling’s Modernism, another Czech-style Dark Lager, earns a nod not only for being great, but for being the only thing on tap at one of the better area beer bars not too long ago that was interesting to me, and saving me from certain Pastry Stout/Dessert Sour doom.
4. Jackie O’s Who Cooks For You?: 2019 saw Jackie O’s return to Virginia, with a focus on their year-round and seasonal six-packs. Who Cooks arrived as a limited-run, 5.5% ABV double dry-hopped Pale Ale version of a Hazy IPA. The first run outshone some of the best Hazys out there, and Jackie O’s was smart enough to slot it into their year-round lineup by the fall. It’s in-stock at Arrowine now.
3. Väsen Norse Double IPA: Speaking of Hazy IPAs… I haven’t tried to make one, but if I did, the ingredients would be awfully close to the flagship IPA from this Richmond brewery: Golden Promise malt with Citra, Mosaic and Amarillo hops. I like all of these things. The Norwegian Kveik yeast gives this 8% beast a sly, easy feel, and its hops a showcase. Just back in stock at Arrowine this week.
2. OEC Coolship Lager: If you blinked a few weeks ago, you missed out on this Czech-style Blonde Lager from Connecticut’s Ordinem Ecentrici Coctores — OEC. It’s “brewed using a traditional double decoction mash and hopped with fine European noble hops… rests in our copper coolship for 1 hour… transferred over our baudelot cooler into our open tanks for fermentation… it is cellared for several months prior to release.” That’s a lot of words to tell you it’s so easy, and clean, and enjoyable that a four-pack can evaporate before you even notice. Hoping to have this back in the shop, maybe even semi-regularly, in 2020.
1. Hill Farmstead Legitimacy: It wasn’t a massive, double dry-hopped, opaque, jooooooce bomb that stopped me in my tracks this year. It was Hill Farmstead’s Legitimacy, a 6% IPA with a relatively simple-looking recipe — 2-row barley, oats, Citra/Mouteka/Simcoe hops. Often — too often — I run into IPAs with long lists of hops that don’t seem to justify themselves. At a certain point it all congeals into a nebulous tone of “hoppy”.
Legitimacy blew me away with how each hop contributed identifiable characteristics to the beer: the piney, grapefruity texture of Simcoe; Citra’s exhuberant orange peel and earthiness; the Southern Hemisphere tropical tones of Mouteka. The crew at Hill Farmstead puts out brilliant beers on the regular: Legitimacy is a masterclass for IPA brewers everywhere.
Honorable Mentions: Foreign Objects Chaos Therapy (Juicy Pale Ale); Veltins Pilsener; Foundation Epiphany IPA; Stillwater/Oliver Double Mocha Affogato (Nitro Coffee Stout); Ocelot Lamp (Pilsner); Maine Beer Co. Dinner (IPA); Charles Wells Bombardier (for saving me from my worst instincts in the face of the draft list at Khyber Pass Pub in Philly one night in June).
Happy whatever and Merry New Year, everyone! See you in 2020.