Both of these were a pleasant surprise. I never followed Braid all that much although I came to Hey Mercedes late and really loved them. This new Braid album has to be the biggest surprise of the year for me. I have kept it in constant rotation since the release and it shows a mature band that was able to keep things tight and rocking… and that drummer is fantastic. The Real Ale White came out of no where to be my favorite beer of the summer. A light refreshing Belgian white ale that was dry hopped like an IPA. This made for some rich and dynamic flavors in a light highly drinkable brew. A well executed beer by a mature brewery in Texas showing the new kids how its done.
I know one is not technically a beer, but the debut of Austin Eastciders Original Dry Cider in cans this year was a huge hit in my house and has been a mainstay in the fridge. Both of these are refined and sophisticated and lend a little class to any playlist or beer fridge. St. Vincent has been on an upward trend with each release and her Self Titled album is proof that she is an artist to continue to watch. Austin Eastciders shows they are here to stay as well and I anxiously await what they come out with next.
Classic band and brewery, that could release anything and I would buy it as they never let me down. Lagunitas continues to produce high quality craft beers that are very affordable. Their hop profiles always hit a happy spot for me and I find I continually love every beer I try from them. 311 is probably not a popular year end choice for most, but I have been with them from the early Music and Grassroots days. Their music always hits a happy spot for me as well, and Stereolithic was a return to form for 311. All the 311 sounds I have known and love were present on an album that was solid from start to finish.