BeerGraphs Rookie of the Year

Eno Sarris, February 09, 2016

In 2013, our inaugral award went to Stone Farking WootStout by a nose over Victory Dirtwolf. Perhaps the Dirtwolf had more staying power, but both were strong efforts. Last year, The Alchemist's Focal Banger beat out Lawson's Sip of Sunshine in Beers Above Replacement, which is a funny thing considering that SoS beat out Heady Topper on my own list just yesterday. But we re-sorted the list a few times and awarded Stillwater's Gose Gone Wild the award -- perhaps we shouldn't have, but we did. 

So this year, let's give the Rookie of the Year to the BAR champion, and leave the sorting and re-sorting to other types of awards. The only rules are that this can't be a variant or seasonal release of a beer that has come before, and it has to have hit the Untappd database in the year 2015. 

Should be easy enough to run this leaderboard. 

Num Brewery Beer BAR
1 Tree House Brewing Company Alter Ego 8.00
2 Foundation Brewing Company Epiphany 7.91
3 Tree House Brewing Company Lights On 6.97
4 Bottle Logic Brewing Fundamental Observation 6.87
5 Pipeworks Brewing Company Crimson Snapper 6.70
6 Other Half Brewing Mosaic 6.58
7 Trillium Artaic 6.56
8 Tree House Brewing Company In Perpetuity 6.53
9 Hill Farmstead Brewery Mosaic Single Hop Pale Ale 6.36
10 Trillium Upper Case 6.32
11 Trillium Green Street Obvious Pale Ale 6.30
12 Hill Farmstead Brewery Conduct of Life #1 6.29
13 Funky Buddha Last Buffalo In the Park 6.24
14 Pirate Life Brewing Company Pale Ale 6.23
15 Tree House Brewing Company Lights Out 6.21
16 Trillium Headroom 6.11
17 Olde Hickory Brewery Omega Point 6.03
18 Side Project Thicket 5.91
19 Tributary Brewing Co Mott the Lesser 5.89
20 Maine Beer Company Beer 1 5.88
21 Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Fruit Punch #1 5.86
22 Pirate Life Brewing Company Double IPA 5.82
23 Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits Calm Before the Storm 5.80
24 Pipeworks Brewing Company The Lizard King 5.79
25 Side Project Foedre Beer 5.76
26 Alpine Beer Company (CA) Kiwi Herman 5.67
27 De Garde Brewing Petit Azacca 5.67
28 De Garde Brewing Petit Mosaic 5.63
29 Pipeworks Brewing Company Black Tuna 5.60
30 Brasserie Cantillon Carignan 5.44
31 BrewDog Restorative Beverage For Invalids And Convalescents 5.36
32 Crooked Stave Brewing Company Serenata Notturna 5.36
33 Three Floyds Brewing Company Wigsplitter 5.32
34 Green Man Brewery (NC) Bootsy 5.28
35 Lagunitas Brewing Company Citrusinensis Pale Ale 5.27
36 Wicked Weed Brewing Red Angel 5.26
37 Shenanigans Brewing Co. Imperial Winston 5.23
38 August Schell Brewing Company Starkeller Peach 5.22
39 Bissell Brothers Brewing Co. LUX 5.22
40 Knee Deep Brewing Company Breaking Bud 5.14
41 Beachwood Brewing Rye Like An Eagle 5.13
42 Hill Farmstead Brewery Galaxy Single Hop Pale Ale 5.05
43 Brash Brewing Company Pussy Wagon 5.01
44 Breakside Brewery Bellwether 4.97
45 Four Winds Brewing Vexillum 4.97
46 Buxton Brewery / Omnipollo Yellow Belly Sundae 4.95
47 The Hop Concept Dank & Sticky 4.92
48 Mikkeller Beer Geek Cocoa Shake 4.87
49 Carton Brewing Company Irish Coffee 4.80
50 Night Shift Brewing Santilli 4.78

Holy cow, Tree House and Trillium. They were my favorite new (to me) breweries of the year, and boy were they ever yours. Those two wrapped up eight of the top 50 rookies, combined! Hill Farmstead had three, De Garde and Side Project two each, and perhaps the Newcomer of the Year Pirate Life Brewing slid into our list with two top rookies. But nobody cleaned up at the top like Tree House. 

Maybe 2015's Rookie of the Year -- Tree House Alter Ego -- was cheating in it's own way. By the brewery's definition of the beer, they took Mosaic and Amarillo, and then dry-hopped their Julius with the new concotion. You could call it a new Julius -- they called it a Devil Julius -- and so therefore it shouldn't be counted as a completely new beer. But it doesn't say Julius on the bottle, so it wins the day.

Still, they came in third with Light's On, a freshy piny pale that could count as a session. And that's not trading on the Julius name -- the beer didn't even have the trademark orange juice haze. At 5.6% ABV, maybe it was too strong to count as a session beer, but it really would jump into my personal pantheon of great easy-drinkers. 

Sandwiched in between the Tree House beers was Foundation's Epiphany, which seems about right. Like the better Tree House beers, Epiphany is juicy and fruity without bringing the bitter bomb. And, given the decidedly North East flavor of this leaderboard, it's fitting that the company finished their official description of the beer with a staking of the claim: "East or west coast? No. This is a Maine IPA."

Trillium did well, but none of their rookies made it to the top of the boards, maybe none of them was as magestically new like their Fort Point or Melcher Street series. Or maybe they just have so many beers going on that it's hard for one to get all the force of the hype machine that can roll in for a new beer.  

Pales and IPAs in the top three, and then you get to the first stout at number four with Fundamental Observation, an Imperial Stout blended with Madagascar vanilla beans & aged in bourbon barrels. Sometimes called goofy, their creative turn on beers in Anaheim has gathered a following since it opened two years ago. 

Coming in fifth was a blood orange DIPA from Pipeworks which has sadly been retired. Maybe they'll see this and open up the recipe again. They may not find that recipe again, judging from the official description of the beer:

Imperial India pale ale brewed with honey and blood orange juice and citra hops Duuuuude... Where’s that IIPA brewed with honey and blood orange? Wait. Nevermind, it was in my hand. Wait, dude, dude, what was I saying? Oh that’s right. Doritos, like what if they grew on trees? Dude, if a Doritos tree fell in a forest, and no one heard it, I’d like eat the whole thing. And that’s philosophical. Ever get insulted by what Netflix like suggests you would like? I don’t want to watch Roseanne. Again.

We'll chop up this data a little more in the coming days, but for now, it's enough to say that Tree House dominated 2015, and so they deserve the BeerGraphs Rookie of the Year for their Alter Ego. Congratulations!

(And really, congratulations to all 50 beers, as being on this list is an achievement in today's Craft Beer world.)