WELL, where did that year go? It seems like it was only six months ago that Hugh the Neighbour and I sat down to decide what we thought were the best beers of 2015 and, blow me down, there we were doing it for 2016.
We tried 39 beers for the purposes of this column, of which 28 were considered worthy of mention on these pages.
All in all, it was a pretty good year for new brews, and a great year for some older beers that were new to us.
HTN reckoned it was too difficult last year trying to compare everything from Russian imperial stouts and Japanese lagers to American pale ales, so this year we thought we would offer thoughts in two categories - dark beers and ales.
We separately came up with our favourites and sat down during the week to compare notes (and enjoy a selection of Newstead Brewing's beers that one of HTN's sons had kindly presented him for Christmas). In the dark beer section, both of us gave honourable mentions to White Rabbit Dark, Stone Brewing Americano Stout and the special edition Guinness 1798. All were beers that could sit in any fridge and hold their own against all comers. But the winner for the year for both of us was the Hotchkiss Six from Little Creatures.
The little brother of our best beer for last year, the Little Creatures Return of the Dread 7.2% ABV monster of a stout, the Hotchkiss Six delivered flavour and drinkability in spades.
At 4.5% ABV, it is a bit more sessionable than the Dread, and has a beautiful chocolaty richness that lasts in the mouth without being overpowered by bitterness. HTN and I both thought it one for the ages.
Diggers Golden Ale from the Townsville Brewing Company, which is hard to find outside the tropics, was a highlight; as was the Little Dove New World Pale Ale from Gage Roads in WA, which was judged Champion Beer at the Australian International Beer Show in 2016. HTN's favourite was Mildura Brewery's Mallee Bull Strong Ale, a 5.6% ABV full-bodied and complex pearler of a beer.
For mine, the standout for 2016 was a late entry, the Innis and Gunn Oak Aged Original Ale from Scotland. The aging in oak and lovely overtones of biscuit, toffee and vanilla made this 6.6% ABV import something really special.
All in all, a great year for the Australian beer enthusiast, with HTN and I only trying one brew that we felt was nigh on undrinkable - Snow Lager from China. One to avoid at all costs.
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