Friday, December 16, 2011

Got Your Year End Beers Picked Out?

2012 is almost upon us.  As 2011 comes to a close, I'm looking back over many of the various beers I've had this year and trying to decide what my selections will be for around the holidays - especially considering the fact that I'm planning on a 'dry' January

You may already be aware that a few different places are celebrating the year's end with things like the `12 Days of Beer' (I believe this event is over now - sorry) or the Bottle Sale & Gift Wrapping event going on this weekend at Beveride Place Pub in West Seattle (Dec. 18th - 1-7PM).

(From Beveridge Place Pub's Website):
We’ll pull up rare offerings from the cellar from great breweries like Avery, Dogfish Head, Full Sail, Hair of the Dog, Harvieston, Hitachino, North Coast, Russian River, and more! We’re selling these rarities “to go” at retail prices! The selections will make perfect gifts for the beer geek in your life, even if that beer geek is YOU!  Bottle selection will be available soon.

As for me, I've already been enjoying some great holiday beers this season, including Hoppy the Woodsman from Schooner Exact Brewing, Jolly Roger Christmas Ale from Maritime Pacific Brewing, and Lagunitas Sucks - Holiday Ale - Brown Shugga Substitute from Lagunitas Brewing, among many others. 

Some of you may be aware that I've been wanting to plan a special Firestone Walker event for myself and perhaps 1-2 other friends this holiday season.  Well, since I haven't been able to schedule a good time that works for everyone before the end of the year, I've decided I'm going to be a bit greedy and have that event all for myself & my wife, Lynn. 

The lineup?  That would be Firestone Walker Brewing's entire 'Proprietor's Reserve' series; including their XIIIth, XIVth and XVth Anniversary Ales.  Starting on the evening of Friday, December 23rd, I plan to enjoy them in the following order through New Year's Eve:

Firestone Walker's outstanding (and their first ever) Imperial IPA.  I find it just slightly maltier than some other Iperial IPA's, but it creates a perfect balance with the intense hop bitterness.  While I don't usually settle on just one, this is (at least currently) my #1 favorite beer.

Rich and dark, with notes of toffee, caramel and chocolate, and an complex malt character with five different specialty malts as well as oat and barley flakes.  An outstanding Porter.

Firestone Walker's main barleywine (they have others used for blending only).  This is a big beer!  Clear alcohol strength, mellowed by aging in American bourbon oak barrels, with undertones of chocolate, vanilla, tobacco, coconut & a touch of dark cherry. 

A truly outstanding, barrel-aged stout, and one of many components of Firestone Walker's blended Anniversary beers (which are always a blend of several differnt Firestone beers - many of which are not sold separately; they are created solely for blending purposes).  Bold bourbon and tobacco aromas prevail as well as a rich, chocolaty/oaky flavor.  It's absolutely delicious.

Number 3 in Firestone Walker's Anniversary series (the first one was Xth Anniversary).  I have never had this beer and was only able to obtain one bottle.  I'm truly looking forward to enjoying it, nay savoring it... slowly.  XIII is  complex blend of 7 different Firestone Walker beers (again, many of which are not available seperately - they are only for blending purposes).  I tried my best to find some Xth, XIth and XIIth Anniversary bottles, but to no avail. 

This was the first Firestone Walker Anniversary beer I ever had (I didn't discover Firestone Walker until just last year!), and I instantly fell in Love. 

A truly complex and unique offering, this anniversary selection is a blend of 6 different Firestone Walker beers.  The largest percentage of the blend (29%) is one of my personal favorites - which I've been fortunate to have on tap at least a couple of times (which is extremely rare): Sticky Monkey: A 12% English Barleywine aged in Bourbon and Brandy barrels.  I've been urging Firestone walker to release this one on it's own, and I hope, at some point, they do. 

Finally we have this year's anniversary offering, which I've already had a few times this yearThis one is a blend of 8 different Firestone Walker beers, including Double Jack Imperial IPA - giving it a hoppier character than XIII or XIV, as well as a new barleywine created for blending called Halldorado.  Vanilla custard and chocolate characters become more apparent as the beer warms up a bit towards 55 degrees. 

I bought a half case of this been when it arrived this year, but I've been enjoying it so much I think I only have two left. I'll enjoy one this holiday season and then save the other one for at least a year.

Yes.  Again.  What can I say?  It's my favorite IPA - and I'm a serous 'hop head'.  lol 

Next year, I'll be eager to get my hands on some new Firestone Walker offerings that will be arriving:

Surrender the Wookey or Han Solace gets it!  lol  Or, better yet, just surrender yourself to the Wookey.  This is Firestone Walker's foray into the World of black IPA's.  I'll be honest, despite being a huge IPA fan, I'm still having trouble finding more than a few black IPA's I like, but I have high hopes for this one.  It arrives in March 2012.  I'll let you know. 

An imperial version of Firestone Walker's flagship DBA, Firestone is billing it as quite similar to DBA, but X2.  "English caramel malts lend rich toffee character that pairs well with assertive medium toast American oak barrels."  This one is due to arrive in July 2012. 

This is Firestone Walker's 'new' version of their Abacus barleywine (Note that §ucaba is Abacus spelled backwards).  The name change is due to a dispute with a winery that had an existing offering also named Abacus.  I'm eager to see how different (or similar) it will be to the current version of Abacus I've tried.  This one is due out in February 2012. 

Also on hand for my drinking pleasure this holiday season, I have:

The Abyss 2011 - From Deschutes Brewing
Hop Stoopid - From Lagunitas Brewing
Pliny the Elder - From Russian River Brewing

And today, on my way home, I plan on making a stop at my local bottle shop for some Belgian offerings.  I haven't decided which ones yet, so I'll have to let you know. 

So what beers are you planning to enjoy this holiday season?  Make a trip to your local bottle shop, talk to the staff and have them help you find some holiday beers you'll enjoy.  Or, if you like, you can join my in my tribute to Firestone Walker's Proprietor's Reserve series.  Most of the FW beers I've listed here can be found at Super Deli Mart in West Seattle (forget about XIIIth Anniversary though - I got his last bottle a month or so ago).  FYI, though, I believe they are currently out of Double Jack. 

Drink responsibly and stay safe out there! 

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