Back in July I was approached about writing a beer blog for Funcoast and I couldn’t have been more excited about it. Being somewhat new to the area, I hadn’t had much luck finding good craft beer suppliers. I must say that that has changed tenfold since I started writing Foaming at the Mouth.
In the past five months, I have discovered some great spots for craft beer – both retail establishments and bars/restaurants – in the Firelands area. I’ve sampled and reviewed over 50 unique craft brews from area businesses including Bayshore Beverage, Arnold’s Carryout, Mekong Vietnamese Restaurant, Huron Market and Maple City Ice. It’s been an awesome experience getting to know my new friends at these businesses and 2014 will be even more of an adventure as I expand the horizons of the craft beer scene in Northern Ohio.
In total, I reviewed 56 craft beers in 2013 and at the end of the year (or in this case, the beginning of the year) it seems to be a popular fashion to present a best/worst list of the year in review. So, without further ado, I present to you my top 5 favorite beers of 2013:
Jackie O’s Firefly Amber Ale
Left Hand Warrior IPA
5.) Stone Brewing Company’s Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers 5.9% ABV
Pouring a bright and vibrant black with a cappuccino colored head; Stone has hit a homerun with this unique brew. The initial nose is of a nice hop aroma, almost citrusy, which will blow your mind as it is totally unexpected. However it doesn’t last long as scents of smoke, spice and chocolate fill your nostrils.Chocolate and smoke are the two dominate flavors of this brew, but the finish is what will blow your mind. A nice spicy chipotle flavor will dominate your palate in the finish. It’s not overpowering, and it won’t make your eyes water and make you jump around and yell for water. It’s a nice, flavorful spice, just like a chipotle pepper. The body is creamy with a mild carbonation. A truly unique brew. If you prefer it to be a little spicier, just let the beer warm up to room temperature. The chipotle spices will heat up a tad.
4.) Epic Brewing Company’s Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout 12% ABV
Just at the cutoff of the allotted alcohol content allowed for beer in the state of Ohio, Big Bad Baptist is by far the best brew I’ve had from the Salt Lake City, UT brewery. A Barrel Aged Imperial Stout that is as awesome as its name, Big Bad Baptist is a tremendously awesome brew that ranks up there with one of my all-time favorites. Pouring a pitch black, this brew has nice, cocoa colored head that doesn’t hang around too much throughout the drinking experience. Strong aromas of coffee, chocolate, vanilla, oak and whiskey fill the nostrils and might make you a little weak in the knees. The tastes are very similar to the aromas, with a very strong, fresh brewed coffee taste up front, followed by smooth chocolate, then a slight oak smokiness and finished with a smooth rounded out hint of vanilla due to the barrel aging of the brew.
3.) Lexington Brewing and Distilling Co.’s Kentucky IPA
This beer is a terrific example of the style: A tremendously flavorful IPA with very refreshing hop bitterness. One of the smoothest IPA’s I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Weighing in at 6.5% ABV, this brew is highly drinkable (not to mention it won’t make you go streaking through the quad to the gymnasium). If you’re new to IPA’s, or simply claim you don’t like them because you don’t think you like “hoppy beers,” do yourself a favor and give this one a try. It might just change your life.
2.) Ommegang Rare Vos
The initial appearance was a cloudy bright amber color with a very fluffy and thick cream colored head (think of the foamy head of a root beer float, that’s what this was similar too). Scents of spice, citrus and a hint of black cherry filled my nostrils and put me on cloud nine. After taking a sip, I felt a very light bodied, airy and highly carbonated brew. Tastes of coriander, pepper, orange peel and bready maltness filled the palate with an amazing, strong bitter finish. Ommegang’s Rare Vos is perfectly balanced and fired on all cylinders. This beer is truly one of a kind.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, drumroll please…………
1.) Two Brother’s Heavier Handed 8.1% ABV
This Imperial IPA from Two Brother’s Brewing Company out of Warrensville, IL is the big brother to the popular Heavy Handed IPA. It pours a clear, pale orange with a big and vibrant fluffy egg colored head that emits heavy aromas of pine and citrus, but very heavy on the pine side. The mouthfeel is lighter than most Imperial IPA’s with a nice medium carbonation. Big flavors of pine, citrus and honey load the palate and I’m completely okay with it. Compared to most Imperial IPA’s, this one has a much lighter mouthfeel and cleaner finish than most. I get an abundant hop punch, but not enough to knock me out. It’s balanced perfectly. This is a phenomenal IPA that has become one of my new favorites. The hops used in this brew are grown locally at the Warrensville, IL brewery and you can really taste the freshness in this brew.
There you have it, my top five favorite beers from 2013. 2014 is going to be a lot of fun. I hope you stick around with me and read the weekly columns of Foaming at the Mouth at Funcoast.com.
Until then my friends, always remember to enjoy responsibly.