Welcome to our first installment of Staff Pics.  For this one I thought we would recap the best beers and breweries from near and far that we here at Beerploma.com have found in 2012:

Best Beer of 2012:  Grand Cru by Titletown Brewing.  For those of you who have been following my personal beer journals on the Beer Aficionados Sight know that I rate beer from 1 to 3, but I keep a 4 to 5 rating for the most memorable and perfect beers.  This was the first beer to garner a 5 star rating.  This Oak Barrel aged Belgian started in 2010 and took nearly two years to make.  A smooth oak taste with a light sour finish.  This beer is THE perfect beer.  Unfortunately this was an extremely limited release.  So for those few of you lucky enough to taste this then congratulations, you have tasted perfection.

Best New Beer of 2012:  Rise To the Top by Third Street Brewhouse.  When I went to St. Paul Summer Craft Brew Festival this year I remember walking to the back section and seeing a long line. I asked someone what the big deal was and that was when I heard the name “Third Street Brewhouse” for the first time.  I quickly fell in love with their Cream Ale during the hot summer days of 2012.  Light, crisp, just the right amount of bitterness.  This is one of the most balanced and perfect beets, best enjoyed ice cold on a hot summer day.

Best Seasonal of 2012 (Overall/Winter):  Sugarshack by Third Street Brewhouse.   This one snuck onto the list last second, but it is worth it!  Made with maple syrup from St. John’s abbey I recommend drinking the beer ice cold and sipping it as it warms up.  It changes flavor profile as it warms up.  It’s like drinking three different beers.  Awesome balance and perfected flavor in a bottle!

Best Seasonal of 2012 (Summer):  Hep Cat by Flat Earth Brewing.  This light refreshing wheat ale is the perfect balance of crisp and fruitiness. With a refreshing apricot flavor, and subtle breadth wheat notes, this beer will help you beat the heat. Of even the honest Minnesota days.

Best Crazy Beer of 2012: Blueberry Basil Farm Girl Saison by Lift Bridge Brewing. I would have never thought to pair these two beers together, but there you are. This limited run of Farmgirl was available at the St. Paul Summer Craft Beer Festival. It reminded me of a blueberry muffin with basil. Sweet and just a little bit savory. Well blended and highly drinkable, this one left you pining for more.

Best Blended Beer of 2012: South African by Leech Lake Brewing. I was never a big fan of mixing two beer styles until I met Greg, could-owner of Leech Lake Brewing in Walker. He introduced me to a little concoction that was two-thirds porter and one-third IPA. Smooth, yet with a happy punch, this beer was smooth and refreshing to taste. Stop by Leech Lake to mix your own if you are ever in the area!

Best Brewery Tour of 2012:  Mankato Brewing, Titletown Brewing, Third Street Brewhouse, and Leech Lake Brewing.  Sorry, I just can’t decide, so they are all winners today.  I love each one of these experiences for different reasons and all four breweries deserve your attention.

Best Beer Related Group of 2012:  Minnesota Beer Activists.  These are the guys who are out there defending your right to drink great craft brews.  They throw some pretty cool events and are a great source for beer news.  Look these guys up, they are you Beer Guardian Angels.