Friday, December 31st 2011
Best Cans of 2011 Poll Results
and our Year End Shout Outs!
This year we did something new. We let the public vote on their favorite canned craft beers of 2011 so thank you to everyone who took the time to vote! We know that these results don't truly represent the "best" of 2011 as beer is extremely subjective and not every beer of every style is available everywhere. With that being said, we'd like to recognize all of the the great breweries out there and the brewers who use their skills and creativity to bring us these amazing beers. Support your local brewery! If 2011 is a barometer for what is to come, 2012 promises to be an amazing year for canned craft beer. So, without further ado we present to you the results of the "Best of 2011" polling as well as some of our own shoutouts (NOTE: The poll winner is in the middle of the podium and the two beers beside it are ones that we've chosen to recognize - not necessarily 2nd and 3rd in the polling). Cheers!
One of the most commonly canned styles are Amber or Red Ales. There are over 30 canned versions currently available so kudos to Breckenridge Brewery's Avalanche Amber Ale, the brewery's flagship brew, for garnering the most votes in the polling! We'd also like to recognize two small craft breweries that began canning this past year and both released very solid versions of this style. Cheers to both Crazy Mountain Brewing and Baxter Brewing respectively who both also have big plans for 2012!
Stouts are quite versatile as is seen by the variety of versions being canned. It's hard to deny that Oskar Blues' Ten Fidy is an amazing beer and certainly worthy of topping the polls for the category! This is a 10.5% behemoth of a stout, if you've yet to try it you need to put it on your list for 2012. We'd also like to give praise to two coffee stouts that don't see national distribution but are both fantastic. Cheers to Great River Brewery and Santa Fe Brewing who both partnered with local coffee company's to produce amazing brews.
The opposite end of the spectrum from IPAs comes the malt forward, and very drinkable, brown ale. Over a dozen breweries now can a brown ale and that number is growing. Topping the polls for the style was Tallgrass Ale, a smooth malty delight that is rich and flavorful. With increased distribution coming you should be able to find this in quite a few states in 2012. We'd also like to recognize Big Sky's Moose Drool and Half Acre's Over Ale as being excellent examples of the style.
The almighty American IPA! There are about 70 different American IPAs currently being canned by craft brewers and this represents the most commonly canned style in the industry. Congratulations to SKA Brewing's Modus Hoperandi for getting the most votes in the polling. A fantastic hoppy brew with a large following, this was one of the first IPAs ever canned. There are so many great canned IPAs that its certainly hard to choose these days. However, we'd like to recognize Snake River Brewing's Pako's IPA as one of the very best we've ever had and also bring attention to Surly's WET which is the nation's first, and only, wet-hopped IPA and is pure lupulin perfection!
Who doesn't love a well put together pale ale? One of the most commonly canned styles and one that can fall anywhere on the hop scale. DC Brau's The Public was at the top of the poll with an astounding 40% of the votes. Despite having very limited local distribution the first canned release from DC's first production brewery in over 60 years has a very loyal following. Two other pale ales to certainly get your hands on, both found in pint cans no less, are Half Acre's Daisy Cutter and Sun King's Osiris. Both are on the high end of the hop scale for pale ales and both are amazing.
Wheat as an ingredient in brewing can be many things to a beer. As a category this is pretty broad and we did our best to include some variety. Standing at the top of the polls was Halcyon Unfiltered Wheat from Tallgrass. What was originally slated to be just a summer seasonal, this extremely well-crafted American Pale Wheat Ale won the hearts of so many drinkers that it immediately became a year-round release. Other wheat beers that grabbed our attention were Cornstalker Dark Wheat from Thunderhead Brewing and SanTan Brewing's CANFEST gold medal winning HefeWeizen. Both are great examples of well-crafted wheat beers.
You've got to give credit to any craft brewery that is willing to put the extra time and effort (and money) into brewing a lager or pilsner. To take that a step further and package it in cans and put it on shelves and in coolers alongside the big boys is even more impressive. Oskar Blues' Mama's Little Yella Pils captured the top spot in the poll for this category. The brewery's crisp, easy drinking pilsner is now available for the first time in 12-packs.
A couple other cans in this category that captured our attention were Avery's Joe's Premium American Pilsner, a beer that is brewed only for cans and has never been bottled, as well as Bohemian Brewery's Viennese Lager, one of three excellent lagered beers they produce.
You may be surprised to know that Belgian beers like Mort Subite, Rodenbach and Hoegaarden have all been canned. On this side of the Atlantic American brewers have begun to challenge consumer expectation and put some amazing Belgian-style beers in cans. Getting the most votes in this category was Tallgrass Brewing's Velvet Rooster. The first ever canned Belgian-style Tripel, Velvet Rooster is an exceptionally well put together, golden-hued beauty. This was one of the best brews we had in 2011.
Also, on the podium are two Belgian-style brews we just had to mention. Triomphe, a Belgian IPA, from Michigan's Brewery Vivant is a hoppy, spicy brew that really wowed us and Monk's Blood from 21st Amendment, a complex dark Belgian-style brew with a myriad of ingredients and aged on oak.
This was another diverse category with several styles challenging one another. Coming out on top was 21st Amendment's Back in Black - an ode to all things dark and hoppy. This was the first canned American Black Ale (a.k.a. Black IPA) and has gained quite a following since it hit shelves in the summer of 2010.
We'd like to also recognize Maui Brewing's Coconut Porter, an outstanding use of "hand-toasted" coconut in a very well brewed and robust porter. Also, barely squeeking into the polls, as it wasn't released until earlier this month, was Crabtree Brewing's Eclipse Black IPA. Canned with the help of Boulder's Mobile Canning, this "Belgo-style Black IPA" packs a punch and plenty of IBUs to match. Complex and delicious, we look forward to more from Crabtree in 2012!
These are the super-hopped, extra-strength and high IBU brews that truly embody the American brewing spirit. Pick any of the dozen or so canned versions of this style and its unlikely you'll be disappointed. Tallgrass nation certainly came to the polls in strong numbers as once again they came out on top, this time with their Oasis Ale. A well-balanced hopped-up brew that would make any hophead blush. This is one of our favorites from the Kansas brewery. Like we said, pretty much any of the canned Double or Imperial IPAs on the market are worthy of your attention.
That being said we'd like to give some shoutouts to Heady Topper from Alchemist Cannery in Vermont. The much beloved Alchemist brewpub was closed down for good due to Hurricane Irene - the same week the Alchemist Cannery opened. This is the only beer they brew and can, so far, and it is outstanding. Also, how can we not mention Gandhi-Bot from New England Brewing? A tremendously hoppy beer with limited distribution that flies off shelves whenever a batch is released. Again, everyone of the beers in this category is top notch. Cheers!
Surprisingly "sessionable" is not a real word. It should be. These are the beers that are easy to drink and great for those afternoons at the beach, playing disc golf, BBQ'ing, hiking or whatever other activities you enjoy with a beer. Rising to the top of this category was SKA Brewing's Mexican Logger. Released for the first time in cans this year, Mexican Logger is a Saaz-driven lager that is a great option on warm day. Additionally, Sixpont's Sweet Action made us very happy with it's nice balance, dry-hopping and altogether easy drinkability. Also, who can argue that 21st Amendent's Bitter American isn't a great beer to stock a cooler with? A truly session-able and more than sufficiently hopped American Pale Ale that we wish we could find all year-long!
2011 was a busy year for canning craft breweries. A ton of new beers were released and the grounds were laid for what should be a very eventful 2012. This was yet another poll in which fans to Tallgrass made their voices heard. Velvet Rooster, the world's first canned Belgian-style Tripel, reigned supreme yet again! It's hard for us to argue as we really enjoyed this one too! There were so many other great new beers this year it was practically impossible for us to narrow it down to just two, but somehow we did.
First, a beer that many folks may not have had but we truly loved. Earlier this year, Great Crescent Brewery released Bourbon's Barrel Stout, the first barrel-aged stout in a can. Silky smooth with nice vanilla notes, hints of bourbon and all wrapped within a not-so-boozy stout. Also, after much deliberation, we'd like to once again give a shoutout to the Alchemist's Heady Topper. Through much heartache this little brewery in Northern Vermont is churning out a very special, and very hoppy, beer that is keeping their local population at ease during difficult times.
Cans are an amazing medium for art and design. They offer 360 degrees of space to work with and some talented artists have utilized that space to create some amazing things. This year we're happy to see Crow Peak's 11th Hour IPA at the top of the poll for design. Mike Palmer is the talented artist behind this eye-catching design. He's also done a similar design for their Pile O' Dirt Porter and their soon to be released Canyon Cream Ale. Congrats Mike and to everyone at Crow Peak Brewing in Spearfish, South Dakota!
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention one of our favorites from 2011. 21st Amendment's Allies Win the War was the first collaboration brew to be canned (21st Amendment & Ninkasi Brewing did this one together) and the design was meant to look like an end of World War II newspaper showing the three allied leaders with superimposed heads on each. It was a great use of the space that a can allows and are hats are off to the folk who put this together (anyone know who that was by chance?). Also, last year we gave recognition to Santa Fe Brewing for the design on their Oktoberfest can but we actually love the designs for their whole canned lineup and this year we again want to bring some attention their way. Cheers to Matt McCaffree and Brad Jungles for their work on those cans and we look forward to seeing what you guys do with that upcoming Irish Red can. Beer is Art. Cheers!
Without innovation we wouldn't have nearly the number of styles of craft beer and we also wouldn't have things like Randall the Enamel Animal or nitro-widgets. With this category we wanted to bring attention to the craft breweries that were going one step further and helping to drive the creative forces that make the American craft brewing industry so great. At the top of this poll is Oskar Blues. A decade ago they were willing to take a risk and put their Dale's Pale Ale in a can and look where they, and the industry, are today. The Colorado brewery continues to innovate and they currently run a farm called Hops and Heifers where they grow hops used in some of their beers including their HGH series and raise cattle that are fed the spent grain from their brewery. They also just started up a bike company called REEB. Look for 16 oz. cans of Oskar Blues' Deviant Dales IPA this coming March and what comes after that is anyone's guess.
We'd also like to recognize two Indiana breweries that are making amazing beers and utilizing a similar innovative technology that allows them both to bring more great beer to the masses. Sun King Brewing and Great Crescent Brewery are both utilizing a can designed to allow the brewery to fill it with whatever style they choose and the simply adhere a sticker to the can to denote the particular brand. This has allowed Sun King to can Johan the Barleywine, the world's first barleywine, as well as their uber-hoppy Grapefruit Jungle IPA and just recently their GABF gold-medal winning Wee Muckle Scotch Ale. Great Crescent puts every beer that they can into their specially designed can and that includes beers like their Bourbon's Barrel Stout, the first canned barrel-aged stout, and their Coconut Porter. Look for cans of their Frosted Fields Winter Wheat in cans in a few weeks.
Two other breweries that really impressed us were Tallgrass Brewing with their unflinching willingness to put the first Belgian-style Tripel in a can, Velvet Rooster - perhaps you've heard of it by now, and their continued devotion to sending new beers down their canning line. We can't wait for the release of 8-Bit Pale Ale (check out the artwork on this can!) and whatever else 2012 might bring! Also, of note was Finch's Beer Company who teamed up with Threadless.Com and ran a contest to pick the design for their soon to be released cans of Threadless IPA. A ton of great artwork was submitted and what an amazing canvas to showcase someone's talents! The winner should be announced soon. Keep on innovating!
Poll Winner: Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
It must be said that the true winner of this category is us, the beer drinkers. More and more breweries are choosing to can their beers and 2012 will certainly see a few more of the big players making the move. The tope vote-getter in the category of most "anticipated cans of 2012" was Sierra Nevada. Look for 12 oz. cans of their world famous Pale Ale and 16 oz. cans of Torpedo Extra IPA on shelves in the coming weeks!
Judging by the percentage of votes each of the breweries we chose received, it's pretty clear that consumers are excited for all of the new cans due out in the coming year. That is why we've chosen to give shoutouts to the other breweries in the poll as well. Cheers goes out to Bell's Brewery (which beers will they be canning?), Golden Road Brewing (a brand new canning brewery in LA with a cult following already), Abita Brewing (oldest and largest craft brewery in Louisiana) and of course Cigar City Brewing whose epic beers can't arrive in cans soon enough.
Thanks for supporting us and our mission to promote the canned beer revolution! Cheers to all of you and all the best in 2012!
Posted by Russ
Labels: Best of 2011