Back again for the Top 10 Ticks of 2021. After a very quiet 2020, we roared back in 2021 with the return of The Madness Bottle Share Tournament, and a quick jaunt to Copenhagen for the Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen, which gave us quite a few more highs to look at this year.
This list is in no particular order. The beer does not have to have been bottled/canned in 2021. This is merely the beers I personally enjoyed most that I consumed this calendar year. I do skew towards adding selections I’ve never had before and newer beers.
Omnipollo released a beer called Elmer previously, a 15% adjunct coffee stout. For MBCC, Omnipollo made 4 different iterations of Elmer, called Xlmer (XL-mer.) All iterations had Gesha coffee. There was Tahitian Vanilla and Toasted Almond, Toasted Hazelnut and Toasted Coconut, Ugandan Vanilla, and my favorite of the 4, Toasted Coconut.
This was the richest coffee beer I’ve ever had. It was assertively coffee forward, but not one-note like Revolution Supermassive Cafe Deth. The coconut was perfect and I find it hard to compare to any coffee beer I’ve had previously. I’ve had stouts with Gesha coffee previously that really have not contributed anything substantial or remarkable. This series was above that in all facets.
If you untappd, feel free to follow me @Ferowcious. On Untappd, the 4 Year Double Barrel Blanton’s BCS is the only ‘5’ I gave out this year. Truly a perfect unadjuncted barrel aged stout. This beer was aged in Heaven Hill for 2 years, followed by being re-racked in Blanton’s for an additional 2 years. This was a brewery exclusive to the Fulton & Wood location. It’s 19.1% but tastes nothing like the fusel booze Black Tuesday often provides. This is a luxurious wood on wood experience, but it’s more complicated compared to Rare 2015 where felt like you were sucking on a stave sometimes. The bar for incredible packaged stout is still Beer: Barrel:Time. Had this been packaged, it would be received as the world beater it truly is.
For all the follies of the way the market is treating this years BCBS release, the 4 Year Double Barrel Blanton’s BCS, and to only a slightly lesser extent the 4 Year Double Barrel Eagle Rare BCS are evidence the Goose Island barrel program is still as relevant now as they were 10 years ago.
I’m a maple junkie. However, even with me, a lot of maple beers have started to run together, into an overly sweet, single note breakfast experience. Double Barrel Maple in the Wood shined as a beacon of balance as a brunch fueled beer, laden with boozy wood on a wheatwine backbone that carried everything appropriately. I think adjunct barleywine, wheatwine, and ryewine are still carving paths with how to best use and showcase adjuncts without becoming a sloppy pastry mess. This is a beer for others to navigate from and find the way.
Bofkont is flemish for “lucky guy.” Bofkont made a splash at MBCC this year, fulfilling the lambic niche typically carried by Bokke. They perpetually had a significant line as they opened up many of their offerings over the two day festival. Bofkont Kriek B-225 was my favorite of their lineup. Made with two cherry varietals and aged on a Bordeaux barrel, this Kriek proves Bofkont is already building a pedigree that will leave most of us fortunate enough to taste their blends feeling like lucky guys.
VSOJ remains the king of BA barleywine’s in my humble opinion. The return of a packaged VSOJ was very welcome to the Chicago tickers, eager for more of Revolution’s mantle carrier. In the first package release, VSOJ was Straight Jacket aged for 2-3 years. This time around the blend included VSOJ aged up to 4 years. While I generally don’t reach for Revolution stouts, their ryewine’s and barleywines are best in class time after time.
The focused stout program at Half Acre scored another W with Catch Hell in 2020. They continued on with Double Barrel Catch Hell in 2021. The beer used 1lb of vanilla beans per barrel, an addition that adds around $200+ in cost per barrel. Half Acre went the John Hammond from Jurassic Park approach and spared no expense to fan the flames of the great inferno below.
I found Double Barrel Catch Hell to be a dark chocolate horchata milkshake. I look forward to seeing what Half Acre will do next with this series, as Half Acre proves with stouts, they’re more than just the House of Benthic.
This barrel aged offering from Arclight, and Luis Flores of Monochrome was the beer of FOBAB 2021 for me. An indulgent and thoroughly rewarding coconut stout that I enjoyed pour after pour of. Arclight also impressed with Coriolis Force this year, which offered additional coconut satisfaction. Between Transient and Arclight, Southwest Michigan has become a nice destination for fine quality beers.
Do you like peaches? Do you enjoy apricots? Thoughts on gin barrels? This Floodland saison was a refreshing fruit fueled botanic fest. It has been made once before and I very much hope it resurfaces again. I hope to see more stone fruit gin barrel offerings across the beer landscape. Gin barrels play with wild ales so perfectly. To be honest, they’ve even made me personally interested in more gin based cocktails than I was previously.
This selection has the lowest untappd score of any on this list, but it was one of the highlights of Mikkeller Beer Celebration Copenhagen, to me. It’s very easy for lambic to skew too acidic. The grapefruit peel had me wondering if that would be the case here, but what came out was this remarkably refreshing and funky lambic. If there was ever for drinking poolside, this would be it. I really hope to see others channel this idea and harness it. Also french pressing some geuze with grapefruit peel on your own might net a similar result. Give it a try!
Boiler has built up a nice reputation for their barrel aged program with great selections coming out of Nebraska. Bliss took one of their stouts and was aged in a barrel that previously had maple syrup, and prior to that, Kentucky bourbon. They added coconut and two kinds of vanilla. Much like Side Project DB Maple in the Wood mentioned above, this beer was able to be strengthened by its inclusion of the maple barrel, rather than made cloyingly sweet from it. Shout to my friend JD Scow for gifting this great bottle.
This years list is enormously heavy on stouts, and I think the first list of mine not to feature any hops. I think I’m finding many IPAs and NEIPAs to be fairly good but seldom great. I could say the same for pastry stouts, but in that tidal wave of sweetness, some have managed to stand out.
As we head in to 2022 I wanted to offer up my own predictions a la The Beer Cruncher.
- The popularity of pastry stouts will decline some and the focus on the excellence of blending unadjuncted stouts will grow, with many more young breweries with barrel programs putting more of their eggs in that basket than lading their 14% barrel aged offerings with coconut and graham crackers
- West Coast IPAs will claw back some shelf space. NEIPAs have done everything that can be done. They’re not going to die, but I think bitter hop IPAs will gain some new energy
- Someone will attempt to do a spontaneous alcohol free wild. It wouldn’t shock me if it exists already and I just don’t know about it. It might even come as a premium product from someone like Athletic Brewing.