Instead of picking a single best beer of 2015, I give you my favorites in the contexts of enjoying them. Partly because I was not very good about posting my sipping experiences last year (first resolution to break in 2016: post every other week!) and partly because there is no such thing as a favorite, or a best, beer. Only a favorite experience that raised the level- no matter how good the beer already was- to a higher plane. In no particular order, my list of super sips of 2015.
Best Beer in front of my Fireplace
Bog Iron Devil’s Footprint, a Mezcal barrel aged braggot.
Brian Shurtleff brewed this and gave me a bottle when I visited the brewery in Norton. It’s ridiculous. (Please excuse the adorable glass- I use it exclusively between Thanksgiving and Christmas.)
Best Beer Sampler
Russian River in Santa Rosa, California
I had to be in San Francisco for work, so I figured I’d just pop up to the famous Russian River Brewery. But it turns out that Santa Rosa is rather far from San Francisco. I decided to arrive early on a Sunday, and thought about renting a car- but who wants to drive after visiting a brewery? I checked into Uber- but it would have been over $200. So I asked a local- Carl Sutton of Sutton Cellars in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Fran, and he knew right away. “Take the Golden Gate 101. It drops you off a block away.” Great! On Sundays it takes over two hours. What.
It was an ordeal, especially because I did not realize that the particular Sunday I chose was Father’s Day- which meant adding a two hour wait once I arrived at the brewpub. Around the corner, I found a delightful place to wait called Third Street Aleworks. I watched my place in line with the app Russian River gave me, and happily sipped away. Good thing I did not have too much, because the sampler at Russian River has 18 – yes 18- (plus a bonus that day) tastes.
Knowing I was not likely to return, and that a bus would deliver me safely back, I ordered a second sampler. Strive to avoid regrets- that’s what I was thinking.
Best Beer to Share with a New Friend
Horal’s Oude Geuze Mega Blend 2011 at ‘t Waagstuk in Antwerp, Belgium with Claudia Asch
It was nearing the end of the 2015 ICHC (International Conference on the History of Cartography), and while I enjoyed seeing lots of old friends, I had not met any beer geeks. Until I found Claudia.
There were several other wonderful beers shared in Antwerp that week with my map geek friends:
Best Beer Brewed by a School
Cum Laude at the University in Antwerp that hosted the ICHC. It was exactly what I was craving after nearly two weeks in Europe- not too sweet, a show of hops but not over the top, refreshing. Just right. And yes, the school has a brewery!
Best Beer Enjoyed at a Brewery
Brusseleir at Brasserie de la Senne in Brussels
I arrived in Brussels by train from London on my way to a conference in Antwerp, so technically I had another train to catch. But Yvan de Baets, brewer/owner of Brasserie de la Senne, offered a ride to Antwerp via a visit to his brewery. Who would say no? I had never heard of this beer, but one sniff sent me somewhere both familiar and nostalgic. I was walking in a blooming flower garden in England, and someone was baking scones in the distance- the finish was faint licorice.
I will not provide details of Yvan’s reaction to my description, but apparently I nailed it.
Best Beer on a Boat- Europe
A beer Regine brought from Germany enjoyed on the deck of a houseboat in Amsterdam. Truly one of the best beers I have ever had, although I do not know or care what it was. See previous post to understand! But in truth the picture says it all.
Best Beer on a Boat- United States
A beer shared with old friends while sailing around the San Juan islands off the coast of Bellingham, Washington. Again, I do not remember the name of the beer- but it was memorably delicious.
Best Graduation Beer Brewed with the Graduate
Berry Stout brewed with and for McKain Webb-Lakey (with sous-brewer brother Will) to celebrate her graduation from Berklee College of Music.
When McKain’s Washington-state based parents asked me to watch out for their daughter while she was in school in Boston, I assumed they meant make sure she got a solid craft beer education. She did.
Best Beer in a Hidden Restaurant
Every beer paired with the food at Luksus in Brooklyn. Get over leaving Manhattan and hop on the G train.
Best Beer with Mom
There were two this year. A Grizzly Paw overlooking Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta and Traveler IPA at the Alibi Room in Vancouver, BC. Yay Canada! Her favorite beer was the Hibiscus Wit at the Alibi Room.
Best Beer at a National Park Brewery
Did you know that both Jasper and Banff National Parks have on-site breweries? We liked the Rye Shwartzbier at Jasper the most.
Best Beer in Front of Someone Else’s Fireplace
Local beer from the bottle shop in Golden, British Columbia while peeling apples for apple crisp at the buffalo ranch where we were staying.
Even if beer isn’t your thing, you should visit this part of the world. Here is why.
Best Birthday Beer(s)
Everything at BFM‘s annual Brassins Public in Switzerland
When your birthday falls on one of your favorite brewery’s annual open house, you should do whatever is necessary to get there, right? And when other friends decide to converge there as well- the beer just tastes better and better.
Best Beer Surprise at the End of a Journey
BFM La Meule in Fribourg, Switzerland
After failed GPS routes and darkness descending, stumbled on a balcony bar overlooking the lovely town. I do indeed have traveler’s luck.
Best Beer Gift
The Cambridge Center for Adult Education has a long history of culinary and other cool culturally enriching classes. I teach several courses, including Beer & Art History- and give my students this tasting glass at the end. CCAE is a non-profit entity, and I donate my time to teach. Because I love it! Check it out.
What were your favorite sips of 2015? Wishing you all a 2016 full of fabulous imbibing all over the world.