It is practically impossible to narrow the list down to just 12 top craft beers for 2012. Westy 12, rated the Best Beer in the World, was awesome but I liked another craft beer more. I tried to also make this list not have any repeats from last year. If I'd added brews to this list that I tasted this year that were also on last year's list you'd see Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing Co. in the top 3. I just love that craft brew. But, to further express the diversity of craft beer, I want each year's top craft beer list to include craft beers that were not on last year's list. Sort of giving them a one year sabbatical from the list. There are a lot of other worthy craft beers but my list comes down to personal taste. These are craft beers I really liked and personally tried this year.
My Top 12 Craft Beers for 2012:
1. River North Barrel Aged Avarice Imperial Stout
I could probably have put the regular version of Avarice on this list as well but having 2 beers from the same brewery let alone a regular and barrel-aged version of the same beer didn't seem right although it was deserving. This is a monster of a stout with incredible flavors from the bourbon barrel. Thick, chewy and pitch black. Everything you want in the perfect barrel-aged stout.
The "Best Beer in the World" and probably deservedly so. My favorite Belgian beer, now that I've tried it. The flavors are incredible and the depth of the beer seems never ending. Big, at over 10% ABV, yet easy to drink and a pleasure to sip through.
3. FiftyFifty 2011 Eclipse Imperial Stout Elijah Craig 18 Year
Eclipse is always stellar and with 11 versions to try this year I have a feeling we will be seeing one on the list for next year too. Albeit a different barrel aged version. Thick with wonderful bourbon flavors that coat the mouth. A wonderful craft brew to be truly savored.
4. Russian River Consecration Sour Dark Ale
Complex, sour and divine. A worthy beer on anyone's list. Funky and vinous with sour cherry and oak accents from the barrel this beer teases you and then goes full sour on you to the point where your mouth puckers. Definitely not a beer to miss, especially if you like sour beers.
5. Founders KBS
One of the best barrel aged stouts out there. Founders really has the art of barrel-aged stouts down to a science. Incredibly smooth and flavorful with exceptional balance. One sip and you're hooked and want another. Seek it and you will be rewarded.
6. Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA
Regular Ruination is a wonderful Double IPA with hops galore but the 10th Anniversary Ruination stepped the game up another notch and is sublimely bitter. You would be hard pressed to find a beer that can show off its bitterness as well as Ruination 10th Anniversary can without being too harsh. A hopheads dream in a bottle.
7. Bear Republic Racer X Double IPA
Take an IPA staple like Racer 5 IPA, amp it up into a double IPA and you have hoppy goodness that is sure to please. Tons of hop flavor with more than enough bitterness riding on a solid malt backbone push this beer onto this year's list.
8. Crooked Stave Wild Wild Brett Blue
Hoppy, rustic, flavorful, brewed with spruce tips and incredibly comlex in the mouth. The flavor and the bitterness had no quit in this craft brew. My favorite Crooked Stave brew this year.
9. Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout
Creamy, rich, dark coffee in a robust, oak aged stout. The flavors completely come together in this brew. Smooth and divine. It'd be nice to try this alongside KBS.
10. Odell Brewing The Meddler Oud Bruin Ale
You can tell this is going to be tart just from the aroma but, while your nose is not lying to you, the flavor is even better than the aroma. Lovely sour fruit with a little funk make this a palate pleasing craft beer. If you like your brews on the sour side I hope you had a chance to try this.
11. Uinta Brewing Crooked Line Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale
There are more and more pumpkin craft beers each year. A few stand out in the pumpkin patch and this is my favorite. Tale a wonderful pumpkin ale, load it up so it is an imperial pumpkin ale and then age it in bourbon barrels. The sweetness and flavor of the bourbon perfectly meld with the pumpkin. Simply divine.
12. Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
Hoppy enough but this brew made the list because of its wonderful flavor. Slightly bitter with wonderful citrus fruit flavor and a nice dose of maple sweetness. The balance is almost spot on. An IPA everyone can enjoy.
There were many more fantastic brews that came close to making my list. These are the honorable mentions: Three Floyds Arctic Panzer Wolf Imperial IPA, Russian River Pliny The Elder, Cigar City Bolita Double Brown Ale, Marble Brewery Double IPA, Deschutes Hop Trip Fresh Hop Pale Ale, Left Coast The Wedge Black IPA, Elevation Beer Apis IV Quadrupel, Deschutes Hair of the Dog Conflux Series No. 1 Collage, Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA, Anchor Brewing Anchor Porter, Green Flash Palate Wrecker Hamilton's Ale, Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA, JailHouse Hop Riot Imperial Pale Ale, Bell's Brewery Hopslam Ale, Bee Creek Hoosier Honey Wheat, Uinta Brewing Detour Double IPA and Avery The Maharaja Imperial IPA.