I had some beer in 2015. You won’t like this list, and that’s ok. There’s plenty of beer out there, but these were my favorites.
20) Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout (2015) (BA Imperial Stout. Bottle/tap. 9.5%) This beer has always been good. If CW keeps doing great things with their barrel-aging warehouse (see: continued expansion), then this beer will continue to be great. Honestly, it’s really dialed-in this year. The price is always fair, which is another plus for me. A fantastic brew filled with dark chocolate, a medium body, and just the right touch of bourbon. For me it’s the benchmark for any WI barrel-aged stout.
19) Sierra Nevada Coffee Stout (Coffee Stout. Bottle, 6.2%) Appeared in the snowpack variety pack in late 2014/early 2015 but I’d buy a standalone case of their coffee stout if I could. Extremely well balanced, slight nuances of bitterness in the finish. People who thought this beer was “too thin” were weird.
18) Firestone Walker Parabajava (BA imperial coffee stout. Bottle, 14%) I am a huge fan of Parabola, the best-priced BA Imperial Stout in America. Therefore, when you add a heaping amount of coffee to it, well then this is a no-brainer. Brewery only release, feel free to trade that Honus Wagner baseball card for it. An absolutely rich, massive, espresso bass drop.
17) Sixpoint Hi Res (Double IPA. Can, 10.5%) The return of Hi-Res featured a lower abv than last years version, promoting even better ‘drinkability’. This year’s hop canister was shipped fresh to distributors within 3 weeks of production. Although my tongue was scorched hours after drinking, it still made for a fun one & done.
16) Modern Times City of the Dead (Coffee Stout. Bottle, 7.5%) My affinity for caffeinated bean-infused brews continues. Coffee stout that tastes as if it were pressed through a charcoal britta filter. Absolutely fantastic, one of the best “export style” stouts I’ve ever had. North Carolina tobacco road charred flavor, chock full of artisanal bakers chocolate, keurig coffee cup madness. A bitter delight.
15) New Glarus Hopster (Hoppy Wheat. Bottle, 5.2%) A hoppy wheat with the flavor of a zested lemon. Gumballhead the cat was SAD to hear about this one. More hoppy than it was wheaty, this brew was technically a hefeweisen that disappeared from shelves relatively quickly. When fresh, this one was dynamite. Would love to see how it would behave on tap with the carbonation turned down a bit. Hopefully we see this again in Spring ’16.
14) Lagunitas High Westified BA Coffee Stout (BA Coffee Stout. Bottle/tap, 12.1%) Perhaps the best barrel-aged coffee stout for the price, ever. Yes they made plenty, but did you have any? Held up well over the months after release too, which was an added bonus. Aged in a variety of High West Double Rye/American Prairie Bourbon barrels. Mormons are good for something. Sale or no sale, I’ll continue to drink Lagunitas as long as they make beer like High Westified.
Todd the Axeman, a Citra and Mosaic IPA. I don’t want any other IPAs for as long as I live. I meant that previous sentence for a month or two when I wrote it. Until I tried Abrasive (Double IPA. Bottle/tap, 9%) Better than Todd in every way. Yes it’s unfair to compare the two, I get it. But Abrasive’s big oatmeal body leads to an entirely new complexity here. I lied, I don’t want Todd anymore, I want Abrasive. Forever. Creamy body, with palate-crushing hop presence. Abandon all hope after popping that top. All other IPAs seem like preteens at a One Direction show.
12) Tyranena / Lakefront Two Lakes (Triple IPA, tap. 9.5%) – Get your tickets out, we’re all aboard the grapefruit hype train. Typical citrus-y front, hop bitterness in the back end. Extremely well done and impossibly drinkable for 9%. Is it a triple? No, but that’s semantics. They used three hops, so I guess it’s a triple? That’s not even a real style. If you would have told me that Lakefront/Tyranena would be capable of producing such a fantastic beer together, well I probably would have called you a liar. I stand corrected, this one was stellar. I wouldn’t be upset if either house decided to package this, depending on the price point.
11) NG R&D Wild Peach (Sour/Wild Brown, bottle. 7.2%) Technically released in 2014 but enjoyed in June 2015 for me. Big funky yeast & peach aroma atop a sour fruit base. Beautiful Georgia peach flavor, extremely complex with added notes of bourbon and oak. Like drinking trigonometry.
10) Toppling Goliath Sosus – (Double IPA. Bottle, 8%) I love the front-stage presence of Citra hops in Pseudo Sue, which was going to make my list for the 2nd year in a row. Until I tried the Mosaic miracle that was Sosus. Just a wonderful beer. 100 IBUs and lip-smackingly perfect, with gorgeous stained-glass label art. Their other mosaic brew was Pompeii, which I thought lacked the body that was so prevalent in Sosus. I could still drink Sue forever, but the Sosus was just outstanding. These guys have had some issues with their former brewer leaving, so I’m glad to see quality hasn’t decreased (at least in the beers that I’ve tried). Haven’t tried Sue cans yet, but it’s on the wish list.
9) Off Color Whiskers – (BA American Wild ale. Tap, 8.5%) Imbibed at Great Taste, this was a complex Rose-inspired sour with Brett. Somehow clocked in at 8.5%, this pink ale was perfect for acting classy as fuck at a beer fest. Aged in (I believe?) English wine puncheon bbls, sour in just the right amount. Pinkies out.
8) Revolution Brewing Cafe Deth – (BA Imperial Stout. Tap, 11%) Another Great Taste swallow, Revolution brought this year-aged Bourbon imperial stout with coffee and added cherries to it. Popped! Warmed my chest like a black-coal burning furnace. The brew was black as coal as well, with a midnight garnet ring of sex around the top. This one went quick. Fun stuff on a fun day.
7) New Glarus R&D Wild Barrel – (BA Wild ale. Bottle, 7.5%) Aka the Bramble Berry Bourbon Barrel, lives up to the hype again. AGAIN! More sour brown fruit funk than bourbon wood, yet still perfect. Dark fruit, “forest floor” tones (whatever that means). First had at Great Taste of the Midwest 2015, most everything else was pale in comparison. Wisconsinites are spoiled to have New Glarus.
6) Fulton War and Peace – (Imperial Stout. Bottle/Tap, 9.5%) Why aren’t more people talking about this brewery, and more importantly, this beer? War & Peace is the best non barrel-aged, regular ol’ coffee stout on planet earth. I will fight you over this. A stellar beer disguised as your am cup-o-joe. Why it doesn’t receive more accolades is beyond me. Put it in your Monday morning Thermos & get back to me about your productivity.
5) Almanac Citra Sour -(Wild/Sour ale. Tap, 7%) On tap at the famous Toronado in San Francisco. From the bottle: “A Sour blonde ale aged in wine barrels and dry hopped with citra hops”. Pretty adept description. I’m beginning to think I like Citra and Mosaic hops.
4) 4 Hands Madagascar – (BA Imperial stout. Tap, 9.3%) See, now what we’ve got here is a barrel-aged imperial milk stout with whole vanilla beans added. And I need more of it. Easily my favorite beer of Great Taste this past August. St Louis continues to kill it, and this would be another brewery I’d welcome with open arms to WI.
3) Jolly Pumpkin La Roja du Kriek – (Wild/Sour red. Bottle, 8%) Drank this bad boy in an sardine-packed Mikkeller bar in the homeless-y part of San Fran downtown. Sort of a hard one to describe. Let’s go to the bottle info: “Sour Amber Ale with Michigan Cherry Juice. This is what happens when 3100 gallons of 2013 La Roja meets 50 gallons of Michigan tart cherry juice, aged in oak barrels and bottle conditioned – a perfect blend of sour and tart joie de vivre! ” This stupidly expensive bottle portrayed a cherry-pressed sour with an amber hue. Sick G-funk was apparent everywhere. Step to this, I dare ya.
2) Prairie Pirate Noir – (BA Imperial stout. Bottle, 12%) Imperial stout aged in Jamaican rum barrels. Sweet sweet sweeeeet, thinner mouthfeel stout. But scary complex: Rum soaked raisins, toffee tannins desperately seeked my stomach. Sugar cane meets steel-cut oats meets the ghirardelli chocolate assembly line. A remarkable 12oz bottle. Not worth the price in most cases, but still one of my favorite beers I had this year. Letting this one warm was a wise decision as well, as crests of vanilla, oak and caramel peaked out.
1) Perennial Abraxas – (Imperial Stout. Bottle, tap. 10%) I mean, what can you say? Coffee and Vanilla variants were also had on draught at Rumpus one fateful Saturday afternoon, but they still couldn’t beat the original. Abraxas is that perfect blend of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon spice. The Coffee one-off was good, but muted the spices that I like so much in the original. Vanilla was a tad too sweet for my taste. The Coffee + Vanilla cuvee was nice, and necessary. That being said, my original friend Abraxas takes the proverbial cake. 2nd year in a row it makes the best-of list, and for good reason. This is a puzzling beer for me, as I’m a notorious hater of putting anything spicy in beers. Somehow, this sublime fusion of sweet and spicy works effortlessly. It’s just so velvety, so smooth. It angers me so much that it actually reminds me of how I peaked in High School. Yeah, it’s THAT good. Even the beer novice can pick up every note in this beer – begins with a sweet chocolate & coffee tango, followed by vanilla, cinnamon, and is that ancho chile? Back to the beginning again with the sweetness after the swallow. A truly unique experience.
Call me names and tell me which beers I missed out on in the comments section or on twitter @wisconsuds