Bell's Hopslam six pack via

The Best Beers of 2012

I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions. So this year, I let a random generator pick my resolution. I logged on, clicked, and landed on “explore” for this year’s ambition. I put my seventh Corona down and decided that the internet was telling me to get more adventurous with my beer drinking.

This year, I’m not going to wait and see what I can scrounge up from the local liquor store. I’m going to put the effort in to drink the best beers that 2012 has to offer, even if that means ordering them online. So far, the year looks good for big-flavor beers like IPAs and Barleywines which have more to offer in 2012 than ever before.

Hoppity, Hop, Hop, Hops: IPAs of 2012

For me, 2011 was all about dark, malty flavors. But last month, someone bought me a sixer of Drake’s Aroma Coma. It was one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had, and a bitter, citrusy smack in the mouth. The bitterness of a hop-heavy beer is like your first sip of coffee: terrible and delicious at the same time. And Aroma Coma gave me a serious IPA craving that I’m going to spend the rest of the year satisfying.

Bell's Hopslam six pack via bellsbeer.comLucky for me, Bell’s Brewery just released Hopslam: a new Double IPA that’s gonna go big in all possible directions. Hopslam will combine six different varieties of aromatic hops and the most complex brewing schedule that Bell’s has ever attempted. That means big 93 IBU bite, paired with rich grass, floral, citrus and honey flavors and just enough malt to balance out a 10 percent ABV.

Not to be outdone, Shmaltz is finally releasing the much-anticipated He’Brew Hop Manna IPA this year. In search of the perfect IPA, Shmaltz released four different test batches of this beer last year. After each round of crowd sourcing, they reformulated to make each batch better than the last. The final recipe has ten different types of hops and depth of flavor that I’m having trouble wrapping my head around. It’s in the running not only to be the best beer of 2012, but one of the best IPAs of all time.

While Shmaltz heads the pack in depth of flavor, Flat12 Bierwerks is looking to make a name with big bite. They’re celebrating their one year anniversary this month with the release of Winter Cycle. This Double IPA has been dubbed the “pissed off Viking cousin” of the line. It’s got 9.2 percent ABV and 107 IBUs, making it the bitterest release so far this year. But that’s not all. They’re pairing that big bite with juniper berries, something I’ve certainly never tasted. I’m puckering just thinking about it.

Barleywine: New Twists on an Old Style

If you’ve never tried Barleywine, you’re missing out. It’s sweet, citrusy English Ale made with lots of grain and staggering ABVs. New Glarus Brewing Co.’s promises the best Barleywine in 2012 for one reason: Master Brewer Daniel Carey. His eclectic yet traditional brewing style has made New Glarus one of the most award-winning breweries on the map.

Every once in a while, New Glarus lets him loose to create whatever he wants, no holds barred. This year, his creative burst resulted in Unplugged, an Iced Barleywine that’s gonna do things no other beer has done before. It mixes citrus, resin and graham cracker flavors with a “riot of bittersweet sherry & dark fruit earthy notes” that’s probably going to open up our expectations of what beer can taste like.

Joining wild-man Carey on the Barleywine junket is Dark Horse Brewing, Co. This year, at the Extreme Beer Fest in February – a must-visit if you’re in the area – they’re going to debut Monster 29. Originally called Monster Mash, it has the most grain Dark Horse has ever handled in one mash. If Dark Horse’s big flavor beers like Super Juice are any indication, this is going to be a great beer with as much flavor and ABV as they can fit into a vat. I love everything Aaron and Brian come up with and I can’t wait to try their next creation.

Hopefully, after a few e-mails and a little ordering I’ll be enjoying some of the best beers of 2012 in my very own living room. Or maybe I can get my local liquor store to order them for me? Not so sure how that’s going to go. Stay tuned for more updates and reviews as 2012 carries on.

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