This was a huge year for beer: Out-of-state breweries expanded distribution to Missouri, hometown favorites pushed new and exciting styles, and several St. Louis startups announced that they will be brewing soon.
I'm fortunate to have tried many exceptional beers — and some that were not so memorable — in 2010. Here are my 10 favorites that are sold in Missouri.
10. Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale • My surprise hit of the year: a hopped-up, wheat-based beer with bright, tropical-citrus aromas and flavors. Another, please. 7.3 percent alcohol by volume; available year-round.
9. Anchor Our Special Ale • There is something mysterious about Anchor's nippy-weather beer, something about not knowing exactly what goes into a recipe that changes slightly each year. The mystery makes the woodsy aroma and subtle spice flavors in the 2010 version all the more tasty. 5.5 percent ABV; available November-January.
8. Ska Modus Hoperandi • Delightful from start to finish, Ska's American-style India pale ale is not only one of the best canned brews, it's one of the best beers in the country, period. The pronounced hop flavor is like biting into a grapefruit — citrus-rind bitterness followed by thirst-quenching juiciness. 6.8 percent ABV; available year-round.
7. Schlafly Coffee Stout • Lots of craft breweries make coffee beers, but few of them do it as well as the St. Louis Brewery. The marriage of cold-brewed coffee from local roaster Kaldi's to Schlafly's sublime Oatmeal Stout results in a deeply satisfying wintertime brew that's not at all heavy. 5.7 percent ABV; available November-January.
6. Bell's Two-Hearted Ale • My love affair with this American-style IPA has blossomed to the point that it's my favorite everyday beer on this list. Not only is Two-Hearted readily available and reasonably priced, but its pineapple-tangerine flavors (from Centennial hops) are endlessly delicious and easy to pair with a range of foods. 7.1 percent ABV; available year-round.
5. Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus • The only non-U.S. brewery on this list, Belgium's Cantillon has been making beer since 1900, long before America's craft-beer scene was in proverbial diapers. One of the most pleasurable beer experiences I had this year was a simple dessert of fresh raspberries paired with Rosé de Gambrinus, Cantillon's raspberry lambic. The pink-hued beer was every bit as tart, floral and sweet as the berries; together they were magical. 5 percent ABV; available year-round in limited quantities.
4. Founders Breakfast Stout • This imperial stout has it all. Just look at its label description: Double chocolate coffee oatmeal stout. Yet no single ingredient overwhelms the others, letting Breakfast Stout deliver waves of rich coffee, dark chocolate and roasted oats. I dare you to find a better beer that's brewed with coffee and chocolate (excluding our No. 3). 8.3 percent ABV; available September-December.
3. Founders KBS • Formerly known as Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS is now the official name), this is a barrel-aged beer that stands out in an increasingly crowded field of barrel-aged beers. The depth of chocolate and coffee flavors is present as in the original Breakfast Stout, but a year of bourbon-barrel aging adds layers of vanilla and toffee that put KBS in my Top 3. 11.2 percent ABV; available in March.
2. Bell's Hopslam • The hallmark of the imperial IPA style is aggressive hop bitterness, which many breweries unsuccessfully try to balance with an overly sweet malt backbone. Bell's seems to have found the solution by incorporating honey into its IIPA. Fragrant, floral, bitter and sweet in all the right places, Hopslam is outrageously drinkable. 10 percent ABV; available in January.
1. Schlafly AIPA • My desert-island beer, the St. Louis Brewery's American-style IPA is perfect in every sense. The color is a beautiful burnt-orange beneath a frothy, off-white head. The aroma — oh, the aroma! — fills a room with the scents of pine resin and pungent citrus oils. And the flavor: long-lasting grapefruit, grass and honey wrapped in a lush mouthfeel. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Schlafly, add this to your year-round lineup! 8 percent ABV; available May-July.
Bonus! • My 10 favorite beers that I tried in 2010 that aren't distributed in Missouri (in no particular order): Russian River Pliny the Elder, Victory Prima Pils, Oskar Blues Gordon, Brooklyn Lager, Southern Star Buried Hatchet Stout, New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red, Steamworks Spruce Goose, Furthermore Three Feet Deep, Allagash Black, 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die.