My Top 20? Beers of 2017

So last year I told myself I wasn’t going to come up with a ‘best of’ beers list for the year. Reason being is that there’s so many beers you DON’T have, and you simply do not know if they were better than the ones you DID have. Does this make sense? Either way, I stuck to my plan. I didn’t really write anything down review-wise, I didn’t keep a tally and I didn’t really remember any extravagant palate destroyers. Beer is a bit more fun when you take a step back from it and just enjoy the god damn beer. In another shocking display of hypocrisy, I did develop 4 lists of Top 5 ____ beers, and thus – unknowingly a Top 20. Even when you win, you lose. So, without further ado, my very odd Top 20 Beers of 2017, in absolutely no particular order:

20) Veil – Old Lions
19) Veil – Misery Wizard
18) Veil – Vermicious Knid
17) Veil – Whangdoodle
16) Veil – Hornswoggler with Columbian Single Origin Coffee
15) New Glarus – Moon Man
14) 3 Sheeps – Paid Time Off
13) Third Space – Mocha Java Porter
12) Good City – Motto
11) Black Husky – Sproose 2
10) Samuel Smith – Oatmeal Stout
9) Dieu Du Ciel! – Peche Mortel
8) Victory – Storm King
7) North Coast – Old Rasputin
6) AleSmith – Speedway Stout
5) Mikerphone – Gettin Freaky
4) Fair State Co-Op – Spirit Foul
3) Old Nation – M-43
2) Tree House – Julius
1) Monkish – Foggy Window

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I’ve Been Drinking a lot of Veil Brewing Co Lately

So I’ve been drinking Veil like it’s going out of style. I really don’t have a specific point in which I decided to start acquiring them, yet here we are. Downing 16oz cans and barrel-aged bottles at breakneck pace. Typically running around $20 for 4-pk 16oz cans, the Richmond, VA based brewery has seen recent accolades due to their massive hoppy offerings, bourbon aged stouts, and experiments in spontaneous fermentation. Nearly everything I’ve had from them has kept my interest piqued, eager to try something else. I don’t like trading for beers, especially since WI has an embarrassment of great beer on shelves and in bars. But since beer is meant to be consumed, I started to trade some of the cellar stuff I had for some fresh hops, big stouts, and weird adjuncts from the Virginia brewery. Some nerds go nuts for Monkish, Tree House, and the other newcomers your local neckbeard boasts about. I’m sticking with Veil. Here are my favorite 5 I’ve had in 2017. WOOO!

5) Veil Brewing Old Lions – In late Spring, my Veil fandom became cemented. An 8.5% double ipa with juicy additions of Simcoe, Amarillo, and Motueka hops. A cloudy orange flavor bomb that had a huge malt backbone to combat the bitterness. An odd rustic, earthy note really rounded this out. Hard to explain but easy to sip.

4) Veil Misery Wizard – Black Friday isn’t just for crazed communal mall trips anymore, and if you’re reading this, you already know how big of a cash grab the day after Thanksgiving is for breweries. Veil is no exception – they held “Darkest Daze”, a Black Friday event showcasing 5 (?) different dark brews for sale in package among many other offerings on draft at the taproom. Matter of fact, most of the beers on this top 5 Veil list are from that day. Shoutout to 2 dudes who sent these my way after the event. ANYWAYS, Misery Wizard was an imperial porter with coffee and cherries. Reading that description, to say I was concerned or puzzled would be an understatement. However on first taste, you did get a little cherry sweetness with a large roasty coffee tone, followed by sweet cocoa. It was a mouth circus, an odd beverage that somehow wasn’t a confused mess. Would drink again. 10.7% collab with 18th St. Brewing.

3) Veil Vermicious Knid – First off, I don’t even know what a Vermicious Knid is. Secondly, this was described as, essentially, a sour milk stout. I do not like sour stouts, I prefer my sours to be sours and my stouts to be stouts. I don’t like when brewers cross the streams, just my personal taste. So, a tart chocolate milk stout aged in French oak red wine barrels for 15 months. This can’t be good right? Wrong. Quite possible the only sour stout I’ve ever enjoyed. Really, like a combination of chocolate stout blended with a funky red wine and a dash of bacteria. Another strange offering that had me going back to my glass to try and decipher it.

2) Veil Whangdoodle – A Willy Wonka bar in liquid form that took a nap in Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels for a year+. A delicious concoction that was thick, sweet, and full of vanilla and oak notes. 12%. Scary and sweet and I need more.

1) Veil Hornswoggler ‘Colombia El Obraje’ coffee – As I continue my quest to find the best coffee beers on the mainland, this one probably took the cake as best of the year. An impossible amount of coffee earthiness, chewy, with a dark plum/pomegranate slight sweetness in there too. Like drinking straight cold brew with a touch of lactose. I’d even say this balances the line of…’is this really beer’? Just a wonderful coffee stout, and better than their espresso version, and light years better than their peanut butter cup style as well.

K that’s it. I like the Veil. Why should they get their own top 5 post? I dunno, but it happened and I’m not deleting it. They don’t distribute outside of VA so if you want any, be prepared to shed some coin and/or brewskis. Thanks for reading. Happy New Year. Drink good beer. Try some new shit from an odd little place like Veil in Richmond, VA but also make sure to drink a Fat Tire or Cali Lager every now and then.

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Another Top 5 List – My Favorite WI Beers of 2017

Wisconsin, and Milwaukee in general, have stepped up their beer game. Still lots of #mediocrebeereverywhere, but we’re getting better. Here are my Top 5 beers produced in the dairy state this year.

5) New Glarus Moon Man Pale Ale – As if this wasn’t going to be on the list. Get real. The most drinkable beer ever brewed, probably.

4) 3 Sheeps Paid Time Off – No brewery has upped their game more than the boys from Shebaghdad. The beers they’re producing out of their new facility are light years better than their old stuff, I’ll go on record saying it too. Been a fan for awhile, but PTO was so dialed-in this year. A seamless blend of coffee, coconut, oak – truly a Mounds bar in a glass. A nice treat.

3) Third Space Mocha Java Porter – The best beer currently being made in Milwaukee sits in an old warehouse near the Menomonee River Valley. Upward Spiral, Happy Place, Acres Edge were all good too, but I continuously found myself going back for this sweet porter. 16oz cans at 8% (?) were just right. More available than the fantastic Nexus of the Universe or Haunted Barrel big stout releases, I just really liked the cocoa-forward Mocha Java.  2nd runnings were more balanced than their slightly astringent initial run.

2) Good City Motto – Mosaic pale ales speak to me. Elegant, simple can design in uber-crushable 12oz  format. I could put a sixer down with ease.

1) Black Husky Sproose 2 – Milwaukeeans, and especially the Riverwest folks are so goddamned lucky that Tim and Toni decided to pack up Pembine and brew here. Howler, Vain, Pale – all great, but it’s the spruce-induced flagship sticky ipa that I keep going back to. So wonderfully fresh on tap at the source. Close your eyes and be transported to the northwoods with each sip. Love this beer, as it’s virtually a hybrid between a gin & tonic and a double ipa. I love the mammoth spruce addition, akin to ingesting a liquefied pine tree.


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5 Shelf Stouts I Love

I was at Total Wine in Brookfield, WI the other day and a woman started a conversation with me about her beer preferences. Admittedly, she was new into beer, and expressed that she was not like ‘a normal craft beer fan’. Most novices, it seems, start out easy and light when they get into craft. Pilsners, wheat ales, brown ales, what-have-you. Not this one. She was into heavy, chewy stouts. The sweeter the better – Southern Tier Choklat was her favorite. How strange is that? Can you imagine when you first started getting into smaller batch brews? Did you reach for a 10% Hershey-syrup concoction? I certainly did not. I was intrigued at what else she had tried before, and ran through the top 3 of the list I’m about to give you.  “Never had it” to all that I mentioned. I was shocked. There are those widely recognized beers that you just gotta try so you can experience the benchmark of the style, right? ‘Not so fast’ says Lee Corso, and also this gal. The whole interaction got me thinking about my favorite, almost-always-available stouts. This time of year when the frost is constant and my joints crack in the cold, I get a hankering for a big-body stout. Here’s 5 I love.

5) Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout – I honestly can’t remember the last time I had one of these. Iconic import beers are losing space in stores due to hyper-local offerings, and, I’m guessing here – slow sales. But something about this English stout really increased my awareness of the style almost a decade ago. Thought I was “SO COOL BRUH” taking down that 550mL bottle initially. A 5% dark brew, accentuated by an odd dry finish that co-mingles with a bittersweet touch. Don’t think draught makes it to WI (or America at all?) and I hope to one day try this over yonder. The pinnacle English stout.

4) Dieu du Ciel! Peche Mortel – An expensive-ish Canadian coffee stout that’s sure to please anybody who digs coffee beers. (#teamcoffeebeer).  Our area never sees a lot of this stuff, but sometimes I find myself purchasing a 12oz bottle because it’s so damn good all.the.time. Was lucky enough to try this from the source, which is about the size of your living room. Massive coffee presence, silky smooth body, and a touch of carbonation. Sticky sweetness perfected. French for “Mortal Sin”, Peche Mortel hits 9.5% and will knock you on your ass. Not *technically* readily available, however it does tend to hang out for awhile at store level due to its high price. No matter, I’ll scoop a single up.

3) Victory Storm King Stout – An underappreciated year-round stout from out east. Dense, dark, and chocked full of bakers chocolate elements dancing with hop bitterness. A must try if you haven’t before. 9.1% so you’ll end up feeling weird in no time.

2) North Coast Old Rasputin – Frickin’ Rasputin, amiright?! Never say die. Pours a motor oil black, and contains a hoppier element than you’re probably used to in the style. A beer many take for granted, and in my opinion – a rare case in which the base stout is better than its barrel-aged counterpart. 4 pack bottles are a steal for the price point usually, especially since the liquid inside is so damn perfect. Pours an obsidian color with frothy eggshell head, clocks in at 9%, and an astounding 75IBUs. I first had this beer on a trip in Kansas City circa 2010(?) and my life has changed for the better since.

1) Alesmith Speedway Stout – In my opinion the best consistent stout made in America. Again, I love coffee beers, so if you’re not a fan of a caffeinated brew, this might not be for you. A beer I admire so much I don’t feel like I can correctly justify its sexiness. I’ll let them do it for you. Buy a bottle (for a steal around $14) and share it with a good friend. Or take it down yourself and be wired for a few hours. Either way, you’re winning.

What are your favorite stouts? Why? When? Thanks for perusing.

(imagine pictures going here)

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Cloudy Judgment: The Haze Craze of 2017

The New England Style IPA.  Five words that either delight or depress. No beer variety encapsulates the dumpster fire that was 2017 more than this hazy/juicy hybrid. Both lauded and loathed, this anti-Reinheitsgebot beverage was seemingly produced non-stop by east and west coast breweries alike, for astounding prices. Years behind on the trends like we always are, even midwest brewers got in the mix, producing truckloads of misty, murky pea soup cans. Now, the style has made its way into the iconic brewery realm – Sierra Nevada is producing cans of ‘Hazy Little Thing’ – an unfiltered, unprocessed IPA.

Somewhere along the way, I think, the style began to be judged by HOW hazy it was. The cloudier the better. Nevermind that the look of a beer falls in distant 3rd or 4th most important when describing a brew, obviously aroma and taste being the forefront. If a beer tastes like orange juice concentrate – awesome! Gritty, metamucil sediment pouring from that bottle/can – amazing! When beer no longer tastes like beer, I guess I’m missing the hype. As I’m writing this, I’m angrily enjoying an Old Nation M-43. Yet again contradicting myself, this opaque brew is loaded with hoppy bursts of Amarillo, Citra, Calypso and Simcoe. It’s reminiscent of fresh squeezed orange juice with a garnish of pine. It’s good. I’ve had a few of them. Maybe I should stop shitting on a style/look of beer, and just enjoy it? Nah.

Was having a discussion on twitter about NE IPAs vs Hazy brews. It reminds me of the Porter/Stout conundrum that doesn’t exist.  Are all hazy brews trying to be NE IPAs? Are NE IPAs longing to just be hazy? The best hazy, unfiltered brews from the midwest clearly come from northeast Iowa. Toppling Goliath makes great ones, but I would attest that they are juicy, unfiltered pale ales. To constitute a NE IPA, a brewer must add an adjunct such as brewers flour (apparently this is a thing, just kidding, or am I), or dry-hop the shit out of it, very late in the process. Or a word I’ve just come to know – flocculation – yeast on steroids that refuses to settle down with just one man/woman. Sediment has feelings, too. Science is hard.

So what am I doing here? Rating my 5 favorite cloudy yellow beers I had in 2017. I’m not limiting it to just NE IPAs, I’m throwing juicy pales, midwest murk, and all other foggy fermented ales into the mix too. All in, I had just under 50 of them since Jan 1. Here are my favorites.

5) Mikerphone – Gettin Freaky
A Milkshake IPA w/ Peaches, Lactose & Vanilla Beans. Thick, sugary IPA with that added fruity element that finished sweet. Transcending the line of beer and dessert after-dinner drink. I took down an entire bomber with ease, which I believe constituted my entire daily value of vitamin C. Thanks Mikerphone.

4) Fair State – Spirit Foul
Probably the beer that tasted most like actual beer on this list. Well-balanced, hop-forward, tropical notes, addition of oats. A hazy, swell beer. Originally didn’t like it as much, but the more I drank – the more I enjoyed? Brewed in collaboration with Modern Times brewery from Cali. Fair State is from Minneapolis, and is a co-op venture. 4-pack 16oz cans. 6% abv.

3) Old Nation – M-43
The NE IPA is not recognized by the brewers association and that’s ok. The Michiganders behind this & more rotund brother, Boss Tweed, have seemingly perfected this style. Cloudiness created from the malt they use and the interplay of the oils and acids in the hops they add. Whatever. I’m getting exhausted talking about it. It’s very fruity and I get mango, pineapple, and a little stone fruit/melon foreplay.

2) Tree House – Julius
Does Orange Julius know about this? C&D coming immediately if not. But yeah, everyone wants the Tree House. They line up for hours. They buy hundred dollar cases. They freak out. I hyped this up too much of course, but the waves of peach and nectarine do dazzle the palate. It’s a nice brew.  I’ve yet to try much else from them, simply because getting it is currently not worth the hassle. I’ll grab the other T’s – Transient and Trillium in the meantime. See, everyone’s on the haze craze!

1) Monkish – Foggy Window
I had this very early this year, and I recall it being extremely good. Nelson, Galaxy, Citra. Massively overpacked with fruit flavor, resin-y stickiness, hops were there. Even the name is hazy!

Other exceptional brews include Toppling Goliath King Sue, Noble Aleworks Double Platinum, Veil Old Lions, Tired Hands…something I can’t remember, and one of the craziest beers I’ve had – Magnify’s Most Important Meal. Perhaps I’ll continue to dismiss the hype and embrace the unknown.  Maybe I’ll just continue being angry for no reason and give in to the blurry, bleary beers. Choose your own adventure.

Thank you for reading this lazy, detestable piece about a topic I understand little about. It’s downright dangerous to publish this, but I live on the edge. Above the Clouds.



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Twitter Folks Talk to Me About GTMW 2017

Beer festivals are typically awful, run-of-the-mill, drunken stupors starring someone you didn’t ever want to see again after high school. Not so with the 31st (!!!) Great Taste of the Midwest, put on by the fine folks of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. It is essentially “Beer Christmas”, as I’ve called it. The vibe, the aura, the power of the fest is unmatched. Normally the weather is pristine (it was again this year), the people are courteous and jovial, and the breweries bring their best liquid. Everyone has different schemes to attack the fest (timed tappings or no timed tappings?) (Drink by style?) (Only visit people you’ve never heard of?) and all of them are correct.

Since this was my first GTMW that I wasn’t able to fully experience, I relied on some Twitter friends for my annual blog post covering the event. Simple instructions were to provide me with your favorite beer experience of the day. Have fun with it, get emotional, really dive into the depths of your brain to tell me about your favorite beer and why. I didn’t want just a beer review – I wanted an anecdote about how they felt when they tried something they really, truly enjoyed. Tasting beer is an experience, in a communal gathering place, a way to reminisce about the best of times. Here’s what I was given:

Kevin @Kagecentral:
My Favorite beer at the fest was New Glarus 2016 R&D Geuze. Another reminder of the beer mastery we have regular access to and I sometimes take for granted. Also was the first festival my wife and I have gone to since having our first kid, and we were able to get drunk together (instead of just me getting tipsy). She agreed that was her favorite beer, and that beer is awesome and worth driving to Madison for. Those choice affirmations feel great.

Russell @rehaug:
It was 3:17 and I found myself deciding between standing in line for the 3:30 tapping of Great Lakes BA Christmas Ale or grabbing another beer in-between. I began making my way to the nearby Real Ale (cask) tent, dodging a stumbling, sweaty pirate en route. I quickly scanned the list of casks and then stopped in front of Lakefront’s Brandy Barrel Cherry Lager with Vanilla. “#20,” I confidently ordered with a knowing grin, which was met with the volunteer telling me that cask beers are much different from kegged beers and was I sure I would like it? I nodded politely, took my sample, and walked away, realizing with each sip that this festival houses hidden gems everywhere you look.

Max @Max_ofthe_Shire:
I’ll start by saying that a friend of mine brought in a bunch of delicious delicacies from the Northwest, so I had way too much on Thursday. That all-too-familiar feeling carried into Saturday, so lessons were learned at my first Great Taste. I came in expecting Ardea Insignis or Morning Delight to take the day, but I was blown away by BA Maple Vlad from Hailstorm. It had just enough coffee for my liking and the purest maple flavor I’ve tasted in a beer. I tried their vanilla and coffee variants which were also great, but nothing measured up to Maple Vlad on that day.

Kyle @KyleNabilcy:
The beer world is fraught with shitty names. “$100 Yoga Pants” feels like it could be right in line with the sarcastically misogynistic standard. Thankfully, Corridor Brewing doesn’t appear to go in that direction with its $100 Yoga Pants cucumber blonde ale. The beer is crisp and refreshing, without being obnoxiously cucumbered, and the brewery resists gross gender jokes in its description of the beer. It was a refreshing pour that lasted long into the day, probably a victim of what people thought it might have been instead of being celebrated for what it was.

Chris @WSJBeerBaron:
“…So I had two highlights, one from his yin and one from my yang. My favorite pour of his was Solemn Oath’s Oktöberface, a take on märzen that I found particularly malty and sweet, though not cloyingly so, and unusually intense for the style – though right on par with how Solemn Oath would approach it. The most successful pour in the other direction was Cherry Sour from Upland. I love Upland’s traditional sours, but they have some serious pucker so I wasn’t sure how this would go over with Dad. But this one wasn’t an acid bomb, and that wood character worked in perfect harmony with the woody, pit-like character of the cherries.”

Michael @BeerDazed:
Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a full-fledged barrel-aged (bourbon) stout guy. Imperial Oak Brewing’s Quiet Giant absolutely nailed it for me. Ultra dark, rich, and complex with notes of smooth bourbon, cinnamon and vanilla stopped me still in my tracks after sip number one. I actually knew this was going to be a winner from just the appearance of this brew in my glass. Fine, mocha-colored head, viscous motor oiled liquid, and the aroma. I may have went back for a second pour.

My personal favorite of the day was the first beer that I tried – Mikerphone “That One Guitar”. Hazy IPAs are about as played out as Bryan Adams’ “Summer of 69”, but I’ll be damned if my first sip in the hot sun wasn’t my best experience of the day. The thirsty beer masses descending on their first brewery of the afternoon, the sound of ravenous neckbeards storming the grassy hills. Close second was New Glarus’ draft version of  Pommier Sauvage, an older R&D release that was full of dry, sour apple deliciousness paired with champagne note while a cool, steady breeze danced over me.

A huge thank-you to my esteemed panelists who lent me their words for my second post of 2017. I took no pictures, so you get no pictures. You get a recap list of these people’s stellar suds of the day. You won’t find them on shelves, but you could find them at 2018’s Great Taste of the Midwest.

New Glarus R&D Vintage 2016
Lakefront Brandy Barrel Cherry Lager with Vanilla (firkin)
Hailstorm Barrel-Aged Maple Vlad
Corridor $100 Yoga Pants
Solemn Oath Oaktoberface
Upland Cherry Sour
Imperial Oak Quiet Giant
Mikerphone That One Guitar

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Milwaukee Beer Week 2017 – Isn’t Every Week ‘Beer Week’?

The St. Pats shenanigans are over, the spring thaw is upon us, and the weather teeter-totters like a teeter-totter. Baseball season is underway. Milwaukee beer week is almost upon us. Let’s dive in:

Once again, Milwaukee Beer Week is using the same awful website layout with the same terrible user interface and whatnot. Some things never change. Something that has changed is the inclusion of self-distributed brewers being involved in the festivities. It’s a welcome concept, especially since they were all essentially shut out in years’ past.  We’re ~2 weeks away from the kickoff date, and I’m disheartened to see such little participation thus far. Seems to me that either beer reps are doing less events this year, or they’re just behind on submitting them. I sure hope it’s the latter, as Beer Week gives me a great excuse to leave the house, every night, for beer-related activities. FOR SCIENCE!

Saturday April 22 – The Bruery /Bruery Terreux dominate my plans this day. A vintage keg or two alongside other new stuff, as well as a bevvy of bottle pours. The west coast sour/adjunct brewers are never cheap in price, but the end result typically blows me away. The hue/aroma/mouthfeel of Bruery jams are always intriguing. Rumpus always features flights as well. They’ll open early at 2pm I believe. Highly recommended.

Sunday April 23 – I, for one, am excited that Half Acre is being sold in Wisconsin. I’ve enjoyed many so far, and I’m sure I’d enjoy them more at Burnhearts. Lots of big beers here alongside some live music, starting at 5pm. Navaja is scary good. Looking to try the Tuna.

Monday April 24 – Sober up at home.

Tuesday April 25 – After the Central Waters dinner at Morel, stop by Camino for the after-party around 9pm. Milwaukee loves Amherst.

Wednesday April 26 – Uber, take the wheel.  We have the always-packed Burnhearts Central Waters showcase, the annual Goose Island beer dinner at Tess, and a new player coming to the plate – Brown Bottle throwing down a gauntlet of Founder’s brews. Founders takes over every tap at this former Schlitz-heavy bar. KBS will be flowing, with a portion of the proceeds going to a veteran’s initiative nearby.  Always enjoy drinking great beers for a good cause.  After Brown Bottle, I’ll be meandering over to the Hi Hat/Garage for the ‘Big Hugs & Handshake’ event. For those of you lucky enough to know him, the Boulder rep Eric is a hilarious cat. This event essentially has the customer spinning a game show wheel to possibly enjoy a Half Acre Big Hugs stout, or a Boulder Chocolate Shake porter. Furthermore, lucky participants either get to hug the Half Acre rep, or shake the hand of the Boulder rep. It’s so dumb that it just might work. Creepy and beautiful at the same time really.

Thursday April 27 – Friendly neighborhood bar owner Mike Romans is gonna break out some Goose specialties starting at 6pm. 2013 BCS, 2015 BCBW, and…oh yeah…the 2015 BCS Regal Rye, one of my favorite beers ever. After you get kicked out, swing on through to the 2nd Annual Beer Week Supplier Karaoke Throwdown at Fixture Pizza Pub. This 2nd street haunt has steadily become one of my favorite spots to drink in the city – they consistently have an incredible beer list that must be experienced. I’ll be there as I like to silently judge terrible karaoke singers while not having the balls to go up there and sing something myself. Rap karaoke is a cop out. The tunes start at 9pm.

Friday April 28 – Go out for happy hour with the coworkers you don’t hate.

Saturday April 29 – the return of Tess’ backyard bbq event. This was amazingly fun and the weather was fantastic last year. Enjoy some smoked meats with some draft beer bombs at this awesome east side venue. Much like an unruly United airlines policeman, this lineup can get out of hand quick, so pick and choose your liquid carefully.

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