2009 Beer in Review – Ten Beer Highlights

January 6th, 2010 · 10 Comments · Beer Reviews, Beer Travels, California Beer, Events, General Beer News, Oregon Breweries, Washington Breweries

Fresh Hop Mirror Pond at the Deschutes Pub in Portland

Well, obviously the highlight of 2009 for me was getting engaged. But, there were plenty of beer highlights that fall in line behind that wonderful moment. I’ll be putting up a few posts over the next couple of days to call out some of my favorite beers, places, and happenings from the year just passed and to take a gander at what lies ahead in 2010. Note that these are only my thoughts on what was great in 2009. I didn’t hit every event, and I didn’t try every beer that came out. I sure don’t recall every beer perfectly, either. Everyone has different opinions as well. Please do leave a comment and let us know what you think.

We’ll start things off with ten beer highlights from 2009. Some of these are new beers, and some are just new to me or blew me away at some point this year. I’m not going to say these are the “ten best beers of 2009”; they are 10 beer highlights from the year.

1) Deschutes Fresh Hop Mirror Pond – You can read my gushing review of this beer here. Just thinking about it makes me thirsty. I tasted a ton of fresh hop beers this year, and this one stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Quite possibly my perfect session beer. If only this could be as widely available as the regular Mirror Pond…

2) Hair of the Dog Bourbon Fred From the Wood – First had the opportunity to try this at the HOTD open house during the Oregon Brewers Fest and loved it. Then, it took 1st place at the recent Brouwer’s Big Wood festival. If this comes out in bottles next year (as was rumored at one point), I’ll be making the trip down to Portland for sure.

3) Fish Tale Barrel-Aged Leviathan Barleywine – I shared a 2001 bottle of this with some friends in Colorado earlier this year, and it was more amazing than I had imagined it would be. Tons of brown sugar, maple, oak and dark fruit. Even after 8 years in the bottle, there was very little oxidation. Anyone who says that absolutely no beer should ever be aged should be served some of this and then kicked in the balls.

4) Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, Laurelwood Workhorse IPA, & Ballast Point Sculpin IPA – All four of these IPAs are mind-blowingly good. The Union Jack has become my go-to $4/22oz bottle of IPA for sippin’. We don’t see the Blind Pig with any regularity in Seattle, but when I see it on tap I can’t help but grab one (or three). The Laurelwood is draft only and not available in Seattle, but I sure do hope they decide to start bottling it someday. The Sculpin wasn’t available anywhere around here, but it was one of the favorite IPAs I got my hands on this year (through trading). Yes, I just listed four beers for one place. Sue me.

5) Black Raven Trickster IPA – This was probably my favorite WA IPA of the year. I think the still-new Black Raven has gotten their consistency down with this, and it has tasted amazing the last few times I’ve had it. My “wow” moment with this one came at a beer dinner at Ray’s Boathouse, when it was served in succession with the Double Mountain Hop Lava IPA. I love the Hop Lava, but the Black Raven blew it away comparatively at that dinner; made me realize how ridiculously good the Trickster is when it’s “on”. Black Raven dethroned Boundary Bay as the house IPA at Beveridge Place Pub in West Seattle for 2010, so I’ll be drinking my fill of this elixir over the next 12 months.

6) Hair of the Dog Matt – HOTD definitely deserves to have two beers on this list. This release for Bottlework’s 10th Anniversary was complex and immediately pleasing, but also built to last. I can’t wait to pop one open sometime soon to see how it is aging. The other Bottlework’s anniversary release, New Belgium X, was great in its own right, but it seemed to be completely overshadowed by this gem.

7) Port Townsend Bourbon Barrel Imperial Porter – I had a glass of this at Naked City in October, and I’m just hoping I see it again someday. It was silky smooth, with intense porter flavors and just the right amount of bourbon flavor. Dear Port Townsend: I’d highly suggest entering this at GABF!!! This bourbon version is not to be confused with the “oak” version we saw around Seattle as well.

8 ) Chuckanut Rauchbier – I can’t say I’ve had very many smoke beers from American breweries that I could also call a session beer. Chuckanut’s Rauchbier is just that, though. The smoke isn’t too intense, and it mixes perfectly with the slightly sweet bready malts. I love smoked beers, and this one is outstanding.

9) Cascade Apricot and the rest of the Cascade Sour Lineup – I think I had tried the Cascade Apricot one time prior to 2009, but after having it several times in the past year it has become a favorite of mine for sure. Just an amazing beer from an amazing brewery. Other sour beers sampled from Cascade in 2009: Sang Royal, Vlad the Imp Aler, The Vine, Nightfall Blackberry, Kriek, Cuvee du Jongleur, Mouton Rouge, and Gold Yeller. Man, just writing all of those brings back good memories.

10) Marin Brewing White Knuckle Double IPA – This was the surprise winner of the Double IPA category at the Washington IPA Challenge. It tasted outstanding that day. I purchased another bottle later in 2009 in Portland that I’m assuming was old, because it kind of sucked (I should have known; it wasn’t in a fridge, and hidden behind a pole). I choose to remember the version that the WA IPA judges ruled (in a blind judging) was better than other outstanding beers such as Pliny the Elder, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, Port Hop 15, and Oskar Blues Gordon.

Honorable mention: Snipes Harvest Ale, Pike Double IPA, Big Al Winter Warmer, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Widmer Brothers Cherry Oak Doppelbock, North Coast Old Rasputin Anniversary Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout, Rock Bottom Bellevue Hop Bomb, Drake’s Port Barrel Imperial Cherry Stout, Big Al Belgian IPA, New Belgium Bottleworks X, Port Townsend Coffee Stout on Nitro, Russian River Pliny the Elder, Ommegang Rouge, Big Time Perspective IPA, Water Street Call Me A Cab, RAM Toasted Coconut Porter, Iron Horse Whiskey Oaked Belgian Black, Hair of the Dog Cherry Adam, Firestone Walker 13, Cambridge Brewing Benevolence, too many fresh hop beers to list, and tons of other stuff that I’m leaving out (I had to cut myself off somewhere).


10 Comments so far ↓

  • Russ

    This post makes me thirsty

  • BeerBlotter.com

    Geoff – great list. Seriously close to what we would have listed. I think that White Knuckle, Fred from the Wood, Matt, Port Townsend Imp Porter, and all Cascade Sours (SANG NOIR!) are perfectly located.

    Only criticism was Fresh Hop Mirror Pond at #1. Actually, I dont think it would have made our list, as we are somewhat turned off by fresh hop pales (we like heavy malt with our fresh hops – we’re spoiled). But, I did enjoy this beer down in PDX at the pub – pleasantly surprising.

    A couple others to love for 09:

    Black Raven Wisdom Seeker 2x IPA
    Snipes Diminished Returns 2x IPA
    HOTD BOB Lambic (Big Wood #2)
    Elysian-New Belgium Trip IV
    HUB Ace of Spades 2x IPA
    Russian River Supplication and Sanctification

    Good work!


  • Beer Blotter

    Great List! Couldn’t agree more about Black Raven Trickster, HOTD Fred and Port Townsend Barrell Aged Porter. Although, all of your mentions are well deserving. Happy New Year!

  • Angelo

    Stellar list, Geoff. I do love that fresh hop MP. Can’t argue with any of the others. I hope we can make it up to Seattle this year. Didn’t make it up in ’09. If so, we’ll have to grab some beers.

  • mikedahg

    Bourbon Fred from the Wood? 01 Barrel-Aged Leviathan ? I think I just shat myself at the idea.

  • Bierfesten

    Good list, as it is quite hard to narrow down to a top 10. Thought the HOTD Matt was outstanding at Brouwers Wood Fest. HOTD Jim at Portland Winter fest was also one of my faves this year. Thought some of the Herbert IPA’s from Seattle brewers were great in 09. Good list.

  • UBH

    Cascade sours are the — ahem — cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.

  • Seattle Beer Girl

    Of note, Fred from the Wood came out in bottles, just a very limited number of them!


  • elvis

    great overview.

    agree that Trickster is very good. in mentioning so many HOTD beers and IPAs in general, not one mention of Blue Dot? I think that beer might be one of the best, and most balanced, double IPAs out there (and weighs in at a 7.0, so it’s not going to send you home in the bag).

    also, one beer i would mention is the Firestone Velvet Merkin. Great beer.

  • Kevin

    +1 for Union Jack and Blind Pig being fantastic IPAs.

    I have the same problem finding Blind Pig in Eugene. Pliny has received so much hype that is stocked everywhere, leaving no room for the pig.

    I lucked out on a trip to the Bier Stein the day before Thanksgiving. They were serving Russian River on all their tap handles. BP, Pliny and several ‘Tion brews brews were available.

    +1 for Cascade.

    Cascade was new for me in 2009. Everything I’ve tried from them has been fantastic; from my first go-around with their Apricot Ale to the last brew I tried, Sang-Noir.

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