A current discussion thread on the ratebeer forums got me thinking about the best beer moments that I have had in 2010. Ok, so have the countless posts by other beer bloggers, but I love the mass of responses you get when you pose the simple question to a board of beer geeks: what were your top 10 new beers of 2010?

I struggle with a question like that. Yes I could easily look back through the 697 beer ratings (actually I still have notes on 53 more that I need to enter) that I entered since January first, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Yes there, is my pathetic shot at an “objective” assessment of the beer in my glass, as entered numerically and with some attached descriptors , but the overall experience is often so much more, and so much more subjective. By the numbers, here are my top-ten rated beers of the year:

1. Russian River Diviation, on tap at Toronado in San Francisco for the Russian River -tion night during SF Beer Week. I scored two pints of this before the keg kicked, and in typical Toronado fashion, they were selling them for the ridiculously low price of $4.

2. Pliny the Younger on tap at Russian River on the one day they actually had it. Here’s to hoping next year is going to be a lot more mellow now that they are not doing growler fills.

3. Cantillon Iris 2004 from a bottle shared by my friend Mike at a tasting at my house.

4. Fantome Bris-Bonbons from a bottle in Chicago right after I started class at Siebel.

5. Dupont Avril form a bottle back home. Dupont in session beer format with flavor intact. Brilliant.

T-10 (6 beers). Lost Abbey Isabelle Proximus from a bottle shared at the Bruery Reserve Society Initiation Party in January.

Captain Lawrence Rosso e Marrone from a bottle shared by my friend Tim at a tasting at my house.

21st Amendment Hop Crisis, the original version on tap at the brewery for Strong Beer Month, before they had to use the name to rename Double Trouble after an issue with Founders over their beer of the same name.

Cantillon Classic Gueuze from a bottle at home. You can see I really started to get into Cantillon this year!

Captain lawrence Smoke From The Oak Bourbon Barrel Version from a bottle at a tasting at home, traded to me by ygtbsm on ratebeer.

Sierra Nevada Hellraiser Chocolate Chili Imperial Stout on tap at the brewery.

Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor on tap at the brewery in Mechelen, Belgium. “Belgian IPA” done right.

Alright, so that’s actually 12 beers because of the 7-way tie of beers that I all gave a 4.4/5.0 score. Does it really represent the top-10 beers that I had in 2010? It’s tough to say, but it certainly is a list of damn-good beers. The glasses of Uerige Alt that I had at the brewery in Dusseldorf, or the pint of Timmothy Taylor Landlord that I had at a cozy pub in London would certainly be right up there as well, even if I didn’t score them quite as high at the time. The pint of Odonata Saison that I had on tap at the release party here in Santa Cruz while talking to brewer Peter Hoey was also a beer/moment that sticks out in my mind. Even though I had had it many times before, the bottle of Orval that I drank as we pulled away from the brewery on the buss back to Munich was certainly glorious. Ditto for a bottle of Saison Dupont that I had this year that finally convinced me that it is without a doubt one of the best beers in existence.

Even weird stuff like the spiked sample of Budweiser in class that finally allowed me to be comfortable with calling out diacetyl in beers was very satisfying to me. I could actually say that about probably a dozen of our off-flavors training samples. This year I really discovered that every beer, no matter how good or bad, can be amazing in its own way. You drink, you think, and you come away from the experience with a greater understanding and appreciation of what it takes to make great beer. That’s what it’s really all about for me.