New Years has passed.
Easter is a long way off (unless you're in a supermarket and want easter eggs...).
We're already a couple of weeks into January which seems scary, but there's no need for concern.
The Local Taphouse Hottest 100 is nearly upon us again and this is going to be the most exciting countdown yet, as it's been an extraordinary year in Australian beer and there has been more great releases from more breweries than ever before.
I figured I would tap out a few words about some of the beers that have stood out to me this year.
I'll mention my top five as it seems to be mandatory for these Hottest 100 posts, but I'd much rather just have a bit of a discussion about a larger group of beers that deserve to be at the pointy end of the countdown.
Without further ado;
1. Red Duck - Hop Bach.
Gorgeous, malty double IPA that tasted as luxurious as the description suggested. Big and bold, but with the balance of a Russian gymnast. (<-- the ones that actually represent Russia, not the cast off ones that represent all the other countries.)
2. La Sirene - Wild Saison.
Come on, don't even need to say anything here. The class of the saison but with that funk that don't quit. I'd love to see an even wilder version someday.
3. Moon Dog - Perverse Sexual Amalgam.
Black. Sour. Cherries. Funk. Layers. These five words have already made me want to go to the fridge and get another one. Just so good.
4. Mornington Peninsula Brewery - Imperial IPA.
Every beer that comes out of this brewery is a belter and this is the king. It's what an imperial IPA should be and is already a perennial favourite among the beer geeks.
5. Feral - Watermelon Warhead.
How often would people scramble to participating venues to drain kegs of a beer that is 2.9%? That's a testament to how enjoyable this beer is. It was still a resounding favourite during GABS when it was well below 2% ABV. Just a great beer.
That's my top 5 out of the way, so now I feel better and more relaxed. I'm sure most of you didn't really care what I thought my top 5 was, but I'm much more interested in talking about some of the beers that would be on the fringe or may not have been thought about.
It seems that a lot of the beer geeks out there have evolved in their selection criteria from including the "Wow!" beers they have tasted during the year and have gone with the reliable beers that they have enjoyed regularly all year.
Some have applied rules such as only including one beer from any given brewery.
All pretty good formulas.
I'll share a couple of thoughts with you about how I think this years Hottest 100 may unfold.
Favourites for the top 10.
Stone & Wood - Pacific Ale
Pretty much a lock for top two. Becoming synonymous with Australian beer and the first one I think of when I want a summer beer.
Little Creatures - Pale Ale.
Despite the sell off I still think this will get a ton of votes as a solid pale ale that's available country wide.
Feral - Hop Hog.
Say no more.
Vale - IPA.
The best beer to come out of this brewery, multiplied by their marketing focus equals votes.
Kooinda - Black IPA.
Gorgeous, roasty black IPA will surely breach the top 10. It did last year and more people will have tasted it after 12 more months. I don't know anyone who doesn't like this beer.
Temple - Midnight IPA.
Another black IPA but another belter. So close to being in my top 5, this will surely get plenty of votes.
I think these will clog the top end of the list and deservedly so. I really think the Kooi BIPA and the Midnight will feature heavily in the votes.
Even if you're a pure beer geek and you'd love the list to be filled with the awesome, avant garde beers that you've loved over the year, this is a popularity contest so it won't happen. I mean, face it, Ra #2 is not going to be on the list.
Next predictions. The beers I think that will shoot up the list from last year.
Cavalier - Pale Ale.
When the Cavalier Pale came in at number 72 last year I made the prediction then that this beer would feature a lot higher when this year's countdown and I stand by it. Brilliant pale ale that will sure get the love this year.
Bridge Road Brewers - Beechworth Pale.
Last year this came in at 65. What the hell!? How is that science? Surely this beer deserves to get in a lot higher than this. Even if the distribution is mainly in Victoria it's got to get in higher than 65.
Mornington Peninsula - IPA.
It was around last year and it was good last year. It came in at 91. 12 months on, god knows how many pints of this beer have been poured and the reputation has only grown. Let me make a sweeping prediction. Top 40 perhaps?
Now which breweries do we think will feature the most? Breweries are releasing so many different beers these days, like Scott at Red Duck. 32 unique beers released or something? He's planning 50 for 2013? He didn't even feature in the 2012 list! Madness.
Alright, here are the breweries that I think may get several mentions.
Mornington Peninsula Brewery.
A.G is missing something in his brewing arsenal. He doesn't know how to make a bad beer. Everything that comes out of that brewery is excellent and they could find themselves with several entries in the countdown.
Murray's Brewing Company.
A constant stream of quality from Bob's Farm. The series of stouts, Spartacus, Punk Monk, Icon. The list goes on. So much good beer.
Temple Brewing Company.
If there is any Victorian bias at all then surely we'll see a few Temple beers on the list this year. Midnight will be there. Scarlet Sour should. Saison and Pale have tough competition but really deserve to be there.
There's no real category for these next beers but they just deserve a special mention for being incredible beers in the year 2012. They probably all could have been in my top five but they all can't make it. Whittling down a list to 5 was nigh on impossible.
Doctor's Orders Brewing - Prescription 12.
So good. Time stopped from the first sip to the bottom of the pint.
La Sirene - Saison.
This would have been in the top 5 if it hadn't been for their Wild Saison. These guys clearly know the nuances of making farmhouse style beers.
Mornington Peninsula Brewery - Russian Imperial Stout.
Chocolatey, roasty, bitter, balanced. Great beer.
Moon Dog/Yeastie Boys - 7 P's.
So many elements that you wouldn't necessarily put together, but oh my does it work.
Red Hill - Hop Harvest.
Maybe I'm biased, but I had this at the brewery on the handpump on a wonderful afternoon and it was glorious.
Mountain Goat/Mikkeller - Gypsy and the Goat.
Big black IPA, pepperberries ever present, this was a brilliant beer.
Red Hill - Saison.
New offering from Red Hill this year was a beautiful version of this farmhouse style.
Alright, I won't bore you any further. I can't wait for the countdown to see which of my predictions succeed or fail miserably, and see which new beers crack the list.
Let's enjoy the day and celebrate the best year we've had in Australian beer.
Signing off, comrades.