These are beers that I've had plenty of times and never disappoint, but didn't make the splash that the new-to-me gems did.
Guinness: an entirely unique beer, and one you can have a few of
Bell's Two Hearted Ale: the little microbrew that could has amassed wide popularity, and it's well-deserved
Fuller's ESB: still the best bitter on the planet
Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout: like drinking a cookie
Anchor Porter: my favorite Anchor beer, a very approachable porter
Best of the Hoppies
I've made no secrets that my favorite beers are ones loaded with hops. Dry-hopped, wet-hopped, Cascades, Centennials, Columbias, Sterlings, you name it.
Southern Tier Unearthly and Hoppe: at 8% and 11%, these beers get it done
Great Divide Titan IPA: perhaps the best non-imperial/double IPA
Avery the Maharaja Imperial IPA: blown away by my first imperial IPA
Tyranena Hop Whore: Hoppiest beer on this list
Struise Mikkeller (Elliot Brew): a collaboration between two of Europe's best breweries
Best Aroma: Two Brothers Cane and Ebel. Red rye beer with Thai palm sugar uses Summit hops and is dry-hopped with Simcoe. After opening the bottle I thought this could be the best beer of the year. Was really good, but not as good as the smell indicated.
Best Local Draught Staple: Summit EPA. Can find this almost anywhere in the Twin Cities and it's something almost every beer drinker can enjoy.
Best Twin Cities Brewpub Beer: Plenty of options here: Barley Johns in New Brighton, Great Waters in St. Paul, Herkimer, Rock Bottom and Town Hall in Minneapolis. The nod here goes to Town Hall's Masala Mama IPA, which has a more subtle citrus flavor, but a huge dry pine finish.
Best Holiday Beer: Anchor Christmas 2008. Gets the edge over Rogue's Santa's Private Reserve because of its unique aroma and flavor: dark deep fruits, almost like a mincemeat pie in a glass.
Best Summer Beer: Surly Bitter Brewer. Quenching and chuggable with a few hops thrown in. Really smooth.
Best Label: Tie between Bell's Hell Hath No Fury and Blanche de Bruxells of Brasserie Lefabvre.