The year of 2014 was the year of beer for me. I traveled to several bars, breweries, states, and more, unlocking probably a few too many badges on Untappd along the way. After a year like this, a lot of the average beers star to blend together. I remember each of these 5 like it was yesterday.
5. 2011 Southern Tier Bourbon Barrel Backburner
The first great beer of 2014 came very early in the year for me, on January 10th, at my favorite bar in Pittsburgh (Caliente Pizza & Draft House). It was a packed house with brewery reps on site for this special event. It was malty, slightly hoppy, some brown sugar, and the bourbon heaviness punched you right in the face. The regular Backburner is 14.1% ABV. This special tapping was bourbon barrel aged since 2011, with a higer ABV. Thus, my love for bourbon barrel aged beers began.
4. Voodoo Cowbell Imperial Oatmeal Milk Stout
It's a shame that it took me so long to get to such a great brewery only 45 minutes from where I went to grad school. I finally made it this past May and I was not disappointed. The brewpub is an interesting place to say the least, with wooden doors hanging from the ceiling and red vintage refrigerators. This nitro poured jet black and tasted of milk chocolate, coffee, some sweetness, and was extremely balanced. This is the best stout I've ever had.
3. Troegs Nugget Nectar
People go crazy for this beer in PA. There was a ton of hype for it in Pittsburgh, and when I finally got my hands on it it became my favorite beer until these next two came along. Classified as an "American Amber / Red Ale" on Beer Advocate, this is clearly not your average amber. It balances a nice malt background with the IBUs comparable to that of a DIPA. Great beer.
2. Wicked Weed Freak of Nature
I never had a chance to taste their beers up north, but I often heard a lot of hype about a relatively new brewery from Asheville that was exploding in popularity. The hype is real. I grab Wicked Weed at every chance I get now that I live in North Carolina. They don't make a bad beer. This west coast IPA blew me away when I first had it this past September. Huge citrus and hops that are perfectly balanced. It was very hard for me not to put this at #1.
1. Fat Heads Hop Juju
Although Wicked Weed has a strong claim for my favorite brewery, I've only been having them since this past summer when I moved to Raleigh. Fat Heads quickly became my favorite brewery this past year living in Pittsburgh, visiting the saloon in Southside many times, and for now will keep the title. A seasonal DIPA that I unfortunately will not be able to get in North Carolina. Lots of citrus, hops, some sweetness, and very drinkable considering the ABV and IBUs. Drink two at your own risk.