But this year, we changed the system a bit by opening up our rankings to beers that we didn't review. So as you might expect, the result was quite unscientific and a bit chaotic. Indeed, because we have very different tastes, only seven beers received multiple votes.
And what was the beer that ended up in the top spot? Well, we initially jumped the gun and forgot to include Chris's rankings, so our first result was Goose Island's King Henry Barleywine. Because this is an InBev beer, we expected some eye rolling, gnashing of teeth, and airing of grievances.
But with the inclusion of Chris's rankings, King Henry now moves down to number two on our list. This means that we have a new winner, and a local winner to boot:
Fountain Square Workingman's Pilsner
We reviewed Workingman's Pilsner when we visited the brewery back in October. Most of us had tried Workingman's Pilsner before the roundtable, so we knew what we were in for. Not surprisingly, the beer won accolades from us:
"Everything about this beer rings true to the Pilsner style. The light, lightly toasted malt aroma. The slightly sweet flavor that can't be reproduced with corn. The crisp body and soft mouthfeel that make it simultaneously easy to drink and refreshing. It is a beer that evokes thoughts of fresh Helles or Pilsner in Europe. This is the Pilsner that I compare all other American Pilsners to."
"I can honestly say this is one of my favorite beers brewed here in Indianapolis. It is well brewed, really delicious, and very conducive to conversation with friends. I can't think of much more that I'm looking for out of a beer."
"[Workingman's Pilsner] is crisp, with a touch of bready sweetness and finished with a classic bite of noble hops.... In a city where far too many breweries select their year-round beers from a stock set of ales, it's great to see Fountain Square focus their attention on a first-class lager that Indy can be proud of. They've got a hit with Workingman's Pilsner, a beer that's tailor-made for this brewery's neighborhood but one that will satisfy any time and any place."This is the first year that we've picked a Fountain Square beer as our beer of the year, and we're guessing that it may happen again in the future based on our experiences with their beers. Our congratulations go out to Skip and the Fountain Square crew!
Other beers from Indiana received votes from us. Specifically, beers from Black Acre, Broad Ripple Brewpub, Brugge Brasserie, Flat12, Sun King, Three Floyds, Triton, and Upland also pleased our palates this year.
So without further ado, here's our (admittedly messy) list of all beers that received votes, ranked in order of points received.
1. Fountain Square Workingman's Pilsner
2. Goose Island King Henry Barleywine
3. Brasserie des Franche-Montagne Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien (2011)
4. Flat12 Walkabout Pale Ale
5. Schlafly Tasmanian IPA
8. (tie) New Albanian Naughty Claus, Sun King Velvet Fog (Batch 333), Three Floyds Alpha King
11. (tie) The Bruery Oud Tart, Perennial Blueberry Flanders, Triton Fieldhouse Wheat
18. (tie) Black Acre Oktoberfest, Boulevard Love Child #2, Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA, Perennial Abraxas, Sun King Bitchin' Camero, Three Floyds Alpha Klaus, Upland Batch 2 Sour Reserve American Wild Ale
25. (tie) Black Acre Chai Guy Chai Tea Milk Stout, Black Acre Hop Pun, Broad Ripple Brewpub Wobbly Bob, He'Brew Jewbelation 15, Logsdon Farmhouse Seizoen Bretta, Sun King Cream Dream V: I Thought We Were Buddies, Three Floyds Lawless ESB
26. Brugge Brasserie Pooka
29. (tie) Against the Grain/De Molen Bo & Luke, Founders Better Half, Trader Joe's Mission Street Pale Ale (brewed by Firestone Walker)
37. (tie) Amnesia Copacetic IPA, Cascade Barrel House, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Grumpy Troll Smoky Troll Gratzer, Hilliard Saison, Sun King Java Mac, Three Floyds Gumballhead, Three Floyds Zombie Dust
Here are the votes from each Knight of the Beer Roundtable:
What a great year for beer. My list could probably be filled with just beers that I had at Great Taste of the Midwest. We have so many amazing breweries that have opened or have been operating for a number of years that are producing some amazing beers for our enjoyment.
I'm also cautious with these lists as well. Does my top beer mean that I scored it the highest or should the beer that I consumed the most of this year probably be on this list? In that case it would Alpha King from Three Floyds followed by Gumballhead from Three Floyds. Those have been staples for me for a very long time, but Alpha is easier to get your hands on. I'm going to stick with that reasoning for my rankings.
1. Alpha King
2. Perennial Blueberry Flanders
3. Upland Batch 2 Sour Reserve American Wild
4. Perennial Abraxas
5. Goose Island King Henry
Honorable mention: A Polish Gratzer beer from Grumpy Troll Brewpub in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin. It was called Smoky Troll. For the Great Taste their version of Replicale was a near dead beer style from Poland. It is a smoked wheat beer. I love smoke beers and I tried every single one I could get my hands on that weekend, but none matched how good this one was. One of those moments I won't ever have again most likely.
1. BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien '11. For me, there's no parallel for a well-crafted sour beer, and Brasserie des Franche-Montagne's Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is among the best sours in the world. Bon-Chien's sour cherry and oak notes rest on a sweet, malty foundation, making this beer extraordinary. Bon-Chien is admittedly pricey, but anyone who is fond of sours will find it worth the cost.
2. Flat12 Walkabout Pale Ale. The single-hop pale ale has become one of my favorite beer styles. For last year's Beer of the Year, I picked Three Floyds' Zombie Dust, which is a single-hop pale. This year, I've ranked Flat12's Walkabout Pale Ale at number 2. Walkabout is an exemplary single-hop beer, brewed with Galaxy hops from Australia. At 5.3% ABV, this beer is one that I reach for as often as I can to experience its citrusy aroma and flavor. Many would agree that Walkabout is one of Indianapolis' best craft beers. It's definitely my favorite regular beer from Flat12. Please put this one in bottles, Flat12.
3. Schlafly Tasmanian IPA. Another single-hop beer brewed with the hop from Down Under slots in at number 3. Tasmanian IPA was on cask at Schlafly's tap takeover at the Beer Sellar in October, and its hoppy, mouth-numbing flavor (in a weird, good way) was unforgettable to me.
4. Sun King Cream Dream V: I Thought We Were Buddies. The best way I can describe Sun King's Cream Dream V is that it's the sweeter cousin of Three Floyds' Alpha King Pale Ale. Because I prefer the pairing of sweet and hoppy flavors, I made several trips this summer to Bluebeard to get Cream Dream V while it was on tap there.
5. He'Brew Jewbelation 15. A beer brewed with as many hop and malt varieties as He'Brew's Jewbelation beers are should turn out to be a huge mess. But the brewers at Shmaltz always manage to make Jewbelation work. I like to put a year of age on Jewbelation before I drink it, and 2011's Jewbelation 15 turned out to be a beauty of a beer this year. Loaded with notes that range from raisins to cherries to sweet caramel to roasted malt, Jewbelation 15 is a fitting choice for the holiday season. I look forward to seeing how Jewbelation 16 tastes during Hanukkah/Christmas 2013.
1. Velvet Fog (Batch 333) - Belgian Quad, Sun King Brewing
2. Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien - Sour, Brasserie des Franche-Montagne
3. Deviant Dale's - IPA, Oskar Blues
4. Lawless - ESB, Three Floyds
5. Pooka - Sour/Wild Ale, Brugge Brasserie
1. Goose Island King Henry - I didn't have incredibly high expectations of this beer. American barleywines tend to be pretty formulaic - I like them, but they usually don't wow me. Toss that in a bourbon barrel and I'm incredibly skeptical that it's going to be one-dimensional. That was my impression going in to King Henry, but I couldn't have been more wrong. One of the best bourbon barrel beers I have ever had, this was a beautiful example of the style and further verified the incredible barrel program at Goose Island.
2. The Bruery Oude Tart - Perhaps following a similar situation as King Henry, I was ready to be extremely judgmental of this beer. The Bruery sours are kind of hit and miss for me, usually good but not typically deserving of the high price point. Oude Tart was the king of them all, commanding $20-25 a bottle. The first taste made me a believer, with a depth of flavor to the malt and a sourness more reminiscent of Belgian sours than some of the vinegar I've had from a few American breweries. I would buy this one again, despite the high price.
3. Three Floyds Alpha Klaus - After a few years of this beer being hard to find, Indianapolis was hit with a flood of bombers this year, plus many encore experiences on draft. This one is probably my favorite Christmas beer, with a wonderful spicyness, accented by hops, and a big heavy stout body. It's not super sweet as you might expect from a 10% Three Floyds beer, but it certainly drinks like it's 5%. Merry Christmas indeed.
4. Logsdon Farmhouse Seizoen Bretta - Not available in Indiana (unless you order it online), this was one of the best saisons I have tried, and certainly the best of the year. Dry and spicy from the brett, but not harsh from added spices. A bit of wine-like sweetness balances it out into an incredibly drinkable saison. Sort of like Boulevard's but with a better balance. Also it foamed all over my kitchen but I still have nice things to say about it.
5. Founders Better Half - Following suit with King Henry, Founders did a nice job with the barreling on this one. Old Curmudgeon is already one of my preferred barleywines (or I guess it's an Old Ale), but the addition of maple was not only complementary, but actually improved what I already liked about the beer. Unlike CBS, which I have my complaints about, I thought this one was good enough to be produced in much larger batches.
Honorable Mention - Cascade Barrel House. Pretty much every sour I tried there was awesome, but that was in Portland and it's not really fair for me to unload praise on it when it's not readily available in this state (without expensive shipping fees).
In a year where I could have used many, many, MANY drinks, I didn't drink as much as I would have liked. My New Year's resolution for 2013: drink more beer.
But I did have a few new beers that keep coming back into my mind. Beers that I think to myself "damn, I'd like to have another"...
1. Goose Island King Henry: I'm a fan of barleywines and bourbon barrel aged beers. So I figured it would be good. I don't remember what I paid for the bottle, but I do remember hesitating at the price. But I bought it, drank it, and bought another. The quality of this beer rocked the credit card right out of my wallet. Please sir, may I have another?
2. Flat12 Walkabout Pale Ale: I do not keep a regular beer in my fridge. There are too many options out there. Too many beers to try. But if I did, Walkabout would likely be one (if it were available in bottles). Citrusy hops make me happy.
3.) Black Acre Oktoberfest: My German heritage requires that I mention an Oktoberfest. Okay, that's not true, but I do love Oktoberfest beers and Black Acre nailed it with a big, malty version.
4.) Black Acre Chai Guy Chai Tea Milk Stout: Can you tell where I did most of my drinking this year? The guys at Black Acre are having fun with beer and the Chai Guy Chai Tea Milk Stout was late fall/early winter in a glass.
5.) He'Brew Jewbelation 15: Only circumcised drinkers allowed. This big beer was like a religious experience. I almost gave up bacon cheeseburgers. Almost.
Honorable Mention: Every other Indiana beer out there. I didn't get to hit as many breweries in Indiana as I have in previous years. I'm hoping to change that in 2013. I know that there are a lot of great Hoosier brews that didn't make any of our lists. I pour out a 40 in their honor.
My favorite 5, plus a few others:
1. Fountain Square Workingman's Pilsner - I love the lightness and balance of flavors. I think this beer is simply delicious.
2. Schlafly Tasmanian IPA - I absolutely love the citrusy hops in this beer. It's bold and bitter, with some sweetness. I love this series and I am looking forward to the upcoming AIPA release from them.
3. Boulevard Love Child #2 - I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this beer. Yet, I still can't bring myself to pull the trigger on the price tag again.
4. Black Acre Hop Pun - Black Acre is kicking all kinds of ass with their lineup. I think about the Hop Pun a lot.
5. Perennial Abraxas - How I feel about this beer can best be summed up the last time I was in St. Louis and I asked the bartender what was on draft. She named off a few and then said the name of this beer. Before I even knew it the words "Holy shit, I want that please" came out of my mouth. Any immediately strong reaction like that is worth note.
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout - No matter what, I am always glad to see this beer. It is nice that it is easier to get now than the past few years, and I'm especially glad to see it on tap around town here and there. I look forward to this beer every year and I haven't been disappointed by it yet.
Sun King Java Mac - One of my favorites. I look forward to every time it comes out.
Three Floyds Zombie Dust / Gumballhead - Ok, so I cheated a little bit here, but I wanted to list them both. I get both of these at about the same frequency (read: not very) so I thought it may be appropriate to put them together.
2012 was the year that I finally, seriously gave up on looking out for crazy, rare, exotic beer. Not that I didn't buy any, mind you, I just gave up all the extra effort. If I walked into a liquor store and something was there, I bought it. Otherwise, I was in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind fog. I'm sure I missed some interesting things, but I drank plenty of great beer too. In 2012, my fridge was mostly stocked with bottles and growlers I drink a lot of, so in that spirit, here is my best-of list:
1. Fountain Square Workingman's Pilsner - A growler of this wonderfully balanced pilsner is rarely missing from my fridge these days. Perfect in the summer and equally perfect for the fall football season.
2. Triton Fieldhouse Wheat - Is it just me, or does Indy have a dearth of year-round wheat beers? Luckily we've got a great one in Fieldhouse Wheat, with crisp balance and a subtle apricot note that lingers in the aftertaste.
3. Founders Centennial IPA - An old friend that saw significant playing time this year.
4. Flat 12 Pogue's Run Porter - Too often, I think dark beers get pigeon-holed as only appropriate for cold weather. Do you shun chocolate ice cream during the summer because it has a dark color? Of course not! So why deny yourself a cold glass of porter while sitting on your porch during the summer? Trust me, Pogue's Run Porter is perfect for any season.
5. Mission St. Pale Ale - This Trader Joe's exclusive (reportedly brewed by Firestone Walker) might seem like an odd addition to my list. I include it because it's my default last beer of the night and it carries a lean price tag of $6.99 per six-pack. At 4.7%, you can pretty easily tack it onto the end of a session and they definitely don't skimp on the citrus hops.
1. Naughty Claus from New Albanian. The cinnamon, nutmeg and orange flavors in this beer totally brought on the holiday cheer without being completely overwhelming.
2. Workingman's Pilsner from Fountain Square. This beer is fantastic, and I'm not even a huge pilsner fan. So well balanced - great flavor - it's hard for me not to order this beer.
3. Bitchin' Camaro from Sun King. Danger, danger...this was definitely my favorite danger beer of the year. 8.7% Imperial Rye IPA that went down crazy smooth.
4. Wobbly Bob from Broad Ripple Brewpub. This is a great go-to beer - always great flavor. It's one of my favorites in the summer, but I have no problem enjoying this APA during any season.
5. Bo & Luke from Against the Grain & De Molen. So I realize these aren't Indiana breweries, but ATG is so stinking close. This Russian Imperial Stout was aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels, and it was incredible. Cheers to this bourbon and beer collaboration!
Saison from Hilliard's Beer in Seattle. It was a Saison in a can, and it was delicious. And I loved the can design...bonus.
Pooka from Brugge. A great, simple sour that always hits the spot. I enjoyed quite a few Pookas in 2012, and I look forward to doing the same in 2013. And a hat tip to the Black, which I always enjoy.
Copacetic IPA from Amnesia Brewing in Portland, Oregon. Stellar IPA. Easy drinking, clean flavors, and the brewery is the perfect place to hang out when it's raining cats and dogs.
Past winners of the Knights of the Beer Roundtable Beer of the Year Award:
2011: Three Floyds Zombie Dust
2010: Brugge Brasserie's Spider
2009: Broad Ripple Brewpub's Monon Porter (on cask)
2008: Mikkeller Santa's Little Helper (2007)