By Iron Chef Leftovers
I really intended to post this on December 31st, but I forgot to switch the date on the post, so it is a couple of days late.
Overall 2013 was a banner year for beer in Seattle, particularly Ballard with a significant number of new breweries opening and the existing breweries kicking it up a notch with the quality of their beers. It was a particularly banner year for beer reviews on this site also, with me posting just north of 100 beer reviews on the site (that is a ton of beer and that doesn’t even take into account the beer notes I have but have not posted yet). This has made determining my best beer of 2013 much more difficult than last year. Here are the rules for determining the winner:
- The beer had to score 5 out of 5 on the Iron Chef Scale
- I had to post a review of the beer sometime in 2013
- Vintage beers are not eligible to win
- If I named the beer, it wasn’t eligible to win (so, no, my beloved Ate2Four Porter is not the beer of the year)
- Previous winners are not eligible win again, no matter how delicious they are (It means Reuben’s Pfeffer’s Pumpkin can’t win again)
- The winner is picked by an esteemed panel of me, myself and I
This really was a challenge – I had about 15 beers that I scored 5 points so I took down my list from there to 4 contenders for the best. It was actually going to be 5, then I realized that the one that would have been in the 5th spot has not yet had a review posted, so, it is an early contender for 2014 (and no, I won’t tell you what it is). The final 4 came down to hoppy vs. roasted, so let me show you how this played out:
Matchup 1: Battle Hops
Our contenders are Reuben’s Imperial Rye IPA and Populuxe Full Spectrum (previously Founders) Imperial IPA.
A good old Ballard brewery smack down and a competition between 2 breweries I love and what I think are the 2 best beers these breweries make. This was a hard choice. Full Spectrum is one of the best Imperials out on the market and I think it holds its own against beers like Pliny (yes, it is that good). The problem is, I think this about the Imperial Rye IPA (the cask version particularly):
I tasted this side by side with the regular version of the Imperial Rye, a beer I dearly love, and honestly, the cask version blew the doors off the regular version. After tasting the cask version, the regular, a fantastic beer in its own right, didn’t have the same level of intensity as its sibling. I am going to go on the record here as saying the cask version of the Imperial Rye IPA is one of the 10 best beers I have ever had and quite possibly in the top 5. Yes, it was that good. Next time it makes an appearance, you should be waiting in line for this beer when it gets tapped.
As good as Full Spectrum was, the Imperial Rye edges it out just slightly and moves onto the finals in a close match between 2 heavyweights.
Matchup 2: Battle Roast
Our contenders are Reuben’s Bourbon Imperial Russian Stout and Midnight Sun Moscow Russian Imperial Stout.
This could also have been called battle barrel as both beers spent some time in oak.
Again, a tough choice. Both were massive beers and both were spectacular. Both of these beers had tremendous balance and flavor, and it really came down to a number of small differences. I can sum it up about the winner in a post I made about the beer in its initial review:
If you like Russian Imperial Stouts, you need to try this beer. Really, it is that good, and possibly the best I have ever had.
That beer was the Midnight Sun Moscow, edging Reuben’s (and preventing an all-Reuben’s Final) by the tip of a Cossak’s bayonet.
That sets up the final between Anchorage and Seattle, with 2 heavy hitter ready to slug it out in the ring. They went 15 rounds, toe to toe, bringing us in with a split decision. I will turn it over to our ring announcer for the results:
The winner, by split decision, and 2013 Cheapseateats.com Beer of the Year…Reuben’s Imperial Rye IPA!
A Reuben’s beer takes the title for the second straight year! Another well earned (and hard fought) victory for Reuben’s and congratulations to Adam and Mike for making such fantastic beer. Can Reuben’s do it again in 2014? Only time will tell. I can say that they have some pretty stiff competition to go up against if they want to 3-peat.