Kyle Harrop Shares Top 10 Beers of 2018
Editor’s note: As a yearly tradition, our dear friend Kyle aka Horus Aged Ales shares with us his favorite beers of the prior year. We hope you enjoy this well thought out list of beers and hope you get to try some or all of them.
It was hard to keep this year’s list from being really Stout heavy. I could have easily had ten Stouts for the top ten overall, but I tried to mix it up a bit. Although, getting those down to just four was exhausting because there were so many good ones in 2018. I spent the better part of this year trying to perfect my own Stout recipe and that meant drinking a lot of different ones to compare flavor profiles. However, that does not mean I did not enjoy a wide variety of other beer styles. Much like 2017, I traveled quite a bit for different events and festivals, which meant I got to try a wide variety of beer from the world’s best. Throughout all the sampling, these are the ten beers in no particular order that really stood out to me and left a lasting impression.
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Forager Brewery “Nillerzzzzz”
I first heard about these talented Minnesota folks through my buddy Levi at Funk Factory. I quickly sought out some of their mixed fermentation beers because he went on and on about them. They were fantastic. Then, I started to hear buzz about their Barrel Aged Imperial Stout named Magnus about a year later. Coincidentally, out of nowhere, a friend opened a bottle of Nillerzzzzz a few days after first hearing about Magnus. I admittedly had not even heard of it and had no idea what to expect. He told me it was a blend of Bourbon & Rye Barrel Aged Imperial Stouts aged on five different origins of vanilla beans and that is all I knew going into it. Right from the first sip, this blew my socks off. There was no evidence of its 14% ABV and it was incredibly complex. The beer was layered with all kinds of vanilla aromas and flavors. You could still taste the base beer through the adjuncts, it was not cloying at all, and there was a cool barrel character to it. It was like nothing else I had tasted before. I have had it four different times since and it is just as good as that first time.
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We are incredibly excited to announce our first can release of a Pilsner. Along with crowd favorites, The Fruit That Ate Itself and Experimental Jet Set, we are also releasing 6-packs of Compact Disc. Compact Disc is a German-inspired pilsner that was brewed with 100% locally grown and malted organic barley and lightly hopped with German Magnum as well as Loral. Refreshing, biscuity, and herbal, Compact Disc finishes crisp with a light citrus note. . When it came time to design the can for this beer, we couldn’t think of a better fit than our friend Clark Derbes. If you have ever visited Burlington, you have likely seen his work around town, whether it be a mural, electrical box, or a forgotten road. You also might recognize his work from the mural behind our stage, or the “house” in the @houseoffermentology logo. Any ways, it was an honor to work with you once again Clark. Thank you. . In conjunction with the release, Clark just put up a new art installation in the brewery. Additionally, we are selling an extremely limited run of Compact Disc t-shirts along with this release. $30 a pop. American Made. . Limits: – Experimental Jet Set 4x 4packs pp ($18 each) – The Fruit That Ate Itself 3x 4packs pp ($18 each) – Compact Disc 2x 6packs pp ($12 each) All limits are subject to change to meet demand. We have set aside allotments for Friday and Saturday releases at 11am as well as a Tuesday release at noon. . @clarkderbes #cd #compactdisc #keepchilledyall #artrules
Foam Brewers “Compact Disc”
2018 was the unofficial year of the Pilsner according to many in the craft beer world. I saw and tasted more American interpretations than ever. It was funny to see fellow brewers gravitating towards the style at festivals while attendees were queueing up for big Stouts and Lambics. I had a lot of good Pilsners this year, but the one that really stands out was the first beer I tasted from Foam in Vermont. I had this 5.6% ABV German Pilsner about six days after it was canned and the freshness popped. It was clean, with a moderate hoppy presence, and crisp bite. It had a really cool rustic bread flavor I had not really tasted in any other Pilsner before. What was most interesting with this one was that it was lightly carbonated for the style, but that gave it more body, helping boost the mouthfeel, and it still had a long lingering fluffy white head. I enjoyed this one on a particularly hot day. It was about as refreshing as it gets.
Modern Times Beer “Monster Tones”
Not only has Modern Times opened a bunch of cool new locations this year, but they continue to push the envelope on what is possible in brewing. These guys took the ‘Pastry Stout’ to new levels with this one. From the thickness to the Bourbon accents to the adjuncts, this had it all. This 50/50 split of Monster’s Park and Modem Tones aged in Bourbon maple syrup barrels with coffee, coconut, and vanilla clocked in at 13% ABV and was very memorable liquid in cake form. The flavor was like a cross between syrup covered pancakes and German chocolate cake. I think the thing that makes this beer most impressive is that it is not overly sweet. Every ingredient compliments one another and it was scary drinkable. I enjoy both of the base beers that go into this blend a lot individually, but I think the two work even better together. This Stout made beer geeks across the world wish they were part of their “Theory” club, myself included.
Other Half Brewing Company “Triple Citra Daydream”
Sam, Matt, Andrew, Anthony, Joe, and the rest of the OH crew are some of my favorite people in the business. They are pioneers in several facets of the industry and make every style they touch very very well. This 10.5% TIPA with oats and lactose is the most drinkable alcoholic beverage of this strength I have ever had. It is so inviting with a balance of creaminess and citrus. Other Half are masters of dry hopping. The tropical fruit presence, silky body, mild bitterness, and grapefruit finish all play important roles. It utilizes my favorite hop Citra and everything the hop has to offer, from pineapple to mango to fresh squeezed orange juice. The aroma compliments the mild sweetness and the mouthfeel is amazing. Again, it is so drinkable and juicy that it is dangerous. While I have enjoyed a few Triple IPAs, it is not one of my favorite styles by any means. With that said, it would be really easy to drink a four pack of this and I cannot say that about any other beer this big.
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Voodoo Brewing Company “Zangief”
Curt and company have been pumping out some of the best barrel aged beer in the world for the past eight years. ManBearPig was groundbreaking in 2016 and they have kept the pedal to the metal ever since. This fantastic blank canvas of a Stout showcases the High West barrel it spent nineteen months in wonderfully. The beer is so good that it would have been an injustice to add any adjuncts to it. The malt complexity of this beast, that is nearly 15% ABV, is unparalleled. There is every kind of chocolate you can decipher, great burnt caramel notes, subtle vanilla, and a hint of heat. You can taste how masterfully thought out this grain bill was and I love the fact that it tastes different than BBVD and Black Magick. As great as those beers are, this is something new and it is fantastic. Zangief may or may not be named after my favorite Street Fighter character as an added bonus. Each time I have tasted this Stout has been better than the previous time, which further leads me to believe this will age well for the next decade.
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales “A Thousand Summers”
I have been a big fan of SARA ever since I visited their brewery in Capitola with my wife for the first time four years ago. I have been a member of their bottle membership club ever since. Every single club exclusive release has been nothing short of amazing to date, but they really outdid themselves with this. It utilizes barrels from one of my favorite wineries in the world, Frederiksdal, the fantastic cherry wine producers in Denmark. Pair that with using my favorite variety of nectarines from my favorite farm in our home state of California, Masumoto, and here we are. This has a perfect level of acidity, you can taste the base, you can taste the unique barrel, and most importantly that signature SARA yeast strain is loud and proud. I do not know how this beer could get any better. It fires on all cylinders with an amazing stone fruit presence, tart cherry, oak, and a hint of vanilla. You can really smell and taste the quality of the nectarines from Del Rey. It will be quite fun to see how this ages, I just wish I had more than one bottle left.
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This Saturday 10/6 from 11:30AM-6PM at the brewery, we are happy to introduce dHop 15 (8.2% ABV DIPA) at $20 per four pack. Limit 1 case per person, limits subject to change. As we continue to experiment with hop combinations, we introduce Enigma for the first time in the dHop series along with a supporting hop bill. dHop 15 pours an opaque bright yellow and has an aroma of melon and light tropical fruits. Upon tasting, we get notes of white wine, earthy dankness, papaya, orange creamsicle and tropical fruit with and a very pronounced escalating brightness we like to call “EQ Juice”.
Equilibrium Brewery “dHop15”
On paper, this looks like a similar beer to hundreds of other 8% ABV DIPA cans floating around, but this is very different because it is immaculately executed. The guys at Equilibrium have science backgrounds and their approach to brewing is both obsessive and precise because of it. Their attention to detail is fascinating and it really shows here. This starts off with a huge complex melon punch, followed by papaya, and finishes with a bright dank bite. The color is beautiful and vibrant, the aroma is reminiscent of fresh juice and Sauvignon Blanc. Cantaloupe and honeydew comes out more as it opens up. Sixteen ounces was gone in no time. This takes me back to my first Equilibrium experience a few years ago, where I found myself exclusively sampling their different IPAs at a brewer’s bottle share before a festival with thousands of different beers to try. Something lured me to their beers then and something continuously brings me back. This might be my favorite thing they have ever put out and I have enjoyed everything.
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CANS STILL AVAILABLE Our 5th anniversary celebration continues this week with the first of two bottle releases. Strawberry Oblivion, our immensely fruited Strawberry sour, is on sale today! We kept asking ourselves, “is this worth it?” as we cut the tops off tiny strawberries, some no bigger than a thimble. Our eyes were starting to shake and become unfocused, our conversations were implanted with the word “strawberry,” unknowingly replacing the word we meant to say. 800 lbs, quite possibly 16,000 strawberries and 14 hours later, the 4 person team was finally finished hand processing the beautiful organic Albion strawberries out of Watsonville, CA. Again we wondered if the delirium was worth it? Well my friends, the results are in and all that effort was worth every slice! The 4 lbs per gallon of strawberries melds unbelievably well with the oak aged mixed-culture beer that it conditioned with (some of which had been aged with second use nectarines!). We smell huge aromas of fresh macerated strawberry, jammy preserves, as well as hints of underripe nectarine and some brett funk. The flavor follows suit with a blast of strawberry shortcake laced with lactic acidity, followed by peach skin, oak tannin and finishes with some lingering hop and brett earthiness. The carbonation is medium-high which lifts the flavors off you tongue leaving you with some peach skin like tannin, enticing you to take another sip. These 750mL bottles will be for sale at the bar today at NOON. Draft available. $27 per 750mL, limit 4 per person. Quick FYI, these are the same strawberries that were used a second time for Strawberry Shorty, our strawberry tart wheat ale. Again, joyful artwork by @robmosswilson, formatting by the always stumbling @thestumblefoot! We also have another fresh hoppy ale on today. Double Dry-Hopped Tiny Dankster pale ale is available to drink in house and to take growlers/crowlers to go. One of our often brewed ales, Tiny D harnesses the badassness of Citra, Mosaic and Nelson to deliver to you a cornucopia of citrus, pine and tropical fruit aromas and flavors. This batch has been double dry-hopped for even more dopeness! 6.2% ABV 40 IBUs Yes to Growlers/Crowlers
Cellarmaker Brewing Company “Strawberry Oblivion”
I will start off by saying that this is the best strawberry beer I have ever had. While drinking this beer, it reminded me of my being on my in-law’s farm in Wisconsin and biting into a fresh berry from the garden. This was just pure fruit up front. It is flawless and you can taste every ounce of the four pounds per gallon of strawberries used. The blend that the fruit was added to is unbelievably intricate. There are endless layers of oak, Brett, and funk. These guys are meticulous in everything they do, from hop selection to barrel sourcing to recipe production. I tried my first barrel aged sour from them at Festival of Funk this year and the nectarine or peach sour would have probably made this list, before I ventured to Tiger Tiger and tried this masterpiece. I cannot find a single thing wrong with this beer. The Albion strawberries from Watsonville are magical, as is the barrel aged sour blend they were added to. I will not be forgetting about this beer for a very long time.
American Solera “Life’s Distraction”
I had the pleasure of pouring next to Chase and Sam at Mikkeller Beer Celebration this year and I was stoked to try all eight of the beers they brought, as they were all outstanding. Sons of Darkness was the standout and I did not think they would ever be able to beat that Stout, but I was sure wrong. I will start off by saying that this is probably the thickest and sweetest barrel aged Stout I have tasted to date, it is dessert. I have never really had something with a mouthfeel like it, maybe Anabasis is the next closest thing. There is some mild heat but it does not seem anything close to 18% ABV and it is very smooth. Also, I am a huge blue corn whiskey fan and have gone through a lot of different Balcones bottles the past few years. The Dilemma base and these barrels work perfectly together with a huge chocolate brownie and caramel flavor. As it warmed, I tasted figs, molasses, maple syrup, and more fudge. The finish lingers and keeps you coming back for more. This is a boundary pushing beer that was executed impeccably and I am thankful to having the pleasure of drinking it two different times. It is art in the form of a big dark beer resembling motor oil.
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Collective Blend is our Blended Barrel-Aged Sour and currently one of our go to beers. This beer incorporates French Oak puncheons previously used in the Central coast of California for wines with Rhône type of varietals (such as Syrah or Grenache). Expect the grapefruit & funk character to be out front with subtle wet wood & citrus peel bitterness. _____ We also have a Cherum version of Collective Blend. The difference with this beer is that it spent 3 additional months resting on over 3 pounds per gallon of fruit from @sunnycalfarms. You’ll notice a slight appearance change and a bit more tartness in this cherum version. _____ Collective Blend & Collective Blend with Cherums is available in bottles at our Chinatown taproom for both in house consumption & to go. Stop by today! Blended sour BEER!
Highland Park Brewery “Collective Blend”
I have seen Bob from Highland Park at several festivals this past year, from local events to all the way in Copenhagen. Since I finally had some free time, I figured it was time to go visit his new spot in Chinatown before Lebron’s first home game as a Laker. Side note, this will be my new stomping grounds before any Dodgers game I attend in the future. After trying five different amazing lagers from him, he offered to open up a bottle of something he was very proud of. He opened this 6.1% ABV blended barrel aged sour ale that contained twenty-five percent spontaneously fermented beer. You could have fooled anybody in the room that this beer did not have any fruit in it. The aromas from the yeast gave off so much citrus including lemon, mandarins, and pineapple. The flavor was sharp in the best way possible, gave way to a load of funk in the finish, and was beyond refreshing. This beer is up there with the some of the classics from Belgium. I struggle writing this because I selfishly want to visit there each time and have the luxury of buying one from the cooler, but unfortunately now the secret is out.