We end this year as usual, with a summary list of the ten best beers to cross our shelves, taps and tastebuds during 2012. In itself a remarkable year for the North Texas area, 2012 has provided us with an abundance of craft beer riches both from across the U.S. and homegrown here in Dallas and the surrounding cities.
Because of a year that saw eight new commercial brewers enter our regional market (and with more on the way in 2013), this has been the most difficult list yet that I’ve had to compile. Simply keeping up with the sheer number of new beers available has proved daunting this year, and I’m sure some excellent beers were overlooked. The suggestion was made to have a separate “best of” list just for the locals but I disagree; even with a strong conviction of “buy local,” these brewers must still compete against national and imported brands for consumer dollars.
You know the rules by now: Entries on this list are not necessarily new products or the best available but represent new beers that made their first appearance in our market during the previous calendar year. If you’re not drinking any or all of these, you should be.
10. Lakewood Temptress. An imperial milk stout, The Temptress may yet prove to be the most versatile beer produced. Lacking the sharp bitterness and hops of traditional imperial stouts, it lends itself easily to flavor additions, post-brew treatments and as an ingredient in cooking and baking.
9. Gordon Biersch IPA. The first beer of newly hired brewer Eric Todd at the Park Lane, Dallas, location was a wonderfully balanced IPA rich with a ton of Citra hops but not overdone, never heavy or sticky like too many super-IPAs these days. Look for it again this January.
8. Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro. Not a true “nitro” serving but Left Hand reformulated their milk stout for this softer, gentler bottled version that is ultimately sessionable, neither too strong nor too sweet.
7. Full Sail Phil’s Existential Alt. A charitable release, this altbier surpasses everything other altbiers try to be, rich and malty without being heavy or cloying and just a hint of dry bitterness, and is the best all-day drinker of the year.
6. St-Sylvestre Gavroche. A French-brewed bière de garde, this malty, yeasty amber ale is an excellent reminder of a somewhat under-appreciated style that has never really been widely embraced – although it should be.
5. Deep Ellum Wealth & Taste. A Belgian-style spiced ale blended with muscat grape juice and with portions aged in chardonnay barrels, this beer only got better with age. By far the best beer Deep Ellum has produced in a very successful first year in business.
4. Alaskan Smoked Porter. Rumored unlikely to arrive in Texas after Alaskan Brewing entered our market, we did see a very small amount of this special release (some still on shelves). Possibly the best smoked-malt ale made by any American brewery.
3. Boulevard Stingo. A collaboration with Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, the Stingo was a dark, roasty, well-caramelized but dry old ale, a difficult style to make but one that stands up well compared to authentic British versions.
2. Deschutes The Stoic. Technically a “fruit beer” (pomegranate added), this Belgian-inspired quadrupel blend included portions aged in wine barrels and in rye whiskey barrels for an amazing depth of flavor.
1. Peticolas Velvet Hammer. After the accolades and attention Peticolas has received in his first year brewing, what more can be said about this beer? The Velvet Hammer remains the most perfectly balanced beer on the market, even with its hidden yet punishing 9% ABV.