Saturday, December 5, 2015

Raising the Barstool's Best - 2015

This week I read a post written by Carla Jean Lauter, otherwise known as The Beer Babe, with her take on the best beers in Maine this year. Her post inspired me to reflect on my own year of beer here in Massachusetts. As we're now in the last month of 2015, it seems to be an appropriate time to write about the best beers and breweries I've had the pleasure of experiencing throughout the year.

Best New Brewery in Massachusetts: Medusa Brewing Company

I attended the American Craft Beer Fest in Boston back in May, at which I had the chance to try beers from throughout New England that I had never had before. I tasted my first brew from Lord Hobo Brewing Company, which is now available in most stores in the area. I also got the chance to try a beer from Medusa Brewing Company for the first time, but I knew it would not be my last. Their Zweihänder Imperial IPA displayed a talent for using hops, which was only confirmed after later tasting some of their other IPAs like Citra Legacy and Laser Cat. Here's hoping we see more brews available from Medusa in the Boston area!

Best New Massachusetts Beer: Artaic - Trillium Brewing Company

It seems like every year the new beers being released in Massachusetts continue to improve. This year was no exception. When Trillium Brewing Company released a Double IPA known as Artaic back in May, it instantly became a favorite of mine. Named after a local mosaic design company Trillium collaborated with, Artaic is brewed with 100% Mosaic hops and local raw wildflower honey. It is sweet, citrusy, and nicely balanced overall. A masterpiece!

Best Massachusetts IPA: Santilli - Night Shift Brewing

This year Night Shift debuted its flagship IPA, Santilli. Created from one of the brewery's batches of its rotating IPA called Morph, Santilli smells of fresh pine and has a big citrus flavor with a bitter finish. It's a surprisingly smooth IPA loaded with hops that I could drink just about every day. The fact that it comes in a beautiful tallboy can makes it even better!

Best Massachusetts Stout/Porter: Crasher in the Rye - Clown Shoes

Earlier this year, Clown Shoes released a new version of its Undead Party Crasher with some tasty twists. Rye malt was added to the mix, and the usual hickory smoked malt was replaced with oak smoked malt from Blacklards Malt Company in Texas. On top of that, half the beer was aged in bourbon barrels while the other half was aged in rye barrels. These halves were then combined and bottled as an Imperial Stout with a roasty coffee aroma followed by the sweet taste of milk chocolate along with a creamy oatmeal flavor and a rye whiskey finish. It was delicious!

Most Creative Beer in Massachusetts: Hay is for Horses - Cambridge Brewing Company

Hay is for Horses was first brewed in 2013 but was available in bottles this year. A "Nordic" Pale Ale brewed with fresh, locally grown hay as well as oats and gruit herbs, the beer is light and grassy with a nice spice. Very easy to drink!

Best Label/Can Design: Muerte - Backlash Beer Company

Massachusetts has some incredibly talented artists creating the labels for its breweries. Whether it's Kevin Cimo's rustic and charming renditions of local landmarks for Trillium Brewing or Michael Axt's eye-catching and colorful work for Clown Shoes, there is no shortage of beautiful label art around here. Yet, one beer's label caught my eye more than any other, and it was based on work that artist Sophy Tuttle did for Backlash Beer. Years ago Backlash featured her art on the labels of the beers in their Apocalypse Series. They were black and white, but depicted epic scenes with rolling landscapes. Her artwork was featured on the label for Death, Backlash's Imperial Stout, which was then inverted for the label of Resurrection released last year. This year her work returned on the label of Muerte, an Imperial Stout brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, peppers, and coffee. Featuring an elegant portrayal of the classic calavera representing the Mexican holiday often referred to as Day of the Dead, the label is absolutely gorgeous. I hope we see more of Sophy's label art next year!

(Muerte's label is so cool, Trevor Carmick of Beer Labels In Motion even brought it to life!)