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Beers Of The Year

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Overall, it's been another great year for beer, at least from my perspective here in North Texas. If I didn't suspect reader list burnout, I could probably do another top 10 piece on the best developments of the past year, and even another on things I'm most looking forward to in 2011.

For local beer lovers, 2010 brought the openings of the Common Table, Nova (which has greatly improved its beer selection since first opening) and Meddlesome Moth, a new Whole Foods location with the biggest beer cooler we've seen in the city, progress for Deep Ellum Brewing Company (set to open for business early in 2011, last we checked), the arrival of many new beers previously unavailable in the state or region and an overwhelming vote to partially end the system of wet and dry areas, allowing package sales of beer and wine in areas that were once as dry as a Baptist wedding. (Now we just have to do the same thing with all forms of alcohol and then maybe the liquor-store-funded lawyer gumming things up will go suck the blood out of some other municipality trying to enter the post-Prohibition era.)

Worldwide, craft beer got ever more attention, with the Dogfish Head brewery getting its own reality show, Samuel Adams continuing to innovate and the crazy Scots at Brewdog still clamoring for attention.

Of course, it hasn't all been good news. Trinity Hall's Allen location and the Covey brewpub in Fort Worth both closed their doors (and before I ever got to try either), and the Food And Drug Administration got into the nanny-state business of banning douchebag fuel.

With that, I present the 2010 Hophead Beer of the Year awards -- not to be confused with my personal Top 10 from earlier this week.

10. Magic Hat Hi.P.A.
Magic Hat breaks from its usual light-hearted, light-ABV, light-flavored fare by bringing back an old IPA recipe that's flavorful enough and strong enough to stand up to the most serious IPAs out there.

9. Samuel Adams Infinium
The taste didn't impress me (and left a lot of Beer Advocate reviewers disappointed as well), but the Boston Brewery's collaboration with Germany's Weihenstephan, intended to replace Champagne for holiday toasting, proves that Sam Adams is in no danger of running out of ideas any time soon.

8. Green's Gluten-Free Beers
As awareness of celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, spreads, so expands the gluten-free section of beer coolers at certain stores. I haven't tried any of these, but a gluten-intolerant friend was recently surprised to find she really enjoyed one of Green's Belgian-inspired brews after finding other gluten-free beers extremely disappointing. Hopefully gluten-free beers continue to improve so celiacs who don't consider themselves to be wine people can keep drinking their beverage of choice.

7. Guinness Foreign Extra
Also a personal top 10 choice, this richer, stronger, better version of Guinness finally became available in the States for the first time since before Prohibition.

6. Flying Dog Raging Bitch
A great Belgian-inspired IPA, this made my personal top 10 list for its quality, originality and value. It's also great to see Flying Dog celebrate 20 years by branching out into a new style.

5. Sink the Bismarck!
When will the ABV wars end? Not anytime soon, I hope. It's just too much fun to watch.

4. Sierra 30 series
One of the forerunners of the microbrew, later called craft-brew, movement, Sierra Nevada is celebrating its 30th anniversary by collaborating with other brewers. Fritz and Ken's Ale, an imperial stout collabo with Anchor's Fritz Maytag, was wonderful. Also noteworthy, Sierra Nevada earned the EPA's 2010 Green Business of the Year award.

3. Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
A "fusion" of imperial stout and African-inspired honey and gesho root brew, this offering captures the enthusiastic experimentation of the Miles Davis album whose anniversary it commemorates -- and provided an interesting storyline for the Brew Masters Discovery series documenting founder Sam Calagione and his laudably creative brewery.

2. Rahr Whiskey Warmer
Not only does Fort Worth's Rahr overcome the calamity of a roof collapse, it manages to bottle its absolutely lovely barrel-aged Winter Warmer for the first time. It's great to see the local brewery rally back with such strong community support.

1. Four Loko
No other beer grabbed headlines the way this now-banned beer did. The implications of the FDA getting involved in brewers' business, by banning the combination of two legal substances, are unnerving, to say the least. Whats next, a ban on Irish coffee or espresso stouts? As disgusting as Four Loko surely must taste (never bothered with one, though now that they are illegal I am curious), beer lovers should have taken a Voltaire-esque "Though I disagree with what you brew, I will defend to the death your right to brew it" stance. Instead, Phusion Products was cowed by the government, and brewers of more serious products mostly just watched from the sidelines. Moonshot, another caffeinated beer and one of the subjects of the documentary Beer Wars, was also banned, but thankfully is pushing back with a petition. Not sure how much good an online petition will do, but I'm signing it.

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