Top 10 Beers of the Year
Wondrous Hell Lagerbier (Emeryville, California)
These Emeryville upstarts opened during the pandemic and since then have galvanized the Bay Area beer scene with clean, intensely focused offerings. With the rise of pilsners, it’s only fitting that this crisp, oyster-crackery, Popeye’s-biscuity, unfiltered lager would have its time in the East Bay sun.
Cellarmaker Works & Days (San Francisco)
Known primarily for their hop game, Cellarmaker set hearts and livers ablaze with several compelling strong ales in 2022. The best of them, Works & Days, is a toffee blankie fresh out of the dryer, with a drying Munich-wine structure to this boozy Skor-bar tryst.
Fox Farm Stet (Salem, Connecticut)
We live in crazy times when a Düsseldorf-style altbier makes this list. Shirking all hype and striking straight at historical refreshment, Fox Farm leverages a masterful, lightly phenolic yeast profile, Cheesecake Factory brown bread, and almond-skin finish, making all the stepdads pine for these nutty treats.
Wax Wings Chorós (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
Michigan is no stranger to fantastic barleywine, and this blended, double barrel-aged barleywine took an extended stay in a Heaven Hill barrel and emerged as a casky monster from the depths of stavestown. With a soft body and a compelling Rolo swallow, this is concurrently complex, negligent, refreshing, and refined. Ghost ride that Chevy Equinox into Lake Michigan.
Lua Morning Light (Des Moines, IA)
The past year saw palates embracing a “less is more” approach, and this delicate 3.3 percent ABV flower sits lovingly on the lapel of these Iowa hucksters. If hazeheads can’t get enough turbidity, then now is zwickel’s time to shine. This lithe little ray of sunshine is endlessly drinkable, with marvelous lemon sustain and frothy lacing—both tactile and drillable.
North Park Hop-Fu! (San Diego)
I love that a god-tier, World Beer Cup gold medal–winning West Coast IPA has a 3.9 on Untappd. This beer is phenomenal and a time machine to a simpler time, when rhizomes were sticky and brewers weren’t afraid to cryo. It modifies the crystal-malt transgressions of the past into svelte honeydew, jasmine, trampled groundcover, bark petrichor, and a clementine closer. North Park took our hoppy past and improved our alpha-acid present.
Godspeed Světlý Ležák 12° (Toronto)
Czech pale lagers are hotter than Fortnite dances at a Dua Lipa concert. Those Canucks north of the wall at Godspeed are obsessed with Czech brewing, and it shows. This has all the refinement that those brash, bitter Italian pilsners crave, with the truly nuanced execution of something endlessly drinkable. You get honey on sourdough, water crackers, raked foliage, and just a pop of eighth-grade resin on the swallow. A true Canadian treat.
Wayfinder Golden Tiger Polotmavý 13° (Portland, Oregon)
I cannot imagine how nerdy the conversation must have been when Wayfinder, Heater Allen, and Bierstadt decided to collab on an amber Czech lager. Others debate using Mosaic versus Idaho 7, but these dorks probably have triple-decoction spreadsheets. The result is fantastic—perhaps style-defining. It opens with pretzel bun, transitions to cracked black pepper and fescue-meets-everything bagel chip, then closes with its estery hand on the small of your back. Unsettling, but the amber advances are edifying and welcomed. Crush a few and go rake someone else’s yard.
Evil Twin The Great Northern Barrel-Aged Series 22 (New York City)
When Evil Twin takes all of its bonkers, long-named, adjunct-pop-a-wheelie fury and places it intently on making a cask-driven stout, the results are amazing. Double barrel-aged using both BLiS bourbon maple syrup barrels and then McKenna casks, this tosses the staves down the stairwell like some Vermont Donkey Kong. The maple supports rather than dominates; residual sweetness tempers the whiskey into chocolate waffles at Nana’s house. Baker’s chocolate nestles with an IHOP Sazerac. Never overly sweet, but you get a macaroon with your breakfast and Pop-Pop is asleep in his chair, old fashioned spilled on his chest, with your temporary-guardian paperwork only partially signed.
Cohesion Vánoční Speciální Pivo (Denver)
If you expected to see some hazecan on this list, I hope you enjoy this draft-only, side-pulled, garnet-colored, double-decocted lager. Oh, what’s that? Not enough hip-hop lyrics on the can for you? There is no can, just a 32-ounce crowler—i.e., one serving. This is bottom-fermented existence, time to get used to it. This winter lager brims with nutmeg, gingerbread, Hawaiian roll, clove, and—if we are getting crazy—a minty-bitter finish. People in Colorado are selfish and won’t tell you about this, so allow me to ruin it for them. You must try this brewery.
A beer experience everyone should add to their bucket list
Go rafting on the Kern River and finish the day at Kern River Brewing (Kernville, California), crushing top-tier West Coast IPAs while eating French dip sandwiches. It’s an absolutely fantastic combination—enjoy that classic grapefruit resin as the rhizome gods intended.
A beer trope, cliché, or dubious history that we should correct or eliminate
“Any bubble in your glass means it is dirty.” This one usually comes from someone who’s been into beer just long enough to read a BJCP pamphlet, flexing serious nucleation knowledge. Boy, do they love to parade this one out. Tiny individual bubbles can come from water droplets, a scratch on the surface, or any mild imperfection in the glass itself. The “dirty glass mafia” accusation for a clearly clean glass is insufferable.
One personal hot take
Try decanting your beers. Break the shackles of forced carbonation and embrace the degassed life. Strong ales gain depth, farmhouse beers become softer, even the irreconcilable hazy IPA gains a more pronounced resin profile to balance the tangerine neck kisses.
A beer style I’m excited to see growing
This has been the year of Czech dark lager, and I am here for it. People seek clean, roasty refreshment in these dark times, and I welcome our pumpernickel overlords.
The best song to play during a bottleshare
Tool’s “Ænema.” Just put it on and try to tell me that I’m wrong. Even the tolerant designated driver will be throwing taster glasses into your neighbor’s pool.