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The homebrewers have spoken.  And when these maniacal brew geeks speak, you best listen.

For the 7th year in a row, members of the American Homebrewer’s Association cast their votes for their favorite beers.  For the judging, the only rule was that the beer has to be commercially available somewhere in the US.  The votes were tallied, and the top 50 beers were just announced in Zymurgy magazine.

This year, we witnessed a dethroning.  After topping the list for the past two years in a row, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA was bested by Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Elder (a double IPA).  By a mere TWO votes, Pliny took top honors and West Coast trumped the East Coast.  The irony?  Russian River did it on brewing equipment formerly owned by Dogfish.

As a proud homebrewer myself (which translates to a tiny NYC apartment crammed with carboys, buckets, bottles, thermometers, syphons and doo-dads galore), I took notice of this list.  I mean what better group to gauge the merits of the beer world than a bunch of beer-loving fanatics who can hold court for hours on specific gravity readings, diacetyl esters and how to replicate the pH of Munich’s water if you live in Des Moines.  And now, with no further delay, the results:

Top 50 Ranked Beers
1.    Russian River Pliny the Elder
2.    Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
3.    Stone Arrogant Bastard
4.    Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
5.    Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
6.    Stone IPA
7.    Stone Ruination
8.    (Tie)

  • Anchor Steam
  • North Coast Old Rasputin

10.  (Tie)

  • Sierra Nevada Celebration
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • Guinness

13.  (Tie)

  • Unibroue La Fin du Monde
  • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine

15.  (Tie)

  • New Glarus Belgian Red
  • Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Victory Prima Pils
  • New Belgium Fat Tire

19.  (Tie)

  • Deschutes Black Butte Porter
  • Founders Breakfast Stout
  • Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
  • Russian River Blind Pig
  • Saison Dupont
  • Victory Hop Devil

25.  (Tie)

  • Alaskan Smoked Porter
  • Duvel
  • Left Hand Milk Stout

28.  (Tie)

  • Deschutes The Abyss
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
  • New Belgium La Folie
  • Odell IPA

32.  (Tie)

  • Avery Maharaja
  • Bell’s Expedition Stout
  • Chimay Grande Reserve
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown
  • Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
  • Rogue Chocolate Stout
  • Russian River Pliny the Younger
  • Spaten Optimator
  • Three Floyds Alpha King

41.  (Tie)

  • Delirium Tremens
  • Green Flash IPA
  • Great Divide Oak Aged Yeti
  • Hoegaarden Wit
  • New Glarus Raspberry Tart
  • Pilsner Urquell
  • Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale
  • Three Floyds Dark Lord
  • Troegs Nugget Nectar
  • Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

Now go pick up a six-pack and support your favorite brewery.  Drink!  Drink!  Drink!

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8 Responses to “Respect the Elder: Pliny Takes Top Honors”

  1. Matt says:

    Thanks for posting this. Some things stuck out to me. Pilsner Urquell?? Hoegaarden?? Sam Adams Lager?? Not that these aren’t good beers. It just seems odd that they would fall in to group with the likes of Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron or Alaskan Brewery Smoked Porter. Maybe that is just my “fight the macro-brew” self. (Yes, Sam Adams is a macro-brew).

  2. No doubt, Matt. I was surprised, as well. After loving Sam Adams Boston Lager initially, I later went into a multi-year ban of the stuff due to it “not being micro”. But lo and behold, over the last year I’ve come back around to it whole-heartedly and find it damn tasty.

    It’s actually a “Vienna Lager”–a pretty rare style originally from Germany, that believe it or not, is the same as Dos Equis and Negra Modelo. For that, I guess you got to give it Jim Koch…

  3. Sam Adams makes a great spiced beer around the holidays, called old fuzzywig, i think you can only get it in the variety pack.

    Not surprised the survey is westcoast biased, with the number and history and microbreweries out there as well as the culture out there is a little more conducive to homebrewing(and the association is based in CO).

    I don’t think it’s “selling out” to vote or like a macrobrew anymore than it is to like a winery that is more wellknown or has a larger production, good stuff is good stuff; but it’s more fun and soul supporting by supporting and touting the little guys.

    How can Guinness be only #10?

  4. Justin, definitely agree on the Fezziwig. Here’s a little info on it: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/35/1881
    Got some solid reviews. I was also struck by the sheer number of different styles Sam Adams has produced. They still have the spirit of experimentation which is good to see.

    But it is always killer to find that little brewery that’s making great beers on a tiny scale, fueled by passion. Six Point in NYC is one to watch…

  5. Vince says:

    Well said about the Sam Adams, David. I’ve seen it take a lot of flack lately, as the microbrews continue to explode (always a good thing). But it has maintained its quality over years and years, just as Sierra has, and that is one of the trademarks of what I consider “Best Beer”. I’m one of the ones who voted for Pliny, it really is my favorite and it’s a hometown brew to boot (and I get happy hour prices at RRBC all the time with my AHA card). :)

  6. Right on, Vince, thanks for dropping a line. When Sam Adams went to bat to help out the other brewers during the hop shortage, they won some serious points with me. It’s all about community and they stepped up in style. For those of you who hadn’t heard about it: check it HERE.

    But enough about Sam Adams, because I had my first Pliny last night out here in Seattle (you can get it in the grocery store!), and it blew my mind. How the hell they managed to keep that massive wallop of hops in balance was truly a feet of mastery. Great stuff and definitely worthy of the top spot.

  7. Yep, @bellsbrewery Two Hearted Ale is put-on-pink-panties-and-smack-your-mama good. Wow. No wonder its #4 on the list: http://bit.ly/aKQeQy

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