20 Best New Beers of 2014
December 14, 2014 12:57 PM   Subscribe

"Here’s an understatement for you: 2014 was a great year for beer. Seriously, it’s hard to put into words just how awesome American craft beer was this year. IPAs got sessionable, then they got fresh-hopped, breweries collaborated like hip hop moguls, older (let’s call them classic?) breweries reinvented themselves with ambitious experiments while young breweries helped push the envelope of style and taste…there were hundreds, probably thousands of new beers hitting the shelves and taps all year long, challenging our palates and expectations day after day. It’s an exciting time to be alive."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (111 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not craft beer strictly speaking, but this brew was a pleasant surprise this year, as was this number.
posted by jonmc at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Born Yesterday is like a paean to the possibilities of fresh, green hops and why bottled-on dates are so important.

I've been mildly obsessed with Stone's Enjoy By IPAs this year, for much the same reason; my favorite kind of beer tends to be the fresh and hoppy stuff, with green grassy flowery flavors throughout like some kind of magical pixie elixir.

Although my favorite new beer I had this year was Finch's Sobek And Set, which is a black IPA that has an undercurrent of blue cheese beneath all the standard IPA flavors (bitter, hearty, roasty-toasty). It goes perfectly with buffalo wings!

Almost all of the beers in the article are ones I haven't tried, and I'm quite curious about many of them! Thanks for posting this!
posted by Greg Nog at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Quoting a friend. "The world may be going to shit in a billion ways, but the beer just keeps getting better."
posted by philip-random at 1:16 PM on December 14, 2014 [32 favorites]




At least this year we started to see something besides 692,000 IPAs and some actual browns and ambers and reds. And there have been some great ones. It's been a hard year on my pocketbook.

Also, its nice to see that ABVs are coming back down. I'm not 17 anymore - it's not cool to get wasted off a beer and half.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:21 PM on December 14, 2014 [12 favorites]


This was the year I tried the Dogfish 120 IPA, among other gems. From what I can remember, 2014 was an awesome year.
posted by triage_lazarus at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


IPAs got sessionable...

IPAs have always been sessionable. You merely had to avoid the high-alcohol brain-killers, the 20-tons-of-hops monsters, and all the other ridiculous extremes that seem to get all the attention. There's never been a lack of sessionable IPAs if you just looked around.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:22 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


My favorite new beer this year was the amazing Mosaic Promise from Founders. Dissenter was nice, too, but Mosaic Promise was the one to beat.

Also, Evil Twin Molotov Lite is surprisingly delicious.
posted by Mothlight at 1:23 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


While I applaud (and enjoy) the explosion of craft breweries, these do reflect a trend that I dislike about the American craft beer scene. 7-9% ABV seems to have become the new normal, and really, one of them is 12.5? 4.5 being considered "sessionable" seems a little far-fetched. Maybe I just enjoy good English-style bitter or brown, where a session beer would be around 3%. I find excessive hops and alcohol just blow away the flavors that I like.
posted by transient at 1:24 PM on December 14, 2014 [15 favorites]


FWIW, my current favorite brew is Fountain Square Brewing's Working Man's Pilsner. It's a solid, flavorful, smooth-drinking, all-malt (i.e. no adjuncts) pilsner. Nothing fancy. Just a clean, really satisfying...beer.

In talking to the brewer, I told him that I like to think it's akin to the beers my great-grandfather might have enjoyed wayyyyy back when.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:30 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ambitious experiments and pushing the envelope are one thing, but old standards like the best from Sam Smith and Ayinger are also something to be grateful for.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:35 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


ctrl + f "jack's abby"

Hmmmm.

I'm happy for you, best new beers, and Imma let you finish, but Jack's Abby Hoponius Union is the goddamn greatest beer I've ever had.

Guys, are we still doing that Kanye / Taylor Swift interruption thing?
posted by bondcliff at 1:42 PM on December 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Is craft beer ever going to become an export product? I live next to a great pub in london that has 20+ ever changing British and Euro independent bitters/german/belgian beers and independent ciders available - they are always fantastic but I still don't really understand what an american craft beer even is because the only ones offered come in poncy bottles and look like they fell off a fedora. Please export your beer so it can become more like wine (can beer survive intercontinental transport I guess so?)
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Guys, are we still doing that Kanye / Taylor Swift interruption thing?

We are not.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:47 PM on December 14, 2014 [22 favorites]


Is craft beer ever going to become an export product?

Here in Australia we're seeing Rogue (Oregon) and Founders (Michigan) come over pretty regularly, along with Sierra Nevada and a few others. There are also importers who I think are buying excess stock from some of the medium-players on the West Coast and bringing that over when it's available. It's a good start, but hoping for more - along with some returned favours to show the US the quality coming from AU/NZ (Epic and 8 Wired show up from time to time).
posted by GamblingBlues at 1:50 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The information presented by Beer Marketer's Insights in the WSJ article about Budweiser and the information provided by Beverage Industry in Vox don't seem to line up at all. I don't know who to believe about the very important matter of how craft brew sales compare to the US's third most popular beer brand and it's killing me inside.
posted by Winnemac at 1:54 PM on December 14, 2014


Let's see ...

- We're getting over the whole hops thing
- Ales and stouts, ales and stouts
- I was introduced to saisons, via Ommegang's Hennepin, and I'm already waiting for the first hot summer day of 2015 so I can enjoy one.

Yep, a pretty good year.

(jonmc, is the Autocrat of the 'Gansett worth it? I just saw one last night and my only though was "that's sure New England-y".)
posted by benito.strauss at 1:59 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Is craft beer ever going to become an export product?

I know a few breweries (New Glarus, etc.) that explicitly do not want to sell outside of their locale. Some of the reason is regulatory - selling out of state or exporting has some costs associated with it - but a lot of it is because they've got a decent audience and a decent product and are making decent money.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:00 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


We are not.

Good. I'm glad I asked, then, before I did something foolish.
posted by bondcliff at 2:02 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've been enjoying all the new local breweries that have opened near me and haven't really had too much of nationally available beer this year.
posted by octothorpe at 2:05 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


benito.strauss : it's not the greatest beer ever, but it's a neat idea well-executed, and several of my New England bred co-workers liked it.
posted by jonmc at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


In the category of Better Than It Has Any Reasonable Right to Be: DuClaw's Sweet Baby Jesus Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter. It really works, without the cloying syrupy sweetness of many chocolate porters and stouts.
posted by bassomatic at 2:06 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Jack's Abby Hoponius Union is the goddamn greatest beer I've ever had.

But it's not new in 2014, is it?
posted by Mothlight at 2:09 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love US style craft beer, but I am permanently keeping my fingers crossed for UK style mild bitters to make more of an appearance over here. I went back to the UK for a few weeks this year, and my hands-down favourite beer I've had all year was the Timothy Taylor Boltmaker, which I was not surprised to find won the "Best Beer" award in Britain this year. I'm from Yorkshire, so I might be genetically biased or something, but it was like the Platonic ideal of Northern beer. Just delicious.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:17 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I work near Founder's, and those guys are nuts. Every few days (announced via their phone app) they tap a firkin of some bizarro concoction they've come up with. "Hey Founders Fan!" it says. "Today we're tapping a firkin of our Red's Rye IPA seasoned with smoked pepperoni jerky" "Today we're tapping a firkin of Centennial IPA aged in a cask full of 1970s-vintage Fruit Stripe gum." "Today we're tapping a firkin of Dark Penance brewed with the the tears of broken-hearted maidens."

Out of this madness, eventually, come their new beers.

Including, I presume, Dissenter, featured on this list.
posted by edheil at 2:22 PM on December 14, 2014 [17 favorites]


Is craft beer ever going to become an export product?

Stone Brewing Company is a California craft brewer that's going to open a brewery in Germany in the next couple of years. Exciting stuff!
posted by something something at 2:28 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


they are always fantastic but I still don't really understand what an american craft beer even is because the only ones offered come in poncy bottles and look like they fell off a fedora.

No, that's American craft beer, all right - you just sort of have to ignore the labels. Don't worry, so long as you consume in moderation and avoid the ones with names like "Hop Explosion", there's a very low risk of spontaneously developing an undercut hairstyle and full beard.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 2:29 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


A lot of the craft brewers really are small operations, they are already producing at capacity for the markets they have. Aside from the most successful, they don't even distribute to every state much less other countries. Expanding that much would require contract brewing at a large brewery for most of them. I don't personally believe that has to result in a loss of quality, but a lot of craft brewers probably will. The best way to encourage American style craft beer in your own country is to buy a home brewing kit, and if you like it, go larger. That's how beer was resurrected here.

My favorite of the year was Yuengling Summer Wheat. Yes, you can do a high quality hefe without overcharging for it!
posted by Drinky Die at 2:37 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Stone Brewing Company is a California craft brewer that's going to open a brewery in Germany in the next couple of years.

This is gonna do more for US-German relations than the Berlin Airlift did.
posted by neckro23 at 2:45 PM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


It always makes me jealous reading about all these great beers that I'll never get to taste. As mentioned, none of this stuff gets exported, and if a local importer does take it upon themselves to bring some to Australia, it is eye-wateringly expensive.

There are definitely plenty of craft brewers popping up locally, but I think a lot of them are still learning the ropes as far as making decent beer goes.
posted by markr at 2:49 PM on December 14, 2014


A lot of the craft brewers really are small operations, they are already producing at capacity for the markets they have.

Most of the ones that I buy from are in facilities barely larger than your average garage.
posted by octothorpe at 2:52 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


so long as you consume in moderation and avoid the ones with names like "Hop Explosion", there's a very low risk of spontaneously developing an undercut hairstyle and full beard.

Why on earth would anyone (okay, males) want to eschew developing a full beard? Jeez!

GROW THE BEARDS! (You don't even have to like beer!)
posted by hippybear at 3:01 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I work near Founder's, and those guys are nuts.

"Among the most requested favors
Please avoid exotic flavors
Fruits and nuts and spices queer
Have no place in honest beer!

"Here's to beer that tastes like beer!
An amber glass of wholesome cheer
A noble brew that has no peer
Beer that Tastes Like Beer!"

- Nick Robertshaw
posted by transient at 3:09 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


My beard functions as a foam filter and a way to save beer taste for later.
posted by srboisvert at 3:11 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Please, let 2014 be peak-IPA. I am sick to death of every brewpub having to kill me with hops.

Don't get me wrong. I love hops and I love bitter tastes. It's just overdone and due for the inevitable readjustment. Sooner rather than later, I hope.
posted by clvrmnky at 3:11 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I like my face like I like my beer. Smooth, refreshing, and without hair.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:12 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


I had a fresh hop beer the other day that was super meh, too green and sharp for consumption. But I love that brewers are playing with styles and conventions, and I feel incredibly lucky to be living in the northwest where these are accessible.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Awesome! I see Half Acre made the list. Half Acre's "Senior Visual Confabulator," aka, Phineas X. Jones, aka, "The Person Who Designs Their Famously Awesome Beer Cans and Logos isn't actually a MeFite, but he's a dear friend to many of us in Chicago who are. And you should buy the awesome things he makes. Or at the very least, drink the beers inside the awesome cans he designs.

Maybe the best compliment I can pay Half Acre is that if you click those links and see those amazing designs, know this: their beers deserve them.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:28 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I always find it's best to judge a beer by its cover.

Wait! Scratch that; reverse it.
posted by hippybear at 3:40 PM on December 14, 2014


So the 20 best beers this year were all American? I'm skeptical :-)

And ranking beers as if there's only one style that's suitable for all occasions and goes with everything is pretty silly, and completely misses the point of beer. Grumble grumble.

Also, your favourite beer sucks.

(fwiw, I'm off to a local craft brewery tomorrow to make my own small batch, and I'm pretty sure that'll be the best beer of 2015.)
posted by effbot at 3:41 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


So the 20 best beers this year were all American? I'm skeptical :-)

It's an American publication and imported craft beers are pretty rare here.
posted by octothorpe at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ironically, Stone is building its brewery in Germany in part because modern IPAs don't travel so well, despite being originally designed to survive, y'know, a trip to India.

(I've noticed a lot of keg German export beer you get in the U.S. is slightly skunky and stale, as opposed to the fresh balanced taste you get in Germany. But I think it depends on how it's shipped -- I've had some Italian microbrews in the wine cave @ Epoct that I'd put against any American craft brew.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I for one am sick of the complaining about IPAs. Yes they got a lot of attention. Yes they lend themselves to extremes but no one is taking your session beers away. I live in Colorado and think our beer scene pwns the whole US from porters to pilseners to IPAs. And complaining about elitism and conspicuous consumption in a craft beer thread is unbecoming. *tilts 15yo Balvenie
posted by aydeejones at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


God there's so much fruit flavored shit.
posted by Ferreous at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


And so much non fruit flavored shit. There is nothing inherently righteous about adulteration preferences whether hops or spices or fruits though I am surely not a fruit fan.
posted by aydeejones at 3:53 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


New Glarus Scream IIPA.
posted by rocketman at 3:54 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Slight siderail, but here in Japan craft beer is also booming. Yoho Brewing Company in Karuizawa is at the forefront, and you can find its beers at supermarkets and convenience stores pretty easily. There are a number of other great breweries...ah, this topic deserves its own FPP.
posted by zardoz at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


Scotch ales are all the rage in Montana, possibly due to the success of local favorite Cold Smoke. Is that a local thing or can you get good scotch ales in e.g. Portland these days? I hadn't seen them in Oregon before I moved out here. The ABVs can run a little high but it's good stuff.
posted by dialetheia at 3:57 PM on December 14, 2014


I don't see too much Scotch Ale in PA beyond Old Chub and the actual Scottish beers. One of my favorites, sooooo malty.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:01 PM on December 14, 2014


Also, its nice to see that ABVs are coming back down. I'm not 17 anymore - it's not cool to get wasted off a beer and half.

Whatever you say, Father Square.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:03 PM on December 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have enjoyed many fantastic beers this year. It has been good to see local producers releasing American style IPAs that compare to the best out there. Pressure Drop, Saltaire, Marble, Kirkstall, The Kernel, Ilkley and a few others have all been great. I also had a beer that uses bog myrtle instead of hops, it was pretty good!
posted by asok at 4:05 PM on December 14, 2014


I have a theory about the hops thing.

Back when California vineyards were making the transition from awful jug wine and industrial alcohol to drinkable wine, a couple of vineyards started producing whizz-bang chardonnays stuffed with butter and oak and fruit and holy shit they weren't all particularly good but damn if they didn't express their differences in such a blatantly obvious way that non-oenophiles could really taste the difference between a stony, austere, reserved French Chardonnay and a California oak-and-butter bomb. That sold wine (Kendall-Jackson, anyone?), so that became the taste of "California chardonnay".

We're at a similar point in brewing, I think.

That over-hopped piney bitterness is the signpost that tells a lot of people "you are no longer drinking Budweiser", and that's OK.

Because American beer was so bad for so long that JUST GETTING US TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BEERS HAVE FLAVORS is a huge success.

Because once you get used to that, you can begin to pick and choose, to think about beer differently, the way we are now accustomed to thinking about wine.

And now if you go to a wine store, you are stumbling over really good wine of every sort for $20 and under! Wine is great these days! Once we as consumers got past being intimidated by the product, we ended up demanding a spectrum of good and affordable wines to choose from.

Hurrah!

And now I can go to my local beer store, and I can choose to buy good beer that's made literally down the street from my house, or I can get a Stone Ruination Double IPA, fuck the haters that's some good shit, or see what new seasonal brew Founder's has out, etc.

This is a great time to love beer, and if I have to drink my way through a sea of over-hopped IPAs to make things even better, well then... here are my keys. Call me a cab. And bring me a pizza.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:10 PM on December 14, 2014 [33 favorites]


Well, that plus the ongoing hops shortage may have something to do with how breweries are trying to shift tastes to other things.
posted by hippybear at 4:14 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I haven't tried the grapefruit IPA in the article, but Stone had a limited edition one earlier this year that really worked for me. The only fruit-flavored beer I ever wanted to try more than once. (But of course grapefruit is the exception to the rule, being so bitter, plus harmony with hop citrus notes, etc.)
posted by mubba at 4:20 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


God there's so much fruit flavored shit.

I generally like my alcohol bitter, but the Belgians do a pretty damn good job with fruity beer.
posted by zardoz at 4:21 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't have any idea where I'd find it, but you'd think with the proliferation of really good breweries and the increased focus the past couple years on hop freshness/minimizing distance between brewer and buyer (plus that everybody loves a good 50 states infographic these days) there would be a good "the best new beer in each state!" list. Because, like, I realize why most of these breweries are in California (with a 3-way tie between Wisconsin, Colorado, & Oregon for second), but I want to know what's new and interesting all over the place.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 4:22 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


benito.strauss, there are still a few of the Narragansett Coffee Stout tall boys in my basement that you are welcome to. Generally their special brews are good, but this one disappointed me.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:22 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


This list isn't an invitation to conspicuous consumption. This one is.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:32 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, the article makes passing mention of Zombie Dust; I've never had it, but I made this extract-based clone recipe, and it was one of the most wonderful beers I've ever brewed!
posted by Greg Nog at 4:49 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I prefer a more rounded and malty sort of old punk.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:53 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


I've been enjoying all the new local breweries that have opened near me

honestly, the best local beer that I'm aware of comes out of the back of a woodworking shop a few blocks over. No label, no hype, just an email every now and then alerting me that there's a fresh batch available. And I just got one about a two hours ago.

I am finally genuinely spoiled.
posted by philip-random at 4:55 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: I am finally genuinely spoiled.
posted by hippybear at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Advice taken, wenestvedt. I'll try to remember to ask you to bring 'em if we ever get to a common meet-up, and in the meantime I'll not buy a sixer just for myself.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:07 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Not new, but for those who like grapefruit, Shiner's Ruby Redbird is a great summer beer.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:19 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


GROW THE BEARDS!

It takes me a full week to grow a dirty neck scruff. I can grow about nine hairs on each cheek. This is a sore point for me, as I've always wanted to sport a Walt Whitman or a drunk-alpiner-Nick-Nolte. So thank you, thank you for callously underscoring my follical defect in this safe place.

I was terrible about scouting new beers this year. It's not really new but I liked Hop Notch? Is it still OK to like IPAs? I'm so unhip.
posted by echocollate at 5:31 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it still OK to like IPAs?

It's OK to like whatever the hell you want.
posted by jonmc at 5:47 PM on December 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


I can't keep up with you young hipsters. Here I got all addicted to hops and now we are supposed to be over it. Keep still for a minute, willya?

(At least I've had something of a beard for so long, they came back in style)

- signed your Gen X uncle.
posted by salishsea at 6:10 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have some odd thing where many/most beers give me an allergic type reaction. My gut just doesn't care for them and I feel sick. I enjoy a good beer when I can but it's so hit and miss that I tend to err on the side of caution and drink my scotch or X n tonic.

That being said, I've had some really noteworthy beers in the last year or two and I love finding local brews when traveling. - Mean Old Tom by Maine Beer Co, Brother Thelonius by North Coast Brewing, Wake Up Dead by Left Hand Brewing, Loch Down Scotch Ale by Arcadia Brewing, Wobble IPA by Two Brothers, Snaggletooth Bandana by Solemn Oath, and more delicious porters than I can throw a stick at.

I grew up watching adults put away 30 packs of watery shitty beer and I want to take a time travel trip back to share some of this awesome with them.
posted by envygreen at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's just two kinds of drinking. I love Profanity Hill Porter but am more than happy killing a few Rainiers after work in the summer.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:01 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the article but wish there were a couple more East Coast beers listed. We got good craft beer over here too!
posted by ferret branca at 7:03 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


It always makes me jealous reading about all these great beers that I'll never get to taste.

Me too and I'm in the US: these lists are invariably "20 Best Beers, 15 of which Aren't Distributed In Your Region." Which often makes them seem a little snobby. How lucky for you, dear beer writer, that you're able to get samples of all these great beers.

On the other hand, the proliferation of small breweries with limited regional or local distribution does mean that often there's little-known but great beer right in your back yard: this year's find for us was Altamont Hella Hoppy, out of Livermore CA. Astonishingly good.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:11 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Really? Not a single Tired Hands beer? This list is slightly suspect...
posted by Itaxpica at 7:16 PM on December 14, 2014


It's just two kinds of drinking.

Oh, this so much. I generally go for darker, heavier, yeastier, hoppier beers; anything with flavor. But on a really hot day? When I'm out barbecuing and stuffing myself with hamburgers and hotdogs and don't really need anything heavy...I'll probably drink a Budweiser or Coors or something along those lines. By choice. Because there's a time and a place.
posted by zardoz at 7:52 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've only had a couple of the beers on TFA list, but none of them are the Best Beer of 2014. That honor goes to Gigantic Brewery's Pipewrench, an IPA aged in old gin barrels. It is seriously the Best Thing Evar. If you are in Portland, memail me and we'll go for a glass -- my treat.
posted by spacewrench at 8:28 PM on December 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is a sore point for me, as I've always wanted to sport a Walt Whitman

As long as you drink one of these when you grow it.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:36 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The best beers I had this year were part of this Beers Made by Walking tour. The standouts include the Breakside Spruced Wheat, the Sasquatch Walk in the Park, Vagabond's The Wanderer, and the Thunder Island Sour Darkness.

I have not had Gigantic's Pipewrench but now I must seek it out!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:46 PM on December 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The thing about beer at the moment is that you can ask twenty people to make the same list of their twenty best beers and there could be twenty lists with zero overlap.

There's so much great, interesting beer brewed all over the world today that your list will end up depending on what you stumble across, what you can find, what's available near you. The days of a Michael Jackson being able to know all good beers in the world have long passed.

(My own list of beers drunk this year, ordered by rating.)
posted by MartinWisse at 11:25 PM on December 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory, your BrewDog is basically American craft beer in a nutshell.
posted by archagon at 12:27 AM on December 15, 2014


It's much like those "book of the year" lists that are always published. How many of this year's new books can you conceivably read during the year? Not all. Not most. Not even a decent sample.
posted by Harald74 at 12:30 AM on December 15, 2014


I choose my beer based on which one has the prettiest label and most award stickers. By that metric, I never run out of new things to try!

(Unfortunately, this doesn't work as frequently for wine because their labels are all horribly drab.)
posted by archagon at 12:32 AM on December 15, 2014


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: "Gigantic's Pipewrench"

Have we reached peak hipster beer names yet, though?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:08 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The company Zardoz mentioned, YoHo, just tied up with Kirin (they aren't wholly owned...yet) as part of Kirin's "oh shit, our beer sales are dropping like a rock, and people actually want good beer" strategy. I'm skeptical of Kirin's attempt to throw its hat in the craft beer ring, and aside from their porter, not a huge fan of YoHo, but yeah, the fact that they are everywhere is a good thing. The lager monoculture here is a bit oppressive, but there's good stuff to be had, if you know where to find it.

Japan craft beer post, huh? Challenge accepted.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:07 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


But on a really hot day?

Totally agree. But also, when I'm in Canada, I like having Steam Whistle as the best of both worlds on those days.
posted by transient at 4:16 AM on December 15, 2014


Ctrl + f "hill farmstead"

OK, looks like I don't have to threaten anyone. Northern Vermont is a fascinating place. Hill Farmstead is far and away my favorite brew, but that's at least in part because of the artificial scarcity they seem to have accidentally introduced. I say "accidentally" because when you talk to these guys, they don't seem to value their cachet as "delicious beer you have to drive ten miles over unpaved roads in eight feet of snow to go stand in line two hours for your three growler fills" especially highly. I get the feeling they really do want to make their beer accessible to a wider market, but they either can't raise the capital to expand their operation (which: START A KICKSTARTER, you fools; you'll raise enough to buy the entire state north of Waterbury) or they're too worried about how macro-scaling their production line would affect the product. God bless them. I don't know if I'd hold it in such high reverence if I got to drink it more than once a year, but I'd certainly like to see.

Because Hill Farmstead is goddamn magical. I've had a few of the brews on this list, and they're all solid contributors, but Hill Farmstead is the only transcendent beer experience I've ever had. They evoke the same sort of wonder that a really good bottle of wine can evoke, and they do it at 5% of the price. It's the closest thing that heathens like myself can get to a religious experience. (If you ever see a Hill Farmstead brown ale on tap at a pub in Vermont, RUN DO NOT WALK. And tell me, because I'll drive the goddamn four hours north to find it again)
posted by Mayor West at 4:39 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Bringing the discussion further afield, I'll toss in a few words here about beer in Ontario (where I live) and Beijing (where I currently am, but not for much longer).

Ontario has a fairly thriving craft beer industry. In some ways, thanks for this can be given to Beau's, who have been pushing the envelope of local, organic beer for nearly a decade now. They regularly put out limited-time releases, often in partnership with another brewery or whatnot. Of recent note, and possibly now a fixture, is the Tom Green Beer, which was, yes, a partnership with a Canadian comedian who has had at least twelve minutes of varyingly deserved fame. Beau's is also notable for hosting a Oktoberfest party each year up at their brewery. The first year, they expected 5,000 people and so many more showed up (plus, they had George Wendt as guest speaker), and it's just moved from strength to strength since then. Part of this event is the large tent given over to casks of beers from brewers all over North America; I'm pretty sure there were about 100 beers on the board this past year.

Beyond Beau's, there seems to be a new brewery opening every couple of months. The dire joke is that they're founded by former civil servants who've had enough of it all and have taken severance packages and applied them to good ends.

Beyond the Pale is one of which I'm quite fond. My favourite perhaps is a thick black stout called The Darkness, which has a big brother called the Make'r Dark that's brewed in former Maker's Mark barrels. They also put out a beer called Pink Fuzz that combines two beer styles I dislike (fruit and wheat) and makes something entirely drinkable.

Another fine Ontario brewer is Ashton Brewing Company, which is housed just outside of Ottawa and has links to a few pubs inside and outside the city. For some reason, I find the water undergirding their beer to be a surprisingly key ingredient. The brown ale is a fine choice for those who like what was aptly described above as Beer that Tastes Like Beer.

There are too many more for me to get into right now without inserting basically my own FPP into this comment, which seems in poor taste. Let's just say that there seems no end to local choices. Makes me somewhat homesick.

Anyway, for reasons that aren't germane to this post, I'm currently in Beijing. Much of the local beer is on the thin and pale side of things - if you've tried Tsingtao Beer, you've basically also tried its main competitors Yanjing Beer and Beijing Beer.

However, a change may be afoot.

For a few years now, the Great Leap Brewery has been run by a couple of ex-pats, and now puts out over a dozen beers. Leaving aside the historically inappropriate moniker, several of the beers are really quite good & not just in comparison to the local field. I can vouch for the Honey Ma Gold and the Aggressor.

More recently, a German brewpub opened its doors. Called the Hacker-Pschorr Bräuhaus, it imports its hops, malt, and yeast directly from München & brews the beer itself on-site. In what might be a foolhardy move, their drink special is "buy one Maß and get a second one free." (Note that just one Maß is an entire litre of beer in a big heavy glass stein.)

All this is really by way of adding supporting evidence to philip-random's friend's line above, that "The world may be going to shit in a billion ways, but the beer just keeps getting better."
posted by The Outsider at 4:39 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh, man, spacewrench, Pipewrench sounds fantastic. I'll sometimes drop a little gin into a light, relatively hoppy beer because I like the flavor combo.
posted by mollweide at 4:41 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, if The Outsider is going into Canadian breweries too, I'd be remiss not to mention Quebec's McAuslan Brewing (some know it as St. Ambroise) which makes a great pale ale and the most delicious stout I've known in my days. It can be easily found in Ontario, and I've seen it some places in the northeastern US at least. Sidenote: they're made by one of the continent's few female brewmasters -- and trust me, she is a master.
posted by transient at 5:09 AM on December 15, 2014


Ferreous: "God there's so much fruit flavored shit."

I really don't like any flavor in beer other than beer and maybe some spices if they aren't overdone. I understand that breweries are trying to stand out in a crowd field but some of these fruit and assorted ingredient beers are just trying too hard.
posted by octothorpe at 5:24 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


wasn't there some kind of law that got changed years ago to allow all these craft brewers to happen? Anyone have a link to an article that details the change and how many businesses and jobs have been created by relaxing the quasi-monopoly that resigned me to drinking shit beer all through college?
posted by any major dude at 6:00 AM on December 15, 2014


I'm hoping the focus after IPAs turns to barley-wines, scotch ales, strong ales and old ales. The amazing ability to cellar these to get wildly different flavors over time is exactly what I'm looking for.

It's nice to be around for a renaissance.
posted by schyler523 at 6:09 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, anyone that makes it to Asheville should check out both Wicked Weed's new Funkitorium (their sour/wild barreling warehouse/taproom) and Wedge Brewing (in January they'll have their raspberry chocolate stout on nitro.)

If you're in STL make sure to check out Perennial and 4Hands for big experimental beers. Save room for Civil Life though, they've got you covered for session able British styles. Make sure to stop by Urban Chestnut for classic German styles.
posted by schyler523 at 6:15 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Maine Beer Company, specifically A Tiny Beautiful Something. But really, any of Maine Beer's products are really excellent.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:26 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


wasn't there some kind of law that got changed years ago to allow all these craft brewers to happen?

Carter legalized home brewing, which I think contributed to the craft beer renaissance, but this Atlantic article claims it was the legalization of brewpubs in California in the 1980s.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:29 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I love trying new beer but I've only even heard of five out of the twenty of the breweries in the article and I suspect that most of them aren't available where I live. But this is a good thing. I personally love that so many of these beers are not marketed nationally and that each area of the country has its own set of beers available. It's a little antidote to the "mallification" of America and makes it a lot more interesting when I go to a different city and ask what's on tap.
posted by octothorpe at 6:34 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's a little antidote to the "mallification" of America and makes it a lot more interesting when I go to a different city and ask what's on tap.

This is actually a huge deal, and part of what scares the InBevs and MillerCoorsWhatevers of the world so much.

I'm a bartender. At a restaurant that sees lots of out-of-town visitors. Every single day, I'm asked about local beer. After Bud Light, our next three top-selling beers are all local products. (Good People Pale Ale, Good People IPA, and Avondale Brewing Battlefield IPA.) The laws that allowed craft brewers to operate on a financially practicable level were only put in place here in 2012, and the first brewery opened its doors in 2013. Two of the four local breweries don't even have canning lines yet. (When Trim Tab starts distributing cans, look out. They're far and away the best beer in town.)

This is just ramping up, and already people have taught themselves to drink local. BudMillerCoors can't compete with that.

IT IS A GLORIOUS AGE OF BEER
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:03 AM on December 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


any major dude: wasn't there some kind of law that got changed years ago to allow all these craft brewers to happen?

The guys from Surly Brewing in Minnesota also got a law passed a year or two ago to allow them to brew beer and sell it and and operate a restaurant on the same property, and it is often called the "Surly BIll."

In Rhode Island, I would love to see them pass a law so that breweries could sell AND brew beer at the same place: now, brewery tours can give away tastings but not sell beer, which is stupid.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's just two kinds of drinking. I love Profanity Hill Porter but am more than happy killing a few Rainiers after work in the summer.
posted by The Hamms Bear


Eponyironical?
posted by jonmc at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wait, not a Boulevard on the list? It's a damn conspiracy I tell you. A stinkin' conspiracy.

Actually it's probably not. Just a shoutout for my hometown brewery, who do make some fine brews.
posted by damnitkage at 8:24 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I still don't really understand what an american craft beer even is because the only ones offered come in poncy bottles and look like they fell off a fedora

You can find a few in Wetherspoons... last time I was in there, our local had Devil's Backbone IPA on draught, some Sixpoint in cans (Bengali Tiger, Sweet Action and The Crisp) along with Lagunitas IPA and Rogue Amber Ale in bottles. Not too bad for a chain pub, and the Bengali Tiger is very nice.

Someone mentioned Hennepin... if anyone can tell me where to get any of that in or around London, I'd be very grateful.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 10:03 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do craft beer distributors still push the "beer is better than wine, look at our market growth vs. yours!" nonsense? That (and the crowd on beer forums) really turned me off paying attention to the craft beer scene.
posted by mkb at 10:21 AM on December 15, 2014


Hrm. I just enjoy craft beers. I don't feel I have to participate in online forums or any kind of "scene" to like beers....
posted by hippybear at 10:26 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mmmmm...beer.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:26 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Although it is far from new in 2014, I think my favorite new-to-me thing this year was Ommegang's Rare Vos.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:47 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


The guys from Surly Brewing in Minnesota also got a law passed a year or two ago to allow them to brew beer and sell it and and operate a restaurant on the same property

Here in MD they just legalized farm breweries, which has yielded a couple interesting new microbrews. There's also discussion of allowing them to sell at farmers markets, but I'm not sure if that went anywhere.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:57 AM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


oh hey. I can walk to Upslope from my job, and I'm having a party at the end of the week. thanks for this!
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:26 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


(not at all smug about the fact that I have 3 world class breweries with tasting rooms within literal blocks of my workplace... no, not at all...)
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:27 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, you know what else I really liked this summer was Dogfish Head's "Piercing Pils". It allegedly has pears in it, but I couldn't taste anything resembling a pear in it. Nor was it particularly piercing or extreme in any way. It was just a really well-made pils that hit the spot on a hot day.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:34 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I agree with internet sage Jon Bois: Most beers are pretty good.

I like beer, but I'm unwilling to take the time to drink my way through the spectrum enough to have an opinion that keeps pace with most beer conversationalists. Besides, I'm a lightweight and I feel groggy the next morning, so six-packs tend to last me through a season or so.
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:06 PM on December 15, 2014


My favorite beer of 2014 was an ale made with Chinese 5-spice by a recently opened local brewpub. So far it was just a one-off batch, but every time I go in there I pester them to make it again. That was amazing.
posted by Superplin at 6:08 PM on December 16, 2014


Oh, has anyone here had the new Stone Lucky Bastard? It's apparently a mix of various of their Bastards, dry hopped and bottled in October, with a "drink by Jan 1" date on the bottle similar to the Enjoy By.

I do love fresh hops, but I've always found Arrogant Bastard to be a little heavier than I generally like in a hoppy beer; I am trying to decide whether to pick it up this December.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:43 PM on December 16, 2014


You might as well pick up a bottle. If you like it, get more. If you don't, you don't ever have to buy it again.

That's the joy of craft beer, especially today. It's a giant world to explore, $4-6 at a time.
posted by hippybear at 1:03 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


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