Well, after seeing Zymurgy's newest Best Beers in America list, (see Zymurgy's 2013 Best Beers in America), I didn't waste much time looking in my local liquor store to see what I could pick up. Of course, I can't get T9. Lagunitas Sucks until December or January. The next highest ranked beer that I have not tried was #16. The Alchemist Heady Topper is not available in Colorado.
I found a 22oz bomber of the 3rd highest ranked beer I had not tried, though.
#20. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
Beers from Firestone Walker Brewing Company are very available here in Colorado. In fact, you may remember that I've blogged about both Firestone Walker Union Jack and Firestone Double Jack since both appeared on my 2012 list.
To be honest, I don't ever remember hearing of Wookey Jack. This is surprising as it is no secret how much I enjoy the Black IPA style of beer (just don't call them Cascadian Darks).
The Firestone Walker website says that Wookey Jack is an Unfiltered Black Rye IPA. It is their "first foray into the dark outer world of black IPAs". It uses rich dark barley malts and spicy rye along with American citrus hops (Citra & Amarillo) to bring the old boring IPA into a new level of complexity for my personal enjoyment. Yum.
The beer is 8.3% ABV with 80 IBU. It is a very black 45 SRM in color. The website says the recipe includes Pale Malt, Malted Rye, Dash of Cara-Rye, Midnight Wheat from Briess, De-Bittered Black Malt, and a "Dash of Wookey dust". They use German Magnum for bittering and Citra & Amarillo for flavor and aroma. They double dry hop with the Citra & Amarillo as well.
Sounds like my kind of beer.
In fact, I tasted it. It tastes like my kind of beer.
If I remember to vote next year, I think this will be a beer that I vote for.
The secret behind a great Black IPA (other than to make sure you don't name it "Cascadian Dark", is to not over-do it on the roast. Too much intense roasty (stout-like) flavors tend to clash with the citrus hops. In my opinion, this beer does a great job extracting the color from the dark malts without getting much in the way of robust stout flavors. The use of Midnight wheat (which I love to use for color without astringency) and de-bittered black malt really works well in this beer. I don't think they use a whole lot of rye, because it may be there in
the background, but I don't get a whole lot of the spiciness from it.
Because of that lack the deep coffee flavors and the astringency that sometimes goes with it, the citrus hops compliment the grain bill and don't in anyway clash. It does provide a nice layer without overpowering at all. I'm not convinced the double dry hop does much that can be picked out, but the beer is so good I would not mess with the formula.
I really don't know what "Wookey dust" adds to the beer, but again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
In case you can't tell, I like this beer. I personally think it deserves better than 20th place, but I am certainly glad it made the list this year. I probably would not have tried it anytime soon if it were not on the list.
So, now that I have tried #20, I've tried all but 1 in the top 10. I've tried all but 2 in the top 20 ....
... and by my count, I still need to find 10 beers on this list:
T9. Lagunitas Sucks (Seasonal Beer Late Dec - Early Jan) 16. The Alchemist Heady Topper (not distributed to CO) T21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust (have asked relative from IL to find this for me) T27. Troegs Nugget Nectar. (hopefully @GABF?) 31. Russian River Consecration (should be able to find) T32. Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (have some in my fridge) T32. Russian River Supplication (should be able to find) T42. Odell Myrcenary (Colorado beer) 45. Firestone Walker Parabola (seasonal in April) T46. Ommegang Hennepin Saison Ale (should be able to find)