Top 10 Beers of the Year
Meanwhile Helles Lager (Austin)
The flavor and body are somehow so pillowy soft and yet incisively clean—the beer version of a just-made bed with the cleanest of white linens. Hallertau Blanc hops are perfectly applied. Austin, you’re so spoiled.
Supermoon Cellargeist (Milwaukee)
A perfect marriage of saison, gin barrel, and Grüngeist hops. The zippy citrus and lush botanicals are perfectly supported, as if they were the flyers on a cheerleading team doing crazy flips before falling gently into teammates’ strong, cradled arms.
WeldWerks Mango Lassi (Greeley, Colorado)
Here’s what I want fruited sours to aim for: creamy, fresh, purposeful. There’s a warmth from the cardamom that’s lovely, while milk sugar suggests creaminess but doesn’t take center stage. Also, the Berliner weisse base is discernible!
Dwinell Elegante Primo (Goldendale, Washington)
I’m generally a “pass” on beer-wine hybrids. (Why do one thing well when you can combine two things in muddled, mediocre fashion?) This wheat ale wild fermented on grapes stopped me in my tracks, though: The syrah, cinsault, and petit syrah express themselves as a confident but not overpowering rush of botanical cherry and tea leaves, delicate yet straightforward.
Art History Hopleaf Dark Lager
The perfect house beer for a legendary bar: cozy, comforting, inviting, approachable, and versatile with food. I drank this at Hopleaf while a torrential autumn rain fell outside, and it was the most satisfying sensory beer experience I had this year.
Fonta Flora The Pearl (Nebo, North Carolina)
Oysters add a distinct oceanic minerality, like a fresh, cool breeze off the water. The bivalves’ light salinity and quiet, elegant sweetness create something intriguing and subtle. After a few sips, an aquatic funkiness—a bit like seaweed salad—builds. It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted.
Fremont Ectoplasm (Seattle)
In this collab with Chicago’s Half Acre, you’d think Vienna malt’s Wonder-Bread-crust softness shouldn’t work with the bright green flavors of kiwi and honeydew from Mosaic Incognito, HBC 630, and Talus hops—but, sometimes, a combination is weird and right at the same time, like fluffernutters or Labradoodles.
Ronan Cooperative Forbidden City Amber (Ronan, Montana)
A lager-obsessed, sweat-all-the-details brewery in pretty much the middle of nowhere is just damn delightful. This altbier is unimpeachable: well-attenuated, characterful, with a bitterness that just slides in under the tag. I have caught myself daydreaming about this beer.
Godspeed Sklepník (Toronto, Ontario)
The backstory—this beer is an homage to the unfiltered golden lager aged in pitch-lined barrels at Pilsner Urquell. The upshot—even if you’ve not tasted its original inspiration, the reverence for that tradition is clear. Evocative and transportive.
Drowned Lands Slow River Saison (Warwick, New York)
Elegantly rustic and highly drinkable. Pick apart the rye, wheat, oats, and pilsner malt; parse the nuance of New York–grown Saaz and Crystal hops; savor the influence of the foeders and house saison yeast. Alternately, just sit in the sun and tip back a couple of these zesty, citrusy, pastoral treats.
A beer experience that everyone should add to their bucket list
See a concert at KettleHouse Amphitheater, a venue adjacent to the eponymous brewery’s production facility in Bonner, Montana, just east of Missoula. The sound quality is fantastic, the beers are relatively cheap, and you’re mere yards from the scenic Blackfoot River (of A River Runs Through It fame).
A beer trope, cliché, or dubious history that we should correct or eliminate
If I never see another sombrero or calavera on a Mexican-style lager can, it will be too soon.
One personal hot take
Nonalcoholic beer isn’t going to become a behemoth. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m thrilled that better-tasting NA beer exists and has achieved a level of mainstream acceptance. I’m just not convinced that this segment—currently about 0.6 percent of the U.S. beer market—is going to fundamentally change the landscape.
A beer style I’m excited to see growing
Fruit beers have been on a quiet tear for years, even at a national-chain retail-sales level. It’s a broad umbrella, but fruit beers—whether salt-and-lime lagers or raspberry sours—are an olive branch to people who don’t think they like the taste of beer. I’ve seen friends who normally don’t drink beer absolutely demolish a six-pack of Odell Sippin’ Pretty or Golden Road Mango Cart.
A beer style I’d love to see in more taprooms
Munich dunkel. As Alex Kidd says in his picks, Czech dark lagers are having a moment. Why not use that momentum to explore the rest of the amber-to-dark lager spectrum?