Here are my self-imposed rules for this list. One, I have to have had the beer for the first time in 2014. It can have first been distributed prior (though I'm not sure that happens to be the case with any of my selections) to 2014, but this list is basically best beers I had for the first time in the year. As such... two, no vintages. If it's a beer that's released once a year, and I've had the 2013 or whatnot version, I can't count the 2014 like it's a hot new thing. Third and final, I have to have had the beer more than once, or at least more than just a sample. Why? Well, I need to make sure my feelings are real. The truly best beers are the ones you remember and voluntarily revisit, no? Also note there was no "local" requirement, but I'm happy to say it worked out that way. That said, let's get in to it.
5. Jack's Abby Brewing - Hopsitutuion XPL #3: Calyptra : Jack's was all over my top list last year. They also came in #1 in my top beers at American Craft Beer Fest in 2014, so you know I got some deep love for the Framingham crew. And while this was the year of breweries putting out rotating IPAs/IPLs, this once was something special... and I think they knew it, too, as I believe this was the first of the Hopstitution series that was bottled. I had the first two Hopstitutions in the taproom, and they were fine, but I first had #3 in a nearby popular beer bar, and I just remember thinking that it probably won the all-time best nose on a beer award. Tropical and juicy, this is likely one of my favorite beers this brewery has done, and with their barreled sours and porters (omg PB&J Framinghammer), that's saying a LOT.
4. Backlash Beer Company - Resurrection : This beer might have already been special to me since it was my 2000th unique check-in on Untappd, but it turned out to be so much more than that. First, let me say that this brewery has been impressing me more and more. Though I haven't loved everything they've done, I love their spirit. I also love that they keep doing "series" of beers that exceed their own parameters. They had a series of 3 rotating IPAs, and the best one was the 4th. Of a series of 3. And this beer? This is kind of the 5th in the series of the 4 beers of the apocalypse, since it's a riff on their Death stout. I first had this as a small pour at a book and beer event. The rep had hidden this one under the table and was gracious enough to let me try it like... three or four times. I had missed the original distro somehow, but I was more than happy to find a few bottles of this coffee Russian Imperial Stout at an out-of-the-way packy. Still have a bottle left, too. Just waiting for the perfect moment.
3. Portsmouth Brewery - Hop Coffee IPA : Speaking of coffee, I love coffee. And too few dang brewers make coffee IPAs. I mean, I get it. They're volatile. They fade quickly. But if you can get them fresh, there's hardly anything better. This beer was so good, I modified an original self-imposed rule for it. I was going to say no "variants", but I specifically had this beer on cask at the brewery, dry-hopped with citra... and I wanted to live in it. Therefore, rule cast to the wind. They also had it on cask with extra coffee beans, but that was just too much. The citra, a hop that seems to be falling out of favor for some dumb reason, really balanced it out. It reminded me of a South American, high elevation , kind of citric coffee. But it was beer. Which made it all the better.
2. Earth Eagle Brewings - Wormhole Verte : Now here was a derisive beer if I ever had one. Billed as an "absinthe gruit", I actually managed to get growlers of this twice at Earth Eagle. That's unusual, because they do such small batches that the taplist tends to be a little different on every visit. But, in the words of a fellow patron on my second visit, as I requested yet another full pour prior to my take-home growler, "I don't know if I could drink a full thing of this". Well, I could and did. Several times. I love anise in beer, and this was so anise that it could have been considered anephew, too. Sorry, these are the jokes, kids. But real talk? This was not for everyone. I mean it when I say the anise here was overpowering. I adored it, but most I foisted it upon just couldn't hang. Which meant more for me.
1. Stoneface Brewing Company - Stoneface IPA : There's something to be said for consistency. I've had this one a few times, rather far apart, and it's just as good if not better every time I have it. While a couple of my other selections were big or unusual beers, this is just a simple, not-too-bitter, smooth, citrusy IPA. And one I could drink every day. In fact, I wish I could. It also holds an extra special place in my heart since my girlfriend noticed how much I was praising this beer and built a Christmas beer-box (not to be confused with this here bloggy Beerbox) around it. And I'm not the only one that's noticed this beer. I have friends that are far bigger beer geeks than me who have bought kegs of the stuff. When I check in to this on Untappd, virtual high fives abound. People in Southern NH know that this is something special. It's merely a matter of time before the rest of New England wakes up. All of this makes this beer truly worthy of the title of the best beer I had for the first time in 2014.
Pithy wrap-up goes here. Well, I mean, you already got what you came for, didn't you? That said, this was a hard list. I had a very hard time getting this down to 10, never mind 5 beers. But I realize no one cares about my internal equivocation but me. For now, let's all reflect on the best beers of the past year and look forward to all the new, untasted beers that await us in 2015. Pronounced twenty-fifteen. I done told ya already, you know.