Much like music, beer is subjective and each individual has their own tastes and preferences. Some people consume their beer casually while for others beer can be both a journey and a destination. Reviewing beer is a tough job, but someone has to do it. In 2016 we reviewed a lot of craft beers. The majority were made in America, many of which were local, and we even reviewed a few imports. And after this year of painstaking research, we bring to you the ten best beers we reviewed during 2016. While your personal list may be different from ours, we appreciate that and encourage your thoughts and feedback. After all, beer is the ultimate conversation starter, right? Here's a toast to our favorite beers we reviewed in 2016.
10. Scottsdale Blonde - Huss Brewing Company, Tempe
Scottsdale Blonde, a Kolsch-style ale, is a very popular year-round offering and perhaps Huss Brewing's most accessible beer. It's a simply constructed brew that drinks easy and refreshing, giving it appeal to those just stepping into the craft-beer world. The fact that it holds true to the traditional Germanic kolsch style of brewing also gives it credibility with beer aficionados. Good all year round, Scottsdale Blonde is a fantastic choice when the weather is warm and you want a cold refresher.
9. Blanche de Bier - Pedal Haus Brewery, Tempe
This beer is a favorite of Pedal Haus brewmaster Derek "Doc" Osbourne and it's apparent why. Soft white wheat flavors and aromas sit center stage surrounded by orange peel and just the right amount of coriander creating a sweet and tart sensation. Tremendously drinkable and light on the palate, the flavors are all perfectly in sync, with a hint of yeast tartness to tie it all together. Enjoy this witbier with Pedal Haus' Bavarian pretzels outside on their remodeled patio.
8. Red Seal Amber - North Coast Brewing Company, Ft. Bragg, CA
California's North Coast Brewing has been making quality beers since 1988 and Real Seal Amber is arguably their best offering. To this reviewer, Red Seal is the amber ale that all ambers should be judged by. This hop forward beer has a solid, flavorful malt bill that is reminiscent of toasted bread crust. The aggressive bittering hop regimen cleanses the palate and just enough aroma hops help steal the show.
7. Hatch Chile Gatos - McFate Brewing Company, Scottsdale
Steve McFate continues to churn out delicious, easy drinking ales at his two Scottsdale locations. Hatch Chile Gatos is a true southwest take on a traditional cream ale, giving the beer a whole new dimension without any distracting heat or excessive flavor. The chile is subtle and makes its presence known by instilling a very clean, crisp pepper taste that lingers into the finish.
6. London Porter - Fuller's Brewery, Chiswick, West London, UK
Our only import to crack the top ten list this year, Fuller's London Porter has been setting the standard for the brown porter style for generations. What is a brown porter, you ask? It's a porter that has subdued roast qualities, less alcohol, a slightly fruity essence and typically much more brown than black color, when compared with traditional American robust porters, such as Deschutes' Black Butte Porter. Move over Guinness; London Porter is the perfect gateway dark beer for someone just getting into dark craft beers.
5. Choklat - Southern Tier Brewing Company, Lakewood, NY
The Empire State's contribution to our list can be summed up with the phrase "chocolate bar in a glass." Choklat uses cacao nibs as part of their magic elixir to create a chocolate experience that is second to none. And, Southern Tier's brewers do this with a true artisan skill as this ten percent monster will sneak up on you like a thief in the night, so best to share Choklat with friends.
4. Connection Saison - Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, Gilbert
Connection Saison is Arizona in a glass. With malt grown and harvested in the Verde Valley and hops grown down south in Elgin, this beer defines what is right about the Arizona brewing scene. The malt's extremely flavorful quality remains from the tip of the tongue well into the finish yet the beer retained its subtle nature, as a saison should, finishing crisp and clean. Connection is a subtle, elegant, local, fresh beer with flowing flavors that work harmoniously together. The fact that it was made with ingredients grown and harvested in Arizona, using environmentally conscious methods, is an added bonus that we can all celebrate.
3. Luponic Distortion - Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, CA
Firestone Walker Brewing Company has been named "mid sized brewery of the year" multiple times at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. Luponic Distortion is another in a long line of world class beers produced by this legendary brewery. Luponic Distortion is actually a series of beers, all which showcase specific hops. Firestone Walker keeps a continuous "base beer" and alters the hops that are used with each new version of the series. All editions of the series have been great, with our personal favorite being the very first Luponic, entitled Revolution No. 001. Simply stated, it's a hop lover's paradise.
2. Dark Munich Lager - Helton Brewing Company, Phoenix
Brian Helton, the mastermind and brewmaster behind Helton Brewing Company in Phoenix, scored the highest local beer on our list with his take on this classic German marzen style. Marzen, also known as oktoberfest, is a wildly popular fall seasonal. Helton's version features a very clear, deep copper color, an everlasting foam head and wonderful aromas of toast bread and light stone fruits such as apricots. The beer is flawless and the flavors of Munich and pilsner malts balance meticulously with the conservative hopping regimen. This malt forward masterpiece is an ideal pairing with any German cuisine, especially bratwurst or wienerschnitzel.
1. Tank 7 - Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, MO
Black pepper and orange zest are set on a backbone of cracker and Italian bread crust malt flavors. Citrus and fruit notes derive from both the yeast and the hops. Fully attenuated, this beer has very little residual sugars remaining and thus allows the beer to finish very dry and clean.
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Tank 7 delivers a carbonic bite from the high level of carbonation and a long lasting foam stand yet still flows creamy throughout the palate. A pleasant alcohol warmth exists toward the finish with no astringency. The spicy, pepper-like phenolics derived from the yeast give the beer its character. This is an example of a world class beer with complexity and absolutely no flaws of any kind. All components work brilliantly with each other to create a liquid masterpiece.
The aforementioned level of carbonation, the moderate hopping and the dry finish all lead to making Tank 7 the epitome of a palate cleanser. It can be paired with many different styles of food due to its versatility. Try Tank 7 with spicy Italian sausage, pork pibil, barbecue or your favorite fried food.
If you only have time to try one new beer this week, go pick up a Tank 7 from Boulevard Brewing and enjoy our favorite beer of 2016.