More of the most memorable beers of 2012: Part Two

Are these the best beers of 2012? It’s a matter of perspective that can be as different as those that drink them. Photo: B.Kolesar/

WASHINGTON, DC, January 23, 2013 - Click here if you missed my review of the first half of 2012.

Part One featured memorable beers I encountered in travels around the world in 2012. The list continues here with the second half of the year with a focus again on the beers that left an impression and the people and places associated with the experience. I would imagine that your own list of favorite beers will include not only the memories of taste, but also the place in and with whom you drank.

Did any of the Russian River brews make the 2012 list of memorable beers?

July – Early July found me in San Francisco just long enough to take in the annual Breast Fest, of which I wrote glowingly after returning east. One beer that caught my fascination was the S’mores-in-a-glass-but-not-in-the-sickeningly-sweet-way-you-might-think Campfire Stout from the relatively new High Water Brewing Company. Steve Altimari, head brewer formerly from Valley Brewing in Stockton, at first had to convince me to try the first sample. Subsequent sample numbers two, three, and four could not come quickly enough.

August – Every summer, around the time of the Baseball Hall of Fame inductions, the Cooperstown, NY-based Brewery Ommegang hosts what is widely considered one of the country’s best beer festivals. The Belgian-themed festival is perfectly suited for Allagash Brewery from Portland, Maine and its open-fermented beers. Coolship Resurgam is one such beer that delivers tart fruity aromas and a mouthful of deliciously refreshing puckering tart fruit flavor. While hanging around with the good folks from Allagash at the 2012 festival, they ensured that I did not want for long, at least until there was no more to give.

September – Pennsylvania, my home state, is a highly desired market (particularly Philadelphia) of savvy beer drinkers for breweries to be selling its products. Therefore, it’s highly competitive and only the above average beers will survive the long-term where there are never enough tap handles and cooler space to come by. I spent part of September in Virginia (and, thus, drove through Maryland) and had the opportunity to taste some absolutely delightful beers from Starr Hill in Virginia (Charlottesville) and DuClaw in Maryland (multiple locations). Northern Lights IPA and Boxcar Pumpkin Porter from Starr Hill and EuForia Nut Brown Ale and Bad Moon Porter from DuClaw are a couple from each that stood head and shoulders above the rest. Coincidentally, they both began shipping a limited number of their beers for distribution in Philadelphia the following month. Lucky me. Lucky Philadelphia.

Duclaw Brewing Company from suburban Baltimore is growing the distribution of its well-regarded beers.

October – On trip to Richmond, Virginia, it was a bit of something new and a bit of something old. Getting the old out of the way first was the always dependably solid Legend Brown Ale at the brewpub with the scenic downtown backdrop across the James River. While the stop at Legend welcomed me into town, it was an unplanned and somewhat chance stop at the new Hardywood Park Craft Brewery at the edge of Virginia Commonwealth University that had me singing the praises — and returning home with some — of their Singel, a beautifully made Belgian Pale Ale weighing in at a very tasty and drinkable 5.0% ABV. If the trip to Richmond was not so rewarding, I would instead have given October praises to the St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition from Belgium’s Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck served up to me in the bar, The Imperial, of a most unique home furnishings store on the outskirts of downtown Orlando, Florida. Yes, you read that correctly. A bar inside a furniture store. A must-stop on any traveling beer geek’s proper itinerary. Forget Disney.

November – After Hurricane Sandy postponed my NYC Marathon plans until 2013, I found myself instead running the Harrisburg (Pa.) Marathon in November. What that meant from a beer perspective was that I got to bask in the glow of a PR (Personal Record) at the wonderful new incarnation (relocated from Harrisburg) of Tröegs Brewery just down the road in Hershey. My post-marathon beer intake typically consists of no more than two beers. In this case, it was the Scratch #78 beer, a Fresh Hop Ale showcasing the wonderful terroir of the Yakima Valley with 400 pounds of the region’s fresh hops. With wife, mom, and nephew sharing lunch, it made for the perfect celebration of great day.

December – The last month of the year was certainly no let down in the quality of beer. In this case, it was one on the west coast and one on the east coast. By now, you may have spotted a theme in the list with my leaning toward very well-made brown ales. At Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California, they teamed up a few years ago with award-winning home brewer Mike McDole to make his famed Janet’s Brown Ale, named in honor of his late wife. The beer is one that falls squarely into the realm of American Brown Ale (so as not to be confused with a maltier English Brown Ale), which showcases a surprisingly nice balance of dark malts and multiple hop additions and hides the 7.6% ABV quite well. On the east coast, a new brewery in the northern suburbs of Philadelphia stole the show with just a week remaining in the year. My first taste of Neshaminy Creek’s Trauger Pilsner (as well as their County Line IPA) has me convinced that these guys are going to be around for quite a while occupying shelf space in coolers like mine across the Philadelphia and northeast regions.

Click here if you missed my review of the first half of 2012.

Read more of Bryan’s work at After Hours in the Communities at the Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar


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