A friend pointed out yesterday that Magnus would have been embarrassed by Tuesday’s post extolling his virtues. He always preferred that the attention was centered on his friends, not himself. He would have seen that post, squirmed a little, and then would have sent me an angry e-mail asking me why we weren’t talking about beer. Of course, he wouldn’t actually have been angry because in the dozen plus years I knew him, I don’t think I ever saw him angry. Exasperated perhaps…that’s a fairly common condition amongst our peers…but angry? Never.
We’re not ready to stop talking about him though. Not by a long shot. He’ll remain the center of attention for a little while longer here. I’m not sure how much of an honor it is to be written about on an obscure beer blog, but this is all I’ve got, so I’m going to keep that flame burning. In his honor, today we’re tackling a Top Ten beer list…Magnus-Style.
Writing someone else’s Top Ten beer list is, of course, impossible. Hell, I’m not sure I could even write my own. My personal Top Ten list consists of about 20 beers. I think Doc’s is closer to 50. It’s like shoving marbles into a hose. Every time you push a new one in, another one pops out the other end. And then you remember that you love the marble that fell out and you need to shove it back in…and another one falls out. Is that the worst analogy ever written? Yes. Yes, it is.
The point is that a Top Ten beer list is hard enough to write for yourself, let alone for someone else. Nevertheless, I’m going to attempt the impossible and try to determine Magnus’s top brews. If he saw this list, he would have attached a comment roughly 0.1 seconds after the post went up. He would have said it was a “great list”…”almost perfect”…and then he would have torn it to shreds in the nicest way possible.
I formed this list based on my memories of his preferences, his posts and comments on this site, and a little bit of guesswork. Magnus was, admittedly, still learning his tastes in the world of craft beer. While he loved good beer as much as anyone, it wasn’t until recently that he started actively seeking out new styles and breweries. He was the most open-minded of all of us…hand him a Bud Light or a Brooklyn Black Chocolate and he wouldn’t really have cared. As long as he had good friends to toast with, he was a happy man. Still, I tried to pick beers that I know he loved…and while I’m sure this list wouldn’t have perfectly matched his own, I don’t think it’s too far off…
SIR MAGNUS SKULLSPLITTER’S TOP TEN BEER LIST (EXTRAPOLATED BY BROTHER BARLEY)
11. Orkney SkullSplitter: So I lied, it’s a Top Eleven list. I had to include Skullsplitter on here somewhere and there’s just no way it would have made it into his Top Ten. He only had the beer once…and to be honest, I don’t think he even liked it. It’s one of the peatiest brews on Earth and while peatiness is highly welcome in a well-aged Scotch, too much of it can be problematic in a beer. I’m including it for two reasons. One, it’s the first Scotch Ale Magnus ever had. That’s got to count for something (he really loved Scotch Ales). And two, he named himself after the beer on this site. Perhaps it’s just because of the beer’s silly name and ridiculous label (just look at the original picture that used to grace the bottles at the top of this post), but if you name yourself after a beer, it’s got to go on your Top Ten list somewhere. Even if it’s number eleven…
10. Magic Hat #9: He would have immediately bristled at this one…and then begrudgingly nodded his head. There are about a thousand incredible qualities that Magnus personified…but if you absolutely had to pick one, it would be his loyalty. He was doggedly loyal to friends, family, causes, sports teams (the Mets? Really?)…and beer. Despite constant ribbing from the other Aleheads, Magnus never wavered from his statement that Magic Hat #9 was “a pretty good beer”. He defended it in our Fruit Beer podcast while the rest of us derided it. While he would never have claimed it was a “great” beer, it’s probably the first “craft” beer he fell in love with and he never gave up on it. He never gave up on anything.
9. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale: Actually, I’m not even sure how much he liked the Dale’s. He was more of a malt maven than a hop head…but he picked it as his Desert Island Beer, so how could I leave it off? Granted, he picked it so he could build a raft out of the empty cans of Dale’s and sail to the other Aleheads’ Islands, but still…given the option of only having one beer on Earth, this is the one he selected.* So it’s on the list.
*I love that Magnus’s plan was to build a raft out of cans and then sail off to find the rest of us to start a beer-barter system between the islands. He could have sailed off to safety and rescue, but instead his preference was to visit his friends on their islands and swap beers with them. That absurd solution to an absurd premise pretty much defines who he was. I really miss him…
8. Sixpoint Righteous Ale: Magnus always extolled the virtues of his hometown breweries. He loved Brooklyn and Sixpoint in particular. While on our annual Aleheads pilgrimage in Philly back in June, we were fortunate to find a bar serving a variety of Sixpoint’s brews. They were all excellent, and I honestly couldn’t tell you which one Magnus preferred. But he selected the Righteous (an awesome rye beer) as the “tan” in his Perfect Black & Tan, so it’s clearly making the list. It’s the selection I’m least confident in, but I know he would have at least ONE Sixpoint beer on here, so I took a guess.
7. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout: It’s named after Goose, one of Magnus’s best friends. It has the word “Bourbon” in it. And it’s one of the all time great Imperial Stouts. Also, after I wrote my Top Ten Imperial Stout list (and put the Goose Island at #10), he quickly commented to note that while it was a “spot on” list, he would have moved this beer higher up. I take that to mean that he REALLY loved the beer. Can’t blame him…it’s pretty damn delicious.
6. Green Flash Double Stout: I think he only had this beer once or twice…but he e-mailed me immediately after first tasting it and absolutely raved about it. In the same comment where he noted his love for the Goose Island, he also said that the Green Flash would have easily made his Top Ten list. Admittedly, a Top Ten Imperial Stout list doesn’t necessarily equal your Top Ten “All-Time” list…but considering Magnus’s tastes, I’d say those two lists would probably have overlapped quite a bit. As much as he loved Scotch Ales, he REALLY loved Imperial Stouts.
5. Young’s Double Chocolate: Speaking of Stouts, I’d be negligent if I didn’t include the first non-Guinness Stout that Magnus ever sampled. In our Best Beer Memories post, he talked about first trying this beer with Slouch Sixpack and myself in the basement of Gramps McHops’s house in New England. He said that it made him fall in love with dark beers and that he never hesitated to order a big, robust stout after that first sip of the Young’s. I’m not sure if he would still consider it one of his all-time favorites today, but like I said, Magnus was nothing if not loyal, and I can guarantee this brew would have found it’s way onto his list somewhere just because it was such an important step in his own beer bildungsroman.
4. Founder’s Dirty Bastard: Now we’re getting to the no-brainers. Magnus was a Scotsman, so he vehemently defended the merits of Scotch Ales. Malty, sweet, smoky, and strong…Scotch Ales were designed for someone of Magnus’s tastes. He always claimed this was the best he had ever had…and I certainly wouldn’t argue. There’s not much better than a Dirty Bastard…I remember sharing one with him in Philly and man, did he love that beer.
3. Captain Lawrence Imperial Smoked Porter: Magnus wanted to do an entire series on the Captain Lawrence beers. He always e-mailed us when he tried one of their offerings and I think he saw their founder/brewmaster as a model for how to start a small, respected brewery (like all the Aleheads, Magnus talked about opening a brewery fairly frequently). It’s a New York ale factory, so obviously he loved everything they made, but they really do brew some amazing stuff. Their Imperial Smoked Porter is considered their best and Magnus wrote about having a growler of it in his fridge for our What’s In Your Fridge? Conundrum, so I would say it was high on his list.
2. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout: Not much I need to say about this one. His favorite style and his favorite beer from his favorite brewery. An easy number two.
1. Founder’s KBS: The legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout. A beer built for Magnus. Bourbon, coffee, chocolate, smoke, oak, booze…everything he liked about beer in one bottle. During a recent trip to Louisville to visit his best friend, he cracked into a couple bottles at Sergio’s World Beers, and of course texted me pictures just to let me know that he was drinking Kentucky Breakfast Stout in Kentucky. While there, he ran into, and chatted with, the 3 Floyds brewmaster which I suspect was one of the highlights of Magnus’s personal beer odyssey (as I imagine it would have been for most of us). Oh, he also said it was his favorite beer ever so, you know, I figured it should be number one.
For those of you that knew him, what do you think? I’m sure I forgot something obvious or included something indefensible. But I think this list gives a good sense of who Magnus was as a beer connoisseur and maybe gives a little glimpse into who he was as a person. Regardless of how accurate it is, I know he would have liked this list. If you find yourself at a package store or bar with one of these beers available in the coming months, grab one and toast to Magnus. It’ll probably be one of the best beers you’ll ever taste.*
*Unless it’s the Magic Hat #9. I’m sorry, Magnus. It’s just not good.