2015 -The Year In Beer

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As you take down the ornaments and chalk up 2015 to fond memories, it might be worth reminiscing about what made 2015 actually worth remembering. Yes, you have family times, friends and acquaintances to recall, but what about your favorite things? Of course I am referring to your favorite beers of this year!

Wrapping up the year in beer, our Wicked Brew Review columnist, Jim MacMillan, picks his top ten for 2015. Henniker Brewery’s ORA topped the list at number one.
Wrapping up the year in beer, our Wicked Brew Review columnist, Jim MacMillan, picks his top ten for 2015. Henniker Brewery’s ORA topped the list at number one.

So let’s set a few guidelines about the topic. There are certainly a TON of beers available from everywhere in the world. But could we limit our focus to just NH or a few bordering New England states? With over 50 (and growing) breweries in New Hampshire, there are a lot of brews from which to choose. And we could even set up categories, as we should. Well, I’ll give you my selections from past reviewed and yet-to-be reviewed beers. Then you can send along your thoughts on the topic to wickedbrews@weirs.com for further banter about great tasting beer!

Pilsners and Lagers
CzechPilsHats off to Moat Mountain in North Conway for their great tasting and true to style Czech Pils in 16 oz four packs. Enjoyed any time of year, but especially in the summer, this pilsner is so balanced and flavorful. Also, their Opa’s Oktoberfest Lager was quite tasty too. This year’s Opa was even better than last year as they always try to tweak the recipes for better results. Another great beer from them is their Hell Yes! Helles Lager. Moat is a great place to visit, sample some of their seasonals and others that never make it to the store shelves (brewery release only) while eating some great pub food. Have a look at their website, www.moatmountain.com.

Belgian-style
Golden Ales
There are so many great golden ales out there. Most of the true-to-style Belgian goldens are from Belgium and include (available in NH) Duvel, Leffe, La Chouffe and Chimay. But there are great NH goldens as well. Rockingham’s Three Little Pigs is a tripel as is the Smuttynose Tripel. If you are not looking for a tripel but just an easy drinking golden ale, try Ommegang BPA (Belgian Pale Ale) from Cooperstown, NY. These folks have the European brew styles down to a science. From NH, why not try Thelema from Smuttynose (actually Smuttlabs, an offshoot of Smutty). This is brand new and may be a seasonal or small batch series. Lastly, White Birch has a delicious Belgian Style Pale Ale that is worth finding and spans the styles we are about to cover.

Pale Ales
This very common style is quite varied in both color and clarity. Many crystal clear goldens are not necessarily filtered as much as they are ‘cold crashed’ which is when a fermented beer is chilled just above freezing to clarify it. Wheat beers usually don’t fit into this refinement and will be kept to a separate category. These include Smutty’s Shoals Pale Ale, 603’s 18 Mile Rye, Out Haus Pale Ale, Stoneface APA (American Pale Ale), Belgian Mare’s Pale Ale or Irish Pale Ale from Bear Irish, Portsmouth, NH. This list is virtually endless…

Wheat or Wit
Whether it’s European style wits or American wheats, there are a bunch of these brews as well. Far from Blue Moon, great craft-brewed wheat beers are plentiful and tasty. Allagash White from Portland, Maine, 603’s Waterville Wheat, Henniker’s Whipple’s Wheat, NH Maple Wheat Ale from Beara Irish, and White Birch Berliner Weisse. Also known as witbier, weizen, weisse or white, wheat beer is usually on the cloudier side and robust in flavors including orange, banana, clove and citrus. This is a good all-around beer style for spring, summer and especially fall.

India Pale Ales (IPA)
Now here’s a category one could get lost in! There are a TON of great IPA’s made right here in NH and New England. In fact, it is probably the most popular beer Stoneface IPAstyle since it can be slightly hoppy, mildly hoppy, very hoppy or over the top with hops! First to the point for this reviewer is Newington, NH’s Stoneface Brewing and their ever-popular IPA which has widely received accolades. It is joined by their other IPAs; Blip (small batch), Mozaccalypse (double IPA), and Hopulization (past season). Another famous IPA is Smutty’s Finest Kind which has a vast following. Others to look for are Kelsen’s Battle Axe IPA, Squam Brewing’s Golden IPA, and Henniker’s Hop Slinger.

Amber & Brown Ales
Another large category to be explored are amber ales leading to brown ales. This wide selection can encompass many different beer styles: amber lager, amber ale, doubles, triples, barelywine, nut browns, deep ambers, etc. To keep this array of beers simple, I’d rather just recommend a few and maybe you can add to the list on your own. First off, 603’s Winni is my favorite amber. Next, I’d have to go ReallyOldBrownDog copywith Kelsen’s Paradigm Brown Ale, and right after that, Smutty’s Really Old Brown Dog, followed by The Shed Mountain Ale from Stowe, Vermont.
Porter and Stouts
With the number of great breweries producing delicious dark beers, we need to examine these two styles from different angles. Porters are darker than brown ales, heavier in mouthfeel and flavors usually include coffee and espresso notes. My favorites are 603’s Fireside Smoked Porter, Stoneface’s Robust Porter, Lone Wolfe Robust Porter, and Throwback’s Campfire Smoked Porter.
Stouts on the other hand can be chocolatey, have roasted malt or oatmeal flavoring. True English stout is in the 4-5.5% ABV range while Russian Imperial stout is upwards of 9+ ABV. A few favorites are 603’s Granite Stout, Squam Brewing’s Imperial Loon Stout, and Out Haus’ Coffee Oatmeal Stout. If you ever have the fortune to find a good stout on tap at an eatery or tasting room, more than likely it will be served on nitro (nitrogen gas) rather than CO2. It just tastes and looks better.

So, that wraps up 2015; the year in beer. Don’t forget to submit your votes for your favorite beers of 2015. We will publish results of your input in an upcoming issue. I hope you find a good brew to take home from this info and better yet, discover a new favorite to share with friends and family in 2016!

The Wicked Brew Review’s
Top Ten NH Beers for 2015
10- Smuttynose, Tripel
9- Rockingham, Three Little Pigs
8- Stoneface, IPA & Mozaccalypse (tie)
7- 603, Fireside Smoked Porter
6- 603, Granite Stout
5- Smutty, Really Old Brown Dog
4- Moat Mountain, Czech Pils
3- 603, Winni Amber
2- Squam, The Camp
1- Henniker, Ora

Jim MacMillan is the owner of WonByOne Design of Meredith, NH, and is an avid imbiber of craft brews and a home brewer as well. Send him your recommendations and brew news to
wickedbrews@weirs.com