Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Beer - 2011

This is our way of closing out 2011 with a bang! The Year in Beer - 2010 wrapped up what was a busy year. We managed to post 92 times, but we vowed to increase that in 2011. Well, I think we succeeded at doing that. But even still, we weren't able to get in all the things we had hoped to.

2011 was an incredible year in both Sarah and my personal lives, as well as the New England Craft Beer world. As you might have read, Sarah and I were married on June 18th. We had awesome beer on draft - Harpoon IPA and Summer, which was a small, but significant detail that made the day even more enjoyable for us and our guests. I also graduated from UMass Boston in August, finishing up my undergraduate degree that I've been chipping away at two or three classes at a time since 2005.

2011 started of with a furry. In the first three months we posted almost as much as we did the prior year. We also organized our first ever beer festival as part of the annual "Cure Me I'm Irish" event on March 5, 2011 at Lombardo's in Randolph, MA. Mayflower, Cape Ann, Cody Brewing, Blue Hills, and Magic Hat poured hundreds of samples for the 1,000 guests in attendance. Truthfully though, it was all pretty stressful. So, we took an unexpected, and unannounced break for the month of April. But, we came back with a fury in May covering American Craft Beer Week with a slew of beer reviews.

Hurricane Irene also hit Vermont incredibly hard, flooding the Longtrail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners and completely destroyed the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury. Also, the great debate on the Farmer Brewer License issues that plagued the folks at Idle Hands Craft Ales for a while was eventually worked out. The ruling eventually turned out favorable, and allowed the brewery to acquire an affordable license to begin commercial production.

Twitter and Facebook became an even bigger part of Brew England in 2011! Although I'm unsure how many Twitter followers we had coming into '11, but as I write this we have 743 followers. This time last year we had 447 Facebook fans, and now we have 735! Hopefully we can get to 1,000 very soon. Thanks to our friend Chris Cappella, we also got a new logo and banner and couldn't be happier about it!

Instead of breaking down all the other posts, I strongly encourage you do revisit some of the posts by clicking through each month on the right hand side of the page. Please let us know your thoughts as well.

I will, however, highlight some of our favorite's from 2011...

Top Beers of 2011:

Baxter Brewing Co. Stowaway IPA - This is by far one of my new favorite New England IPAs. It's bold, it's malty, it has a nice crisp and floral character to it. Baxter is currently available throughout Maine, and in Eastern Massachusetts; however, the brewery has plans to be distributed throughout Massachusetts by March of 2012. Look out for this brewery, as they're making a lot of noise.

Notch Session Pils - To my delight, Chris Lohring is making beer. Not only is he making beer, he's making great beer. The Pils is a well balanced brew that is high in flavor and low in ABV...meaning you can enjoy several of these in a sitting and not be stumbling out the door of your favorite pub. It's really how beer should be.

Mayflower Brewing Spring Hop Ale - This was a great seasonal beer introduced in 2011 by Mayflower. The first time we had it was at the 2011 "Cure Me I'm Irish" event, and it did not disappoint. It took a while to find it afterwards, but was worth the search. Hoppy, malty, and moderate drinkability made this a great offering!

Maine Beer Company Mean Old Tom - This was the third beer I tried from Maine Beer Co. this year, and was by far my favorite. I'm becoming more fond of Stouts, and this coffee stout from Maine did not disappoint.

Throwback Brewery Fat Alberta - You might not expect a beer to be rich and creamy, but the awesome peanut butter and chocolate flavor from the Fat Albert is incredible. Sadly Throwback's beers are only available in the Granite State, but they are growing in a grassroots style, but their buzz is growing rapidly.

Mystic Brewery Descendant - Dark and tasty, this beer from Mystic Brewery is available in both oaked, and unoaked varieties, which adds notable differences to the liquid. One of Massachusetts' newest, their 'Fermentorium' is located in Chelsea, MA, boasting a large set up where they meticulously monitor the fermentation process of their brews, with an incredible attention to quality and detail.

Rising Tide Brewing Company Ursa Minor - Unfortunately, when I visited the Rising Tide Brewery during the AHA Rally Portland, I only got one bottle of Ursa Minor. This beer is a Weizen-Stout, which is basically a stout fermented using a Hefeweizen yeast strain. It yields an awesomely light and fruity beer, with some nice dark malt notes you expect from a typical stout.

Very Honorable Mention: Jack's Abby Hoponius Union India Pale Lager, Backlash Beer Convergence, Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA, Ipswich Ale Brewery 5 Mile Stock Ale, Clownshoes Beer Blaecorn Unidragon, Wachusett Brewery Imperial Pumpkin

Favorite Beer Event:

Beer Summit Winter Jubilee - Held at the Castle at the Park Plaza in Boston, the Beer Summit does a great job putting together a solid line up of breweries, and not overselling the event. There never seems to be super long lines, unless a particular brewery has a special beer they're bringing to the party. Even still, you don't wait very long at all.

So what's up for 2012?

Beer, beer, and more beer of course! Even though we upped the posts from 91 to 168, we'd still like to provide more content. That means more beer reviews, more Guest Blog entries, more Adventures in Homebrewing posts (sadly took a nose dive this year), and more "Meet the Brewer" segments. We'd also like to get to attend more beer events, and take a beer vacation to Vermont to hit several of the smaller breweries off the beaten path.

There's also a possibility that we'll make the trip to Colorado next year for the Great American Beer Festival. Our buddy Dave Lagueux is about to begin his new job brewing at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, CO, and he suggested we come out in the fall. After seeing Brian of Seacoast Beverage Lab's updates and recap of the 2011 Kate the Great Day in Portsmouth, NH, we look to attend part of the Portsmouth Beer Week in March as well.

Finally, and in the more near future, we'll be organizing the beer festival as part of the 2012 "Cure Me I'm Irish" being held on March 10th at Lombardo's in Randolph, MA. We announced there would be 10 breweries next year, as opposed to only five this year, and that the first five breweries were already confirmed. We're close to solidifying the last five as of this week, and the event is going to be even better. More details will be posted in the next few days on tickets and how you can help out!

We hope you had as great of a year that we did, and we look forward to bringing you more in 2012! Thanks for reading and supporting Brew England and New England craft beer!

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