Top 15 Breweries
Rather than single out three breweries, I thought it might be interesting to look at what I drink the most of. I obsessively track everything I drink, and love crunching the numbers, so here are the top 15 along with the number of beers (or tasters of different beers) I drank from each.
- WeldWerks Brewing Co. (190)
- Outer Range Brewing Co. (100)
- Hop Butcher For The World (67)
- Perennial Artisan Ales (63)
- Cerebral Brewing (52)
- Other Half Brewing Co. (50)
- Burial Beer Co. (44)
- Wiley Roots Brewing Company (40)
- Firestone Walker Brewing Company (39)
Tie. Russian River Brewing Company (39)
Tie. Side Project Brewing (39)
- Trillium Brewing Company (37)
Tie. Creature Comforts Brewing Company (35)
Tie. Hill Farmstead Brewery (35)
- New Belgium Brewing Company (32)
Top 15 Beers of the Year
Alvarado Street Palio Pils (Monterrey and Salinas, California) Putting a Pilsner on the list proves I’m a serious beer person. All snark aside, I absolutely love this extra-hopped, softly bitter, Italian-style Pilsner. Sharp in the right places, gentle in others, and impeccably crafted, it’s flavorful and characterful without pushing too far out from the stylistic center.
Fonta Flora Torches Volume II (Nebo, North Carolina) This sophisticated yet simple herb- and spice-focused beer was a revelation when Todd Boera shared it with me at the brewery early this year. Herbal and floral with notes of caramelized citrus peel, hearty earth, and dried hay, it tastes like nothing I’ve tasted before, yet avoids the typical gruit caricatures. Stunningly creative, flawlessly executed.
Cantillon Kriek à l’Ecossaise (Brussels, Belgium) Aged in Scotch whiskey barrels, this particular iteration of one of the world’s best krieks amplifies the nutty almond notes for a rich dessert-beer take that had me going back for more at the 2018 Shelton Brothers Festival. When you think you’ve tasted all that lambic has to offer, this comes along.
J Wakefield Big Poppa (Miami, Florida) A “pastry” stout done right—roasty rich base with a bitter coffee structure, layered over with sweet coconut and vanilla. In an age of flabby, one-note, too-sweet imperial stouts, it’s refreshing to taste what they should be.
Revolution V.S.O.J. (Chicago, Illinois) You can taste what blended components of high-gravity, extended-age stock do for this extraordinary barleywine.
Monkish Super Fluffy Form (Torrance, California) I expected big and sweet, and instead got big and nuanced with a delicate, zesty pink-lemonade note. It tasted great three and four months later, too.
Outer Range Willow DDH (Frisco, Colorado) In an era when hazy IPAs have started to taste the same, Outer Range’s addition of traditional English hops into Willow offers a quirky herbal note that’s refreshing yet familiar—a mixolydian melody with that note that would seem out of place if it didn’t fit so well.
Ommegang Brut IPA (Cooperstown, New York) The term “brut IPA” may be dying a quick death, but call this a sparkling ale, and I’ll keep drinking the deliciously bright, extremely dry, cohesive, and assured beer. A remarkably mature, classic take.
East Brother Beer Red IPA (Richmond, California) Caramel malts have fallen far out of favor in hoppy beers, yet I can’t stop drinking (and thinking about) this beer. The equal and opposite reaction to today’s all-pale or all-Pilsner malt trend.
Perennial BA Abraxas and Maman (St. Louis, Missouri) Perennial favorites, literally. They are still relevant and consistently among the best.
Threes Foeder Pilsner (Brooklyn, New York) Fresh samples straight off the tank were something else. Love this trend. Thanks for helping make it a thing, Threes.
Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing (Chico, California) How could anyone not love a widely accessible, damn stable, inexpensive hazy IPA? I just might stand in line for it, if it weren’t available pretty much everywhere.
Hill Farmstead Poetica 2 (Greensboro Bend, Vermont) Finally made the pilgrimage to Hill Farmstead this year, where Phil insisted I try their puncheon-aged Pilsner next to the stainless-aged Mary Pilsner. Both were great, but Poetica was extra soft, round, and exquisite.
Amalgam Brewing Underground Breakfast (Denver, Colorado) One of the best barrel-aged breakfast stouts I’ve ever tasted.
Wiley Roots Nelson Funk Yo Couch (Greeley, Colorado) Everything in its right place—this mixed-culture farmhouse ale somehow remains lean and bright with a present (but not overwhelming) Brett character, and the rotating hops lineup always pops.
Today’s Brewers Ought to Pay More Attention to…
Making brands relevant to their audience. The rash of one-off distribution drops and random out-of-state brands showing up in small quantities on store shelves is exciting, yes, but the more I see it, the more I simply think “what value does this beer have to consumers beyond a one-and-done Untappd check-in?” Be focused and intentional about go-to-market plans.
Top Beer Destination, Foreign or Domestic
Greater Boston, Massachusetts, may be one of my favorite cities to return to, again and again. Classic bars, tuned-in consumers, and too many world-class producers to list make for a city with near endless opportunities for exploration. Chicago, Illinois, is a similarly thrilling (and sprawling) beer city, with quirky personality and an unmatched variety of quality beer options.
Favorite Thing that Ought to Be a Trend
Malt-forward beer styles will continue to make a comeback. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The move to lighter and lighter malt structure in many beer styles has been a generally good thing, but as a result I find myself drawn (more than ever) to Scottish ales, reds and browns, fest beers, and other styles that employ a broader spectrum of the malt world.
Favorite Beer Accessory, Gadget, or Glass
I’ve fallen in love with the ROVR Roller 45 Cooler. It’s just the right size to hold what I need to carry while still remaining mobile. The large wheels make it easy enough to roll down stairs without having to throw my back out lifting it, and the telescoping handle offers tight control. Bonus points for the bike attachment that lets me pull it while riding, and for the thoughtfully considered design cues such as the folding storage box that attaches to the lid.