October 2013 will probably be remembered as the month the futuristic smartwatch finally became reality, but I’ll most likely think of it more for the great beer I sipped. Sure, the smartwatch is cool, but it’s no hoverboard or lightsaber.
My real standout pours from this month were across the board, but I mostly gravitated toward the wild, hoppy and malt-driven varieties.
The variety of sour and wild beers out there is really staggering. How do you even begin to compare something like Crooked Stave Surette Reserva (aged in Leopold peach whiskey barrels), with its smooth vanilla, boozy peach and tart lemon, against something like Smuttynose Straw-Barb Short Weisse, an amazing fruited Berliner weisse that actually tastes like strawberry-rhubarb pie? You don’t. You just enjoy them for what they are.
Sours and wild ales with interesting ingredients definitely defined my October. On top of the two mentioned above, I also finally popped open a bottle of Anchorage Anadromous Black, a sour black ale aged in pinot noir barrels with salmonberries and Brettanomyces. I didn’t pick up the much of the berries, but I loved the beer’s creamy dark malts, woody tannins and deep vinous tones, capped off by a tart snap in the back. Trinity Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta was another wild ale I was really looking forward to, mainly because it was brewed with mustard. Maybe—just maybe—there was a hint of the stuff hidden deep in the beer, but otherwise it tasted like a fantastic Flanders red ale.
Puckering beer wasn’t the only variety that captured my attention. October was a great month for hops. My favorite fresh-hop beer this year? Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies (bonus points for the name). Its blend of tangerine, pineapple and fresh grass perfectly colored each spritzy, zingy sip. Two other hoppy beers also impressed, although they weren’t fresh-hop beers. First, Bear Republic Café Racer 15 (which you can read about here), and a Brazilian beer brought in by a member of our tasting panel called Invicta 1000 IBU. The latter was insanely bitter; a true palate-wrecker that layered catty, resinous hop flavors on the tongue.
A few malt-driven beers also impressed this month. First-and-foremost, was Samuel Smith’s Yorkshire Stingo, an annual barrel-aged old ale that we once rated 100 points. The beer’s neat balance of toffee, toasted bread crust and hints of dark fruit confirms it as an annual must-buy.
Then there were the whiskey-barrel-aged brews. Against the Grain Bo & Luke is an imperial smoked stout aged in bourbon barrels, and brewed with barley, rye and corn: The result tastes exactly like bourbon, but in beer form. Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout took a slightly quieter approach in showcasing spirits, and perfectly blended the barrel’s oaky, vanilla and spice through a stout base that sipped just like a chocolate milkshake—an adult milkshake.
Overall, it was an incredibly impressive month for beer. Here’s what I’m looking forward to in November:
2. Winter warmers
Which beers impressed you the most this month?