I’ll be honest about this: I love awards, and awards shows, and basically anything where various things are declared “the best.” A big part of this is that I also love to declare things “the best,” and to argue when other people declare the wrong things “the best.” I’m excited as hell for the Oscar nominations tomorrow, which I plan on covering once again for DFO this offseason. And in that spirit, I’m introducing the Golden Goblets, a celebration of the best beers I tried for the first time in the past year. The rules: Only beers that I gave five-star ratings to on Untappd are eligible for recognition. The only award categories are for beer styles with eligible beers in them. Category delineations are made up in my head and will change from year to year depending on what I thought was good, and my opinions are correct and final (at least until I try one of these beers again).
But one more word before I begin: In the spirit of national unity and reconciliation, I want to offer my congratulations to our new President, Donald Trump, a man who enjoys a golden goblet more than anyone. Drink up, Don!
Best Sour Ale: Trinity Seven Day Sour (Colorado Springs, Colorado). Trinity describes this beer as a verte, or young, gueuze, and I gather that’s because it’s soured in a fashion that bypasses the years-long fermentation process of traditional gueuze. You could have fooled me. I’m used to methods like this—in particular “kettle souring”—resulting in sours that taste dull and uninspired, but Seven Day Sour has all the bright acidity and barnyard funk you could want. lady snow got a taste of this with me at Denver’s self-service beer bar First Draft, and she agreed.
Honorable Mention: Epic Oak & Orchard Pinot, Avery Certatio Equestris, Goose Island Juliet
Best IPA: To Øl Black Maria (Copenhagen, Denmark). I’d never have expected that the best IPA I tried would be a black IPA, or that that black IPA would be from Denmark. Full credit to To Øl for putting out a beer that transcends its category. It’s bitter beyond all reason, and when I shared a bottle with out-of-town friends at Austin neighborhood bar BB Rover’s, I called it “the beer Arrogant Bastard thinks it is.” If you’ve ever thought yourself a hophead, grab this.
Honorable Mention: Russian River Pliny the Elder
Best Session Beer: Treaty Oak Fitzhugh Ale (Dripping Springs, Texas). This was my very first experience with Treaty Oak Brewing, the brand new beermaking offshoot of a decade-old local distillery, and I hope they keep doing exactly this. At 3.5% ABV, Fitzhugh is packed with more complex and robust flavor than an imperial stout like Old Rasputin has at two and a half times the strength—and that’s not even a knock on Old Rasputin. I got a glass of this at my local Whole Foods’ oyster bar, like any proper liberal elitist would. I didn’t check my math with anyone else on this one, but I’m looking forward to bringing some home to lady snow once Treaty Oak starts bottling or canning.
Best Stout: Red Horn Whiskey Barrel Aged Suburban Ninja w/ Vanilla (Cedar Park, Texas). Stout is my favorite category of beer, so this was always going to be a hotly contested category, but one stout in particular led the field from the moment I first tasted it to the end of the year. I first had Suburban Ninja w/ Vanilla at the brewery as part of a flight of variations on the base Suburban Ninja imperial stout—a tremendous beer in its own right—that also included a straight bourbon barrel-aged version and one aged in red wine barrels with orange peel and habaneros. Suburban Ninja w/ Vanilla is a perfect fusion of bourbon, oak, vanilla, and a Great Divide Yeti-like imperial stout. It’s an all-time top ten beer for me, and a can’t-miss opportunity if you find yourself in Austin at the right time.
Honorable Mention: Epic Double Barrel Big Bad Baptist, Three Nations Texas X-mas – Creme Brûlée, Red Horn Son of Ninja w/ Coconut, The Bruery So Happens It’s Tuesday, Firestone Walker Parabajava, Alesmith Speedway Stout (Vietnamese Coffee), Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Vanilla Rye, Martin House Acheron
Best Barrel Aged Beer, Non-Stout: Avery Old Perseverance (Boulder, Colorado). There are only a small handful of beers that really show off what oak wood—previously used to age liquor, or not—can do for a beer’s flavor. Old Perseverance is in that handful. This heavy-duty 18.5% ABV old ale is aged in bourbon barrels, but it’s the wood, not the whiskey, that really sings; it’s like drinking the base beer deep in the forest. As such, it was an ideal pairing for the Viggo Mortensen hippie family drama Captain Fantastic, enjoyed in the comfort of my home. lady snow skipped the movie, but loved the beer.
Honorable Mention: Stone Bastard’s Midnight Brunch, Prairie Coffee Okie
Best Chile Beer: Harviestoun Ola Dubh 12 Year Special Reserve w/ Ghost Naga Chilies (Alva, Scotland). You’re goddamn damn right these awards have a separate category for chile beers. Stone demonstrated a few years back with its sister beers Crime and Punishment that mixing whisk(e)y and extremely hot peppers is treacherous territory, producing a pair of fascinating messes that tasted more than a little bit like formaldehyde. This special edition of Ola Dubh 12 Year couldn’t be more different. It’s velvety smooth and chocolatey with a damn good burn and some real, substantial pepper flavor. Thanks once again to the Whole Foods oyster bar crew for snagging this cask.
Honorable Mention: Epic Big Bad Baptista, Prairie Pirate Bomb!, Three Nations Texas X-mas – Mexican Coffee, Prairie Birthday Bomb!
Beer of the Year: Red Horn Whiskey Barrel Aged Suburban Ninja w/ Vanilla (Cedar Park, Texas). Yep. I’ve been telegraphing this choice, both in the Beer Barrel and on Twitter, for about half a year. It’s that good, folks. For the love of God, don’t buttchug it.
make it snow is an alot of beer. And okay, the inclusion of Pliny the Elder as an honorable mention is maybe a little bit bullshit. I drank it once or twice before 2016, but it was years ago, before Untappd existed, and I was pretty new to good beer at the time anyway. Anyway, stay tuned for alot of movies.