When it comes to beer, there are a ton of choices out there, with more being added everyday. Each month, we round up some of our fave new finds. Some of the brews we did full reviews on, while others are just special gems we found on tap while we were out and about that we think you should know about.
Check out our favorite beers from January here.
By no means a comprehensive list of everything new that came out in January (we can only drink so much!), here are some of our favorites that we’d recommend you grabbing a pint of while you’re out with friends, or picking up a few bottles of at your local bottle shop.
Discover something new this month that you absolutely love? Be sure to tell us about it in the comments!
With a deep gold, slightly orange hue, the hop-forward Windows Up IPA shows that the West Coast IPA is still thriving and evolving. The new offering from Alpine uses in-demand Citra and Mosaic hops and is described by Alpine as falling squarely under the “dank” category. The mix of Citra and Mosaic hops is both soft and bitter, the best of both worlds. With an aromatic floral and orange nose, the flavor profile is equal parts soft and supple Citra goodness with Mosaic potency. The flavor begins soft on the mouth with a green meets papaya-citrus wash over the tongue that breaks away in a piney punch that leads to a bitter finish. The 41-IBU count won’t set any tongues awry either, as it doesn’t linger quite as long as one expects with such a resinous first impression.
It’s the mouthfeel people, not the hops, that steals the show, which is odd for a DIPA. But then, this beer doesn’t drink like you’d expect it to. There’s nothing terribly malty to speak of—no bread or caramel notes weighing the beer down and offering balance to the hops. It doesn’t even come across as particularly boozy. The 8.4% ABV is well hidden in each cloud-like sip, allowing MegaWheat to play out like a light, easy-drinking summer ale. It’s a dangerous combination. But that’s okay. We’re all adults here. Stone released MegaWheat at the end of January, and it should be on the shelves for another month or so.
On first impression, this beer reminds me of the Manhattan cocktail. It’s bourbon, it’s cherry, and a little sweet. The barrel-aging also tempers the mouthfeel and it’s got a bit of that tongue-coating cocktail feel to it. Frootwood is similar to the classic Manhattan cocktail, but it’s still a cherry ale at its base, and the extra ingredients never override the flavor profile.
Pouring light red with a copper-ish hue, Frootwood’s bouquet is bourbon and cherry. The spirit dominates the nose and first impression on tasting, but quickly fades. It’s an interesting beer, though, because the bourbon is all up front while many barrel-aged beers leave a lingering and stringent flavor.
This month we did a blind side-by-side tasting of 144 barrel-aged imperial stouts, and Fremont Brewing Company’s BBA Dark Star walked away the victor. We’ve finally reached the top of the mountain: The epitome of barrel-aged stout. And perhaps fittingly, it’s just a “plain” old bourbon barrel-aged stout that takes home the championship. No spices, no cacao nibs, no vanilla beans. No coffee, either—in a mirror image of the Oskar Blues beer, this time it’s the original version of BBA Dark Star that is superior. But that doesn’t mean this beer doesn’t have unique aspects. In fact, the way BBA Dark Star is blended for consistency and depth of flavor is interesting: It’s actually three different batches of the base beer, aged for 18, 12 and eight months respectively before being blended together. In doing so, Fremont is presumably able to achieve a profile that combines the best aspects of both shorter and longer aging periods.
Coming in second in our blind tasting this month was Jackie’s O’s Spirit Beast. This is your complexity champion, right here. Holy cow, what a beer this is. We’re lucky to have gotten Jackie O’s into this tasting, as they haven’t always been represented in our blind tastings in the past, but it’s easy to see why they’ve been called one of the most underrated breweries in the country. This beer is nothing short of a revelation, and it would be hailed as great coming from any brewery in the country. It’s a staggeringly complex mixture of five different stouts, plus a quadrupel, blended and then aged in a variety of barrels before being blended again. Say what? Who the hell puts this much work into one beer? What kind of mad geniuses are running this asylum?
Our stout tasting was too epic to just include two beers in this list. Coming in third in the blind tasting was Oscar Blues Java BBA Ten FIDY. There was a discussion we often had during these tastings—just because you put a beer in a barrel, that shouldn’t automatically give it “bonus points” and increase its rating, as seems to happen on any app such as Untappd. The same is true of adding an adjunct like coffee; it doesn’t always make the base beer objectively better … except when it does. And it does here, because the “Java” version of BBA Ten FIDY is absolutely delectable. It actually doesn’t go overboard with the coffee, and the addition is probably a bit more subtle than some drinkers would like or expect. But the thing is, Ten FIDY is already such a roast-driven imperial stout that the coffee addition marries beautifully to the existing roast profile and simply makes it more complex and interesting. Coffee melds with booze to create a sweet, Kahlua-like profile, but there’s also quite a lot of dark fruitiness in this stout as well. From one score sheet: “Deep, roasty coffee, and chocolate raspberry.” Moderately sweet, it both packs a wallop in terms of volume of flavor and is wonderfully complex. We wish this beer was available year round.
San Francisco’s Beer Week was at the beginning of February. At the opening Gala for the week, the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild was pouring this gem, New Frontier, a kolsch made using satsumas and Douglas Fir.
During San Francisco’s Beer Week this year we were able to get our hands on a taste of Russian River Brewing’s highly-coveted Pliny the Younger. General consensus was that this year’s version of the exceptionally hoppy brew was a step above last year’s version.
During the annual Double IPA Festival this year we had the opportunity to try Fat Head’s HopJuJu. This beer has been a big one at competitions, taking home a gold at GABF in 2013 and 2015, a bronze last year, and a gold at the World Beer Cup in 2016. It’s an aggressive beer, with hints of tropical fruit, citrus, and pine and an amazing juicy hop finish. Something you definitely want to come back for more of.
One of our favorite San Francisco Beer Week events this year was a Fieldwork Tap takeover at Richmond Republic, and one of our fave beers from the event was the brewery’s Petit Verdot Grand Gose. This one was easy to sip, and while it might have been a bit better suited to the summer rather than the middle of winter, it was one that managed to pull us away from Fieldwork’s amazing IPA lineup.