It’s the start of a new year, when people like to look back and write about what they liked and didn’t like about the last 12 months. Personally, I’ve never really been a “best of” or “top ten” kinda guy. Even when I was doing my radio show, I found it hard to do year-end retrospective programs, and usually ended up selecting stuff to play almost at random rather than trying to decide on favourites.
Still, it’s almost expected that prolific (or in my case, semi-prolific) bloggers offer up some thoughts on the year that was in whatever topic they happen to cover. So here’s a summary of my year from a beery perspective.
I rang in the new year with a world-renowned beer that left me feeling sort of “meh“, and then disappeared for a bit to work on a new project with my wife, returning towards the end of the month with some editorial commentary, and an announcement about the aforementioned new project – Taste T.O. – where my first Beer of the Week column was a look at Steam Whistle Pilsner. Based on my entries at RateBeer, it looks like it was a relatively quiet month for new brews – I only entered 15 ratings, with Hair of the Dog Fred from the Wood Barley Wine being my favourite.
I was very happy to start the month with a quick trip to Seattle, a city that I had wanted to visit for years. Unfortunately, after one night on the town, I spent the rest of my stay battling a stomach bug and didn’t get to see nearly as much of the city as I’d hoped. In other blog posts, I slightly belatedly welcomed Lew Bryson to the world of beer blogging, and posted my thoughts on a quintet of brews from Winnipeg’s Half Pints Brewery. I also fell off the almost-vegetarian wagon just in time for a fantastic Brooklyn Brewing dinner at beerbistro, while my Beers of the Week on Taste T.O. included C’est What Mild Brown Ale, Brooklyn Lager, Heritage Passion Brew and Denison’s Weissbier. My trip to Seattle and a couple of tastings gave me 40 new beers for the month, with Cantillon Lou Pepe Pure Kriek being the pretty clear winner.
This was the first month for The Session, our monthly beer blogger round-up thingie. The Session was suggested, and the first instalment hosted, by Stan at Appellation Beer, who set the theme as “Not Your Father’s Irish Stout”, which was just fine by me. Mid-month saw the sad passing of Olive, the lovely dog from the Smuttynose Old Brown Dog label. I watched Beerfest with the boys, and enjoyed it more than I expected (I imagine the beer we were drinking during the viewing helped in that regard…). Beers of the Week were Fuller’s Cask-Conditioned ESB, Gayant La Goudale, Trafalgar Celtic Pure Irish Ale and Fuller’s London Pride. RateBeer has only 3 new entries for me in March, although I was late entering ratings from the Beerfest tasting, so the total was actually 16, with Unibroue 16 fittingly in the lead.
This was a pretty quiet month, apparently. Only two posts to the blog: one for the Session, which was hosted by Alan at A Good Beer Blog and featured dubbels; and the other being one of my few ill-advised posts for a “get paid to review stuff” service that I’ve since left. The new beer count for the month was 9, with Nøgne Ø God Jul coming out on top. Beers of the Week were Atlantic au Pineau, Duchy Originals Organic Ale, Wellington Arkell Best Bitter and Hockley Dark.
The further I get into this review, the more I realise how little I actually wrote on this blog in 2007. Only three posts in May, and one of them was about martinis rather than beer. There was also an obligatory Session post – this one on milds, as hosted by Jay at Brookston Beer Bulletin – and an obligatory “complaining about not having enough time to post to my blog” post, where I rounded up my recent Beer of the Week columns. Speaking of which, they were Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale, Hockley Stout, PC Blanche, Creemore Springs Traditional Pilsner and Black Oak Pale Ale. On May 25th, I hit C’est What‘s Spring Festival of Small Breweries, which combined with a tasting night got me to 32 new beers for the month. Best of the lot was Southampton Grand Cru.
The Session theme this month, as selected by snekse at Gastronomic Fight Club, was local brews, which allowed me to lazily recycle part of my Taste T.O. Beer of the Week post on Black Oak Pale Ale. Other than that, it was another cricket-chirping sort of month on the ol’ blog, although in real life, I went to a big brewery sponsored lobster dinner. Ye olde Beers of the Week were Gubernija Grand 9.5, Mill Street Cherry Beer, Hacker-Pschorr Hefeweisse, and Castlemaine XXXX Export Gold, and I hit 28 new beers for the month, with my fave being the tongue-twistingly named Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2005.
This month, the Session got a bit more esoteric, as the guys at Hop Talk chose “Atmosphere” as the theme. I couldn’t decide on one favourite beer drinking place, so I wrote about three. I received an unexpected copy of Grilling With Beer by Lucy Saunders, and ate some great BBQ with beer at Steam Whistle Brewery. It was a light month for new beers – only 9, with the rare Black Oak Summer Saison: Marmalade Edition being the best of the small bunch. Over on Taste T.O., I wrote up Southern Tier Phin & Matts Extraordinary Ale, Christoffel Blond, Brick Waterloo Wheat and Chapeau Banana as Beers of the Week.
Here’s where things started to pick up a bit. First of all, I hosted the Session for the month, picking the controversial theme of fruit beer, and reviewing three of them myself. Toronto’s Festival of Beer took place mid-month, and I actually enjoyed it a bit more than previous years despite the strong presence of the big breweries (although not so enjoyable was the promo pack that the Ontario Craft Brewers sent me in advance of the festival). A week later, the Golden Tap Awards drew a packed house to beerbistro. And up at Black Creek Pioneer Village, they held the small but promising first edition of the Black Creek Brews Fest, which is set to return for a second annual instalment in September 2008. Of course, the end of the month was darkened by the death of legendary beer scribe Michael Jackson, although the music fan in me was equally saddened by the passings of CBGBs founder Hilly Kristal and Factory Records owner Tony Wilson. Three beer festivals and a couple of tastings made for a big month for new beers: 47 in total, with Left Hand SmokeJumper at the top of the charts. Beers of the Week in this busy month were Black Oak Summer Saison, Church-Key West Coast Pale Ale, Bruce County Premium Lager & Neustadt Lager.
After the non-stop activity of August, I was glad to have a bit of a break in September. Rick Lyke of Lyke2Drink hosted the Session, and chose “The Brew Zoo” as the theme, which meant I had to scramble to find a beer with an animal on the label. C’est What‘s Fall Festival of Small Breweries took place on September 28th, Toast for Michael Jackson was raised at bars and pubs around the world on September 30th, although I was sadly unable to make it to the Toronto event at beerbistro. I got through an even 20 new brews for the month, finding Goose Island Bourbon County Stout to be the best, and Beers of the Week on Taste T.O. included St. Peter’s Best Bitter, Great Lakes Devil’s Pale Ale, Scotch Irish Black Irish Plain Porter and Burton Porter. Oh, I also hosted a beer and food tasting event at the members-only Spoke Club, although I didn’t get around to writing about it until…
…when The Session focussed on Beer & Food, as directed by Captain Hops at Beer Haiku Daily. October is also when I discovered the work of fellow Canadian beer blogger Troy Burtch, wished Pilsner Urquell a happy 165th birthday, reviewed some brews from Het Anker, and threw in some thoughts on a debate about the value of beer that was swirling through a number of beer blogs. Notable beer events for the month included the first Independent Boast & Toast, and the third (and best yet) Volo Cask Days. AleSmith Decadence 2006 may have been my favourite of the two dozen new beers that passed over my palate this month, but the Nigerian version of Guinness Foreign Extra Stout was easily the most unique. My Beer of the Week columns featured Deuchars IPA, Belhaven Twisted Thistle, Pilsner Urquell, Fuller’s 1845, Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted and Great Lakes Pumpkin Ale.
I had a rough time with this month’s Session, which had the theme Beer & Music as chosen by brewer and blogger Tomme Arthur. I also had some issues with the first “Discovery Pack” from the Ontario Craft Brewers. Later in the month, I spent a day on the road visiting some breweries with the Canadian Amateur Brewers Association, and then saw the professionals get their dues at the Canadian Brewing Awards. The big winners of the night where Mill Street Brewery, and they marked the occasion at the end of the month with a semi-private party that almost didn’t happen. Beers of the Week were the OCB Discovery Pack, Harvey’s 1859 Porter, Innis & Gunn Limited Edition IPA and Wychwood Bah Humbug. New beers for the month numbered 40, with Three Floyds Alpha King impressing me the most.
It was a lazy Session for me this month, as I referred to a couple of recent Beer of the Week posts that fit the Winter Beers theme that was selected by tedo at Barley Vine. Perhaps I would’ve chipped in with a better contribution if I’d received the seasonal beers promo pack from the OCB a few days earlier. And as an early Christmas present, I received some copies of the first issue of the relaunched TAPS magazine, which features a few contributions from yours truly. Great Lakes Winter Ale, Mill Street Barley Wine and Stella Artois Nobilis were my last three Beers of the Week for 2007, and thanks to several tastings and holiday gatherings, I tried 65 new brews, with the fabulous New Glarus Belgian Red being my favourite of the month.
So, that’s about it for my annoyingly detailed overview of what I drank and where I drank it during 2007. If you read this far, you really must have too much time on your hands. Go have a beer or something. Seriously.
And have a happy new year, too.