Throughout 2012 there were new beers hitting the taps and shelves left and right. We did our best to sample and savor as many new releases as we could, recommending some of the best every four months. Below: the fruits of our thirsty work. These are also beers you ought to be able to find if there’s a good beer bottle shop in your area, or a big beer-friendly retailer like Whole Foods.
Which brews do you want to try this year? Tell us here.
21st Amendment (San Francisco, CA)
Technically, this was not a brand-new beer per se, but rather a 2011 seasonal-turned-year-round offering for 2012. Good thing. This crisp, bright, and light palate-smacker of just 4.4%abv is fresh and rounded, brewed with British barley malt called Golden Promise and four different hops. In a word? Delicious.
Chainbreaker White IPA
Deschutes Brewery (Bend, OR)
Named for a legendary mountain bike race in Central Oregon where Deschutes Brewery is based, this cloudy-gold 5.6%abv ale is a hybrid of the Belgian wit, or orange peel and coriander-spiced white style of beer, and I.P.A., or India Pale Ale, the assertively hopped, British style being reimagined in American kettles with increasingly tasty results. What might have been a mess in lesser brewers’ hands is complex and satisfying here.
Dig Pale Ale
New Belgium (Fort Collins, CO)
This lush-tasting, easy drinking spring seasonal bursts with the flavors of four hops, from Sorachi Ace (calling the taste of lemongrass to mind) to Nelson Sauvin (passion fruit, mango, peach) and finally Cascade and Centennial (pine, grapefruit). It’s also sociably light at 5.6%abv.
Boston Beer Co. (Boston, MA)
We just got our mitts on a taster of this spring seasonal brew included in the Samuel Adams Summer Styles Variety 12-pack hitting shelves in April. At a feather-light 4.3%abv, it would be easy to underestimate this beer. Don’t. It’s admirably complex for such a light brew, with a dash of delicate Hersbrucker and Ahtanum hops for bittering, and citrusy Strisselspalt hops for a floral finish.
Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA)
A new release? Hardly. But for the first time ever, this classic brew—the beer that changed everything, brewed since 1980 with whole Magnum, Perle, and pungent Cascade hop flowers, giving it a satisfying bite and grassy, floral nose—is available in cans, which are lighter, quicker to cool, more effective in blocking out beer-spoiling light, easier to recycle, and fit nicely in coolers for camping trips.
Peeper Ale (5.5%abv)
Maine Beer Co. (Portland, ME)
This tiny Portland, Maine brewery is on the rise thanks to insanely drinkable brews like Peeper, a floral and citrusy but dry American Pale Ale (APA), which ups the ante on the old English style. Read: more hops, cleaner finish. This is how it’s done, people! Delicious.
Hibiscus Gose (5.5%abv)
Widmer Bros. (Portland, OR)
Pucker up. Gose (say “goes”), the ancient, slightly tart wheat beer style of Leipzig, Germany, has a small amount of salt in it, which only works in the right proportions. Portland, OR’s Widmer Brothers’ bold new riff on the cloudy style features natural marionberry, hibiscus, clove, and coriander flavors in a slightly sour, refreshing summer sipper.
India Session Ale (5.5%abv)
10-Barrel (Bend, OR)
From Bend, Oregon, comes 10-Barrel, an uber-refreshing ale with a massive, late dose of grapefruity-tasting Cascade, Summit, and Centennial hops. And at just 5.5%abv you’re having more than one with that perfect burger or brat.
Bière de Mars Spring 2012 (7%abv)
Almanac (San Francisco, CA)
This Bay Area beer’s name means it’s brewed in March, according to French farmhouse brewery tradition. But what makes this hazy amber sensation truly unique is a subtle addition of organic baby fennel that imparts a faint but lip-smacking licorice note.
Wild Wild Brett Persica (7.5%abv)
Crooked Stave (Denver, CO)
Rare? Yes. Worth searching for? Absolutely. Colorado-based brewer Chad Yakobsen wrote his dissertation on wild yeast beers and only went pro on his own in 2010. None other than Cantillon master blender, Jean Van Roy, has sung high praise of the Wild Wild Brett series. This tart but well-balanced sour beer bursts with fresh summery peach flavors we cannot wait to try again and again.
Pivo Pils (5.3%abv)
Firestone Walker (Paso Robles, CA)
The makers of some of our favorite big, hoppy ales have been venturing into lager/pilsner territory with this exceptional Czech-style brew seen recently at a number of industry tastings and very lucky beer bars. It’s crisp, floral, lemony, and as refreshing as a sunny and cold fall day. We’d love to see it on tap nation wide.
The Meddler (8.9%abv)
Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, CO)
A great take on the Flemish style oud bruin, or old brown, this is a reddish, tart-sweet beer with subtle, hop character and deep layers of vinous, engaging flavors. Odell’s is higher in alcohol than many traditional versions, but remains well balanced.
Friendship Brew (5.7%abv)
Green Flash Brewing Co. (San Diego, CA) & St. Feuillien (Le Roulx, Belgium)
This collaboration brew is essentially an oatmeal-based black saison (read: smooth) accented with spicy Styrian Golding and tangy Cascade hops and a subtle blend of secret spices that has a woody note akin to cedar.
Super IPA (9%abv)
New Belgium Brewing Co. (Fort Collins, CO) and Alpine Beer Co. (Alpine, CA)
This is a perfect illustration of the double, or imperial, IPA genre, bursting with tangy, resinous, floral hops. This was a one-off brew we absolutely hope to see again from two of the best breweries in America.
Golden Blend (6.0%abv)
Drie Fonteinen (Beersel, Belgium)
Geuze (say ‘gurz’ or ‘gerz-ah’) is a tart, lively blend of aged and younger lambic beer (spontaneously fermented, a.k.a. wild ale) that has been a specialty in Belgium for generations. We can’t get enough it. This version by legendary master blender Armand Debelder, just released in the U.S. this fall, has already achieved cult status, with only 540 cases in America. A quarter of the beer is 4 year-old lambic. Good luck finding it. And when you do, pull the trigger.
Grand Cru (9.1%abv)
Green Flash (San Diego, CA)
A twist on the traditional, ruddy-red Abbey ales of Belgium, this American craft-brewed version has the clean, punchy attack of sprucey, aromatic hops balancing a sturdy, malt-accented base with notes of caramel. Delicious stuff.
Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4.8%abv)
Crabbie’s (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)
This Scottish import is hugely popular throughout the U.K., and is now thankfully available on American shores. Steeped with high quality ginger, it’s meant to be served over ice with a slice of lemon or lime, and would make a great component of cocktails like the Dark & Stormy and Moscow Mule.
The Ale Apothecary (Bend, OR)
Brewer Paul Arney left his position as R+D/head brewpub chief of the legendary Deschutes Brewery with contributions to home run beer recipes including The Dissident under his belt to start this bold, wilderness brewery. Good move. The vinous Sahalie wild ale is a revelation. With intriguing layers of earthy, angular flavors derived from wild yeasts, it’s an American take on Orval, regarded as the world classic Belgian Pale Ale.
Scotch Ale (8.2%abv)
Smuttynose (Portsmouth, NH)
Scotch ales traditionally marry mellow-sweet flavors with hints from smoked brewers’ malts, which, in lesser hands, can taste too charred, soapy, or earthy. Smuttynose’s new-for-2012 brew deftly utilizes peat-smoked grains and a portion of pinot noir barrel-aged beer to deepen and complexify flavors.
Marooned on Hog Island (7.9%abv)
21st Amendment (San Francisco, CA)
Here at the Pint we love traditional oyster stouts. 21st Amendment’s inky-black sipper is brewed with oats and 450 lbs. of Hog Island Oyster Company’s sweetwater oyster shells, giving it a velvety roundness, with a just-right, bitter kick in the finish.