Joe Sixpack: New beers worth making room for in your fridge

Posted: January 12, 2012

YOUR NEW YEAR'S resolutions better include a promise to clean out the fridge, because you'll need the room for a lot of new beer. Get ready for some exciting new flavors in 2012, from one-of-a-kind collaborations to the first-time domestic appearance of imported world classics.

Here's just a sampling:

Barrel-Aged Bigfoot Barleywine. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot may be the benchmark for American-style barley wine. In May, the California brewery will release a limited supply that has been aging in used bourbon barrels - a twist that will only add complexity to this ale's superb hoppy character.

Black Note Stout. Nobody makes more varieties of stout than Bell's of Michigan, and this one might be its best. Ranked the No. 3 beer in the world by RateBeer.com, it's a blend of Bell's Expedition and Double Cream stouts, aged for a year in oak bourbon barrels. Although it's been available in very limited supplies on draft, there's word this year that the brewery may begin bottling it for slightly wider distribution.

Brux. A collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Russian River breweries? That's like pitchers Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee on the same team. They've joined to brew a wild ale brewed with a dose of funky Brettanomyces yeast.

Bud Light Platinum. OK, maybe this will be just another macro lager, but you've gotta give it a try. Why? It's a strong (6 percent alcohol by volume), low-calorie (137 calories) beer. Yes, it sounds like a contradiction of terms, but Anheuser-Busch Inbev nonetheless will put its muscle behind its first new Bud offering since Bud Light Golden Wheat in 2009.

Coolship Balaton. A couple of years ago, Maine's Allagash Brewing began experimenting with ales that are spontaneously fermented in a shallow, uncovered pan called a coolship. It's the same process used to make authentic Belgian lambics. Although samples have been poured at special events, there's hope it'll finally show up in stores in 2012. I'm hoping this one, flavored with Balaton cherries, finds its way to a glass near me.

Courage Imperial Stout. A direct descendant of the original 18th-century Russian imperial stout, this dark-as-espresso brew has been MIA since it became a victim of a corporate takeover in the '90s. England's Wells and Young has recreated it, and it begins showing up on shelves this month.

Deviant Dale's. Till now, you had to go to Colorado to get a taste of this excellent double India pale ale on tap. But this spring, Oskar Blues Brewery will make the award winner available nationwide in new 16-ounce cans.

§ucaba. Firestone Walker's barrel-aged barley wine was called Abacus till it got one of those cease-and-desist letters from a vineyard with a $500 bottle of wine with the same name. The brewery reversed the brand name and inserted one of those squiggly paragraph marks.

TBA. Two of Oregon's finest breweries, Deschutes and Hair of the Dog, got together in 2010 to brew their first collaborative beer. It's actually four separate beers that have been aging in wood barrels, waiting to be blended and released. Beer freaks hoped to get a taste in 2011 to no avail. Maybe 2012?

Timothy Taylor Landlord. A four-time Campaign for Real Ale champion in Britain, this may be the greatest beer never exported to America. It's a classic pale, bitter ale that is best when served from a cask at cellar temperature. Though there's been no formal announcement on its importation, U.S. regulators recently approved its label - a sign that it'll be here soon.

Tweason'ale. Most gluten-free beers leave me pitying the poor sufferers of celiac disease. Made without barley or traditional cereal grains, they tend to be watery and unimaginative. Delaware's Dogfish Head will take a stab at gluten-free beer this winter with an ale made with sorghum, strawberries and buckwheat honey.

12.12.12. Stone Brewing launched its Vertical Epic series on Feb. 2, 2002 (2.2.02), and has continued it annually with a lineup of one-offs designed to be aged till the final one is released on Dec. 12, 2012. Over the years, the series has included beer made with chili peppers, sauvignon blanc grapes and Kaffir lime leaves, so expect a grand finale.

* In a thoroughly ambitious undertaking, Seattle's Elysian Brewing will mark the End of Time (according to the Mayan calendar) with the 12 Beers of the Apocalypse. The monthly release of one-offs launches this month with Nibiru, a Belgian-style tripel named for the so-called Planet X that's apparently on a collision course with Earth.

* Don't forget about Westvleteren 12, the rare Belgian Trappist ale that will make its official American premiere sometime this spring.

* And, finally, there's Dupont Spéciale Belge. That's the first-ever collaboration brew from Belgium's Brasserie Dupont, with Iron Hill brewer Chris LaPierre. It's a light-bodied, easy-drinking style that will be launched in June for Philly Beer Week 2012.


"Joe Sixpack" is by Don Russ Email: joesixpack@phillynews.com.

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