For the first time in my 26 years of beer hunting I have been able to sample more than 1’000 (1007 exactly) new beers in one year. Those of you who think this is a pretty incredible accomplishment should know that the top 2 raters on ratebeer.com scored more than 4’500 new beers in 2013. One really has to think twice about it, as it represents more than 12 new beers in average per day ! Mind-boggling … And don’t think I am on top in Switzerland either: notorious beer ticker Thomas Schneider has tracked down more than 2’000 beers last year.
Every year I am saying to myself that I will not be able to keep that pace, yet manage somehow to taste more every time. So I won’t say anything this time …Just live and let drink !
First comment: yes, I’m a good sponsor of Erzbierschof …If I have given this already legendary establishment an own category, it is not only because it could fit in more than one (bar, beer shop and online beer shop) but mainly to show its importance. The second most important category are trades with 18%. Back in 2009 trades were accounting for as much as 32% (see also http://www.bov.ch/beer/faq.html for more comparison) but I am keeping it down now to about 5 different sources, the kings from this category being the Swedish beer rater Per Forsgren and the Swiss beertickers Philipp Sigg and Thomas Schneider.
Close behind trades the next source are festivals. Here again, a huge difference in comparison with 2009, this time in the other direction. I am always saying I am not a big fan of festivals because of the pretty hard conditions for tasting beers there but it doesn’t mean I try to avoid them. And 2013 was – for me – decently rich in that matter with the Mondial de la Bière (Mulhouse; 69 beers), the Copenhagen Beer Festival (44), the Solothurner Biertage (39) and the Unterländer Biertage (22).
11% of the beers I had last year were received from friends. So I really want to thank all of them here again, especially the undisputed king (or should I say bishop ?) of this category: Toni Flükiger. Particularly pleasant to notice is the constantly increasing number of beers I receive from brewers. Here also, many thanks to all of them, notably Patrik Feller and Tom Strickler.
The number of countries was almost the same as last year – 34 – with 2 new ones among them: Cayman Islands and San Marino. The most represented country has been – of course – Switzerland with 348 beers followed by the USA (150), Belgium (102), Denmark (69) and Sweden (44). Two countries are sharing first place of the favorites: Spain and New Zealand, no surprise if you consider both of them being regularly mentioned as fast emerging beer countries. From place 3 to 5 you can find Norway, the Netherlands (winner in 2012 and 2011) and the USA. Switzerland appears (only) in 15th position.
Interesting is to take a look at the alcohol average. While it is 6.5% in average, the Netherlands stay at one end of the scale with 9.2% followed by Norway and Scotland (both 8.5%) while on the other end the Czech Republic (4.7%) and Finland (5%) can be met. Switzerland remains pretty low with 5.8%. Here are the whole data:
The most represented breweries last year – for a total of 413 different ones – have been De Proef with 71 beers (thanks to the Danish gypsy brewers !), De Molen (26) and Storm&Anchor (23). The first two are the same as in 2012. Other noteworthy presences of Swiss breweries include Strättligen Bier (13), Birrificio Ticinese (10) and UHB (9).
My favorite brewery of 2013 with a minimum of 3 beers tasted is Fanø (already 2nd the year before). Then follow Storm&Anchor (3rd in 2012), Cantillon and Clown Shoes tied for 3rd and Bevog, Anchorage and Elav tied for 5th.
For the third consecutive year the most represented style has been IPA and this by far (112 beers) ! Then come “Spice/Herb/Vegetable” (52), Imperial Stout (46), American Pale Ale (39) and Fruit Beer (35). The days of the overwhelming presence of blond lagers are over ! Even when counting Pale Lager, Premium Lager, Pilsner and Dortmunder/Helles altogether, it makes 82 so clearly behind the 112 IPAs where neither Black IPA (15) nor Double IPA (29) are included.
This brings me to the next point: my favorite styles of 2013. Despite liking subtle and delicate beers (trust me, I’m not joking !) I like it rough – like Lady Gaga – most of the time. So it comes as no surprise to see Imperial Stout as a clear number 1. The followers are Double IPA, American Strong Ale, Fruit Lambic and Baltic Porter. At the bottom of this list you will find Malt Liquor (worst), Pale Lager, Zwickelbier, English Pale Ale and Dunkelweizen. I continue to be surprised – like last year – to see English Pale Ale so badly rated by myself.
I will now take a closer look at Switzerland.
I have discovered beers from 30 new breweries last year (there were 20 in 2012) and the title of best new brewery of 2013 goes to the highly creative Blackwell (Burgdorf). Second is the excellent Brasserie des 5 Quatre Mille (Zinal) and third the classical yet very good Burg-Bier (Ringgenberg). Here some other very good breweries worth to mention: Wagerswiler Bräu (Wagerswil), Bodensee (Egnach), Sennbräu (Buchs, SG), Doppelleu (Winterthur), Montheysanne (Monthey) and Mein Teil (Bolligen). As I not always can be kind, I would like to point out some breweries which are clearly under the waterline: Burggütli-Bräu (Schaffhausen), Meiga-Bräu (Wangen) and Trio (Les Monts-de-Pully).
But the qualities of the best newcomers have not been enough to reach the top five of the best Swiss breweries of 2013. The fifth place goes to Officina della Birra (which was 2nd in 2012), fourth is the always improving and now highly qualitative Stozi-Bräu, third is the Brasserie des Cieux (Alas! If only Dominique would brew more often !) and second place is taken by the legendary BFM. And finally, after all the positive things I have written about them last year, it would be highly surprising not to see them on top … All my congratulations go to the amazing Storm&Anchor, my best Swiss brewery of 2013. I am waiting impatiently to discover all the new wizardries of Tom in 2014 !
Again: no surprises to see the same protagonists while talking about the best Swiss beers of 2013. Storm&Anchor Burned wins (and is also overall best beer of 2013 !) ahead of BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien 2012 and Storm&Anchor Black (both ranked 5th overall).
Finally, here are the other international beers which made it to my top ten of 2013:
Fanø Evil Twin Even More Jesus (2nd), Renaissance 8 Wired iStout and Westbrook Mexican Cake Imperial Stout (tied for 3rd place) and Amager the Sinner Series Pride, Mont Salève la Tzarine, Croce di Malto Piedi Neri, Lervig Mikkeller George ! Barrel Aged Calvados Edition and Jester King Funk Metal (all tied for 5th). Doesn’t this look good ?
Is everything said ? I hope so.
Cheers everyone and have a good 2014 beer year !