Best beers I tried for the first time in 2016

By Ryan Urban

As I work on a larger year in review article, I thought a good way to start would be to review the best beers I tried for the first time in 2016. Some are new, some are classics. Some are regional, other came from the southern and western U.S. and beyond. Here’s the some of the best I had in 2016:

  1. Toppling Goliath Pompeii—Though I am not a hophead, this beer made me realize the draw of this craft beer giant. It has all the wonderful fruity flavors of late-hop additions, without the mouth-numbing IPA bitterness I associate with the style. Pompeii blew my mind.
  2. Burial The Rosary Export Stout—I had the pleasure of visiting the Asheville, N.C. in 2016 and touring a beer scene that definitely lived up to the hype. The unexpectedly pleasant surprise of the trip was Burial Brewing Company. The Rosary is all the black goodness of stout with a Belgian twist—something sure to be emulated more in the years ahead.
  3. Hi-Wire Lager—Another Asheville favorite. My fondness for a flavorful, easy-drinking lager was satisfied with this beer.
  4. Green Man Porter—One more from Asheville. This made me fall in love with porter all over again after tasting a long series of “meh” versions. This is a ROBUST porter, and everything it should be.
  5. Live Oak Pilz—I only ventured outside the Midwest once, but my girlfriend Anna did many times and brought me some great stuff from many places. Austin, Texas proved to have awesome stuff. This has soft maltiness and spicy Saaz hops that make Pilsners so satisfying.
  6. Austin Beerworks Black Thunder—If there’s anything I like better than a good pils, it’s a tasty schwarzbier. Oil black, big on flavor, this was just the ticket.
  7. Summit Keller Pils—This St. Paul craft beer pioneer delivered again and again in 2016. A highlight of this well-rounded 30th anniversary lineup was this refreshing lager. Superb summer beer.
  8. New Glarus Oud Bruin—New Glarus remains No. 1 on my list of favorites thanks in part to a winning regular lineup and once-in-awhile gems like this. I don’t go wild for sour beers, but this was awesome.
  9. Central Waters Cassian Sunset—Another winner in a phenomenal barrel-aging program. I was skeptical at first, but goddamn was this delicious. Central Waters makes awesome beers top to bottom, sunrise to sunset.
  10. Sierra Nevada-Mahrs Brau Oktoberfest—Have I mentioned that I like lagers? This was a super cool interpretation of a German classic. I refilled my stein many times over.
  11. 3 Floyds Wigsplitter—I had come to think of 3 Floyds as one of the most overrated breweries out there. Same for coffee beers. But I finally came around this year, and boy was this tasty tribute to dark brewed goodness.
  12. Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale—The best of beer is barleywine, especially on a cold night in the Upper Midwest. I had many of those, and nothing warmed me more than Bell’s Third Coast. Every sip is a bit different, more complex than the last.

Check out the archives for more beer reviews from 2016. And follow me on Twitter and Untappd for more throughout the coming year.

Beer of the Week: Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

IMG_1991Ponysaurus Biere De Garde

I have returned from vacation refreshed in mind and body. Helping me remain in this state is trunkload of North Carolina beers procured during a few days in Asheville.

Naturally, I had to feature something from the Tar Heel State on this blog. It is North Carolina Craft Beer Month after all.

I had long thought of visiting Asheville, not only for its reputation for tasty beer, but for its great food scene and outdoor recreation—I had a blast mountain biking and hiking.

I picked North Carolina over other options like Colorado, Montana and Michigan, thinking it would be the warmest option in early April.

But when the time came to leave, news dropped on the state’s new law making it illegal for transgender people to use the public restroom of the gender they identify with. I read up on the issue, and it seemed to me that this law was altogether unnecessary, insensitive and discriminatory.

I considered a sort of protest of the law, by changing course and not visiting North Carolina.

Ultimately, I decided not to hold it against the whole of the state, where there are in fact many friendly people.

Case in point is this plan for breweries to collaborate on a beer called Don’t Be Mean To People: A Golden Rule Saison. This is basically a protest beer of HB 2, the bill that led to the discriminatory restroom law, and all proceeds from its sales benefit organizations supportive of the LGBT community.

The beer will be brewed by Mystery Brewing and Ponysaurus Brewing in Durham, North Carolina. I was nowhere near Durham, but did grab four tallboys of the Ponysaurus Biere De Garde while in Asheville.

Graphics on the can, which are all kinds of awesome (see below), indicate that the “beer to be guarded from thieves” is made from barley, wheat and rye with “aromas of pear, almond, and vanilla, you know, abound.” These statements ring true. The flavor is funky French. Flavors of fig, pear, banana, toast, clove and nutmeg kiss the tongue, while it finishes dry and alcoholic.

This Ponysaurus creation leaves me confident Don’t Be Mean To People, which is set for release in May, will be a forceful beer in flavor and support for this nice cause.

Is it the best beer I had in North Carolina? Hard to say. Further tasting consideration is required—only had 3 days between drives to and from Wisconsin. Sierra Nevada offered a delicious Ovila with cherries as well as two great saisons in Audition and Peppercorn. Highland’s Saw-Whet Saison may be better yet. Burial Beer Company was impressive with its Shadowclock Pilsner and The Rosary Belgian Export Stout. I had originally intended to write about the marvelous Hi-Wire Lager before reading of the friendly collaboration between Ponysaurus and Mystery Brewing.

A big cheers to them. I hope for a chance to drink Don’t Be Mean To People, preferably with some of that great barbecue they have down there. For now, I’ll down this Biere De Garde before some fridge bandit gets ahold of it.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg