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Oakes Weekly - June 17th, 2004
New World Order
June 17, 2004
Written by Oakes
The New World Order
As one amasses years of beer tasting experience, one’s old notes gradually become obsolete. Granted, some beers seem to never change. But other ones do. Or your impressions of them change. New beers emerge as well. I look now at my list of favourites and realize that I’m long overdue for splitting off my list of favourites all-time versus ones I’ve tasted in the past two or three years. I mean, I loved Joustan Sahti when I studied in Jyväskylä, but that was six years ago. I’m told I won’t be able to find it there when I return this summer, which is a shame. Maybe I can convince someone to drive to Joutsa with me?
So what’s rocking my world lately? Orval still rocks my world. Always did. I don’t know how anyone could not love Orval – lots of malt, lots of hop, brettanomyces, shimmering orange colour and brilliant head formations, good dose of yeastiness, sufficient alcohol…in short, everything you want in a beer. Rodenbach Grand Cru is cool, though I seldom get to drink it anymore. Schlenkerla still rauchs my world. Christoffel Blond is a stalwart, as is St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout.
Two years ago, I found Blanche de Bruges at the Ship & Mitre in Liverpool and it was as good as I remembered it to be. They’re not always like that – Bière des Sans Culottes and Trois Monts both disappointed in my most recent experiences with them. Ditto Rogue Hazelnut Brown (though I’m not going to downgrade a beer on the basis of one tasting when it established its position in the course of several). Tabernash Weisse is a beer that has simply been eclipsed by better examples.
In recent years, I’ve begun to feel that I should just come right out and declare every traditional lambic a world treasure and petition UNESCO to declare all the breweries and blenders still operating as World Heritage Sites that must not only remain intact, but continue to brew. Picking some to be “world classics” and some to be merely “bloody outstanding” is actually rather silly when you consider the fact that drool at the mere thought of any of them.
In the past couple of years, I’ve found the following to be either at or near the top of their respective classes:
Diamond Knot Icebreaker Barley Wine – I’m fussy with barley wines and this just hit all the right notes with me.
Drie Fonteinen Frambozenlambiek – These recent ratings are no joke. It is that good.
Belle-Vue Selection Lambic – Another lambic that outshone a group of other traditional lambics. I suppose to choose this would be one of my choices. But I need more!
New Glarus Solstice Weisse and Denison’s Weissbier – These wheats, brewed incidentally by Siebel classmates, are outstanding examples of the style, and put most German examples into great shame for their artistry.
Heavyweight Two Druids Gruit – Definitely an acquired taste, but herbal, fruity and sour are all things I appreciate in a beer.
Duvel – I appreciate this beer more every time I have it. The last few times I have to admit I was pretty much in awe. It was a long time coming, but Duvel really is great.
Three Floyds Dark Lord – The epitome of a liquid lunch, packing more weight than a 12 oz porterhouse.
Mill Street Oktoberfest Märzen – I was pretty much the only one who really “got” this beer, but then it also had very little shelf life and I wonder if I was the only one who got it fresh and at a proper temperature. Still, it was to me a shining example of a rich, complex lager.
Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale – Brilliantly crafted strong ale, and many of this brewery’s beers are. Trust me on this one – Southern Tier are going to be huge. They seem to have the distribution muscle to get into more beer-savvy markets than their Western New York base, and that will allow them to really go all out.
Fantôme – Some are better than others, but since they aren’t really made to set recipes anyway, the name alone is all I need. Artisanal brewing at its finest.
Limfjords Porter – One of the best Baltics, and one of the best Danish beers I’ve had. Just all-round excellent stuff, proving that otherwise unexciting breweries can still make a very exciting beer every now and again.
Cain’s Mild and Cain’s Bitter – I fell in love with this Liverpool brewery. You can buy these in cans, but you won’t really get a feel for the quality of the beers that way. There’s some great beers in England just waiting to be discovered…
These to me are some of the new world order of beer. Many great beers have found their way to me in the past few years. Some of these are already world classics to me, while others exhibit that potential. All in all, there’s a lot of exciting stuff right now…it’s time that I stop talking about beers that I loved five years ago and haven’t had since. Time to start focusing on the best of today!
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I look now at my list of favourites and realize that I’m long overdue for splitting off my list of favourites all-time versus ones I’ve tasted in the past two or three years.
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