Thank you. Thank you for reading our reviews. Thank you for helping us fumble through the beer numbers. Thank you for sorting our leaderboards. Thank you for helping us develop the numbers on those leaderboards. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for crossing over from reading to writing. Here is a list of our staff favorites of the year -- so thank you for adding your favorites in the comments.
Russian River Sanctification (5.31 BAR)
The beer snobbiest among you -- believe me, that's not an insult -- may know this already, but I'm relatively new to this thing. In 2010, I moved from New York to California, and from mixology to craftology in the process. Something about coming west, moving to a more suburban area, and having a child -- these things made craft beer an obvious new hobby. The last three years have been a whirlwind. This year alone, I had, for the first time, such great beers as Lost Abbey's Red Poppey, Boulevard's Saison-Brett, Cantillon's Iris and St. Lamvinus, Bourbon County Stout, the Eclipse 50/50s, Goose Island Brew Pub's Vanitas, Westvleteren 8, Crooked Stave Origins, Omnipollo Nebuchadnezzar... Mikkeller opened a bar near me and I got lost in it. But I did something special for the first time early this year -- I drove three-plus hours on a Tuesday to get beer. That pilgrimmage was eye-opening in that I hadn't ever done that sort of thing for a beer before, but also in that I went for Pliny the Younger (loved it) but then was wowed by the Russian River sours. Consecration, Supplication, Tempation... you have to do this. If you can, you have to go to Santa Rosa and have these beers. You'll probably like Consecration -- the cabernet barrels give it the punch that people certainly love -- but there was something about the 100% Brett and steel aging that gave Sanctification a brightness that opened my eyes. I wasn't sure about sours before that trip. Now I'm into them. I should go pick up my Beatification.
Victory Dirtwolf (7.66 BAR)
Now officially a year-round release, Dirtwolf is my new go-to double IPA. Heavy doses of whole-flower Citra and Mosaic hops bring a strong citrus fruit flavor up front, while Chinook and Simcoe additions give it a piney, earthy finish. Lacks the strong malty flavor of Hopwallop (Victory's previous double IPA), but frankly, I'm not sure that's a negative. One of the best beers of the year, and a beer that belongs in the conversation for best commonly available double IPA.
Sixpoint Global Warmer (4.26 BAR)
Global Warmer is an Imperial Red, meaning it uses roastier malts than a typical paler ale, and that richness really flourishes combined with the 70 IBU of hop bitterness. It's a full-flavored winter ale that redefines what a winter beer is all about. This beer pairs well with just about every winter situation in which you'd want a beer.
Beer On My Shirt
Evil Twin's Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale (4.29 BAR)
While it isn't easy picking my personal favorite of the year, I have to go with Evil Twin's Femme Fatale Yuzu Pale. I've had quite a bit of this and it impresses me each time. I had plans of writing a piece about some time I spent with a lovely femme fatale of my own, from my pre-Wife days, that involved a dark room, four clumsy hands, some confusion about human anatomy (there had been a rather lengthy dry spell), and well - how do I say this tactfully – some misplaced passion. My better judgment tells me that some stories are better left to the oral traditions of the barroom, amongst friends that hopefully won't remember the specifics of your drunken revelations. So instead I offer just a quick description of my favorite beer of the year. The Yuzu Pale pours an apricot yellow orange with an inch of white head. The aroma is a great combo of cirtus, barnyard brett, and bready malts. The taste is light malts with a funkiness that blends really well with the bright grapefruit citrus bitterness. It finishes with a faint tartness and yeast funk that absolutely makes the whole thing for me. Out of the IPA glass, the tart in the finish is really accentuated. The feel is light to medium bodied, with a decent carbonation. It is crisp up front, hints toward creamy in the middle, and finishes subtle and long with nice dryness from the brett. Overall, it was a very drinkable IPA with a great balance of hops, funk, and tartness. I've had the Femme Fatale Brett as well, but the addition of the Yuzu takes this to a whole other place. Thank you Evil Twin Brewing Co.
Carton Boat Beer (8.58 BAR)
Of all the beers I drank in 2013, the one that stands out to me is Carton Boat Beer. The aroma is rich with citrusy and floral hops, yet it remains light bodied and only moderately bitter. At just 4.2% ABV, you can drink a few without ending up face-first on the ground, making it an ideal match for summer activities such as cornhole and (you guessed it) boating. The combination of hops and drinkability have made Boat Beer our #5 American Pale Ale (8.58 BAR) and the top-ranked hoppy beer under 5% ABV, despite extremely limited distribution that was draft-only until this past August.
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA (10.91 BAR)
My favorite beer of the year, hands down, is Sculpin IPA from Ballast Point Brewing in San Diego. It was either my first or second foray into SD IPA’s and I took one sip and said, “Damn, that’s gotta be well-respected beer!” I looked it up and, sure enough, it’s considered to be near the top of the IPA mountain. A month later, I was on the road for work and spent four days in downtown San Diego and this beer was on tap in my hotel on the water front. I had a dinner allowance of $30 a night and I’d eat at Subway or Chipotle, then head back to the hotel or another bar and have a few Sculpins. Always delicious and refreshing, this is my favorite beer of the year.
I first had this beer two years ago at Brouwer's Sour Fest. It was brewed in 2011 to commemorate the 12th anniversary of a local bottle shop. The bottle shop in question goes by the name of Bottleworks, so go figure. I drank this been in 2011 when it was rare, and we were told this was the last of it. It was incredible. It was sour and dry, sweet and complex, it smelled like the Garden of Eden's organic produce stand at Saint Peter's local urban rooftop market and poured a devilishly inviting deep golden hue. It was both pure and wicked, sublime and sinful. When we tried to order a second round a few hours later, it was already gone. It had met its glorious end, ascended into the clouds, or maybe the other direction. We were all disappointed and we all felt foolish. We had taken our good fortune for granted and squandered an opportunity that we couldn't fully appreciate until it had past. We had given into temptation, but had failed to make it fully count. This year, by the grace of God, this beer was brewed again. It was just that good, it had to be resurrected. By the time I drove across town and entered Bottleworks, all the bombers were sold out, but a keg remained and the beer was on tap. Just enough left for another single pour. I sipped the beer and took stock of my relatively good fortune. I vowed to appreciate what was fleetingly mine. I walked slowly around the shop and browsed the shelves. I took this picture of empty bottles on top of refrigerators. There were blue skies and white clouds and flying pigs. Ghosts and pink elephants, a woman with nature in her hair and the devil himself. It all fit.
Pliny the Elder (16.02 BAR)
I have decided I simply cannot choose my one favorite beer of 2013. I have to go with two. The first is Pliny the Elder. Hear me out. I had never tasted PTE until about six or seven weeks ago. I'd heard all the hype, I'd read who-knows-how-many reviews, and I'd ogled the Beergraphs leaderboards. I knew PTE was probably an exceptional beer. But in view of the equally exceptional hoopla surrounding it, I suspected I'd be disappointed once I finally got my taste. Well, I finally got my taste, and I was so not disappointed...at all. It really is that good. The second is Double Pilsner by O'Dell Brewing Company. I wrote about it awhile back on this site, as a matter of fact. I drank it at a beer festival in Loveland, CO on a hot, humid August day, and it was, quite simply, perfect. It had the perfect mouthfeel and taste, and it just knocked my socks off the moment I took a swig. So noteworthy was the experience, in fact, that my brain has seen fit to keep the little movie reel memory of that first taste alive. After the festival, I noted the fact that I may have been unduly influenced by park effects. As it is, subsequent tests have only confirmed the original results.
Lagunitas Sucks (4.6 BAR)
My personal beer of the year is Lagunitas Sucks, and it’s not even close. It’s incredibly balanced, hoppy, and slightly sweet. Regardless of temperature or the beer immediately preceding it, Sucks never sucked. Even better, it was generally in stock (throughout its release). Of all of the amazing beers I tried this year, a 6-pack always made its way back home. Suffice it to say, I am more than a little happy to see it back on the shelves.
Pipeworks, Galaxy Unicorn (5.93 BAR)
Pipeworks consistently wowed me with their beers this year; it's no surprise that they brewed my favorite of 2013. The galaxy hops bring a a very strong tropical fruit flavor, even more than the normal Ninja vs Unicorn balanced by just the right amount of malt for a hop head like me. A subtle pineyness helps bring everything together. It's dangerously drinkable for 9.5% ABV, and has helped make numerous miserable Rangers games this season a bit more tolerable
Societe, The Pupil (8.46 BAR)
The perfect embodiment of what I want in an IPA. Nelson Sauvin and Citra hops come across with big floral notes in the nose, then a juicy pineapple and peach flavor that's entirely clean, with hardly any lasting bitterness or detectable alcohol.
Otter Creek Brewing/Lawson's Finest Liquids: Double Dose (7.74 BAR)
Lawson's Finest Liquids is one of the most sought after breweries out of Vermont, but also one of the hardest to acquire. They make excellent beer (their 24 beers average a 3.19 BAR) but in extremely small quantities. They only sell at farmers markets in Vermont and also a few select stores in the state. So it was a shock when they teamed up with Otter Creek Brewing and produced this hop-bomb of a beer, which got distributed wherever Otter Creek was sold (picked mine up in VA). This beer had a massive citrus nose and a great hop profile that is up there with any of the top DIPAs. This was one of those beers that was so smooth it really hid its ABV and snuck up on you after throwing a couple back. Hopefully this is the start of an excellent partnership between the two breweries and we will see more Lawson's sold outside the state of Vermont.
Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops (4.24 BAR)
While most beers of its weight and darkness tickle your taste buds while punching you in the face, Black Ops grabs you by the face and shows you flavors you barely knew were out there. Instead of flattening out into bitterness the beer explodes with late-breaking action. Best enjoyed in secret.
Strongbow Cider (2.31 BAR)
Since going gluten free about 6 months ago, I've been consuming a lot of cider and gluten free beers. I've found that many of the gluten free beers are not acceptable substitutes to actual beer (Omission is, however). Some other ciders have a bigger marketing budget than Strongbow, but I've found them to be too sweet for my likes. I've found that I really like Strongbow. It's crisp, refreshing, and doesn't have the sugar that other ciders have and that makes it easier for me to drink. My close second is the Woodchuck fall seasonal cider. It had hints of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. The reason it's not my cider of the year is that it's only brewed for two weeks out of the year, so it's highly limited in its availability. If you're gluten free, and looking for something to drink that's not liquor, I highly recommend the Strongbow cider for its ease of drinkability.