Friday, December 17, 2021

Fuggled Beers of the Year: Between Orange and Brown

Darker than pale, lighter than dark brown is something of a mouthful, hence I renamed this part of the annual review of year simply "between orange and brown". Still suitably vague and subject to my capricious whimsy, but "BOAB" is less of a painful acronym than "DTPLTDB". Onwards then to the runners and riders...


  • Franconian Kellerbier - Port City Brewing
  • Alt Bier - Devils Backbone Brewing
  • Fest! - Beltway Brewing Company
Honorable mention: A Stone in the Woods Brown Ale - Patch Brewing Company.

I know dear reader you are shocked that the best three BOAB beers of 2021 are examples of German style beers. While it is true that I didn't drink as much Franconian Kellerbier this year compared to last, it was just as fantastic and went just as well with harvesting chores like shelling peas. For about a month in the late spring and early summer of this year, Devils Backbone had their Alt Bier on tap, and every weekend for about a month Mrs V and I would traipse down, often with friends, and sit in the sunshine with half litres of frankly gorgeous Düsseldorf style beer. Fest! was the winner of the Virginia section of my annual Oktoberfest tasting, and was a rich, nailed on märzen that would have been the overall winner but for a beer we'll mention later. While it is difficult to separate out a winner from these three, and it is the one I am happy to drive 75 minutes to get a few pints of...Devils Backbone Alt Bier.

Rest of the USA
  • Receptional - Utepils Brewing, MN
  • Munzler's Vienna Lager - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC
  • Vienna - Von Trapp Brewing, VT
Honorable mentions: Copper - Olde Mecklenburg Brewing, NC; Oktoberfest - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC; Celebration - Sierra Nevada Brewing, CA/NC.

When my colleague Jerry Fagerberg sent me a selection of Minnesota Oktoberfest lagers the name Utepils rang bells from somewhere, somewhere I still can't place. Receptional came top of my MN Oktoberfest league, and it was a fantastic, fantastic beer, a beer I would happily drink all year round given half the chance. In each of the last handful of years I have wanted to try Olde Meck's spring seasonal Vienna Lager, Munzler's, and finally this year I made it to the brewery in time. I was so glad that I finally got to try another example of an excellent lager from Charlotte's finest. Von Trapp are an old faithful brewery, a regular in the fridge, and as such it is all too easy to take them for granted. As a permanent part of their line up, Von Trapp Vienna is quite possibly to my mind the best regularly brewed Vienna lager in the US, as such it wins the best BOAB beer in the US for 2021.

Rest of the World
  • London Pride - Fullers Brewery, UK
  • Oktober Fest-Märzen - Privatbrauerei Ayinger, DE
  • Eiszäpfle - Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus, DE
Fullers in bottles is a fairly common sight here in Virginia, and Kardinal Hall seems to have it in that format regularly, and I enjoyed several throughout the year. Recently though they had it on draft, not cask sadly but such is life, and so it was a no-brainer to go get some, and it was just perfect, once the chill of an American draft line had worn off. Oktoberfest season is when I get excited for the Fest-Märzen from Ayinger. Sure it's an outlier in terms of German "Oktoberfest" lagers but I love the big malty chewiness. The only downside was finding a mere pair of four packs in the store during the appropriate season, and then only 330ml bottles, where were the half litre bottles this year? I didn't know that Rothaus have a year round märzen, Eiszäpfle. Now I do, and now I want to see it in the store year round and not just in the late summer, early autumn, delicious. Of the three, the plaudits, and title of best BOAB beer in the rest of the world for 2021, return to the UK for a second year running with Fuller's London Pride.

Three absolutely cracking beers, but in this case the local hero wins hands down. Since Devils Backbone got an open fermenter and horizontal lagering tanks to complete the authenticity circle when it comes to their central European style beers, everything has gone up a level, from excellent to just plain perfect. Altbier is one of those styles that I wish we saw more properly made iterations of here in the US, and the fact that one of my locals brews it at least once a year makes this Germanophile a very happy camper indeed. Well done Devils Backbone Alt Bier for being the BOAB beer of 2021!

1 comment:

  1. Good choice! Von Trapp Vienna is currently my favorite lager beer.
    Their Dunkles and Trosten should appear when you get to dark beers.

    Brian Callaghan


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