Hip, Hops, Hooray! 3 Cheers for My Top 3 Beers of 2023 (So Far)

A new year, with some new beer – that’s something worth raising a glass to!

The holiday season has ended, the new year’s been rung in, and Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow. So, as we ride out this chilly wait for spring to arrive, I thought this would be the perfect time to review some of my favorite beers I’ve enjoyed so far this year.

As I think my fellow SCCBB bloggers and its readers will agree, one of the most wonderful gifts one can receive is beer. And I have been spoiled of late, in that regard: In January, I received some birthday beer from my older brother and my sister-in-law, and some beer from my uncle. I received too many beers (is that a thing?) to give them all a full write-up here, but I’d like to highlight a few favorites from the bunch. I received cans and bottles of IPA, which I always love, but for this post, I’m highlighting what I consider to be some good, cold-weather beer.

Maudite is Damned Good!

My enthusiasm for Unibroue beer predates
my longtime love of IPAs…

My brother is probably the person who has been buying me beer for the longest time. I won’t mention how long that’s been, but I will say I can always count on him to come through with some reliably good selections; I often turn to him for recommendations, and for introducing me to new breweries and beers. But one selection that he gave me for my birthday needed no introduction, at least not in terms of the brewery it came from.

I had never before tasted this first beer, but I immediately recognized the name of the brewery it hails from. Unibroue, a Canadian brewery based in Quebec, focuses on Belgian-style beers. And when I was a wee 20-something lad, one of my favorite libations was Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde, a golden tripel that is, according to the Unibroue website, “a tribute to Quebec, the land encountered by 16th-century French explorers who thought they’d reached the end of the world.” (“La fin du monde” translates as “the end of the world.”)

I’m not here to reminisce about beers of long ago. But having been reminded of how much I used to enjoy their one brew, I was excited to pop open my new bottle of Maudite.

“We’re all gonna need a good beer when this is over!!!”

Maudite’s label tells the story of la chasse galerie, ‘the enchanted canoe,’ which, legend has it, was manned by a group of lumberjacks, wishing to reunite with their sweethearts, who were hundreds of miles away. The only way they could do so without a long trek was to make a pact with the devil himself, who bewitches their canoe so that it can fly through the air…

Maudite is the first strong beer brewed in Canada, clocking in at 8% ABV. The beer poured with a large, foamy head, and a deep amber color. Complexity is the name of the game with Unibroue beers, and Maudite was no exception. Its malty aroma hit me first, followed by the taste of fruits — fig, currants, and apple — and some spice, followed by the hops. I found myself sipping this one slowly, savoring all the different flavors. It was a vastly different tasting experience from what I’d remembered with La Fin du Monde, but it was wonderful all the same. I will definitely seek out Maudite again when I’m looking for an interesting, complex beer that’ll keep me warm on these cold nights!

Supplication Has Me on My Knees

The Fin du Monde glass is back, but this beauty hails from Russian River.

My next beer hails from a little closer to home, and involves no deals with the devil: Russian River Brewing‘s Supplication (their Windsor facility is the featured image on this post). One of Russian River’s Belgian-inspired brews, Supplication is a sour brown ale, aged for about 12 months in pinot noir barrels with cherries, with three strains of wild yeast: Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus.

This beer pours a beautiful orange-brown, and, like Maudite, it impressed me with its complexity: the aroma from the oak barrels and the cherries, the flavors of malt, hops, cherries, plums, wine, and oak. I find that, with other beers, one of those flavors might dominate the others, but with Supplication, there was such a delightful balance of sweet and sour.

Supplication may come in strong with the flavor, but it’s not too strong as far as alcohol content, at a reasonable 7.0% ABV. No headaches or regrets in the morning, except, of course, the regret that I did not have a second bottle of Supplication in my fridge. But I was glad to have had this first (and certainly not last) encounter with this beer!

A Fleet of Flavor, with Armada

Alaro Brewing’s Armada British Brown Ale is sweet, smooth sailing.

My final selection is another great winter beer: Alaro Brewing‘s Armada British Brown Ale, courtesy of my uncle. I’ve received other beers from him that come from Alaro, and have always been impressed. British brown ale is a style of beer I’ve really only encountered when drinking Newcastle, and I’d say Armada blows that beer out of the water.

Armada is a rich, dark brown beer, with a nice, tan head. I knew I was going to love this beer when I inspected its aroma, catching some chocolate and coffee notes. And, to my delight, the chocolate and coffee were both dominant when I tasted the beer. Armada is styled as a Southern English brown ale, sweet to the taste, with little to no hop presence. Those who don’t have a sweet tooth may not be a fan of Armada, but I certainly am. Although not as complex as the first two beers I covered, Armada is a worthy winter beer, a pleasure to sip while sequestered inside on a cold, drizzly day.

Spring may be just around the corner, and with it, some warmer days. But until we round that corner, I will be craving beers like these. While I’ve sampled other beers of varying styles so far this year, these winter warmers stand out as my three favorites.

What about you, dear readers? What have you enjoyed so far this year? Have you sampled any of these beers? Let us know in the comments!

Until next time, cheers!

-BrewHead Ted

Instagram: @tedc79ted79

Email: YippeeKiIPA@gmail.com

Mastadon: @socalcraftbeer@hostux.social

3 thoughts on “Hip, Hops, Hooray! 3 Cheers for My Top 3 Beers of 2023 (So Far)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s