One month and 34 new beers down. I thought I'd have a harder time finding new beers now that I've knocked off many basics available in the Twin Cities, but new (to me) and seasonal ones keep popping up across the cities. It's easy to ignore a brewery for even a whole year, such as I did last year with Pennsylvania's Victory and am trying my best to do with Wisconsin's Capital. So, even if I'm not excited by what I haven't tried, it's still easy to find new beers. The amount of beers out there astounds me, and the options aren't shrinking. They're, like every other commodity in this country, growing exponentially. I have no doubt that it would be relatively easy to keep a 250-300 new beers a year pace up for a lifetime.
So, without reviewing any new beers in depth, I'll recap some of the highs and lows of my January, and spew out some nuggets for numbers junkies like myself.
Of the 34 new beers:
12 were imports, with Belgium leading the way with five new selections. My Unibroue sampler pack contributed two for Canada, but I'm trying to stretch that pack out over a couple months. One apiece for Australia, Western Europe, Germany, South America and the United Kingdom.
22 domestics: five from Colorado, four each from Wisconsin, Minnesota and California, three from Pennsylvania, and the rest scattered about. No need to get into specifics yet.
Out of five stars, my average beer rating for January beers was 3.13 stars. It must be noted that I had most of the mega-brewery crap last year, and those beers skewed my 2008 average of 2.79 a bit. Thus, an improved 2009 average was expected. Don't fret, I still kept room for a plethora of skunky garbage.
Some of us stat-masters would suggest that median, not average, is a more accurate stat indicator. Fifth-grade math lesson: median represents the middle number of a sequence, thus eliminating potential bottom- or top-heavy average skewers. My median rating for January was a 3.5, which suggests I had more above average beers than I did below average.
My most common rating of the 34 given out was, in fact, four stars, which I gave out ten times. More than a third of the beers I first tried this month I deemed outstanding, which bodes well for the future. We're getting to the point where I've tried most of the cheap stuff, and I'll have to spend a little more coin to get at the untasted. That, I would assume, can only mean I'm having better, more complex beer.
On to some monthly awards. The best beer I had this month: Struiselensis, a Belgian sour beer. I've decided that I love sour beers, lambics and the like. I guess I've always craved for taste-bud-challenging flavors, spicy or sour, and these beers fit the bill. This one has unapologetic tartness up front, like the sourest candy you could find. However, after the initial shock, it became as drinkable as any smooth summer beer. I love the clean flavors, the crisp bite and the lingering sourness. Plus, my wife enjoys them, which is far more than can be said for any other beer variety.
Worst beer of the month: Blue Diamond Lager. Scroll down to read of its unpleasantness.
Pleasant surprise of the month: Samuel Adams Imperial Pilsner. It's almost unfair to classify this as a pilsner, the hop intensity is so far out of control. I generally don't like pilsners, but I guess when you double the hop content, you thereby double my enjoyment.
Biggest disappointment: most of the winter seasonals I tried. Here's a quick list of those that didn't deliver, with some comments from my initial tastings. It must be noted that I fully expected the Leinenkugel's offering to be awful.
Leinenkugel's 1888 Bock. "Utterly horrible. Took my best effort to finish it."
Capital Brewery Winter Skal. "After four strong beers, this one fell way short." Not really even sure what that means anymore. I'm sure it sounded like a clear criticism at the time.
Schell's Snowstorm. "Tastes like every part of the process involved burning and over-cooking." The best beer on this list, just not a flavor I enjoy. It's become quite clear that I have no appreciation for Viennas.
Redhook Winter Hook. "Not very strong, lacking flavor, and a little too nutty." Sometimes you run out of things to say. A phenomenon you'd quickly realize if you frequented beer rating websites. It's kind of like Kate Winslett/Leo DiCaprio red carpet interview questions. Wait, haven't you been following E!'s red carpet coverage like I have? An indictment of marriage.