Gallery: The Best Beer and Cider We Drank in 2011

New Belgium Twisted Spoke 15th Anniversary Ale
New Belgium Twisted Spoke 15th Anniversary Ale
Blended especially for the Chicago beer bar’s 15th anniversary, this American wild ale took three threads of beer with various fruits, spices and barrel-aging and then aged them all again in apple brandy barrels. The result was a beautiful meld of sour cherry, oak and vanilla along with just enough tartness and some of the apple brandy in the finish.—Jonathan Moxey

[Photograph: Sarah Postma]

Boulevard Tank 7
Boulevard Tank 7
American brewers are really starting to give their international counterparts a run for their money when it comes to brewing foreign styles, and Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale by Boulevard Brewing Co. is a perfect example of this trend. This straw colored, extra dry brew has a floral aroma and a delightful lemon-spice flavor. The availability in 11.2 ounce 4-pack format as well as the larger 750mL bottles makes this a versatile brew.—Joe Postma

[Photograph: Sarah Postma]

Two Brothers Askew
Two Brothers Askew
Askew was the first beer I tried from the brewery’s Project Opus series of aged sour beers. Three years in the making, this orange-hued American wild ale packed a blend of overripe pears and apple, sour grapes, earth, oak and barnyard funk. It was terrific and hopefully a good indicator of what’s to come.—Jonathan Moxey

[Photograph: Jessica Leibowitz]

Bruery/Cigar City Marrón Acidifié
Bruery/Cigar City Marrón Acidifié
I was won over by this collaboration sour brown ale’s complexity. The aroma is a concentrated burst of sour cherry and cranberries infused with oak. Chocolate, leather, balsamic vinegar, and barrel tannins are there as well. I managed to squirrel away a second bottle that I look forward to opening in another year or two.—Jonathan Moxey

[Photograph: Chris Lehault]

Snowdrift's Orchard Select Cider
Snowdrift's Orchard Select Cider
We drank a lot of cider this year but this one still lingers in my mind. Far from the big apple notes and tart flavors we find in most ciders, Orchard Select is delicate and floral with undertones of tropical fruits. Everything about this cider is nuanced, and it's the first cider I seek out whenever I am in the Pacific Northwest.—Chris Lehault
New Belgium La Folie
New Belgium La Folie
An intense blend of tart and sweet makes La Folie by New Belgium one of the best commercial beers of the year. Flavors of sour cherries and oak pair wonderfully with a wide range of food. New Belgium has been brewing this Flanders-inspired beer for several years, but 2011 marked its largest distribution to date, making this treat available in any state that sells their standard offerings.—Joe Postma
Goose Island King Henry
Goose Island King Henry
Goose Island may have raised a few eyebrows earlier this year with their sale to international beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, but their 2011 fall release of King Henry shows they're still producing creative and quality new brews. A massive 13.4% ABV bourbon barrel aged English barleywine, the rich toffee malt flavors blend seamlessly with sweet bourbon and oak. This is the best dessert beer of 2011 and it comes just in time to share with family and friends around the holidays.—Joe Postma
Farnum Hill Extra Dry Still Cider
Farnum Hill Extra Dry Still Cider
Readers of The Cider Press know that Farnum Hill's semi-dry cider is our go-to workhorse cider. But their Extra Dry Still cider really blew us away. Big tannins, and a prominent minerality make this one of the most refined ciders we tried this year. Drinking a glass of extra dry still with some nice charcuterie and a baguette has become a Sunday afternoon tradition in our house.—Chris Lehault
Pretty Things East India Porter
Pretty Things East India Porter
This hoppy porter is another in the Massachusetts gypsy brewers’ Once Upon a Time series, in which they team up with beer historian Ron Pattinson to re-create a beer from the past. This was based on a recipe from 1855 (showing that it wasn’t just IPAs that were sent to India—far from it, in fact), and as is often the case when going back to the original records, surprises are in store. I loved this beer not just for its historical pedigree (although that certainly works for me), but because it was a really solid and tasty beer. Long may the collaboration continue.—Lisa Grimm

[Photograph: walknboston on Flickr]

Stillwater Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Stateside Saison
Stillwater Chardonnay Barrel-Aged Stateside Saison
My new favorite Stillwater beer is brewer Brian Strumke’s flagship Stateside Saison that he aged in Chardonnay barrels along with multiple strains of Brettanomyces. A knife’s edge of carbonation and dryness lead a blend of orange, apricot, and Chardonnay grapes. It finishes with black pepper and lingering oak tannins.—Jonathan Moxey

It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite beer of the year, but if I was forced to pick just one, it would be the Chardonnay barrel aged Stateside Saison from Stillwater. While big stouts and sour beers are all the rage, this limited version of Stillwater's flagship Saison is more nuanced, with a complex Brett character mingling with the belgian yeast and white wine flavors.—Chris Lehault

Dieu du Ciel! Plum Shiso Sour Wheat
Dieu du Ciel! Plum Shiso Sour Wheat
This tart beer was the standout at this year's NYC Brewer's Choice. Sour and fragrant, this beer was unusual and fruity with an herbal edge, fun to drink and incredibly refreshing in the midst of a jam-packed crowd.—Maggie Hoffman

[Photograph: Chris Lehault]

Big Woody Double Barrel Barleywine from Glacier Brewhouse
Big Woody Double Barrel Barleywine from Glacier Brewhouse
It's rare to find a barleywine that isn't too something. Too sweet. Too hot. Too strong. Too weak. Too syrupy. Well this barleywine from Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage, Alaska, aged eight months in Jim Bean barrels and two years in retoasted American oak wine barrels, is just right. Marvelous toasted flavors and a sturdy whiff of whiskey.—Peter Reed
Tröegs Nugget Nectar
Tröegs Nugget Nectar
The perfect balance of caramel and nutty malts with citrus and floral hops. The intensity and balance of this beer wowed me—it's my favorite new-to-me beer of the year for sure. It's a seasonal, and I'll be stocking up come February.—Nick Leiby

[Photograph: Bernt Rostad on Flickr]

Southern Tier Iniquity Black IPA
Southern Tier Iniquity Black IPA
An excellent mix of all that is good about IPAs and stouts. Loads of hops and chocolate flavors, and dangerously smooth at 9% ABV.—Nick Leiby

[Photograph: Bernt Rostad on Flickr]

Sophia from Earth Bread + Brewery
Sophia from Earth Bread + Brewery
The only downside about Earth Bread + Brewery in Philadelphia is that their always-wonderful, handcrafted beers may appear once and then disappear forever. This local brewpub isn't afraid to experiment; this particular beer was a fairly straightforward Berliner Weisse, with the option to add their own house-made cherry syrup, rather than the more traditional green woodruff variety. It was the perfect summer beer—tart and refreshing, and very tasty indeed both with and without the syrup. I hope it comes back again next year.—Lisa Grimm
Lost Abbey, Brandy-Barrel aged Angel’s Share
Lost Abbey, Brandy-Barrel aged Angel’s Share
I can be a bit cynical about some of the special-release ‘event’ beers—they are usually very good indeed, but not always worth the hype. This one is—amazingly complex, dark, rich and full of flavors, from caramel to vanilla with some other woodsy ones in between. While it’s certainly not masquerading as a mild, it hides the fact that it’s about 12.5% very well indeed; definitely still a sipper, but a surprisingly easy-drinking one. Well worth seeking out on tap.—Lisa Grimm