30 Most Memorable Beers of 2022
After what seemed like forever, we finally reached something very close to normal in 2022. Festivals returned in their pre-2020 form (for better or worse) while people wanted to get out again. Breweries were more than happy to oblige, having tap takeovers, events, beer releases and mini-festivals all throughout the year. While some market factors caused some brewery closures (with unfortunately more probably coming), it was great to get out and see familiar faces, some of which I haven’t seen since 2019.
I took full advantage of feeling a bit safer going out this year, traveling to Louisville, KY; Minneapolis, MN and Portland, OR to try some beers from those cities. Needless to say, they show up on the list below. Chicago proper makes up 10 of the 30 breweries (33%) while Illinois as a whole has 14 total (47%) – its lowest total since 2018. Oregon crashes the list hard with 5 entries (17%), while Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kentucky all place 2 (7% each). California, Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Texas chip in with 1 apiece.
Style wise, I must’ve wanted to live in a barrel this year, as 20 beers on my list were in a barrel at some point (67%). 9 of those 20 were barrel-aged stouts, representing the most frequent style on my list (30%). Saison in total made up 8 (27%), with 6 of those being barrel-aged. Barleywine/Strong Ale and Wild Ale each had 2 (7%), while no other style put more than one.
The two beers per brewery was still in effect and while Around the Bend and Supermoon both took full advantage, Revolution again wins the prize for having the most beers cut due to this rule. Seriously, listen to our Deep Wood shows or anything with a Revolution beer in it. They make a ton of quality beer every year and deserve all the accolades they get. But rules are rules!
Speaking of, here are the rules:
- We had to have it on the show or reviewed it for the website; not talk about it, but actually drink it.
- 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.
- Patreon-exclusive Low ABV beers are in-play and not excluded from future listicles! Kind of like September call-ups in baseball that keep their rookie eligibility.
- Maximum of two beers per brewery on the list.
30) Green Bottle Saison | Saison | Seedz Brewing | Union Pier, MI | 4.5% ABV – listen
When you go ahead and name your beer after the green bottle it’s housed in, you know someone is going for something. Seedz Brewing wants that skunk character on this saison and they get it. A nice hoppy kick joins the party as well while the beer maintains its Belgian roots. It’s carbonated very highly – almost to champagne levels, as someone on the show found out. All these qualities combine into a beer that will be gone before you know it. It finishes fast, has that hoppy kick bringing you back for more and a base beer that apes Saison Dupont fairly accurately. Saber one today!
29) 1825 | Brett Ale with raspberries | Around the Bend | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – listen
When I think of Around the Bend, I don’t really think of brett beers. Maybe I need to change my thinking. 1825 is their FoBAB silver winning brett ale named after the number of days the brewery has been open. While the nose hits you with assertive funk and sour characteristics with some raspberry, the beer itself is anything but. Tons of raspberries, a slight amount of tartness and a nice dry finish make 1825 both interesting, drinkable, and one I’d like to pour for myself again and again at one of the two District Brew Yards taprooms. Get past that aroma, drink up all the 1825 and don’t sleep on Around the Bend.
28) Many Phases | Barrel-aged Saison | Supermoon Beer Co. | Milwaukee, WI | 6.2% ABV – listen
There’s something about Supermoon beers that get me. I honestly think it’s that slight amount of funk Rob Brennan is able to impart on most of his beers through his house yeast culture. It could be the effervescence and light mouthfeel, supported by a pillowy mouthfeel. Or the barrel-aging that is subtle yet effective on most of his beers. Whatever it is, Many Phases does all three of these. Combined with a nice lemon saison base, Many Phases just asks to be sipped on multiple times. The wine barrels add some oak and a nice dryness on the finish and that funk is subtle but noticeable. No surprise – another Supermoon winner for me.
27) Helles Lager | Helles Lager | pFriem Family Brewers | Hood River, OR | 4.8% ABV – listen
Usually when lagers of any kind show up on a brewery-specific show they serve to show that a brewery can do a clean and act as a baseline. Typically they finish near the bottom of the pile. Not pFriem’s Helles Lager. Not only did it come out swinging with a nice, crisp lager base with a full mouthfeel, but it also brought along a surprise. The amount of fruit present from the hops or the malt kicked this helles lager up to one the best I’ve ever had. It’s unexpected things like a bounty of fruit flavors that moves you up the memorable list as well as the “I’m going to compare all future helles lagers I have to this,” tier. Another slammer from pFriem.
26) DDH M-43 | Double Dry-Hopped New England IPA | Old Nation | Williamston, MI | 6.8% ABV – listen
Sometimes it just takes a well-made IPA to cure you of hop anger. DDH M-43 did that and more. It’s juicy with an orange lemonade but not overly so. It never gets anywhere near too sweet while there’s a substantial bitterness on the finish. Usually New England IPAs are near the lower end of the carbonation spectrum, but DDH M-43 isn’t and things move. That combined with the bitterness and relatively low ABV lead to the can being gone extremely quickly. This one ranks right up there with the GABF gold medal winners from Alarmist and Old Irving with the balance Old Nation achieves between juicy hazy and traditional IPA. It cured me of my hop anger!
25) Pied De Cuve | Wild ale with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes | Sundial Brewing and Blending | Barrington, IL | 7% ABV – read
For a new brewery to be able to accomplish what Sundial did with Pied De Cuve is something. Sweet grapes, a dry finish and a little funk meld together to form a beer that never hit any sour or tart extreme and was an absolute joy to drink the entire bottle of. Aging it in neutral oak helped add some body and depth to everything, while those sweet grapes reigned in any sourness or tartness that might’ve shown up. The addition of the subtle amount of funk is the real story here. Too much and it takes over and ruins the beer; not enough and you might as well be drinking a Berliner. Just enough to notice it but not overtake anything was perfect. Between the sweet grapes and dry finish, Pied De Cuve would also make an outstanding food pairing beer.
When I told a friend that I was going to Portland, OR, without hesitation he recommended nebuleus, a saison-focused brewery with no taproom that sells their bottles out of Upright Brewing after announcing them online. He was right to recommend them to me. A nice pillowy blended saison base gets a boost from a rosato (Italian rosé) barrel with excellent returns. The acidity and sour notes are kept in check, leaving a lemon tartness with some wine tannins drying things out on the finish. The rosato also brings along some fruit notes to the fun, mainly raspberries and cherries. The saison gives off some funkiness thanks to whatever bugs nebuleus decided to use. The saison and barrel are integrated so well that all the flavor exists in the front of the sip while the finish is all dry. Worth the work to get it.
23) Bitter As Death In The Gallows | Merseburger | Necromancer Brewing | Pittsburgh, PA | 7.2% ABV – listen
This beer scared me before we had it on the show. A really bitter historical beer? Uh oh. I could break down a lichtenheiner beer (smoke and sour? I understand that) but a really bitter beer? Trepidatious! While it was bitter, it did not come at the expense of the base beer. After having it, think of a merseburger as a more bitter black IPA, as notes of roast and chocolate kept peeking out from beyond the bitterness. It was not a one-note bitter bomb as I had feared. This is precisely why I love Necromancer’s Resurrection series – it brings beers that otherwise wouldn’t be made back into the spotlight. And hey, you might find you like that historical beer style! And it even beat out my long-awaited kuit beer!
22) Krampus In The Buff | Barrel-aged Imperial Milk Stout | Old Irving Brewing | Chicago, IL | 14% ABV – listen
Blind tasting really shows you what’s up. Having had Krampus In The Buff and thinking it was Bourbon County really made me appreciate it even more. A full mouthfeel with tons of chocolate, vanilla, and barrel character, Krampus In The Buff did everything I want in a barrel-aged stout. The chocolate starred but was never sweet or overbearing. The vanilla supported the chocolate well. The bourbon brought some heat, wood, and really rounded the beer off. It drank hefty but well under its stated ABV. I didn’t even notice the lactose in it (maybe I’m an idiot!). Just an excellent barrel-aged stout that doesn’t need any of the adjuncts that throw things out of balance so easily.
21) Candy Bar Baba Yaga | Barrel-aged imperial stout with roasted peanuts, cocoa nibs, and caramel | Ethereal Brewing | Lexington, KY | 14% ABV – read
Much like Bananas Foster Baba Yaga, Ethereal has taken a very difficult-to-taste-and-smell-correctly adjunct and made it work. In this case, it’s roasted peanuts. Beers with peanut butter are fairly common and have been pulled off numerous times. But roasted peanuts? On Candy Bar Baba, you smell the salt and the nuttiness of freshly roasted peanuts. There’s no creaminess or smoothness there. The fact that it smells like roasted peanuts and then somehow has the taste of roasted peanuts is insane. But they also pulled of getting a nice chocolate and caramel hit, transforming their Baba Yaga into a legit Snickers bar. None of the adjuncts take over and make it out of whack and those freshie fresh Four Roses bourbon barrels from down the road add all the bourbon barrel goodness (more chocolate, vanilla, oak) without any of the heat. An excellent, excellent beer.
20) Foothills | Barrel-aged saison with pineapple sage, szechuan peppercorns, and lemongrass | Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery | Newberg, OR | 7.7% ABV – listen
Farm breweries stand an excellent chance of making an exemplary farmhouse beer. Wolves & People attack this style with a beer that has the perfect level of tartness, an expertly integrated barrel, and a little must and funk. Lemon tartness hits the front of the tongue and never leaves, remaining well after you’re finished with the sip. The tartness never gets to be too much and the wine notes perfectly supplement the base beer, making it finish dry with some nice grape notes. I have no idea what the pineapple sage and peppercorns were doing in this beer but whatever it was please keep doing it Wolves & People. Another excellent saison from the state of Oregon.
19) Beer For Lounging | American Pale Ale | Off Color Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – listen
A few years ago we jokingly named an episode of Off Color beer Off Color IPAs because Off Color had no intention of making anything close to an IPA. Until they kind of did. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Cascade hop, Beer For Lounging exclusively features whole cone Cascade hops. And it’s outstanding. Bitter, piney, light and easy to drink, Beer For Lounging reminds you of what craft beer was before all the barrel-aging and adjuncts. The malt even provides a lovely kiss of sweetness that really rounds things out and ties everything together. No wonder it’s their best selling draft beer for the year. Which means Beer For Binging IPA (or DIPA) can not be that far behind….right?
18) When Someone Asks If You’re A God | Barrel-aged imperial stout with cocoa nibs, marshmallow, vanilla beans and natural flavors | Triptych Brewing | Savoy, IL | 16.2% ABV – listen
You say yes! To both that question and this beer! One of the best barrel-aged imperial s’mores stouts that I’ve had, When Someone Asks leans towards vanilla flavors but never gets too cloying with them. Chocolate and, miraculously for this style, graham crackers show up big enough to get noticed. Somehow, while remaining vanilla forward, you get all the s’mores flavors without going way overboard with them. The bourbon helps cut that sweetness a bit by adding some vanilla of its own and oak. It stays smooth, never feels too boozy (even at 16.2%) and finishes with some nice bourbon notes. It stains the glass and it shows enough legs to be a spider. In case I haven’t said this enough already, Triptych’s barrel program has grown greatly over the years, making all their barrel-aged offerings must purchases.
17) Triple Barrel Catch Hell | Barrel-aged imperial doom stout with vanilla and cinnamon | Half Acre Beer Company | Chicago, IL | 16.9% ABV – listen
You know you’re in for a treat the minute you start pouring. Few beers pour any thicker. As you take sip after sip, your glass becomes a different color. After making Catch Hell and then Double Barrel Catch Hell, Half Acre upped the ante yet again with the Triple Barrel. Waves of chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon greet you at every sip, while the barrel plays nice with the base beer. The use of rye barrels – the third of the triple barrel – cut the sweetness just enough to keep it from going overboard. (I had a pour of triple barrel next to double barrel, so it might not be noticeable otherwise.) No doubt about it, this beer is thick but somehow doesn’t drink near the 16.9% on the can. Half Acre chose correctly on canning it in 12 ounces; 16 might be too much for a sitting. One of the few beers out there that you don’t pair with dessert because it is the dessert.
16) Night Witch | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout | Denton County Brewing Co. | Denton, TX | 16% ABV – listen
I’m not a fan of beers being too hot to the point that the spirit takes over the beer. Somehow Night Witch does it briefly and then gets back to your regularly scheduled beer. A spike of bourbon shows up about halfway through the sip, comes down, leaves, and lets the beer shine again. It’s amazing and thankfully the base stout is up to the challenge of backing that spike up. Chocolate, roast, caramel, and vanilla join with a fair amount of bitterness and a full mouthfeel that keeps things moving. The combination of roast and the bourbon spike makes you want to drink more and more of it. It never feels challenging or boozy at all. Between this, the barrel-aged milkshake IPA and their BA brown ale, I can say Denton County knows their way around a barrel.
15) CaramelCrisp | Caramel Popcorn Ale | Revolution Brewing/Garrett’s Popcorn | Chicago, IL | 7% ABV – read
There’s no way this should work as well as it did. Throwing caramel popcorn and brown sugar in a beer definitely leads to Insta likes but rarely something balanced and drinkable. CaramelCrisp does just that. A brown ale base, that caramel/brown sugar sweetness hits but then vanishes, thanks to the addition of kosher salt. The salt brings about a dry finish that, combined with the sweetness earlier, leaves you wanting more. The brown ale base is no slouch either, providing some nuttiness and a coating mouthfeel that just adds to the whole experience. The biggest takeaway of all, however, is that it does not taste like popcorn at all. It does pair exceedingly well with both of Garrett’s offerings – CaramelCrisp and CheddarCorn – so buy both and make it a movie night!
14) Midnight Magick 3: The Last Barrel on the Left | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout | WeldWerks Brewing (collab w/Voodoo Brewing) | Greeley, CO | ??? ABV – listen
Not content with their insane boil times for their stouts, WeldWerks now ventures into insane barrel-aging times with predictably tasty results. A blend of two different barrel-aged stout – one for 52 months and one for 38 months, Midnight Magick 3 is a testament to patience. Pouring like motor oil and staining your glass like only a WeldWerks stout can, Midnight Magick 3 brings back all the vibes of a traditional non-adjunct barrel-aged stout with big oak, wood, and dark chocolate notes. Some bitterness comes out from either the base beer or the oak and some cherries come to the forefront, making this drink like a dark chocolate-covered cherry. It never goes too heavy on the oak and keeps everything in check while remaining interesting, tasteful, and delicious.
13) Cochin | Saison with lemongrass tea | Azadi Brewing | Chicago, IL | 5.2% ABV – listen
Azadi excels when they make beers using Indian ingredients and Cochin definitely is no exception. Using lemongrass tea from Southern Indian states, Cochin amazingly and deftly balances the lemony and grass characteristics and melds it exceedingly well with the base saison. The saison does shine through a bit, but you’re going to want more of that lemongrass. It somehow manages to taste like summer – refreshing lemon with some freshly mowed grass. I have no idea how they managed it, but it works so well. Hopefully this is a summer seasonal beer as I would like more of this for those upcoming hot Chicago summer days. Summer in a can.
12) Gloe | Mixed Fermentation Saison in Oak Barrels with La Crescent grapes | Supermoon Beer Co. | Milwaukee, WI | 6.5% ABV – listen
Supermoon’s been killing it in my eyes and it doesn’t stop with Gloe. While the grapes are not prominent or over-the-top, they do blend well with the base saison. That base saison does a lot of the work, bringing lovely lemon and spice notes along with just the right amount of funk. And that’s really what made this beer stand out. Hints of cheese, locker room, and barn hit you on the aroma. When drinking it, however, they stay restrained, giving you just a little bit of it. The grapes bring in some light tannins and dryness to everything and the beer works as a whole exceedingly well. If only one aspect was out of whack, Gloe probably would’ve ranked lower on the show for me. You get a range of flavors that never veers too far to one side, making this something you can easily drink again and again and find new things about it.
11) Mehndi Special Reserve (batch 2) | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout | More Brewing | Huntley, IL | 14.3% ABV – listen
It still matters what you put in the barrel. While 10 year Old Rip Van Winkle barrels are hard to come by, what goes in needs to be of the highest quality and More’s Mehndi certainly meets that threshold. The Mehndi stout provides all the luxurious chocolate, while the barrel provides the standard oak, vanilla and possibly even some caramel. But, as with previous beers I’ve had aged in Winkle barrels, there’s more. A big fruit note came along for the flavor ride, giving off raspberries notes that made it taste like a raspberry variant Black Forest cake. Smooth with some well-hidden ABV makes this Mehndi one to try to get a taste of if you can.
10) Pathways | Barrel-aged saison | Upright Brewing | Portland, OR | 8% ABV – listen
While Upright is more known in Chicago for their sours (since they briefly showed up here years back), Upright also makes a fair amount of saisons. And, like their sours, balance is the name of the game. The grapes used blend with the saison so well, almost as if it was a part of the beer all along. Despite all the grapes, Pathways doesn’t finish bone dry, option for a wetter one. All the flavors are balanced. The lemon from the base saison comes out and is joined by the wine grapes and other fruits to make some that’s way too drinkable for 8% ABV. Between this, Fantasia and their cask mild (Mild Summer), Upright should be one of your stops if you ever visit Portland, OR.
9) Matt | American Strong Ale | Hair of the Dog | Portland, OR | 11.5% ABV – listen
Hair of the Dog might’ve actually started barrel aging beer in 1994 and Matt – while not one of the original to be barrel aged – benefits from the years of experience of Alan Sprints. Aged in Kentucky Bourbon and Apple Eau de Vie barrels, Matt seamlessly moves from a candied sugar-dominated base beer to the vanilla and oak of the bourbon barrel to the sweetness and bite of the apple brandy barrels. You can’t tell where the beer stops and the barrels begin as you just move from flavor to flavor, enjoying the totality of the result. It’s a masterstroke from one of the originals and one that should be sought out while you can still get it.
8) Intinction: Merlot | American Wild Ale | Russian River | Santa Rosa, CA | 7% ABV – listen
Intinction: Merlot always fell short for me when I had it. Why? Because I’ve only had it at the Great American Beer Festival, usually after having Intinction: Sauvignon Blanc, which I still feel is a superior beer. But that’s like saying Mount Everest is bigger than K2 – they’re still both really tall mountains. Having Intinction: Merlot on its own, it does everything I would expect of one of Russian River’s -tion line. Easy drinking base beer with an assertive amount of wine barrel presence but never so much that it makes the beer unbalanced. Grape notes are present throughout and the beer finishes dry with some sourness. A real treat and one you shouldn’t really overlook.
7) Small Hang Glide | Hoppy Wheat Ale | Modist Brewing | Minneapolis, MN | 6% ABV – listen
Given the amount of beer we’ve had on the show, it’s a rarity when I start clamoring for a style. Modist Brewing has successfully made me do it. Small Hang Glide, their hoppy wheat ale, managed to have all the bitterness and flavor of a pale ale while retaining the mouthfeel of a wheat beer. Add in a melange of fruits and berries to add to that bitterness and keeping any and all sweetness in check and you’ve got a new take on a “throwback”-style of beer. If you liked old-school Gumballhead from 3 Floyds, this will definitely scratch that itch (albeit with less bitterness). More hoppy wheat ales for the summer 2023 please!
6) Vivian | Pistachio cream ale with peaches | Around the Bend | Chicago, IL | 5% ABV – listen
Around the Bend’s Vera is one of my favorite year-round beers from a Chicago brewery. If it’s on tap somewhere I’ll more likely than not have a pint or two. When I saw peaches were being added to the mix, I was intrigued. Somehow, Vivian does everything Vera does and makes it better. The peach? Precise amount that gives you peach flavors without any aggressive side effects like tartness. The cream ale shows up even more, adding a healthy vanilla character to the entire beer without sacrificing drinkability or adding any sweetness. All the flavors combine to form a peaches and cremé-like beer that makes you want to go back for more. I didn’t think Around the Bend could improve on Vera, but they did. An excellent and overlooked beer.
5) Arise Coconut | Barrel-aged imperial stout with coconut | Butchertown Brewing | Louisville, KY | 12% ABV – listen
Every so often a beer comes along that makes you remember how good beer can be. Using a lot of toasted coconut, Butchertown has succeeded in making a beer as close as I’ve had to Goose Island’s Proprietor’s Bourbon County 2013. A lovely chocolate base gets a ton of support from the coconut. The coconut doesn’t come off as sun tan lotion but rather a nice complement to the base beer. There’s even a surprise bonus of some caramel notes. The mouthfeel is big and thick, keeping those coconut and chocolate notes on the tongue for a while. Sure, it’s sweet, but I’ve had much, much sweeter and it never ventures into saccharine for me. One of those beers that you don’t pair with a dessert because it is the dessert. If you’re going to Louisville put Butchertown at the top of your list to visit. Totally, totally worth it.
4) V.S.O.R. | Barrel-aged Ryewine | Revolution Brewing | Chicago, IL | 15.4% ABV – listen
Usually when it’s the beer from the lineup everyone’s been waiting for, it disappoints. V.S.O.R. actually surpassed my expectation (if that’s possible). Boozy on the nose but none on the sip, V.S.O.R. comes at you thick but doesn’t make it feel like you’re drinking at 15%+ ABV beer (until you finish the can, that is). The bready notes were welcome and combined with the rye spices to make a delicious liquid rye bread. Some caramel and toffee peek out as well, adding a bit of flavor variation to drinking it. Seriously, it tastes like a rum and coke. And that’s nuts. I felt batch1 was a little bit harsh on the alcohol, but batch 2 nails it. As the only Deep Wood beer to sell out, you’ll have to trade to try this one. It’s so worth it though. Do it.
3) Plum | Mead with plums | Pips Meadery | Beach Park, IL | 12% ABV – read
I was fortunate to be given a Pips mead recently, so I know I just had to drink and review it. And wow, did it live up to the hype. Plum was sweet but never too sweet, thanks to the tartness from the plum addition cutting it just enough to make it enjoyable. Although it smells like communion wine, it never gets that way when drinking it. Dare I say this is a sessionable mead, since most meads I’ve had clock in at 14-15% ABV. But man did I want to finish the bottle in one sitting. It reminded me of purple nerds, which is something I didn’t think could ever happen. My experience with Blue Suede Shews many years ago has been confirmed – Pips is making some of the best mead in the country, right up there with Schramm’s. Near impossible to get, but definitely worth it.
2) Rey Cuvée | Barrel-aged Imperial Stout with vanilla | Cruz Blanca | Chicago, IL | 13% ABV – listen
I would always describe Rey Cuvee as ambitious. Taking the previous 3 years of Rey Gordo and then aging that blend for a year in bourbon barrels always produces a winner. But this year they went and added vanilla. I’m of the mind that you should sooner let the barrel shine when doing this much aging to it so I was immediately put off. Then I had it. Extremely smooth, chocolatey with the vanilla perfectly added to the beer. Like a chocolate cake with vanilla icing. While a bit sweet, it never goes too sweet, making finishing off a can an easy endeavor. Elegant, refined, balanced, smooth, a hint of bourbon heat, excellence. While I have had similar tasting beers, the balance and integration on Rey Cuvée stand alone, only being held out of the top stop on this list by an insanely unique beer that somehow pulled off a season. I have my pre-order in for the 2023 Luchadors ready to go.
1) Undulant & Impermanent | Barrel-aged saison with maple-roasted carrots and fernet botanicals | Keeping Together | Chicago, IL | 6.5% ABV – listen
We’ve had a carrot beer before and it wasn’t, well, good. I’ve had maple-glazed carrots before as well, but never in a beer of any kind. But I should know not to doubt Keeping Together. This might be their best beer overall and that’s really saying something. Both the maple sweetness and vegetal carrot come through on the palate, but in such moderation that it most definitely does not overpower the beer. The fernet botanicals and barrel-aging provide some depth and heft to the base saison. In probably our highest compliment, it made us feel like we were in the fall season, longing for crunchy leaves, windbreakers, and a slight chill in the air. A singular beer that I have never had anything like before and (most likely) will never again. An absolutely outstanding and unique beer that, if the opportunity arises, I will gladly purchase and consume again. I’m hopeful to get that chance whenever Keeping Together starts up again.