Ale Asylum co-owner and brewmaster Dean Coffey leaves an indelible mark on the local beer making scene with his Belgian beers.
Another year has passed, and looking back at the beers released by breweries around Madison and further afield in Wisconsin can't help but encourage a smile.
The 2009 lineup of local beers is already looking big, too, with early buzz building around several brews, including a new IPA named Ballistic to be released soon by Ale Asylum, the keg-only beet-based concoction named Thermo Refur from Furthermore that's about to debut, and a crack at the biggest all-malt beer ever, a creation of Rob LoBreglio of the Great Dane and Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewery that's currently fermented and is not expected to be ready until early summer or later.
There are lots of "top year end lists" out there, but here are a few of the memories that made the past year "beery" good for the beer enthusiast.
Most surprising beer
This Belgian IPA is actually an amalgamation of three pale ale recipes in what Furthermore Beer co-owner Aran Madden says was an evolution in his beermaking creativity. Makeweight features the fruitiness of Belgian yeast and lots of malt that create some warmth at over 9% alcohol by volume.
Local hopheads' unexpected treat
This unique brew from Madison's growing brew pub powerhouse is found only at its Hilldale location. This Imperial, or Double IPA, has assertive bitter hoppiness with a firm caramel malty background. Hilldale brewer Don Vasa trys to keep this beer on tap all the time.
Nearby and well worth the drive
It's simply a great beer for a blizzard. Actually, I found this beer prior to a big February snow storm that hit south central Wisconsin. It lived up to its name after the snows of 2008 never seemed to let up. This beer had a robust maltiness, lots of body and a mild smoked peatiness.
Not much good to say about this beer because it just didn't work for me. It obviously has a following that keeps this on local store shelves but I'm not among those. Maybe it's the thought of a deal seeing this in an eight-pack container yet competitively prices with the six-packs?
Best new beer venue of 2008
The Malt House at 2609 East Washington Avenue
With a beer menu of over 175 bottles and tap selections combined, and served over what is likely to be the oldest wooden bar in the city, The Malt House opened in June in the former Union House Tavern. Owner Bill Rogers has created a wonderful beer sanctuary where the focus is on the brews and good conversations among friends. This is a place where you won't find TVs, video games or distractions.
Beer to ring in 2009