Critic’s List: Courtney Iseman’s Best in 2022

New York City–based writer Courtney Iseman, a Craft Beer & Brewing contributor and author of the newsletter Hugging the Bar, shares her highlights from the past year.

Courtney Iseman Nov 28, 2022 - 7 min read

Critic’s List: Courtney Iseman’s Best in 2022 Primary Image

Top 10 Beers of the Year

BareWolf Smoke Wheat Everyday (Amesbury, Massachusetts)
Love to see a grodziskie get the branding treatment of a DDH DIPA. This one has the refreshing chuggability of a light lager, all crisp, wheaty cracker until the subtly meaty, camp-fiery smoke billows in and lingers just the right number of seconds after each sip is gone.

North Park Cool Stache (San Diego)
As an emphatic member of #TeamColdIPA, I had a lot on a West Coast trip, and North Park’s reigned supreme. Cool Stache starts with Citra Incognito and then gets double dry hopped with Idaho 7, Simcoe, Simcoe Cryo, and Citra Cryo. It’s a crystal-clear and prolonged explosion of apricot, tangerine, melon, and pine, delivered with a satisfying punch of bitterness and a dry finish.

Tree House At Ease (Charlton, Massachusetts)
It pays to care what else Tree House is doing besides IPAs—you can walk right up to their “classics bar” while everyone else waits in the haze line. No one should sleep on a “classic” like this oak-conditioned altbier, which nails the balance of hearty, crusty brown bread and clean, easy-drinking bitterness. There’s a touch of earthiness, too, and it’s all warmed up by a hint of complexity from the oak.

Wild East Windrush (Brooklyn, New York)
Some bartenders gave a heads-up about the savoriness and spice of this smoked helles when I ordered it, but its unique elements are done with expert restraint. A collaboration with Kicks and Kegs—a beer-and-apparel side project by assistant brewer Robyn Weise—Windrush features jerk spices—allspice, thyme, Scotch bonnet pepper. The helles foundation keeps it light yet holds up to the botanicals and heat. Each sip is a surprise in how such big flavor can go down so smoothly.


Brieux Carré Lil Grey Phantom (New Orleans)
An ode to the grisette’s refreshing nature, Lil Grey Phantom is a smack of oaten cracker with a zing of grapefruit zest and dash of peppery spice that lifts and supports a dry-yet-somehow-juicy character.

Bridge and Tunnel The Big Gavone (Queens, New York)
Many have attempted the rainbow-cookie pastry stout, and many have failed. I keep drinking them because I’m a rainbow-cookie fanatic, so I can confidently declare The Big Gavone a pitch-perfect expression of the tricolor treat. From the aroma to the aftertaste, sweet almond, tart raspberry, and rich chocolate are all present and accounted for—yet this beer is mercifully free of too much weight or cloy.

Schilling Indikator (Littleton, New Hampshire)
Schilling’s foeder-lagered doppelbock teeters at the edge of decadence, a clean and dry finish with a touch of alcohol warmth keeping it from going over the edge. It indulges in rich flavors: Sweet vanilla and caramel mingle with the jammy tartness of raisins and plums.

*Other Half All Riwaka Everything (Brooklyn, New York) *
This was the first beer I had that used Riwaka hops on their own, and it made me realize how much I love that hop—no surprise that Other Half knows how to spotlight a hop with a big, bold IPA. This beer is sugar-sprinkled grapefruit, sour raspberry gummies, a passion-fruit mimosa, and a hint of florals rounded out by the lushness of a wheat-and-oat grain bill.


HUDL Mosquito Bite (Las Vegas)
Whereas too many spicy beers are all heat or all broken promises of spice, HUDL has figured out the balance. A slightly corn-sweet but dry Mexican-style lager gets aged on smoked serrano peppers, so the warmth of barbecue-esque smoke appears immediately, providing a nice backbone for the peppers’ heat, which is evident without overwhelming.

Back Home Sumac Gose (Brooklyn, New York)
Zahra Tabatabai honors her Iranian roots by interpreting different beer styles with Middle Eastern flavors, and this is a memorable example. Cherries provide tartness while sumac brings floral notes and some acidic funk, and Persian blue salt brings each attention-demanding sip to a bright, crisp close.

A beer experience that everyone should add to their bucket list

This past spring, Brooklyn’s Strong Rope Brewery had a cask festival—a rare thing in the States, and an absolute must wherever they pop up. Getting to try a whole range of styles on cask—especially when they’re beers you’ve had on draft or from cans before, so you can compare how much the aromas and flavors really open up—is a revelation.

A beer trope, cliché, or dubious history that we should correct or eliminate

Let’s give the alewives-to-witches mythology a rest. It’s a tidy connection that may feel satisfying—I used to dig it, too—but the more you read about the truth behind witch imagery versus alewife history, the more it feels reductive toward the real story of women in beer.

One personal hot take

Declaring certain beer styles bad beyond your own personal preferences isn’t helpful and doesn’t recognize the wonderful world of options drinkers have. On that note: Pumpkin beer is good.

A beer style I’m excited to see growing

With the proliferation of cold IPAs and grisettes, I’m torn … but I have to give my vote to altbier. More bitterness is always a win in my book, and it’s exciting to see how many breweries are doing these and doing them well.

Here’s what I’m most excited to see happening in the industry

More than any brewing trend, I’m excited about the growth of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. I truly believe that, despite often being an uphill battle, these will revolutionize craft beer, busting down barriers of entry and making craft beer something accessible, safe, and welcoming for every human—both drinkers and those who work in the industry. It’s inspiring to watch the impact of initiatives such as Women of the Bevolution, Beer Is for Everyone, Lifting Lucy, Crafted for All, and so many more.