Friday, February 20, 2009


After six years of agony, torture, frustration, pain and far worse, the wife & I finally have bought a house in San Francisco. We didn't come to the market, "the market came to us". But here's the best part - well, my best part, maybe not hers - this morning I drove by the soon-to-be-our house just for fun, and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a DOGFISH HEAD sign on an otherwise nondescript corner store called MONTEREY DELI - you know, the sort of place that stocks Doritos and smokes and Miller Lite, and always has a 49ers game on a the 10-inch black & white TV. A store selling Dogfish Head - and perhaps beers of that ilk??!? Two blocks from my new house?

Naturally I went in and was blown away. Owner "Johnny" and I had a nice talk about how he and I would be spending a lot of time together in the months to come. Big bottles of URTHEL, ST. BERNARDUS, ROCHEFORT, DOGFISH HEAD, RUSSIAN RIVER, STONE etc. - the sort of beer you never see in corner stores, unless there's a beer fiend working in one of them. Like there appears to be at MONTEREY DELI. Wow. Also a great sandwich counter with meats & cheeses and all sorts of other stuff we love here at HBJ. The store is located in the "up and coming" Sunnyside neighborhood, at 499 Monterey Blvd., right at the corner of Edna. You can walk there from the Glen Park BART station. See you there once we close on this place.


I swore I’d make it here again far sooner than I did, but I went back to San Francisco’s LA TRAPPE bar/restaurant the other night for a few Belgian ales. If you missed it, here is my first take on this fantastic bar. One difference this time is that rather than spend all my time upstairs in their rather generic dining room, I descended the circular stairs and went down into “the beer cave”, their beautiful soooo-European beer bar on the lower level. People of the San Francisco Bay Area: if you’re not drinking your beer at La Trappe, you need to be. Don’t neglect our city’s other gems – CITY BEER, TORONADO, 21ST AMENDMENT – just add this to your list of regulars. It’s made for beer dorks like you and me.

Because LA TRAPPE has such an extensive Belgian draft list, I decided to stay with those only, though I did introduce my drinking partner to a bottle of TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 6, his first ever. His reaction was predictable: “this is amazing”. Mission accomplished. Me, I wanted to drink a few I’d never had before. You might be well familiar with the ones I tried, but here’s my first take on each of ‘em;

BRASSERIE DUPONT BIERE DE MIEL Ahhh – now this is why we drink Belgian, isn’t it? BIERE DE MIEL from BRASSERIE DUPONT is a delicious, fluffy, smooth saison. DUPONT, of course, make Saison Dupont and Foret as well. This particular formulation has a fluffed-up, pillowy head of foam, and is completely packed with fruit – slightly sour tastes mixed with honey, wheat and aromas of lavender and lemon. More fruity than funky. Excellent beer – will definitely buy a bottle of this in the near future. 8.5/10.

GRIMBERGEN DUBBEL – Not bad, not bad at all – but sort of “generic” for Belgian beer. This brown ale is thin-bodied, a bit yeasty, and faintly malt/roasty – hard to pick up what else is in there outside of a solidly-constructed Belgian beer. It’s sort of like LEFFE BLONDE – very good and very basic. 7/10.

CANTILLON FRAMBOISE – Wow, I really did it. I ordered a lambic and drank the whole thing. This is one of the classics as well, and it’s the first CANTILLON beer I’ve ever tried. It’s like a very, very sour raspberry juice. Fizzy and strange – so jarring I actually can’t assign it a “grade”, which says more about me, and what a rookie I am ,to this style than it says anything about the beer. There’s certainly evidence of very high quality & craft, but I need to get some more of these in me before I can even develop a relative “scale” upon which to judge them. I hereby declare a moratorium on lambic reviews until I’ve tried, say, 4 more of them. HBJ Rating: UNCERTAIN.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


One of the more surprising turns in life occurred two nights ago as I uncorked and settled down with the newest limited-edition bomber from LOST ABBEY, an “ale brewed with raisins” called JUDGMENT DAY. The surprise? It wasn’t perfect, or near-perfect. In fact I didn’t even like it (sacre bleu!). Hey, I’m not mad or anything. LOST ABBEY makes beers of such incredible high quality that they’re out-Belgianing the Belgians in a big way – and every month or two brings some new surprise that just totally knocks my socks off my ass. (Thank you Jerky Boys). WITCHES’ WIT notwithstanding, I always knew they were eventually gonna brew a new experiment that would leave me cold. Judgment Day is that beer.

What’s up with this one? Well, alcohol is up – way up. 10.5%, and you can taste every boozy, hot drop of it. It has no head at all – still ,flat, lifeless. Medium body, and with definite strong tastes of raisins and dates – and yet it’s not sweet (!). Like a bourbon-soaked Belgian dubbel without all the fun that implies. Simply put, it’s a little flat-tasting and one of those experiments that went slightly awry. Interestingly, I got an email from my trusted east coast correspondent, whom I sent a bottle of this to before I tried it myself, and he thought it was one of the finest Belgian-style American ales he’d ever tried. How about that. I’ll take TEN COMMANDMENTS or GIFT OF THE MAGI any day. I’ll give this one a 5.5/10.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I had my first beer from CAPTAIN LAWRENCE BREWING in October 2007, on the day I turned 40, and in all the excitement I forgot to rate the thing. Can you believe that? But notice had indeed been served – this east coast brewer was a force to be reckoned with, and if I was smart I needed to start trading for it and also seeking out their beers when I journeyed eastward. I have done just that. Recently I’ve enjoyed their CAPTAIN’S RESERVE IMPERIAL IPA (10/10), their SMOKED PORTER (7.5/10) and their GINGER MAN ALE (7/10). I needed to go back to the beginning, though, so the other night I busted out my big bottle of ST. VINCENT’S DUBBEL, the first beer of theirs I’d had. This one arrived in a trade from MCM, and so far he’s an ace picker of quality ales.

ST. VINCENT’S DUBBEL is a wonderful, malty Belgian brown ale. As I understand it, they brew it once a year and release it on Father’s Day. It’s medium-bodied, a little lighter than you’d think, actually, and is even a bit on the fizzy/carbonated side. Of course there are deep, rich tastes of caramel, figs, and a smooth, roasted flavor. They say, “use this beer as you would a full-bodied cabernet or an aged port”. I say, “drink this with your dinner or without your dinner, it’s gonna be great no matter how you enjoy it”. It’s a fantastic beer. It and some of its contemporaries have me wondering if a strong argument could be made for the superiority of east coast beers over their west coast counterparts right about now. The east surely is pumping out incredible, rich, full-bodied ales, and I thank illegal interstate trading for helping to introduce me to some of them. CAPTAIN LAWRENCE ST. VINCENT’S DUBBEL = 9/10.

Monday, February 16, 2009


(Photo courtesy Jesse @ Beer & Nosh)

Back in the mid-period days of San Francisco Bay Area craft beer spelunking there were only so many places for the discerning beer dork to go. We're talking early/mid-90s here. Why, there was 20 TANK and SAN FRANCISCO BREWING and PACIFIC COAST and a couple others whose names escape me right about now; the one I remember going to the earliest was TRIPLE ROCK in Berkeley. Right there on Shattuck, just a few blocks away from the UC-Berkeley campus, and always an easy BART ride away back to the city, after you got a few pints in ya. My fondest memory was the incredible array of vintage beer signs tacked up all over the place, a look that's become de rigeur at multiple brewpubs in the years since. I think there's a solid chance that TRIPLE ROCK was the first microbrewery I ever went to, as I feel like I went there late in college, and I graduated from a Southern California school in 1989.

After a flurry of visits back during that time, and maybe a couple more toward the end of the 90s, I kind of forgot it existed. I'd "moved on", you see. Other than me reading about their occasional "real ale" festivals and the like, no one ever seemed to have anything to say about their beer for good or for ill. I reckoned it was a "college kid place" and figured I'd get back there again at the right time, if the right situation presented itself - say, I was taking a forgotten college course at Age 41 that a counselor was threatening to flunk me for not taking twenty years previous, and I needed a big drink afterward. If that sounds like one of your recurring dreams, well - welcome to my world as well.

So I read that TRIPLE ROCK, as part of the San Francisco Beer Week that's wrapping up right now and which I've regrettably taken virtually no part in, was having a "Sour Sunday" festival, featuring a bunch of great sour and high-ABV barrel-aged beers from all over. Me and my pal Uli showed up at 8:30 and, uh, well - "Sour Sunday" was long over, and the beers from it were long gone. So we decided to just make a 'lil lemonade, and start drinking the house beers. Oh, and by the way, Rodger Davis, formerly of DRAKE'S, is now the head brewer over here, and that guy's made a couple damn fine beers in his day.

Here's what I personally tried:

TRIPLE ROCK/SIERRA NEVADA HOP SECRET - Wow, what a way to begin - a team-up beer between two breweries, and an outstanding one at that. This is an imperial red ale, with really really smooth hopping - just a super easy-drinking red ale but obviously a bit of a whopper if you threw down too many in one sitting. Strong caramel malts and a great fizzy carbonation - excellent stuff. 8.5/10.

TRIPLE ROCK IPAX - This is one of a couple house IPA's. My notes say "a little dry but tasty enuf". I actually did spell it e-n-u-f. I remember thinking I was disappointed, but only after the aforementioned HOP SECRET. 6/10.

TRIPLE ROCK BRASSKNUCKLE - This is a relatively recent barleywine-style ale, or as we like to call them where I come from: a barleywine. Again, the notes are pretty simple: "sweet, medium hops", and I'm remembering again that after some of the barleywines I've encountered recently this was exceptionally average. 6/10.

Still, "average" is damn good if you ask me - my beer tastings tend to skew toward the exceptional, because I, well - I buy and drink the good stuff. I think I can drag my tuchus back across the Bay once more before the decade turns, or at least before 2021 (seriously, my previous visit here was probably 1997). And if you're in town or a local, get over there and grab some of that HOP SECRET while it's still pourin'!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


So now I know where the BEER ADVOCATE guys got schooled. THE PUBLICK HOUSE in Brookline, Massachusetts (essentially a neighborhood within Boston) officially rockets into my Top 5 places I’ve ever had a beer – or several beers, as the case may be. As we noted last week, after a couple days in New York, I took Amtrak up into New England for one day of business in Boston. 15-degree cold and unprecedented wind chill greeted this California boy, but I didn’t care, as I knew that #1 on my agenda was getting in a cab and hoofing it to THE PUBLICK HOUSE, also known as THE PUBLICK HOUSE & MONK’S CELL. I sat down upon arrival and asked the waitress, “So, is the Monk’s Cell downstairs or something? Do they have a bunch of beers that the restaurant doesn’t have?”. She told me, nope, it’s just a barroom about ten feet away, everything’s the same, and this “Monk’s Cell” thing is just a little marketing magic. That’s cool – I certainly fell for it. I love all that Monk malarkey.

So why did I love this place so much? Well, this place is truly the ultimate in higher-end, beer-centric establishments (and yet is certainly within range for most lower-middle-class budgets). All the food is either lovingly cooked with beer, or is cooked to complement beer. The cheese board is full of cheeses from brewers themselves (like ROGUE and that hot Italian brewer whose name escapes me), and the menu talks about what to pair it with. Now, you may remember that I’m very skeptical of how natural the fit is between beer and various foods, but hey, I’m a heathen in many regards. But I still loved the beer-centricity of this place. And The menu! Just bursting with Belgian, Belgian-style, and non-Belgian beers of all stripes, including many I’ve never heard of (always exciting for this jaded fella) and lots of east coast specialties. Prices were reasonable, like $6 for most glasses, and of course everything was served in the perfect glassware with the logo of the brewer, no matter how obscure they were. In short, it’s really the ultimate beer-lover’s restaurant and bar, and the only place I’ve seen that compares is THE BEER BISTRO in Toronto. THE PUBLICK HOUSE gets my nod of the two just for approachability alone, as you can imagine bombing into here with your buddies for a quick pint just as easily as you can imagine bringing a date for a nice meal of oysters & Chimay.

It took a lot of brain calculation and processing power to come up with my choices, but here’s what I tried – all for the first time:

SMUTTYNOSE GRAVITATION – Outstanding. I think my mood went from great to greater while drinking this superb beer, which is an 8.5%-ABV bourbon-barrel quadrupel. It’s a delicious Belgian-style, brownish ale, very still in the glass and meant to be consumed slowly. It has a light bourbon taste but no hot alcohol, which I loved. Totally like sucking on a caramel. They served it chilled, colder than the normal Belgian ale, and it totally worked for this one. Closest beer I’ve had to it was DOGFISH HEAD’s “Raison D’Xtra”, and I loved that too. 9/10.

VAN STEENBURGE ATOMIUM GRAND CRU – Big foamy head with lots of carbonation – luscious mouthfeel, but a little astringent. I had mine with an Italian cheese that had been soaked in red ale for 100 days – how about that?? Very orange, fizzy and effervescent. Some yeasty tastes that gave a nice buzz on the tongue. You can see a picture that I took right here. 6.5/10.

BRASSERIE ACHOUFFE MC CHOUFFE – This is a Belgian strong brown ale, quite carbonated (at least at first) and very “nutty”. I really was thinking it was like a Belgianized English brown ale, as it has elements of both countries’ standard-bearers. Dark fruits, and some malt sweetness. Very good, but as I was drinking it I was futzing around on my cell phone, and learned that Lux Interior from The Cramps had just died, which totally harshed on my mellow. Lux was/is probably my favorite rock star of all time. It was time to leave this terrific bar and go figure it all out back in the hotel. 7/10.

I don’t know if or when I’ll ever get back to Boston, but this is a mandatory stop when I do. Worth traveling to – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


(Photo courtesy Jesse @ Beer & Nosh)

I’ve read two really good articles – well, as good as an article about BEER can be – about brewing “collaborations” recently. One was in the revamped ALL ABOUT BEER last month, the other in THE CELEBRATOR, I believe. In any event, it’s all the rage. Take one superstar brewer, team him/her with another superstar brewer, drop the egos, and see what happens. Usually this collaboration spurs inventiveness and experimentation, and wow, some of the results have been fantastic. Think DE PROEF & ALLAGASH’sLes Deux Brasseurs”. Think AVERY & RUSSIAN RIVER’sCollaboration, Not Litigation”. There are many more out there now, with more appearing every day. It’s the big wave that the heavyweights are all trying, and money in my wallet permitting, it’s a great trend. I wanna try them all.

One I went for the other day is a collaboration between BROOKLYN BREWING in the US and SCHNEIDER BREWERY in Germany. It’s called HOPFEN-WEISSE. Here’s what I know about it, stolen entirely from the web using my computer’s “cut and paste” functionality:

This brew is the result of the long friendship of Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Schneider brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler. Garrett had always admired the delicate balance of flavors in Schneider Weisse, while Hans-Peter had long enjoyed the effusive hop character of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and BLAST! Garrett’s concept for the collaboration was that each brewmaster would brew essentially the same pale, hoppy weissbock in the other’s brewery, but with different hopping to reflect the local hop flavor.

What’s cool about it is that there are two versions – the US/Brooklyn version in its own bottle, and the German version is a totally different bottle. Obviously they have different hops as well, “to reflect the local hop flavor”, as it were. Cool. I had the German versionTHE TORONADO in San Francisco was selling them “to-go”, and I brought one home and drank it the next night. It’s great. Very clove-heavy, and quite “imperial” in many areas, including the 8.2% alcohol. It tastes like a hefeweizen, but one with a thick mouthfeel and more lemon than banana. Exceptionally crisp, effervescent, zesty and hoppy. It really tastes great, and impressed the non-beer dork friend with whom I shared it just as much as it did me. Another excellent collaboration, and well worth seeking out. 8/10.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I’m not a “get hammered in the airport” kind of guy, nor am I someone who enjoys drinking on airplanes. I think I had a tiny bottle of Beefeater on a plane once in my twenties, and that was it. Something about being in motion on a plane while you’ve got a buzz-on going – totally unappealing. Anyway, that’s my time to read my backed-up magazine and non-fiction book collection, and I simply don't know how to "multitask" – you know, drinking and reading. The two don’t work well together for me. All that said, I had about 90 minutes to kill in Denver’s airport a couple of weeks ago, and I started getting excited about finding some locals-only beer to try, maybe something from GREAT DIVIDE, FORT COLLINS or some weird NEW BELGIUM thing. Airport brewpubs are the rage these days, and I’ll admit to having some very enjoyable GORDON BIERSCH moments in LA’s airport the past couple years.

I wasn’t exactly ready to go all-out for that beer, though, and settled on a NEW BELGIUM 2 BELOW winter ale at some nameless airport pub, one not operated by New Belgium themselves. We’ve had 2 BELOW before and liked it, so let’s see how it is this year. It fares well. The yeast profile in this one gives it a nice light spice and good solid malty taste, despite it being a somewhat thin, yellow/orange ale. That “Christmas taste” we love so much here is present in the aftertaste, and it’s nice. My notes also say “hops are present”. Well, that’s good to know. 2 BELOW is akin to what I’d imagine a “Belgian amber” might taste like, with a little less (but not too much less) character than that might imply. I’d happily drink one of these again. 7/10.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Getting sent on a business trip to New York City is like a present every time; there’s no city outside of my own that I’d rather be sent packing to – particularly now that the city and the region has become such a stupendous spot for beer. This week visit was my fourth trip to New York during the past 9 months, and as such, I’m getting to be pretty familiar with certain watering holes. No, I didn’t make it to the Ginger Man on 36th Avenue, and I always go there for beer exploration, but unlike most trips, I decided to stay in the West Village rather than midtown – all the closer to the BLIND TIGER ALE HOUSE (hey, what a coincidence, hunh?).

My first night in town I met up with BT at the Blind Tiger, and it was on. My first try of the trip was the CAPTAIN LAWRENCE SMOKED PORTER, a poor camera-phone picture of which you can see here to your left. The Blind Tiger Ale House was bursting at the seams with imperial stouts and porters, and it was sort of hard to know where to go without grabbing too big of a buzz early. This one was just the right call. CAPTAIN LAWRENCE SMOKED PORTER has a small head that dissipates quickly, and once you get going with it, wow, it’s far more smooth than it looks. A vague smokiness. Not acidic nor chewy like some big porters are, but then this is only 6.4% alcohol (no, it is not their “SMOKE FROM THE OAK” porter). It’s got a light creaminess that’s very pleasant on the tongue – really, almost a classic malty porter with a vague “rauch” touch. I like it a lot. 7.5/10.

Not to spoil the post already, but the big winner of the whole trip was the next beer, a jaw-droppingly incredible IPA from Brooklyn brewer SIX POINT CRAFT ALES called BENGALI TIGER. Nope, not a double IPA, not an imperial IPA – an IPA. It’s incredible, and perhaps the best of its ilk I’ve had in years. Dry, low carbonation, with some decided bitterness but also a rush of citrus juicyness. As smooth a hoppy beer as I’ve ever had. I was gulping the thing, determined to find its flaws. I found none. So I ordered another BENGALI TIGER. Still perfect. 10/10!! Sadly only available on draft in the New York area. Well boo hoo hoo.

The next afternoon I traveled to the vaunted gastropub THE SPOTTED PIG in search of some grub-n-grog. It was snowing like crazy, enough to frustrate even the mailman, and this West Village restaurant that typically has lines out the door (or so I hear) was quite empty, and I got my own booth upstairs – right by the bar. But hey, I told you I may like to drink, but I’m not a big drinker, if you know what I mean. I held it at one small afternoon beer, an oatmeal stout also from SIX POINT CRAFT ALES called OTIS. Another winner from this outfit. Soooo smooth and creamy. It’s got a slight aftertaste of oats and bitter chocolate, maybe some nuttiness and wood. Totally great with a Roquefort cheese burger and a couple deviled eggs. Take a look at that photo - awesome, I f***** snapped that. 7.5/10.

Finally, after a jaunt by rail out to a New Jersey Devils/Washington Capitals game in Jersey, I returned to the West Village and “happened by” the Blind Tiger Ale House on Tuesday night. I picked wildly from the many draft selections available, perhaps a little too wildly. Guessing that anything from New York with POINT in the name would be good, I asked the kind barkeep for a BLUE POINT HOPTICAL ILLUSION. These folks are from Long Island, and I know/knew nothing about them. Alas, this IPA was just a bit of an overload in the hop depart,ent. Very bitter, surprisingly still and thin-bodied, and even with a bit of a sting in the taste. Yikes. No citrus anywhere at all. Just a low-carbonated dose up hops turned up to 11. I couldn’t even finish it. I’m guessing there are much better representations of the art of brewing from these folks, yeah? 5.5/10.

I then got on a train to Boston, where I wrote the post that you’re reading right now. I assume more pleasures await there…..

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Here’s one I was kinda itching to try: ST. FEUILLIEN TRIPEL, created by Brasserie St. Feuillien in Le Roeulx, Belgium. It’s a well-distributed tripel that always beckons from the shelves. This time, I moved on it. ST. FEUILLIEN TRIPEL is a nice, yeasty tripel that was consumed in one fell swoop while watching “Lost” on TV. We hadn’t even made it to the second commercial break and this was gone. I liked its tartness and lemon/clove flavors, and there’s no mistaking a slight bit of funk in this one. Compare it to, say, LA FIN DU MONDE or WESTMALLE TRIPEL and it falls short, but not by much. It’s distinguished by a slightly lighter body, a nice dry carbonation and that funkiness, plus perhaps less of the floral hops you might associate with the aforementioned beers. Beautiful, thick pillowy head of foam. Why, you can see what I’m talking about in this picture, which I took with my BlackBerry Bold camera phone. I’d drink this again, and will likely seek out other elixhirs from the ST. FEUILLIEN stable. 7.5/10.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Okay, I’ve been doing some serious documentation of my beer-drinking for three years now. Hedonist Beer Jive started on March 19th, 2006 with this post. I knew so little about the whos, wheres and whatfors of craft beer at the time that I made multiple rookie faux pas; I bagged on a ST. BERNARDUS beer that surprised my palate; I decided that my first taste of RUSSIAN RIVER “Damnation” was no big deal; and like most newbies, I tended to overpraise IPAs and ignore almost everything else. I’m still working on a few things: an appreciation for lagers (may never happen...); trying to drink all the Belgian beers available in the United States; getting to more festivals and dinners; and generally developing a better vocabulary for what I write about.

I’ve got a pretty good sense of who I’m rooting for, though. My Top 10 brewers are all brewers who’ve created more than three or four beers that have totally delighted me. In order to make this list, they’re got to be brewing incredible beers up & down the lineup, and I have to personally have tried a bunch of them. Sure, they can have a few misfires from time to time, but those are exceptions to overall greatness.

In order, here are whom I believe to be the ten finest brewers on the planet:

1. BRASSERIE DE ROCHEFORT – This classic Belgian trappist brewer only makes three beers, and they’re all in my Top 65, including my favorite beer of all time, TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 8. Right behind that is the 6, and only slightly behind that, the big quadrupel 10. I imagine I will be drinking these with regularity until the men in the white coats tell me I cannot drink any longer.

2. ST. BERNARDUS – The Wizards of Watou, Belgium thankfully are fairly well-distributed in the US, and thus I’ve been able to taste just about their entire lineup. It’s incredible, straight up & down – from the superb GROTTEN BROWN to ABT 12 to this past year’s Christmas Ale. Pretty much a can’t-miss with every one of them.

3. THE LOST ABBEY – This American brewer is younger than Hedonist Beer Jive is, and in less than three years have vaulted to the top spot among American brewers. They’ve made one misfire – one! – and the rest are varying shades of incredible. Every time I buy a new $10-$12 bottle from these folks I know I’m the one getting the better end of the deal.

4. RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING – On such a hot streak it’s not even funny, and now that they’ve expanded their distribution their legend is going to reach many more corners of the US. Sour Belgians, Double IPAs, smooth stouts, black ales – they can do it all, and as such, have never made a single “bad” beer that’s crossed my lips (and I’ve had well over a dozen of ‘em).

5. AVERY BREWING – Why I’m not drinking more Avery beers is a mystery even to me, as I looked back over my various scores for them the past few years and they’re all in the 7s, 8s, 9s and 10s. Note to self: just because they’re well-distributed now doesn’t mean they’re any less-special. New to Avery? Try THE REVEREND. Or WHITE RASCAL. Or any of them.

6. UNIBROUE – My 2008 vow was to try everything this Quebec brewer made, and outside of a few that I can’t find, I succeeded. They make nothing but Belgian-style ales, and virtually all are fresh, zesty and delicious.

7. DOGFISH HEAD – The beer dork’s brewer of choice, and the poster children for the boundary-pushing craft beer “scene” in the 21st century. Another brewer whose beers I’ll buy every time I see a new one, no matter how oddball it looks. They’re always great.

8. DE PROEF – I’m just starting to uncover how amazing this Belgian brewer is. Last year I tried 4 of them (either straight-up house beers or collaborations with American brewers), and was floored each time. 3 of them are in my Top 65. I need to find out if the rest of the lineup’s going to make it in there as well. OK, that’s my drinking goal of Q1 2009 – drink the rest of the DE PROEF beers!

9. TELEGRAPH BREWING – I’ve waxed semi-lyrically about this Santa Barbara, CA small brewer on multiple occasions, and I think folks are starting to catch on to how inventive, unique & still incredibly drinkable their beers are. You could take the biggest beer dork and, say, my wife, and put a glass of California Ale or Golden Wheat in front of them, and they’d both love ‘em. I hope they become rock stars in 2009.

10. GREEN FLASH BREWING – Every new beer I try from Green Flash seems to best the one before it. When I look at my ratings over the years, this San Diego brewer’s got plenty near the top – try that SAISON, BARLEYWINE or GRAND CRU if you get a chance.