December 26th, 2012 | by WW Staff Food & Drink |

The Best Thing I Drank 2012

The best liquors, beers and wines WW staff had this year

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How does one gauge the best beer one had when one spends the entire year playing a game called "I Want to Drink Every Beer Made?" Does he pick the beer where the taste of hops linger long past the pint emptying? Does he opt for the sour ale that visiting beer geeks contemplate pouring our travel shampoo bottles just to sneak 3.2 ounces back home? In my case, I’ll pick the one I’m kicking myself I didn’t buy the full limit—which I believe was a case, while I only bought four. Hopworks’ Piledriver, a mélange of Belgian-style Dubbel ale with sour cherries split into various bourbon and wine barrels then dosed with wild Brettanomyces culminating in a three-year journey from mash tun to my mouth. Rich, tart, complex and ephemeral. BRIAN YAEGER.

God, I can't even remember what I drank last week, let alone the past 12 months. As such, my most memorable drinking experiences are those I've written down for this newspaper. One that stands out is an article I wrote in October called "Carrying the Tiki Torch" for which I spent an entire evening drinking cocktails and talking Tiki with local enthusiast Craig "Colonel Tiki" Hermann. We had met a few years earlier at Portland Cocktail Week where I was delighted by his encyclopedic knowledge of grapefruit and subsequently came to the belief that Tiki geeks are the true cocktail geeks—their particular passion is rarely in vogue, but they do not care, and their singular obsession is incredibly infectious. I let him order and ended up with a Navy Grog, a classic Don the Beachcomber cocktail from the '40s. I have no memory of what it tasted like. But Craig's passion for that drink—the history, the precise measures and provenance of the ingredients, the impeccable presentation—was so palpable, in that moment, it felt like I was drinking much more than just some rum and fruit juice in a cup. If there is one lesson I learned from chatting with Tiki geeks, it is that the entire experience of drinking can sometimes be just as important as what's in your glass. Sometimes a can of Tecate and lime after a shitty day is amazing, and a fine wine at a boring restaurant is totally forgettable. So although I couldn't tell you a single thing about it, that was definitely the best thing I drank in Portland last year. RUTH BROWN.

This was a year that birthed a number of good local beers and booze, but the newly-minted Stone Barn Brandyworks Golden Quince liqueur has the virtue of being both terrific and different in kind from anything else I tried this year. Quince is not much of an eating fruit—dry, hard, sour, subject of a Turkish curse—but in distilled form its sweet, fragrant intensity becomes an insane virtue: it tastes somewhere between an apple and a pear, but much more brightly defined, with a light tartness to balance the sweet. Perfect for a fireside chat with fine cheese—which is a discussion I plan to have all winter. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

I drank so much beer this year. Between weekly Drank reviews, the President of Beers project, a half dozen beer festivals and a big story about Oregon hops, I’m sure I sampled at least 500 different brews this year. But as I stare out at the rain and think back on the year, it’s a wine I most want to sip again. A few weeks after Ruth Brown explained the history of Oregon pinot noir, I found myself down at the Eyrie tasting room in McMinnville where, in addition to another sip of the $189-per-bottle South Block we’d expensed a few weeks before (good times!) I got to try a 1990 pinot gris that blew my socks off. Eyrie was the first American vineyard to make a pinot gris, which the vineyard supposedly couldn’t give away in the early years. After 20 years it was perfect—as I remember it, there was lots of crisp apple and a little grapefruit tartness along with a clean, minerally finish. We couldn’t afford a bottle of that vintage, but did take home a 2010. “Will this taste like that in 20 years?” I asked. “No guarantees,” they said. Here's hoping—some summer night 2030 will be really awesome if it does. MARTIN CIZMAR.

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