Beer got a little crazy in 2013. From ultra hop bombs and deliciously oddball combinations to entirely new brews we’ve never quite seen before, it’s been a good run so far. We suspect that’s only going to get better as more breweries join the fray, but before we charge forward into the great unknown of tomorrow, here’s a quick look back at 20 of the year’s most inventive and tasty craft beer offerings that were released for the first time in 2013. Is the list heavy on IPA’s and bourbon-aged beer? Yes. Are we going to apologize for that? No.
20. Victory DirtWolf
Earthy and fruity hop aromas and citrus flavors lead the charge in this balanced but potent medium-bodied double IPA, which we dubbed in our review, your standard IPA’s “older, hotter sister.” Expect all kinds of floral and pine notes from start to finish.
19. Otter Creek Kind Ryed IPA
This latest hop-forward addition to Otter Creek’s regular line-up is dank in all of the right kind of ways—grapefruit and lemony hops out the ying—yet it finds great balance from the rye malts which add just enough sweetness and spice. This is your beer if you like a West Coast-style IPA with a bit of a twist.
18. Stone Farking Wheaton w00tStout
A tasty limited edition three-way collaboration between geek hero Wil Wheaton (Star Trek), Stone Brewing, and Drew Curtis of Fark.com (news satire at its finest), this dark imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels simply explodes with nutty, vanilla, boozy flavor. Epic to the max.
17. Sam Adams Double Agent IPL
Tons of grapefruit and pine-laden hop flavor and aroma in a light bodied, very drinkable lager? Yes please. The Double Agent crosses previously well-defined borders, mixes styles, throws polka dots with stripes, bends genders, and totally works. It’s a summer thirst-quencher, and a flavor-packed hop bomb.
16. Jester King Viking Metal
A few draughts of this wild, smoky gin-barrel-aged farmhouse ale brewed with myrica gale and juniper (that stuff that makes gin taste like gin) will have you pillaging villages and uttering battle cries. There’s a lot of blending and multiple barrel aging and inoculating of wild yeast and souring bacteria that goes into the process of Viking Metal. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
15. Tallgrass Zombie Monkie
You thankfully won’t find any mummified monkey bits in this post-apocalyptic American porter, but it has chocolaty espresso malt flavor in spades. Bonus: There’s just enough hops to keep this porter from being a one-note wonder. The citrus character knocks the chocolate down a peg, in a good way.
14. Cigar City Good Gourd
I know, a pumpkin ale? But this is a pumpkin ale from Cigar City, packed with all the pumpkin pie spices you’d imagine, but underscored with floral hops and aged in rum barrels so that the result is so much more complex than just a pumpkin ale.
13. Wynkoop Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout
A real ballsy brew…literally. This stout is rocking roasted bull testicles to round out its velvety smooth flavor. To be precise, the beer is brewed with 25 pounds of sliced, roasted bull testicles. Shock value aside, it’s one two-pack worth trying thanks to the savory notes and hits of chocolate and, um, nuts. The beer quickly reached legendary status after being introduced at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival, and 2013 marked the first time Wynkoop canned their balls.
12. Firestone Walker 17
FW17 isn’t a single beer, it’s seven different beers run through 220 oak barrels all blended together for a bourbon beer extravaganza. Look, Firestone Walker is one of the most highly respected craft breweries in the country, and they have the right to go big when celebrating their 17th birthday. So, with this anniversary beer, you get all the vanilla, oak, caramel, and bourbon notes you’ve come to love from FW, just more of them. And you get 13.3% ABV. Boom.
11. Long Trail Limbo IPA
A vortex of delicious candy sweetness and tropical citrus that will transport you to another dimension that you just might not want to come back from. A vortex I tell you. The mix of Australian and Pacific Northwestern hops build to a bitter crescendo (Limbo packs 80 IBU’s). Consider yourself warned.
10. Sixpoint 3Beans
This boozy baltic porter pairs coffee beans, cacao beans, and romano beans into a trifecta of dark, rich, malty goodness that hides a wicked 10% ABV. The beer is aged in oak for a hint of vanilla, because the coffee and chocolate in this thing just weren’t interesting enough on their own.
9. Terrapin White Chocolate Moo Hoo
Take Terrapin’s standard Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout, then add white chocolate to the mix. Sweet Baby Jesus, this beer is decadent. Wait, is it even a beer? Or is it an alcohol-infused ice cream pint? Maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way, it elevates dessert to a whole different level of awesome.
8. Deep Ellum Numb Comfort
This American Barleywine was packed with malty goodness and balanced with fruity hops—like drinking caramel velvet with a light hop chaser. The Dallas brewery put the Barleywine into rye barrels last year and released it this year on 4-20, a date that apparently has some significance in popular culture. We also like any beer named after Pink Floyd. Sadly, unless you were drinking in Dallas last Spring, you probably didn’t get a chance to sample this beer, as it was only released on draft locally.
7. Founders Doom
Being aged in bourbon barrels for four months gives this resinous, sweet imperial IPA a boozy quality to match its intense flavor. Take the hop forward character of the base beer, Double Trouble, and layer it with notes of bourbon and vanilla. It’s hard to imagine how hanging out with bourbon could mellow something, but that’s exactly what happens here.
6. Three Floyds Permanent Funeral
Gory and badass, this mighty powerful pale ale collaboration with the grindmetal band Pig Destroyer is a tour-de-force for your tastebuds. Permanent Funeral packs 100 IBU’s and 10.5% ABV, which makes you think you have to be in a grindmetal band yourself to handle this bottle, but you’d be wrong. There’s balance here. Malts. Just don’t take your pint to the mosh pit.
5. Ommegang Take the Black Stout
Mmmm…pop culture reference. Ommegang’s second Game of Thrones inspired brew is more fruity and Belgian-inspired than your average stout, but that turns out to be a great thing. The roasted chocolate character is given depth by an array of fruit (banana, cherry) and light hop bitterness.
4. Gigantic The Future is Now
Look at that, there’s an Amber Ale on the list! But it’s an Amber from Gigantic, so you know there’s more to it than just the typical caramel, malty sweetness. Yep, this Amber ale leans towards the hoppier side of the fence than most, injecting a surprising IPA-ness to the Amber equation. This beer is so bright it pairs perfectly with a nice pair of shades. You know, because you’re future’s so bright…okay, that was better in my head.
3. Avery Uncle Jacob’s Stout
Part Imperial Stout, part whiskey, Avery takes its already robust stout and ages it for six months in bourbon barrels for an incredibly rich, decadent Bourbon Barrel Stout. 2013 marked the second batch of this annual release, which comes in at a hefty 17.42 % ABV. The 12 ounce single bottles were sold for $12 each. I’m not good at math, but I think that’s $1 an ounce.
2. Stone Southern Charred Double Bastard Ale
Packed with malts, packed with hops, Stone found balance in their Double Bastard by weighing the hell out of both sides of the scale. Then they aged the beer for 10 months in Kentucky bourbon American oak barrels. The result is an incredibly boozy (12.6% ABV), incredibly malty, incredibly hoppy, incredibly bourbony beer that Paste rated a 9.2 this year. In a year of bourbon barrel-aged beers, this one made the biggest impact on us.
1. Westbrook Gose
The relatively new Westbrook Brewing turned to Old Europe for inspiration for its Gose, a sour wheat beer that dates back to 16th century Germany. Few American breweries attempt to brew the Gose because, well, maybe they don’t like history. Westbrook’s fondness of history pays off here. The brewery uses sea salt and coriander in the brewing, for a sour and salty experience unlike anything else in the “summer beer” category. Light, refreshing and only 4% ABV, we’re still looking for a reason to stop drinking this beer.