30 Most Memorable Beer Moments of 2015

Memorable2015

The end of the year. A time for family, fun, and presents.

And lists. So many lists. Pictures, memes, moments, villains, most searched, selfies, sports moments, events – you name it, there’s a list for it, and beer is no exception. Best beer overall, best by style, best label art and, new this year, best corporate buyout. Most of these lists either reside in the “clickbait” category (fuck those slideshows, just give me the list) or in the “well intentioned but confusing” category, where no clear restrictions were in place. Both, naturally, lead to people arguing about it on the internet.

ABV Chicago has decided to get into the “listicle” game this year. Ryan did his list of the best 30 beers he had in 2015. I’ll be doing something similar, but different – the 30 most memorable beer experiences in 2015. There really are only three guidelines:

1. We had to have it on the show; not talk about it, but actually drink it.

2. Rankings are based on “memorable beer experiences.” That means yes, beer X might be better in some way than beer Y, but beer Y is higher on the list. Why? It was more memorable to me. That’s it. You’ll have your own list, of course, and feel free to argue, yell, or send us an email saying Craig’s an idiot. It’s all good.

3. I will not be listening to anything I said on the episodes about any beers on the list. Nice little way to reinforce the “memorable” aspect.

Clicking on the beer name will take you to the episode we reviewed it in. I’ll also list the style, ABV, and availability of each beer, such as where it’s available and when (if at all).

Now, we present, Craig’s “30 Most Memorable Beer Experiences: A Listicle.”

Honorable Mention

We’ve had so many great beers this year that some had to be cut from the list. In no particular order:

Ritterguts Gose

Allagash Coolship Resurgam

Lake Effect Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sip of Sunshine

2nd Shift Liquid Spiritual Delight (LSD)

Cigar City Hunaphu’s Imperial Stout

Transient Artisan Ales Buckley

New Glarus Staghorn

BrainDead Bent de Garde

Voodoo Love Child

Temperance Smittytown Tart

Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

Spiteful God Damn Pigeon Porter

Trillium Congress St.

Hill Farmstead Anna

Kane Cortijo

OEC Malefactus

The List

30. DESTIHL Lynnbrook

Style: Berliner Weisse (fruited)

ABV: 3%

Availability: Wherever DESTIHL is distributed (Great Lakes, IA, MN, TX, CO, AZ, LA); July, August, September

My first experience with Lynnbrook during The Green Lady’s CCBW sour event – it was on cask, dry hopped with Topaz. Refreshing and tart with a hint of raspberries (and an interesting hop character due to the dry hopping), I knew I had to find it non-dry hopped. Thankfully, DESTIHL decided to can Lynnbrook. The result is one of the perfect summer beers – quenching, low in alcohol, and enough tartness and fruit flavor that makes you want to go back for more, which I did many times at GABF. A winner that will hopefully be canned again.

29. Pipeworks Lizard King

Style: Pale Ale

ABV 6.5%

Availability: All over the Chicagoland area (and NY now), year round

One of their two new offerings specifically for cans (War Bird being the other), I missed trying this on tap the first 2-3 times it was offered, mainly because it kicked so quickly.  I can see why. Just as hoppy and not nearly as malty as Pipeworks DIPAs, Lizard King is just what I’m looking for in a pale ale. With a potential change from the current earthy and pine-leaning Mosaic hop to tropical and citrusy Citra next year, this will be one to keep an eye out for.

28. Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze

Style: Gueuze

ABV: 6%

Availability: Wherever Shelton Bros. distributes; whenever they decide to send some

A pillowy soft mouthfeel paired with enough gueuze funk and brightness will always lead to a memorable experience.  Not as heavy as the Tilquin Gueuze and more fruity than the Canillion Classic, I could perpetually sip on this gueuze if only it were available more readily. A real treat to be savored.

RareBarrel27. The Rare Barrel Forces Unseen

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 5.3%

Availability: Rare Barrel taproom in Berkeley, CA; whenever it’s ready

A simple blended golden sour aged in oak with no fruit addition, this one came as a surprise. Like many other beers on this list, it was refreshing – something not difficult to drink because it was too sour, malty, hoppy, or boozy. At 5% ABV, this is one where you can down an entire bomber and still be cognizant.  There were some fruit notes, but I can’t recall them.  But what I do remember was it was a highly enjoyable, rewarding experience.

26. The Lone Pint  Yellow Rose

Style: American IPA

ABV: 6.8%

Availability: Texas; year round

Ah, the saga of Yellow Rose. Initially a gift from our friends at The Beerists podcast, someone (I won’t say who) broke it after recording our Tree House episode.  I scrambled to get another one in time for the recording of the episode, and it was worth scrambling for. Truly showing what a S.M.a.S.H. beer (Single Malt and Single Hops) is capable of, this Mosaic-hopped beauty of an IPA really showcased what makes the Mosaic hop special – a little bit of citrus and tropicality combined with some grassy and pine notes.

25. Metropolitan Afterburner

Style: Marzen

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Illinois; September and October

In the sea of our Oktoberfest show, this was the waterspout. Clean (as most all of Metropolitan’s beers are) with caramel and bread notes, this proves just once again that when it comes to classic German lager styles, Metropolitan is second-to-none. While there were other non-traditional takes on the marzen (Surly’s hoppy version comes to mind), Afterburner was simple and to the point. Next year, if you’re ever in the mood for a marzen, reach for Afterburner. You won’t need to reach for anything else.

24. August Schell Dawn of Aurora

Style: Berliner Weisse

ABV: 7.5%

Availability: Minnesota, although I’ve seen others in the series in Wisconsin; whenever it’s ready

I was honestly scared of this one. An 7.5% Berliner weisse? That’s how bad things start. But as soon as we tried it, all my fears were assuaged. While it was a bit more boozy than a standard 3-4% Berliner, the cypress tank aging and variety of stone fruits present – even though no fruits were used – made me forget about its high ABV and is a testament to its craftsmanship. Others I’ve had in the Noble Star series (Star of the North and Starkeller Peach) have been excellent as well, so this is not an isolated incident. If you see this (or any of this series) on the shelf, grab it quickly before I do.

Trillium23. Trillium Artaic

Style: American Double IPA

ABV: 8.5%

Availability: Trillium tasting room in Boston (presumably also at their production facility in Canton as well); whenever they make it

Having had Vicinity, another of their DIPAs, on the MA show, I was hesitant to get another one for the Trillium show. Vicinity was good, but it reminded me of a Pipeworks DIPA, and I can get those easily. Artaic had been long gone by the time I made it to Boston, so I traded for one that was a month of two old, not making me any more confident in my selection. Then I had it. Bursting with Mosaic hops and looking like thick, unfiltered juice (a Trillium staple), it had all the bitterness you would want in a DIPA and not overly malty, as some tend to be. Typical Mosaic notes (earthy/piney, tropical) were obviously present, and the bomber hastily met its end. More please.

22. Middle Brow Who’s That Girl?

Style: Saison

ABV: 6.9%

Availability: Chicagoland area; brewed once (released in January/February 2015)

I love Middle Brow’s flagship Robyn saison. Middle Brow must as well, as they keep releasing variations of it (including a BA blueberry one). For Who’s That Girl?, Middle Brow took a cabernet sauvignon barrel, filled it with Robyn and peaches and added some Brettanomyces bruxellensis. The slightly funky Robyn base, with lovely tannins from the cabernet sauvignon barrels, and a kiss of peachiness made this a winner. Unfortunately, it was released in the dead of a heinous winter in Chicago, so it languished on shelves for a bit. I was thankful, though, as I was able to snag a few more bottles and use one for my coveted “First Beer of Summer Break.” A high honor indeed.

LPG21. Lou Pepe Gueuze (2010 sticker)

Style: Gueuze

ABV: 5%

Availability: Cantillon brewery and wherever Shelton Brothers distributes; whenever it’s ready and Shelton Brothers decides to send some

Amongst the bounty of riches that was the Cantillon show, this was an afterthought while planning it. I had a Lou Pepe Framboise, Lou Pepe Kriek was a must, and ehh, I might as well complete the Lou Pepes with the Gueuze. Well, the Framboise was way too sour, the Kriek was great but it had some cinnamon thing going on, and the Gueuze was well, an outstanding gueuze. Dry, but not too much; acidic, but not abrasively so; hints of barnyard and fruits. One of the better gueuzes I’ve ever had, and one that can be aged for some time.

20. Lake Effect Session Brett

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: Chicagoland area

Any beer that doesn’t use fruit but somehow comes off with distinct fruit flavors is memorable to me. Effervescent, tart, and definitely fruity, this was a welcome surprise on the show, with the brettanomyces strain used giving off orange, lemon, and other citrusy fruit notes. As with any low ABV and effervescent beer, it would be great to crush during the summer months (preferably in cans!)

19. Transient Artisan Ales/Fountainhead Brutus

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 6.4%

Availability: Fountainhead Market, wherever Transient distributes to; brewed once

When comparisons are made to Crooked Stave, you know you’re doing something right. Brutus, although labeled as a spelt saison, exhibited more characteristics of a wild ale, with some tart to sour kick, prevalent wine tannins and a variety of fruits, from cherry to lemon, all melding together well. Hoping for more of this from Transient in the new year.

18. Cascade Kriek 2013

Style: Flanders Red Ale

ABV:  8.2%

Availability: CA, OR, WA, SC, MA, limited in Chicago; year round

Having had a few Cascade sour beers before, I came into this thinking it was going to be a “rip the enamel off my teeth” sour (or, as I like to call it, an Upland sour). What I got was a cherry-forward beer with some acidity on the end, and some nice oak tannins to round things out. While around $30 a bottle, it was still worth the price of admission and I am waiting for it to land on shelves in Chicago.

17. Temperance Might Meets Rights (Manhattan barrel-aged)

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 10%

Availability: Temperance taproom and some distribution in Chicago; brewed once (released Jan. 2015)

While barrel-aged stouts are de rigueur these days, not one I can think of is aged in a barrel used to make Manhattan cocktail. This could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn’t. The Might Meets Right stout brought its notes of vanilla, coffee and chocolate, while the barrel imparted the unique parts of a High West Manhattan – the tart bitters, the dry vermouth, and the rye spiciness. The fact that those two sets of flavor profiles melded so well is a testament to Temperance. I’m hoping this one gets made again, along with the much more difficult to obtain Boulevardier.

16. Tree House Brewery Good Morning

Style:  American Imperial Stout

ABV: 8.4%

Availability: Tree House brewery in Monson, MA; usually 2-3 times per year

While not as thick mouthfeel-wise as Mornin’ Delight, Good Morning hits all the right things for a breakfast stout. The coffee is well integrated, the maple syrup is present but not cloyingly sweet, and the stout itself brings in some vanilla and chocolate notes to round out this near perfect morning beverage. The Red Velvet doughnut from Glazed and Infused that we paired it with was the perfect complement. I wish I could begin everyday this way.

15. Wicked Weed Black Angel

Style: American Wild Ale

ABV: 6.6%

Availability: Wicked Weed in North Carolina; year round

Sours are usually aged in neutral oak or wine-barrels, not bourbon. Black Angel is not only aged in bourbon barrels, but also has cherries added to the mix. What results is a tartness from the cherries, some bourbon heat from the barrels, and lovely chocolate notes that somehow develop as it warms (much like a stout). A unique and memorable sour.

NG14. New Glarus Belgian Red

Style: Fruit Beer

ABV: 4%

Availability: Wisconsin; year round

Everyone loves Belgian Red, and for good reason. Light (4%) and very cherry -orward, it’s like drinking alcoholic fruit juice but without any of the medicinal characteristics that sometimes appear in fruit beers. A great introductory craft beer (I’ve hooked many people on it) and equally good by itself or as a blend in other beers, Belgian Red is a good reason to drive to Wisconsin. One of the first of its kind and still one of the best.

13. Cantillon Fou’ Foune

Style: Fruited Lambic

ABV: 5%

Availability: Cantillon brewery, Shelton Brothers distribution; fall/whenever Shelton Bros. decides to send some

Just the right amount of funk and apricots, Fou’ Foune stands as one of Cantillon’s best offerings. The apricots and lambic balance each other perfectly, with one not overpowering the other or making it too abrasively sour. Definitely worth the price of admission.

12. Tree House Brewery Haze

Style: American Double IPA

ABV: 8.2%

Availability: Tree House brewery in Monson, MA; whenever it’s brewed

A chameleon. Every time I took a sip, a new fruit (or group of fruits) came to the forefront. I have never experienced that with any DIPA before and hope to experience it again. Combine that with a bitter hop presence and a not too malty body, you have one of the top DIPAs out there, right up there with Pliny the Elder and Heady Topper.

Arthur11. Hill Farmstead Arthur

Style: Farmhouse Ale

ABV: 6%

Availability: Hill Farmstead brewery in Greensboro Bend, VT; year round

I had completely written this one off as my least favorite Hill Farmstead saison. Every time I had it, it was always good, but not memorable, Maybe I was always having it in the middle of big tastings, but having it on the show really made it shine. With notes of citrus and barnyard funk, what stood out was the vibrancy of it. Arthur was, for lack of a better word, bright, beaming with those citrus notes. Combined with a pillowy mouthfeel, this quickly became one of my favorite Hill Farmstead saisons, right alongside Anna.

10. Spiteful Barrel-Aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.5%

Availability: Chicagoland area; brewed once (December 2015)

A hit at FoBAB and (personally) at Stoutfest, the barrel-aged Malevolence Chocolate Caliente improved upon the depth of the already amazing non-barrel aged version. So why the lower ranking? The balance of the regular was thrown off a bit, with cinnamon and chiles dominating the beer. It was still amazing- like Cinnamon Toast Crunch – but I preferred the balance of the regular.

MD9. Toppling Goliath Mornin’ Delight

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 12%

Availability: Toppling Goliath taproom in Decorah, IA; very sporadically (twice in the last 3 years)

Some beers live up to the hype while others succumb to it. Mornin’ Delight lives up to and (in some cases) surpasses the hype. The coffee is at the forefront, while the maple syrup is not too sweet, but it’s a nice complement to the full-bodied and viscous stout. While not as revolutionary as it was when it was first released in 2013, it is still the standard for a “breakfast” stout.

8. de Garde Imperial Blackberry Bu

Style: Berliner Weisse

ABV: 5.5%

Availability: de Garde taproom in Tillamook, OR; whenever it’s brewed

Jammy, tart, delicious. de Garde brewing knows spontaneous fermentation and knows Berliner Weisses. While their Bu series of Berliners are good, the Imperial Bu series is just more of everything – fruit, ABV, mouthfeel – and the Blackberry was no exception. The tartness was present but not prohibitive and the extra blackberry made it a jammy delight. Having also had the Imperial Apricot Bu off podcast – with the same reaction – de Garde’s fruited imperial Berliners are exactly what you’re looking for.

7. Metropolitan Flywheel

Style: German Pilsener

ABV: 5.2%

Availability: Chicagoland area; year round

When I go out to a bar in Chicago, I like to try things that I can’t buy off the shelf, so a year-round pilsener is something I usually pass on. Well no more! If I’m feeling in the mood for a pilsener (spring and summer most frequently) or I’m at a bar with a particularly uninspired tap list, I know Metropolitan Flywheel will be there for me, full of crisp, clean taste with a hint of sweetness. I fully credit this with my recent pilsener interest, and it is a must purchase if I’m having people over that usually drink the macros as it is similar enough not to scare people off, but different and well-crafted enough to show people what a craft lager can really do. I will definitely be purchasing more, especially during the warmer months.

6. Spiteful Malevolence Chocolate Caliente

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 10.5%

Availability: Chicagoland area; once a year (winter)

Destroying all comers, including my personal favorite Abraxas on the Blind Mexican Cake show, Spiteful showed what it could really do with an adjunct stout. All flavors – chiles, chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon – were present in equal proportions with regard to taste, and no single adjunct took over the beer. The stout itself was full-bodied and took to the adjuncts exceedingly well. It’s very well-crafted and now something I eagerly look forward to every winter.

5. Trillium Night & Day

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.5%

Availability: Trillium tasting room in Boston (presumably also at their production facility in Canton as well); whenever they make it

Coffee stouts are all over the place, each usually with a local roaster’s specialty coffee used in the beer. So what made Trillium’s Night & Day so memorable? The fact that they got a large amount of coffee on the nose and on the taste, with what tasted like a shot of crème added, all while maintaining a full-bodied stout mouthfeel. An excellent beer for the winter that I will definitely be looking for when it comes out again.

Julius4. Tree House Brewery Julius

Style:  American IPA

ABV: 6.8%

Availability: Tree House Brewery in Monson, MA; flagship, as close to year round as they can get

I was first able to try Julius due to a trade I made. I was mainly looking for the main bottle I traded for (forgot what it was at this point), but Tree House growlers were offered as part of the trade. When given the choice, Julius sounded good, so I picked that one. I brought that to a bottle share, and it was the surprise beer of the share, with everyone (including myself) raving about its orange juice-like qualities. That was in November 2013, and the beer remains the same, even after the brewery moved facilities. Immensely fruity and juicy, the flavors that Tree House is able to get out of Julius (and their other beers, for that matter) is unparalleled. They’re canning Julius now, so get one if you can, because there are really no other IPAs on the market like it.

3. Casey Montmorency Cherry Fruit Stand

Style: Saison

ABV:  5.5%

Availability: Casey Brewing in Glenwood Springs, CO; whenever it’s ready/brewed

First opened at a late spring/early summer bottle share, the Montmorency Fruit Stand stood out from the rest of the saisons and sours we had been drinking. It was refreshing, pillowy, and tart. I could easily have downed the entire bomber myself. So I made it a point to, when I went to GABF, get a bottle of this somehow for either personal consumption or for the show. Ryan was amenable to have it on, and it was as good as I remembered it – a nice burst of tart cherries supported by a well-crafted saison. Get one and bring it to a bottle share as a refreshing change of pace from BA stouts and barleywines. Or save a bottle for when spring hits. Thoroughly enjoyable.

2. Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2010)

Style:  American Imperial Stout

ABV: 13%

Availability: Chicago; brewed once (released on Black Friday 2010)

After being able to try the absolute end of the keg at Goose Island Clybourn late on Black Friday 2010, I had to go find a bottle. The booze that was very apparent on the nose was nowhere to be found on the beer, and it changed what I thought could be done with a beer. Buying one, I put it on the shelf for a special occasion. Then I was cleaning up a year or so later and put it in the refrigerator, where it would sit until I moved in 2013. Hearing stories of how it’s fallen off, I decided to put it on the list for the Beerists to choose from when they came to Chicago. What we drank was stunning, reminding me of the first time I had it, just with less heat and more integration. The Pappy van Winkle barrels impart balanced sweetness, notes of vanilla and chocolate, and raise the base Bourbon County Brand Stout to something else entirely. I only wish that the 2015 Rare was that good out of the gate and I hope it turns into something this memorable 5 years down the line.

Voodoo1. Voodoo Black Magick Trio (Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace, Apple Brandy)

Style: American Imperial Stout

ABV: 13.5%

Availability: Voodoo Brewing in Meadville, PA; brewed once (released in March 2013)

An experience. I was lucky enough to be able to trade for all three, and it was totally worth it. The barrel treatment for each blended so well with the base Black Magick stout that it was like drinking a perfectly aged wine. The Apple Brandy provided some sweetness, the Buffalo Trace brought some vanilla and char qualities, and the Pappy van Winkle took the qualities of both the Apple Brandy and Buffalo Trace, dialed them down and smoothed them out a bit into some nectar of the gods. If you have the opportunity to trade for one, do it. If you have the opportunity to try it at a bottle share, go. Beers like this don’t come along all that often and having all three together, back to back to back, was ethereal. I just wish I could go back and do it again.

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