Posts Tagged ‘Against the Grain’

Yes, it’s time again ! Time to look over my shoulder and tell you how my past year looked like.

But before, I still owe you my report of November and December. Yes, I know I’m late but I have been quite busy … and lazy. The latter a bit more than the former ..

Both months have been pretty generous ones, particularly December, boosted by the festival in Chur. It resulted in a very high number of new Swiss breweries tasted: 16. Here are they (alphabetically sorted; you’ll have to wait a bit for my biased evaluation ;-)): Basiliske Bier,, BRAUBAR, Braubude Basel, Brygger Øl, Büchler zu Mägenwil, Brasserie des Coudres, Drei Tannen, Full Measure, la Gerboise, HERMANN Bier, Seegal-Bräu, Stadtbier Chur, St. Johann, Thurtalbräu and Welteneis.

my beer number 10'000

my beer number 10’000

One beer among the ones from these breweries even made it to my monthly top 3, i.e. the amazing Sorachi Berliner Weisse from Full Measure (Bern), ranking number 1 in December equally with the Black Tokyo Horizon, a BrewDog/Nøgne Ø/Mikkeller collaboration and btw my beer number 10’000. November has been even better for Switzerland with the 523 Adriano’s Brown 3 Of A Kind ABA Edition Hops (third) and the Blackwell Hop Suicide! (first). More details about the beers I have tasted in November and December or about the Beer of the Month rankings are here and here to be found.

But now it’s time to widen the scope and to have a look at the whole past year.

St. Vincent & the Grenadines: one of the 4 new countries in 2014

St. Vincent & the Grenadines: one of the 4 new countries in 2014

It had to come once: 2014 has been the first year since 2005 during which I have not sampled more new beers as the year before. Looks like I have reached my appropriate cruising speed now. In a total of 970 new beers tasted (from 40 different countries), Switzerland is of course accounting for a big part of them with 470. The next most represented countries are far behind: the USA (81), Belgium (62), Germany (42) and France (39). Worth notice is a pleasant number of new countries discovered: Mozambique, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Zambia and Aruba. But this enjoyable “Magellan-task” is getting harder and harder every year, especially for a guy 4th on the “most countries rated” ranking of Ratebeer.

My favorite country has been the USA quite clearly ahead of Scotland, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The alcohol average of all beers tasted stayed pretty much the same with 6.4% (was 6.5% in 2013) and we can find almost the same usual suspects as last time on the top of the alcohol average scale: the Netherlands (9.7%), New Zealand (9.4%) and Norway (8.6%). Regarding Switzerland this average rose significantly from 5.8% to 6.1%.

I got beers from 409 different breweries (4 fewer than last year) and the most represented have been BrewDog (31), De Proef (30), Brasserie des 5 Quatre Mille (17), Storm&Anchor (16) and De Molen (15).

After ranking third in 2012, then second in 2013, Storm&Anchor finally did it and reached the first place as my favorite brewery of 2014 ! Here is how the top ten looks like with no fewer than 6 Swiss breweries present!:

Brewery of the Year !

Brewery of the Year !

1. Storm&Anchor
2. 523
3. De Molen
4. Brasserie des 5 Quatre Mille
5. BFM
6. BrewDog
7. Burg Braui
8. Blackwell
9. Mont Salève
10.Hoppin’ Frog

For the fourth consecutive year now the most represented style has been IPA again (81 beers). “Spice/Herb/Vegetable” follows with 60, then American Pale Ale (46), Imperial Stout (43) and Fruit beers and Imperial IPA with 37 each. On the other end 2 styles (on a total of 68) remain without ambassador for 2014: German Kristalweizen and Czech Pilsner (Svetlý). So if any brewer reading this would like to give it a try … (though, thinking about it: do I really want to drink a Kristalweizen ?)

This leads us to my favorite styles in 2014. No surprises here: Imperial Stout still excites me the most and is clearly ahead of the pack. If the second place of Black IPA is no revolution either, I was not awaiting Saison to make it to the third rank. Then follow Imperial IPA and Sour Ale. At the bottom and still failing to please me, we can find Low Alcohol (i.e. beer equal or less than 2.5% alcohol), Pale Lager and clearly on last position, “Radler/Shandy”. What a surprise …

Let’s now have a closer look to Switzerland.
During the last 12 months, an amazing number of 88 new breweries have started what constitutes a clear new record (at least since the last 130 years). It’s an evidence that there is no way for someone to keep a complete overview and I consider my personal discovery of 44 new breweries as a very respectable performance. As always, I have classified those new breweries but for the first time I have used my new calculation method which takes into account different factors and is computed as follows: (n / (n+m)) * R + (m / (n+m)) * C
C = the midpoint of my scale (11)
R = rating average of the brewery
n = number of beers tasted from this brewery
m = the minimum of beers required to enter the list (3 for the moment)
Based on this, my top 3 new breweries in 2014 is looking like this:

Best new Swiss brewery in 2014 (of course ...)

Best new brewery in 2014 (of course …)

1. 523
2. Burg Braui
3. Birreria Pacific

My congratulations to these artists !

I would like to close the chapter of the best breweries of 2014 with my top ten from Switzerland (6 of them already appeared above by the international top ten):
1. Storm&Anchor
2. 523
3. Brasserie des 5 Quatre Mille
4. BFM
5. Burg Braui
6. Blackwell
7. Old School
8. Birreria Pacific
9. Barbière
10.Full Measure

Frankly, if some of them are unknown to you, you have to close this gap as soon as possible !

Finally, here are the top ten Swiss beers of 2014:

Tied for first place in the category "best Swiss beers"

Tied for first place in the category “best Swiss beers”

1. BFM Procrastinator 2
1. Blackwell Vanilla Polunocnica Sweet Imperial Stout
1. Blackwell Hop Suicide!
4. BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien Grand Cru 2012 (Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon)
5. Full Measure Sorachi Berliner Weisse
6. Burg Braui Rosmarinus
6. 5 Quatre Mille Bière de Zinal Imperial Milk Stout Crème Brûlée
8. 523 American Ninja
8. 5 Quatre Mille Bière de Zinal Imperial Red Fruits
10.Storm&Anchor Citra Saison

And the top ten (OK, eleven…) of 2014 worldwide:

Best beer in 2014

Best beer in 2014

1. Russian River Shadow of a Doubt
2. BFM Procrastinator 2
2. BrewDog Black Eyed King Imp
2. Blackwell Vanilla Polunocnica Sweet Imperial Stout
2. Blackwell Hop Suicide!
6. Mont Salève Nouveaux Mondes
6. Marshall Wharf Cant Dog
8. Companyia Cervesera del Montseny Nomada Moose Islay
8. BrewDog Cocoa Psycho
10.Against the Grain the Green Dragon
10.BFM Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien Grand Cru 2012 (Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon)

This yearly review would not be complete without taking a look to the origins of the beers I have sampled. “How can you find that many new beers every time?” is a question some unexperienced beer aficionados keep asking me all the time. Once again: nowadays this is easy, freaking easy … Here is from where I got my 970 new beers in 2014:


Once again and despite being clearly less important than the year before, my main source is the amazing Erzbierschof bar. An urban legend even says that a barkeeper bought a new car thanks to my tips … I got fewer beers from festivals (17% in 2013) and from trades (18%) too. On the other side, beers I got from friends (11% in 2013) and from the brewers (9%) have massively increased and are now together accounting for one third of all my beers ! Believe me: it’s a fact I really appreciate … Many thanks to all and a special mention to the kings of the respective categories: Anton Flükiger, Julien Brändli, Antonio Rey, Apothibières, Philipp Sigg and Thomas Schneider. And please be assured I have not forgotten all the others !

cheers !

Les bières de la très prometteuse brasserie 523

Les bières de la très prometteuse brasserie 523

Comme à chaque fois à l’approche des traditionnels “Solothurner Biertage“, j’essaye de me mettre à jour au niveau des bières suisses en écoulant le stock en suspens dans ma cave. Une tâche ressemblant un peu par les temps qui courent à la malédiction infligée à Sisyphe (vous savez: le gars condamné par les dieux à pousser éternellement un rocher qui retombait chaque fois avant d’atteindre le sommet de la montagne). Je ne veux pas dire par là que mon boulot est désagréable – loin de là ! – mais il semble par contre impossible à achever (ou tout du moins à être maintenu actuel): pour chaque bière dégustée apparaissent deux nouvelles issues d’un big bang brassicole qui parait pour l’instant infini …

Donc sur les 67 bières en provenance de 9 pays m’ayant fait face le mois passé, l’immense majorité – 43 – étaient helvétiques. Les USA (8) et l’Allemagne (5) suivant à quelques années lumières.

La carte des bières en bouteilles du nouveau brewpub “Barbière”

Les trois nouvelles brasseries suisses découvertes au mois de mars sont toutes bernoises et sans conteste toutes les trois dignes d’intérêt. La brasserie 523 (Köniz) semble être la plus prometteuse et le moins que je puisse dire, est que sa Pacific Imperial IPA m’a fait forte impression (elle échoue d’ailleurs de peu au pied du podium). FB Frei’s Bier (Thun) et leur Hopfengold ne sont pas en reste non plus et j’ai hâte de pouvoir découvrir d’autres de leurs produits. Quant au nouveau “brewpub” de Berne, Barbière, il a été littéralement pillé lors de la soirée d’inauguration le 21 mars. Résultat des courses: 3 semaines plus tard, ils n’ont plus aucune bières maisons à offrir ! Les trois bières que j’ai pu découvrir me font penser qu’ils ont un bon avenir devant eux. Il leur faudra toutefois résoudre certains problèmes logistiques et réfléchir au bien-fondé de leurs prix plutôt gonflés.

Voici en bref – en fait pas vraiment vu le nombre – quelques autres bières suisses découvertes le mois passé:

Avec une proportion telle de bières suisses, il était malheureusement inévitable d’en retrouver parmi les 3 pires du mois. Il est juste un peu décevant de constater qu’elles sont helvétiques toutes les 3 … Je vous ai déjà un peu parlé de la Chopfab Draft de Doppelleu, un clone de Cardinal Draft n’ayant rien à faire dans la gamme de produits d’une brasserie se voulant artisanale. Pire encore, la Schwinger Bier de Schützengarten, une bière aux notes désagréables d’urine et de papier. Cette dernière se voit toutefois coiffée sur le poteau par le dernier monstre du géant Carlsberg: j’ai nommé la Cardinal Brunette. Une bière oscillant entre franche plaisanterie (on peut lire “bière artisanale” sur l’étiquette) et consternation profonde (le niveau gustatif est nullissime). Bref: du grand art.

En plus des excellentes bières suisses déjà citées plus haut, voici quelques merveilles du mois passé ayant manqué de peu le podium:

Ceci nous conduit tout naturellement au top 3 et c’est le moment que je choisi pour sortir de mon chapeau une bière helvétique dont je n’ai pas encore parlé: la magnifique Hoppy Brown de Storm&Anchor qui se retrouve 3ème.

Les USA – avec 4 bières dans les 11 premières du mois – s’emparent (nettement) des deux premières places avec the Green Dragon de la brasserie Against the Grain (seconde; un Barley Wine titrant 12.5% pour 115 IBU) et la Cant Dog, une impressionnante Imperial IPA d’une brasserie dont j’ignorais jusqu’à peu l’existence: Marshall Wharf (située dans le Maine).

En attendant de vous voir – qui sait ? – lors des “Solothurner Biertage”:

cheers !