Beer in Review: 2018

I’m not going to waste much time this year with this intro paragraph. Every year for the last few years I’ve summed up my year in beer. We’ll go through some of my favorite places and breweries, my top 10 ciders of the year, and of course my top 50 beers. So lets not waste any time, thanks for reading I hope your 2018 was great and here’s to a wonderful 2019!

Best Place to Drink Beer: Denver, Colorado 

This year I finally got to go to one of craft beer’s meccas, Denver, Colorado. And everything I had heard was true. There are breweries across the street from breweries. Sick of the brewery you are sitting in? Walk 2 blocks South and you’ll find another brewery. It was a dream scenario. And the food? I hardly had any bad meals while I was there. Also, GABF is easily the best run beer festival I have ever been to. There’s absolutely zero bullshit that normally comes with a giant beer fest. Denver was by far the best place I drank beer in 2018. 

Best Brewery: Revolution Brewing

In 2017 Revolution overhauled their Deep Woods series of barrel-aged beers. The lineup was astounding, casting a looming shadow over Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout lineup. This year they knocked those beers out of the park again. Throw in the rotating League of Heroes series of IPAs, another delightful run of seasonals, and two of the best places to drink beer in Chicago and this is a crown that Revolution definitely deserves to wear. 

Top 10 Ciders of 2018  

10. The Northman – House Cider
9. Tired Hands – Frequency Illusion
8. Stem – Real Dry
7. Shacksbury – Dry
6. Angry Orchard – Understood in Motion 3
5. Angry Orchard – Newtown Pippin
4. Vander Mill – Oaked Chapman’s Blend
3. Shacksbury – Classic

Shacksbury Classic is the funkier cousin of their fantastic Dry cider. The apple flavor is a little tart before vanishing from your palate and what lingers is just a touch of blue cheese funk. They’ve recently started barrel aging this and calling it “Classic re-invented”. I need to get a bottle ASAP.

2. Angry Orchard First Flora

Angry Orchard’s First Flora moves from number 5 to number 2 on my list. Something custardy and vanilla opened up in this cider that wasn’t as prevalent the first time I had it. It is creamy and funky and just unlike anything you can get off a grocery store shelf.

  1. Angry Orchard Super Natural

I have been to five FoBABs and I have never gone back for a second pour of something. I always keep moving, trying to find the next thing. After having a decent pour of it at an Angry Orchard dinner in the Fall, I went back three times for Super Natural at FoBAB.

This Pet Nat cider is wonderfully fizzy, unfiltered, and easily the most delicious cider I drank all year. I wish I could bring a bottle of this to every party I go to and just blow people’s minds. There’s enough funk to be more interesting than 99% of hard ciders but the bottom line is that it’s approachable enough that you could use it as the jumping off point for anyone who is looking for the next step in cider drinking. And wine drinkers would fall head over heels for Super Natural. This isn’t just my favorite cider of the year its one of my favorites of all time.

Top 50 Beers of 2018

50. Revolution Brewing Anti-Hero – IPA
49. Mikerphone Brewing Mikerphone Check 1, 2 – Double IPA
48. Modern Times Fruitlands (Guava and Passionfruit) – Gose
47. Half Acre Beer Hates Astronauts – IPA
46. Revolution Brewing Fistmas – Red Ale with Ginger and Orange Peel
45. New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red – Fruit Beer
44. Penrose Barrel-Aged Vanilla Spectral – Imperial Stout
43. Solemn Oath Lu Tonic – Kolsch with Ginger, Lemon, and Lime
42. More Brewing Co. Strawberry Marbles – Milkshake IPA
41. American Solera x Cloudwater Brew Co. Pole – Double IPA
40. Collective Brewing Project Cup o Beer – Gose w/ Lime, Ginger, and Lemongrass
39. Odd Side Ales Hazels Nuts – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Hazelnuts
38. Founders KBS – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee
37. Central Waters Cassian Sunset Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cinnamon, Coffee, and Vanilla
36. Bottle Logic Fundamental Observation – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Vanilla
35. Brewery Bhavana Piglette – Grisette
34. Revolution Brewing Cafe Deth – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Coffee
33. Listermann Barrel Aged Vanilla Chickow – Imperial Brown Ale with Vanilla
32. The Bruery Vindictive II – Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout with Zinfandel Grape Juice
31. Goose Island Proprietors’ Bourbon County Stout (2014 & 2018)
30. Revolution Brewing Deth By Cherries – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cherries
29. More Brewing Co. Barrel Aged Henna Karma – Imperial Stout with Cocoa Nibs, Cinnamon & Toasted Coconut
28. Founders CBS – Imperial Stout Aged In Bourbon Barrels that held Maple Syrup
27. 3 Floyds Dark Lord Chemtrailmixx – Imperial Stout aged in Rye Barrels with Cinnamon and Pink Peppercorns
26. Prairie Artisan Ales Apple Brandy Noir – Imperial Stout aged in Apple Brandy Barrels
25. Cruz Blanca Agent Pina – Saison aged in Chardonnay Barrels with Pineapple
24. Guinness Antwerpen Stout Aged in Bulleit Bourbon Barrels
23. Revolution Brewing Deth’s Tar – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels
22. Solemn Oath End All – IPA
21. Speciation Artisan Ales Incipient Tart Cherry – Golden Sour Ale with Cherries
20. Collective Brewing Project Doom Berry- Foudre Aged Ale with Cherries
19. New Glarus Cran-bic – Lambic Style Ale with Cranberries
18. The Bruery Black Tuesday Port – Imperial Stout aged in Port Wine Barrels
17. Brewery Bhavana Grove – Double IPA
16. Collective Brewing Project Strawberry Passionfruit – Foudre Aged Ale with Strawberries and Passion Fruit
15. The Bruery Chocolate Rain (2015) – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cocoa Nibs and Vanilla
14. Jester King Spon Muscat – Spontaneously Fermented Ale with Muscat Grapes
13. Revolution Brewing Ryeway to Heaven – Imperial Rye Ale aged in Bourbon and Rye Barrels
12. Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight – Imperial Stout with Coffee and Maple Syrup
11. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Midnight Orange – Imperial Stout aged in Bourbon Barrels with Cocoa Nibs and Orange Peel
10. Mikerphone Brewing – Mikerphone Drop DDH Pale Ale

Last year in the number 10 spot was Mikerphone Brewing’s Mikerphone Check 1, 2. This year its tamer Pale Ale pal takes over that spot. Released in 12oz 4 packs this was my go to for one of the last months I lived in Elk Grove Village. With so many hazy IPAs pushing 7% ABV and above it was nice to have the same dank, juicy quality of a hazy in a 5.5% ABV package. This beer should be their year-round flagship. I’d swing by to pick it up by the case.

9. Lagunitas Born Yesterday Unfiltered – Fresh Hop Pale Ale

I’ve been a big fan of Lagunitas’ Fresh Hop take on their Dogtown Pale Ale for years now. But they keep tweaking the formula and this year’s version is the best one yet. Born Yesterday has one of the most intense aromas of any beer I drank this year. And a commanding bitterness to match. If you’re mad at hazy Pale Ales because they aren’t bitter this beer was the perfect marriage of the old and new schools.

8. Speciation Artisan Ales Run the Joose – Foudre Aged Sour Ale with Tangerine, Passion Fruit, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry, and Blood Orange

While visiting Speciation back in March I was surprised to find their tap room to be open. As far as I knew it was still a work in progress. And to be honest while I was there it still was. One of the beers on tap had the funny name Run the Joose which I would later come to find out is meant to be a “fuck you” to haze bros. Well guess what Speciation this is the EIGHTH best beer I had in 2018. It tasted like sour Hawaiian Punch. Doesn’t that sound delicious? It was! So make fun of whoever but keep making these awesome over fruited sours.

7. Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue – Pale Ale

At the end of 2017 Toppling Goliath moved production of their beloved Pale Ale, Pseudo Sue from a contract brewery in Florida home to Iowa. The first 4 pack of Iowa made Sue I brought home was the Sue I remember drinking from a bomber at my first Dark Lord Day in 2015. I was convinced that this was going to be the beer I drank the most of this year. (That honor actually goes to Solemn Oath’s Lu Kölsch) But the beer started arriving in Chicago older and older and sometimes it was hazy and sometimes it wasn’t. I kind of gave up on it. Then in the last couple months I started ordering it at bars when I saw it on tap and it took me back again. Pseudo Sue is now the best Pale Ale I can buy with ease and on a regular basis.

6. Goose Island Foudre Red – Oak Aged Red Ale

This beer has been released a few times under a few different names but over the Summer Goose finally put it into 500ml bottles and sold it at their tap room. Foudre Red is stunning. The interplay between the oak and the cherry is done better than any other cherry wild ale I’ve had before. Drinking this beer was like having Bourbon County for the first time. Or Halia for the first time. I had to slow down. Sit, sip and appreciate this beer for what it was. Lightning in a bottle.

5. Revolution Brewing Coffee Eugene – Porter with Coffee

The first time I ever went to Revolution’s brewpub this beer was on tap. It blew me away just how much it tasted like a great iced coffee. After not making it for a few years the beer returned last year, but unfortunately in a very small amount and I missed out on it. This year I was able to grab a six pack and it was exactly how I remembered it. In a year of hits for Revolution, Coffee Eugene stands above them all.

4. Goose Island Bourbon County Wheatwine – Wheatwine Aged in Bourbon Barrels

Admit it. You had ZERO expectations for Bourbon County Wheatwine. We all know the Barleywine isn’t as good as it used to be so how could the Wheatwine be any good? This beer is a showstopper. It tastes like a caramel covered grilled pineapple. Never in the Bourbon County lineup has there been as good of an example of what the barrel actually does to beer. At 15.4% ABV you should get 2 or 3 close friends together, share a bottle, and contemplate…..everything.

3. Goose Island Reserve Bourbon County – Imperial Stout aged in Elijah Craig Barrels

The winner of this year’s Bourbon County lineup is Reserve. As someone who adores Bourbon County Stout this is Bourbon County Stout turned up to 11. Something about these carefully curated barrels took everything I love about BCBS and made them smoother, richer, boozier, and more dramatic. Its a shame this one has to be so hard to get because it blew its easier to find counterpart out of the water and off this year’s top 50 list.

2. Old Nation M-43 – IPA

Hazy IPAs are not a fad, not a gimmick, they are a style of IPA, like West Coast, Session, etc. They are here to stay and I’m really enjoying drinking them. No Hazy IPA I had this year was as good as M-43. Its the closest I’ve found to the OG NE made hazies. If you blind tasted this next to Julius there is NO WAY you’d tell the difference. Coincidentally as of just YESTERDAY M-43 is available in Chicago. I had it on draft and just cannot get over how incredibly well executed this beer is. If the thought of someone pouring some guava puree into your orange juice makes your mouth water track down some M-43.

1. Hopewell Brewing Co. Outside Voice – Mini Pale Ale

We carried two pizzas three blocks to Hopewell’s tap room. I hadn’t eaten in hours. I needed something low in ABV so I wouldn’t fall asleep in my pizza. I ordered this, Outside Voice a 4.8% “Mini Pale Ale”. As I walked back to the table intense fruit flavor was leaping out of the glass. There was no way it was this “Mini Pale Ale”. I sniffed. I sniffed again. The aromas of tropical fruit were overwhelming. Then I sipped. It was great. Then I swallowed. It finished like mineral water. In a year where almost every large brewery bet on malt beverage hard seltzers Hopewell made a beer that actually tasted like a hard fruit flavored Topo Chico. Outside Voice only has one major flaw. It’s not available year round and I didn’t buy it by the case to get me through the Winter.