Josh’s Favorite Beers of 2012

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been going through my Untappd profile, rounding up my most memorable beer than I was lucky enough to try in 2012. I ended up with a total of fifteen beers, consisting of a top ten and five honorable mentions which were just short of the cut. It’s not quite the end of 2012 yet, so I suppose it’s possible that late additions bump some of these out, but it’s a risk I’m going to make.

My takeaways?

  1. I definitely like barrel-aged beers.
  2. Cincinnati-area beers performed well, taking 4 of the 15 spots.
  3. This list was really, really hard to cull down. There is so much great beer out there and I’ve been able to try so much of it. I love the choice that better beer drinkers have now.

Now, for the list. There are more details for each beer in the captions of the slideshow below, but this here’s the summary. By the way, the top ten are in no particular order.

Top Ten

  • Rivertown Lambic (2010)
  • Founders Looking Glass
  • Sierra Nevada barrel-aged draft only beers
  • Quaff Bros. Joseph
  • The Bruery Black Tuesday (2009, 2011) & Chocolate Rain
  • Goose Island Juliet
  • Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth (2011, 2012)
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2012)
  • Westvleteren XII
  • Listermann Cincinnatus

Honorable Mentions

  • Rivertown Sour Cherry Porter
  • Stone Enjoy By 11.09.12
  • Quaff Bros Sour Grapes
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Founders Better Half

The format is a little awkward below with the captions, so if you’d like a better view of them, you can do so here.


Beer Review: Rivertown Roebling Porter

I stopped by Rivertown earlier today to grab a pint of the Winter Ale (review here) while I was there I got my growler filled with their Roebling Imperial Porter off of the nitro tap. I did this because I’ve had a few Roeblings over the year and never given them a full review but also as part of the winter of my of dark content. I also scored 2 bottles of Gueuze, but more on that another day.

There are a number of bridges crossing the Ohio river in Cincinnati (or Covington/Newport if you wanna be a Kentuckian about it), one of which is a big yellow arch (the big mac), another purple one for people (cleverly named the purple people bridge), and another old fashioned looking one with 2 big towers and suspension cables. That last one is the John A. Roebling suspension bridge. Most notable for being the precursor to the Brooklyn bridge it’s also the oldest bridge in Cinci, and is a damn fine piece of construction that has been carrying traffic for almost 140 years! Ok.. honestly I never new any of that before having 2 pints of this beer and doing some Googling, it’s a pretty cool story and I suggest everyone check it out knowing being half the battle and all that. But you’re not here for history, so on to the beer!

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Beer Review: Rivertown Famine

This year has already seen the guys at Rivertown release two of the four horsemen. Pestilence back in the spring and War in early summer (my review of War) now comes the third horseman representing Famine. First a little biblical background:

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” – Source Wikipedia

In summary the third horseman rides a black horse and hands out just enough wheat and barley to keep you alive, barely. Now for Rivertown’s take which comes from my interview with Rivertown General Manager Tom Hall:

The story of Famine is that he rides a black horse through town with a scale handing out barley and wheat, but not enough of either to prevent starvation, thus famine. The beer will be a Bavarian Hefeweizen with a low alcohol content. [Don’t worry too much about that “low alcohol” action this is no 3.2 beer or anything like that. According to Tom it’ll come in around 4.2% or 4.5%.] The low alcohol  is in order to achieve their goals of representing famine. To make sure this is still a good beer they made it with a fuller body. This was achieved with the right yeast and treating the mash in the right way to control the amount of fermentable sugar [which keeps the alcohol low]. Since Famine’s horse is black they added in a roasted wheat to give it a nice black color.

Ok, enough background on to the beer!

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Brews, ‘Breds, and Brats Craft Beer Festival at Turfway Park on September 15

This event flyer was passed on to me from the folks at Turfway Park. It seems like a unique event; where else will you be able to sip craft beers and put some cash down on a longshot at the same time? It looks like a mix of the Big Boys (Sam Adams, Leinenkugel, Harpoon, etc.) and local breweries (Great Crescent, Rivertown, Mt. Carmel, Red Ear). Anyways, it’s always great to see new events celebrating better beer, so here’s to a successful day at the track!

What is Local? What is Craft?

The craft beer world has grown by leaps and bounds recently with new drinkers joining the party every day. Many of those new drinkers ask me what makes a beer craft. That is a really hard question which will be coming up more. The next question that usually follows is what is a local beer. Another really hard question, especially in Cincinnati*, and one that I think is going to be part of the next cycle of craft beer.

It’s happened in food recently where everyone wants to eat organic food fresh from a local farm. I foresee this mentality expanding to beer. I think this will coincide with a fracturing of regions of the country and defensiveness of those regions. For example, someone like myself would become passionate about anything in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky to the extent that I might stop drinking, or severely cut back, beers from Colorado or California.

Anyway, enough of what I think that’s not what I want to do here. I want to make you think; I don’t want you to quote me and say “this blog I read says that craft beer must be blah blah blah”. You need to make up your mind, debate it with your friends, talk to your brewers, and decide for yourself.

Here are some thoughts that could affect the whole craft/local situation. If you feel so inclined, perhaps you should grill your preferred brewer with these questions to see how “craft” or how “local” they are. If you do that, please let us know what they say!

  • Size?
  • Production?
  • Revenue?
  • Location?
  • Ingredient sources?
  • Brewing locally versus contract brewing?
  • Meeting local demands before extending to outside markets?
  • Fighting to change laws when needed?
  • Activity within the local beer community?

Here are some definitions and quotes to give you more food for thought on the subject.

Brewer’s Association definition:

Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less.

Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

Craft beer is one brewed with a focus on the result, using quality ingredients and (mostly) traditional processes. – Pud’n

Local is what is built and manufactured here. – friend

Something made produced and distributed out of a specific area. – other friend

My definition: Craft is something made with passion and risk. As far as “local” goes I don’t care if it’s brewed (Sam Adams) or born (Rivertown, Mt. Carmel, Blank Slate Brewing Company, 50 West and many more) here. If it’s got a tie to Cincinnati (or Dayton), I’m happy to support it.

Please feel free to leave comments below on what a local craft beer is to you!

*In case folks were unaware bottles of Moerlein you buy at a store are contract brewed in PA [footnote]They stopped contract brewing in 2013[/footnote]brewed in OTR, Sam Adam’s main brewery is in OTR, and Miller has a massive plant in Trenton, which is about 30 some miles north/northwest of downtown Cinci. That’s why I say local is a complex issue in Cincinnati.

Beer Review: 3 Floyds Gorch Fock

After having Rivertown’s Helles lager a few weeks back I discovered how much I digg this style. Then my buddy called from the Party Source last weekend telling me they had a 3 Floyds helles style called Gorch Fock. This isn’t quite a seasonal as it’s only released in July but the style definitely works great in this weather (even though it’s August now). 3 Floyds calls it “A light golden colored Franconian style Helles Lager. With a slightly sweet malt body, a noble hop profile and a crisp finish this beer is as traditional as we’ll ever get.”

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Why Rivertown Brewing Frustrates Me So Much

This piece is written by me and reflects my own opinions and not that of Queen City Drinks as a whole or its other authors. – J

I’m going to just go ahead and get this out. Rivertown Brewing is so frustratingly inconsistent with their offerings and it’s strange to me that there has been no pushback whatsoever from the beer community. I’m going to air some grievances and give a little of my own pushback and then explain why these issues are so darn frustrating to me outside of the issues themselves.

1. Pestilence: The bottled version of this beer should never have been released to the shelves for sale. When reviews attribute olfactory qualities such as “candied walnut, blue cheese, and vomit”, “stinky cheese and fatty yogurt”, and “funk [that] is stomach-churning”, there is something seriously, seriously wrong with the finished product. I opened one of these bottles (of the four I bought) a couple months months ago, hoping my bottle would be different, and it went down the drain. The taste isn’t bad, but I’m not of the school that I should have to plug my nose while drinking a beer. I’ve heard from many people who had this on draft that it did not exhibit these problematic features. Since they’re people whose palates I generally trust, there obviously was a bottling issue. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my other three bottles, but I’m not looking forward to drinking them.

2. Sour Cherry Porter: This beer I was very much looking forward to. Coming hot off of 2010 (stellar) and 2011 (good) Rivertown Lambics, I was ready for more of their sours. I picked up a bottle from The Party Source, where it is, to my knowledge, exclusively sold. Got it home, cracked it open and poured a completely uncarbonated beer into my glass. I tasted a sip just to confirm and though quite tasty, there was not a speck of carbonation. Danny Gold was gracious enough to swap out my bottle which I opened yesterday and, to my sadness, poured another completely uncarbonated glass of beer. I’m sure I’ll be able to swap this out for  another bottle, but at this point I’d frankly just like to stop wasting my time and get a refund on the not-insubstantial $13 I paid for a single, flat bottle of beer.

3. Uncommunicative-ness: One of my favorite things I enjoy about local businesses is being able to interact with their owners and managers. That goes double for local breweries. Mt. Carmel, Blank Slate, and Listermann/Triple Digit (not so much Moerlein) do a great job of interacting with their customers, answering questions and the like.  Rivertown seems to use social media (Twitter/Facebook is what I’m speaking of here), when they actually use it, as a one-way tool. I’m not sure who is running their accounts, but I have a much, much better success rate in getting a response when contacting Jason Roeper directly than when contacting the Rivertown accounts. Social media, for successful businesses, is not just a platform for free advertising, but a way to engage your current and potential customers.

Now, why did I even take the time to write this post? Frustration over wasting money? Yes, partially, but only very, very partially. $20 isn’t a lot to waste in the grand scheme of things. I’m writing this because Rivertown has the potential to do a lot better than this. They have made some amazing stuff (there’s a reason Beer Advocate rated their Lambic a perfect 100 score) and their normal lineup while not amazing, is solid (outside of the weird fake vanilla-tasting Roebling bottles). They have one of the most creative and talented head brewers in the Cincinnati-area and they are one of the few local breweries who are doing really, really fun, out there stuff. While their highs are high, there lows, as can be seen above, are still quite low.

Maybe this is just a new brewery thing, and it will all blow over in time. I hope so. As silly as it sounds after all my complaining, I’m going to continue buying their releases because they are a local outlet of “beer geek” (sour, barrel aged, etc.) beers. I’ll continue to reward creativity, but at some point being creative is trumped by the quality of what you are producing. The execution is every bit as important as the idea is. It’s the whole “fool me once… fool me twice” bit.