We do most of our beer reviews on our social media accounts but four times a year we put together our "Best of" quarterly lists to highlight the very best of the best that we've enjoyed over the last few months. This list runs from July to the end of September, and includes beers that we have had for the very first time only.
The format is different this time and hopefully more friendly to your eyes! Enjoy and let us know your picks in the comments or on Twitter!
Todd the Axe Man by Surly Brewing Company
When Surly comes out with a new IPA brewed with a boatload of Citra and Mosaic hops, you drink it! Named after head brewer and badass metalhead Todd Haug, this beer is easily one of the best I’ve ever had. Yes, ever had. Ever. It has a giant fruit flavor and even bigger fruity aroma; both tropical and stone fruit come through. There is some pine and citrus, but all the flavors work really well together—perfectly, if you will. The malt is present despite being a hop-bomb, with some sweetness and honey notes. A world-class IPA that should be made year-round, but alas, it is not. If you find it (fresh), drink it!
Smells Like a Safety Meeting from Dark Horse Brewery
I love dank IPAs. That’s to say I enjoy IPAs that smell like a bag of expensive weed, and as the name references, this is one of those beers. This beer is all about the aroma, but a solid bitterness balanced with the malt and hops makes it a world-class IPA. I like this one more than their flagship, Crooked Tree.
Eric’s Ale from New Belgium Brewery
It had been seven years since NB released this delicious sour ale, so now I was finally able to try it! Released in the dog days of summer, this tart ale was perfect for a hot night. Eric’s Ale is a complex beer with notes of oak and a lovely peach flavor. This was the beer of summer!
Abraxas from Perennial Artisan Ales
I finally got my hands on some freaking Abraxas! Good Lord, does it live up to the hype. It’s easily one of the best stouts that has ever passed my lips. It is hugely complex and becomes more so as it warms in the glass—cocoa notes with vanilla and spice finished with some background heat. It’s rare but worth seeking out.
Grizzly King from Off Color Brewing
Despite the "professional" sign on the pic above, it's apparently called Grizzly King according to the internet. A Berliner Weisse with fruit (and spice?) added. There is not much info available on this beer; Off Color says nothing about it on their website, and only a few bars seemed to get kegs. Luckily one of those kegs made its way to the Chicago Beer Society Annual Picnic, where Joanna and I drank the hell out of it! It’s an easy drinker with low ABV that’s refreshing on a hot day, almost like a spritzy tropical fruit juice. Passion fruit and citrusy notes of grapefruit abound. I wish I could’ve bought this all summer…and fall and winter…and, well, you get the picture.
Double Jungle Boogie from Marz Community Brewing
Guys, I love Marz. I love everything about them. I have yet to have a beer from them that I don’t really enjoy. Double JB is a hot contender for best beer that I’ve had this year, let alone this quarter. This beer is big in every way: aroma, flavor and ABV. It’s complex and interesting but also really fun and different. It’s what I look for in beer!
Charlatan from Maplewood Brewery & Distillery
Just a damn solid and fine pale ale. Bright, smooth, balanced and easy to drink. Juicy, a little bit tropical, a little piney, and a lot delicious. If you run across anything these guys make, get some.
Valleaudated from Exit Strategy Brewing Company
As Adam says, I’m just recently coming over to the stout side. This has been one of my favorites (along with Maplewood’s Fat Pug; holla at me, Otto!) that I’ve ventured to try as the weather has gotten cooler. It was so, so, so good. It might do well with some extra body to it, but that didn’t detract from the wonderful flavors in this milk stout. Chocolately, slightly sweet and very aromatic, it was an absolute pleasure to drink this stout.
Pamplemousse by Lake Effect Brewing Company
All right, confession time: I’ve had this beer before. BUT IT’S NOT THE SAME BEER. I refuse to put it in the same category as the release I had before, which was sadly disappointing (sorry, guys). The Summer 2015 release (and beyond) of Pamplemousse is one of the best grapefruit sours I’ve ever had! Not overly funky, balanced tart and sweet, and wonderfully citrusy and zingy. It was like a fizzy grapefruit/orange mimosa on steroids. Get your hands on this if you still can, and you can thank me later. Lake Effect is a tiny little brewery down the street from me that I’ve had the pleasure of working with recently, and these guys don’t get enough recognition. They make some really kick-ass beers. They’re available only locally here in the Chicagoland area but worth a trade or a trip.
Liliko'i Kepolo by Avery Brewing Company
I didn’t want to include a second fruited beer on my list, but I’ve gone back to Liliko’I Kepolo for months ago and recommended it to a lot of other people, so I can’t not include it on my list for Q3. This is a witbier with passionfruit added. It’s light and tangy, and the distinctive passion fruit flavor comes through with a subtle funk that isn’t overpowering in any way. Best thing is, it comes in cans and is widely available. It’s definitely a crowd pleaser, so grab a pack next time you’re looking for something new to bring to a get-together.
*The beer isn't on their website for some reason? Weird.
Rodney started a new job and has a tiny adorable baby so he's been super busy. He hasn't been able to do as much writing about the beer he's had in the recent months. He gave us not only his Top 5 of Q3, we also got Runner's Up in some fun and creative categories.
Solemn Oath Category
Conquest BA Belgian Tripel collaboration with The Bruery
Big Barrel Make Magic BA Belgian Dubbel
Both barrel-aged Belgian-style beers were top-notch, but I chose Conquest for the smoothness in the finish and the presentation…oh, the presentation! If you are going to make special, one-off beers and charge me a tad more, you might as well give me something different.
Local, Barrel-Aged Beers Category
Buckledown/Haymarket Awkward Exchange BA Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Noon Whistle BA Bob Ross Scotch Ale on Cherries
People line up for days, stalk delivery trucks, and sell their souls for well-known beer releases while amazing beers like these slip quietly, civilly and deliciously through the cracks. Awkward Exchange was so tasty that it became my favorite beer of the quarter. The blackberry paired amazingly well with the Belgian strong base.
Hoppy Goodness Category
Marz Jungle Boogie APA
Zombie Dust who? 3 Floyds has been the reigning champion of hoppy beers for years, but if these Chicagoland breweries have anything to say about it, they have a serious fight on their hands. I love canned beers, and Brickstone has been a staple in my fridge since I tried their first six-pack. Jungle Boogie is one of the best smelling beers I have had this year—think peach gummy candies mixed with citrus juices.
Drie Fonteinen Framboos
Tin Man Damascene Apricot Sour
The people I drank Framboos with did not appreciate good beer, so I got to drink the whole thing by myself. That was a good night. It’s not an easy beer to find, so the creamy, lightly sour Apricot goodness of Damascene makes a great alternative. The lacto paired perfectly with the slight bit of sourness to create an ideal summer sipping beer.
Dark As Your Soul Category
Pipeworks Black Tuna
18th Street Bitches Bank
I always liked Black IPAs, but then I drank Black Tuna, and my mind was truly blown. Bitches Bank was awesome on tap at 18th Street when it was 90 degrees outside, but I think I might enjoy it even more in today’s colder weather.