Summer’s in full swing, and many a young man’s mind turns to beer if for no other reason than to cool down a bit. Our fourth annual Top 10 Beers of the Year list is here to help you make sense of an increasingly crowded market with a look at 10 top brews that made an impact on us here at Drinkhacker over the last 12 months. (For more fun, see our 2021, 2020, and 2019 lists.)
As with all of our top 10s, this collaboration reflects votes and commentary from the Drinkhacker staff. Individual writeups are denoted with the initials of each writer.
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1. Goose Island Brand Fourteen Stout (Illinois) – Goose Island was nipping at Firestone Walker’s heels last year for top honors with their Kentucky Fog Imperial Stout, but this year, they pulled out a win with the return of Brand Fourteen Stout, previously released in 2014 only to the Chicago area. Brought out of the vault for 2021, this beer was a knockout from first sip to last. It’s a unique brew, even by Goose Island’s standards, with rye in the stout mashbill and rye barrel-aged with, among other delectable bits and bobs, coconut water. The aroma showcases chocolate-covered macaroons for days while the palate is all Almond Joy, cacao, and molasses cookies. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait seven more years for the next one. 13.2% -DB
2. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Triple Sunshine (Vermont) – Another huge IPA – this one a triple – that drinks more like a decadent, boozy dessert. Creamy with tropical notes and more than a bit sweet on the finish, this is a boozy monster that delights from start to finish (provided that’s what you’re in the mood for). 10.5% abv. -CN
3. Firestone Walker XXV Anniversary Ale (California) – Lightning almost struck twice for Firestone Walker, winner of our top spot last year. The 16th release from the brewery’s annual celebratory blend-fest was, once again, deftly constructed and delicious to the last drop, but the flavor profile was quite different from previous releases in this long series. What starts as a classic, barrel-aged aroma quickly turns uniquely fruity and a bit green. So too on the palate which showcases agave-kissed sweetness, citrus, and grape notes that add a memorable contrast to this brew’s more traditional chocolate and malt-driven notes. 11.5% abv. -DB
4. Troegs LolliHop (Pennsylvania) – This latest double IPA from Troegs puts the richness of a DIPA through the hazy filter, with wheat and oats in the mash giving the body extra heft. Loaded with fruit, piney resin, and toasty caramel, it’s a powerhouse of a beer that has just about everything an IPA fan could want. 8.2% abv. -CN
5. Bell’s Uberon (Michigan) – This barrel-aged version of Bell’s classic Oberon wheat beer could only be found here and there at festivals and tap events until late last summer, when the Michigan micro-brewer launched it into wider distribution just ahead of the winter season. It’s definitely a boozy offering, described as Bell’s “with a shot of bourbon dropped in,” but the beefed up abv doesn’t distract from the bright citrus and crisp malt of the summery wheat beer at its core. It merely adds a syrupy layer of vanilla and baking spice, reminiscent of French Toast. And who doesn’t like French Toast? 11.3% abv. -DB
6. 10 Barrel Brewing Rock Hop Cold IPA (Oregon) – Cold IPA is this year’s kooky brewing trend, and in 10 Barrel’s Rock Hop, the style – which uses “cold” lager yeasts but at higher temperatures, then dry hops the beer afterward – is a big success. Lots of citrus and hops, but clean on the finish and lightly malty like a lager. Lots more complexity than I expected. 7.1% abv. -CN
7. SLO Brew Holidaze IPA (California) – Winter is normally a time for hearty stouts and porters, but California’s SLO Brew makes a case for the west coast IPA with this beer, infused with spruce tips and orange peel, making it festive and wintry. Big, foamy, and juicy, there’s plenty of tradition here in a beer that never becomes gimmicky. 7% abv. -CN
8. Firestone Walker Gold Rider (California) – Like a lot of other breweries that have taken cues from the recent ready-to-drink craze, Firestone Walker has begun adding cocktail-inspired brews to its lineup. Old Man Hattan and several agave-inspired ales were a good start, but it seems to have really hit its stride with the most recent offering, a take on the classic Sidecar aged in cognac and orange bitters barrels. It’s a refreshing beer that still has plenty of rich, malty body, bright and juicy with a barleywine-styled palate full of big raisin, toffee, and citrus notes. A cut above even some of the best canned cocktails out there. 11% abv. -DB
9. Baird / Ishii / Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA (California/Japan/Guam) – This complex-sounding collaboration is actually quite simple, an IPA made with Warrior, Crystal, Helga, Aramis, and Sorachi Ace hops — and, of course, green tea. The results give the piney IPA a note of matcha powder that helps to temper a bruising alcohol level by imbuing the bitterness with a sweet and herbal note. Fun. 10.1% abv. -CN
10. Sun King Brewery Muckin’ Around the Xmas Tree (Indiana) – Let’s wrap things up with this barrel-aged Scottish wee heavy, brewed with candied fruit and pecans. Literally best when you are indeed muckin’ around the Christmas tree. Share this ultra-high abv offering with a trusted friend. 12.7% abv. -CN
Additional reporting by Drew Beard.