2016! It's nearly in the books. It's *enough* in the books to pick our favorite beers of the year at least. So let's do it!
It was definitely the year of the North East IPA for me. I'd had the style before, thanks to Trillium and Tree House scores in 2015, but it was easier to find them since Fieldwork locally unlocked the secret to their version (maybe tired yeast?). I have to choose Fieldwork Pulp as my best beer of 2016 for this reason. What I especially liked about their version of the NEIPA was that it felt lighter than some. Since I had my first bad NEIPA this year, I know that when the style fails for me, it fails because it's too thick and oaty.
And maybe it's recency bias, but when it comes to the other end of the spectrum, the first beer that jumps into my head is the Barrel Aged Campfire Stout from High Water. I've always loved the regular beer for it's smore-like taste -- it's full of caramel and smoke and chocolate goodness -- but the barrel really nailed the entire taste. It's so much like making smores on a campfire that if you actually had it at a campfire with smores, it might just be redundant.
And I have to name my favorite stout of the year. Which one will it be? I have that Oddwood Taming the Savage Heart stuck in my head. That fresh and bright tart grape sour from Austin was a real surprise for me, though I should have known, considering how great the RU55 from Jester King was, since that's also from Austin. But the RU55 was great in a way that's more common -- mellow, jammy, wood and fruit -- while the Heart was so fresh and so clean while also having a soft mouthfeel. What a trick!
My other five star beers that I had for the first time this year: Threes Chronic Myopia, Wicked Weed Oblivion, Hardywood Bourbon Gingerbread Stout, Maine Dinner, Tree House King Julius, Phantom Carriage Lugosi Sour, Fieldwork Little Ships Pale Ale, Grimm Tesseract, Rare Barrel Afterlight, Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett w/ Cherry aged in Whiskey Barrels, Half Acre Rainbow Never Ends, Faction Noslen, Sante Aidairius West Ashley, Side Project Fuzzy, Modern Times Monster's Park Bourbon Barrel with Coffee, 4Hands Madagascar, Shady Oak Stonamatic, Perennial Abraxas, Orpheus The Rites, Grimm Psychokenisis, Trillium Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street, Trillium Dialed In with Gewurtzraminer and Chardonnay Juice, Fieldwork Galaxy Juice.
Kane A Night To End All Dawns A rather delicious barrel aged imperial stout. I had the cocoa varital last year and it still resonates a year later. Just a well made beer with a terrific name.
Carton Irish Coffee Imperial Cream Ale is not a style you stumble upon often. This is a varital of their Regular Coffee, finished on Irish wood and peppermint. This is better than any Irish Coffee you've had; the flavors meld, the coffee shines through, and it's creamy and delicious.
If I eliminate the beers I only had once this year, which I feel like maybe I should since you know I only had them once, I would have to eliminate Green and Alter Ego from Treehouse and they were simply amazing. Like all time top ten amazing. I'd also have to eliminate Hop Plunge by El Segundo, Silencio and Freak Of Nature by Wicked Weed, and the Tired Hands Omnipollo Peach Double Milkshake.
But what I wouldn't have to eliminate are two other delicious Tired Hands cans that I had plenty of this year: D2H3 Galaxy, a pale ale, and High Road, a double IPA. And I wouldn't have to eliminate all the wonderful pints of Sole Artisinal Ale's Euro Spliff I had at my local pub, a pilsner that frankly is difficult to stop drinking. In fact, that one would be my fave of the year if it wasn't for Sole's Oatmeal Pale Ale, Kushy Clouds. If I could only pick one, that would be it. But obviously, I'd like to pick more than one.
For hopheads (and possibly non-hopheads), 2016 was without question the year of the Northeast-Style IPA. While I enjoyed more than my fair share of beers within this wonderful style, the one that stood out to me the most in a veritable ocean of juice was Trillium's Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale. This was the beer of the year for me for a whole host of reasons. For one, it tastes otherworldly. Two, it manages to improve upon what is already arguably a perfect beer in regular Fort Point by incredibly making it even more flavorful. Three, I’m already in the tank for Citra-hopped beers as it is. Four, for all the Trillium I consumed this year, I hadn’t been able to drink the regular versions of many of their beers against the double dry-hopped versions with enough consistency to fully appreciate just how insane the double dry-hopping process is and what it does to their beers. I’ve said this before, but when beer geeks talk about juice, this is more or less the textbook definition, right next to Tree House’s Julius.
2016 has been a big year for me. I met the love of life, which led to me getting married in September (and then again in November in front of family.) Beer wise, I drink much less but try to drink quality, which seems a reasonable thing at the age of 46. My reputation precedes me, however, and I still get all sorts of questions about beer from family, friends and on social media. My wife says I have reached emeritus status. I like that. I still love West Coast IPAs and they are atop my list of my favorite new beers I discovered in 2016.
Slap Fight IPA-Monday Night Brewing: I have always been a fan of Monday Night’s style as an Atlanta brewery, but this is the first time I have been blown away by one of their beers. From the first taste it became one of my favorites.
Pernicious IPA-Wicked Weed Brewing: Wicked Weed can do no wrong in my book, and this nudges out Freak of Nature as my favorite of their vast offerings. I had been looking for it for some time, and it did not disappoint. I need to get back to Asheville soon to get some more.
Florida Man-Cigar City Brewing: I love everything about Cigar City. It is so Florida to me, and this DIPA is their take on the Florida Man phenomenon. It’s close to perfect. I just need to figure out how to get more.
Born Yesterday-Lagunitas Brewing Company: As the only true seasonal I recognize, I look forward to Harvest beers every year. I had been unsuccessful in acquiring one of these until our fearless leader Eno sent me two in November. Wow, it is as good as everybody says it is, probably the best I have had of its ilk.
1) Be Hoppy. One of the best beers that you can find within and without of 495, Massachusett's stealth cultural dividing line.
2) Another One. The steady stream of hard-ish to find Maine Beers at my local grocery story has almost made up for the fact that a new-ish child keeps me at home 90+ percent of the time.
3) Green Street - Trillium. Trillium also makes nice hats.
4) Enjoy by 10.31.15 - I bought it, and forgot about it. 6 months later it was still good. Also good: the illicit thrill that comes with going against the marketing hook.
Grimm Afterimage, Grimm Rainbow Dome, Grimm Present Perfect, Tree House Julius, Trillium Galaxy Dry Hopped Fort Point, Singlecut Mo' Shuggie, Soul Bender IPA, Westbrook Gose, Almanac Peach de Brettaville, Almanac Citra Sour, The Alchemist Focal Banger, Lagunitas Born Yesterday. I want to just give mention to the Singlecut beer, because I don't think they get enough love given all the hype Grimm and Other Half get, and their beer is flat out awesome.
Best beer I had this year is was most likely Moonraker Yojo IPA. I would say that Lagunitas Born Yesterday was a clear 1b. Other standout IPAs: Double Dobis and Get Off My Lawn from Cellarmaker, Galaxy Dust from Bare Bottle, Mai Tai PA from Alvarado. For non pale ales: Modern Times BA Devil's Teeth with BA coffee, Modern Times Guava Passionfruit, Fruitlands, Grimm's Telekenesis, Libertine's Framboise with Vanilla and Cocoa Nibs ( I thought I would hate this).
2016 faves: Weldwerks Peach Climateric, Weldwerks BA Mexican Achromatic, Prairie Artisan Apple Brandy Noir, Prairie Artisan Pirate BOMB!, Firestone Walker Parabola, Goose Island 2016 BCS.
Few of My picks for 2016: I could go on and on though... Luponic 004, Lagunitas Born Yesterday, Lagunitas Stoopid Wit, Treehouse Single Shot, Treehouse SAP, Trillium Upper Case, Tusk & Grain BA Coffee Porterm Sole Artisan Kushy Clouds, Modern Times Accumulated Knowledge, Troegs Wild Elf.
2016s Best- Treehouse Green (possibly my GOAT), Lagunitas Born Yesterday, The Veil Crucial Taunt, Crooked Stave Nightmare on Brett,The general existence of Trillium cans, Night Shift's Morph series, Tired Hands Punge, RR Supplication, Toppling Goliath King Sue.