Paste's Top 10 Beers of the Month: March 2017

Drink Lists Craft Beer
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<i>Paste's</i> Top 10 Beers of the Month: March 2017

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 February here.

By no means a comprehensive list of everything new that came out in March (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!

Firestone Walker Fortem

Typically, a regional brewery introducing a new limited run DIPA available for a few months wouldn’t exactly be significant beer industry news. But when that brewery is Firestone Walker, and that beer is more or less the philosophical stand-in for the dearly departed Double Jack IPA, that’s a very different story. All in all, I think Firestone Walker has done an admirable job here of creating a new beer that channels some of Double Jack’s characteristics while tailoring it more closely to what the market is currently dictating.If their customers go crazy for Fortem, they’ll surely find a way to make it more often than 25% of the year.

Almanac Farmer’s Reserve Nectarine

To make this one, Almanac added nectarines to a sour base beer. The wild ale was aged in wine casks and pours a light orange. The brew has hints of tangerine and meyer lemon on the nose and is a beautifully balanced sour with tart nectarine, and a dry, slightly funky finish.
It’s definitely worth picking up if you’re out and about looking for a great sour. The beer is designed to be something you can drink now, but that should also age well.

Terrapin Walking Dead Lucille Stout

At 9.4% ABV, you kind of have to call this an “imperial stout,” but it doesn’t really quite carry itself as one. It has the substantial body, but not quite the volume of flavor you might expect from reading the description. Instead, it’s ultimately more easy-drinking than most other stouts in the same bracket. On the nose, this beer is quite roast-forward, with a deep, smoky roast profile and plenty of coffee, ‘ala French roast or espresso. There’s a hint of brown sugar, but not nearly as much suggestion of sweetness as I would expect from something with “molasses” on the label. You also get some light vanilla, but not much in the way of wood on the nose.

Crux Fermentation Project PCT Porter

Crux brewed this beer specifically for the Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers who stumble into the brewery looking for respite from the trail. It pours dark brown (some would call it “black”) and emits strong notes of chocolate and some roasted coffee on the nose. That thick head you see in the picture above disappears in about four seconds. PCT hits the high notes of the style without getting too weird. It’s easy to drink in the way that you want an everyday beer to be easy to drink; you don’t have to think about it to enjoy it.

Christian Moerlein Brewing Thirteen/164

Each year, Cincinnati’s Christian Moerlein Brewing releases an anniversary beer. The brewery itself is now 164 years old. Established in 1853 by Christian Moerlein, a German immigrant who lived in the Cincinnati area, the brewery was one of the first in the United States. After a small hiatus, in 2004 the brewery reopened under the Christian Moerlein name once again, making it now 13. Each year the brewery creates a special barrel-aged beer to celebrate its anniversary. This year’s celebratory beer is aptly named Thirteen/164, celebrating both the brewery’s original birthday as well as its rebirthday, when it was reopened under the same name. This year’s brew is a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with cherries. Clocking in at a hefty 13.2%, the brew was aged on dark cherries in charred oak barrels.

Straffe Hendrik Bruges Tripel Bier

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This month we did a blind tasting of 36 Belgian Triples, and Straffe Hendrik Bruges Tripel Bier walked away with top honors. Referred to by one of the tasters on his sheet as “concentrated tripel,” it packs a serious punch in its 9% ABV frame. Boozier than most (though on par with many of the other Belgians), it has a sherry-like alcohol note that is not unpleasant, and fades without astringency into a plethora of fruit flavors of both banana and red fruit. To quote one score sheet: “Soft and peppery spice, very nice.” It’s a very assertive take on tripel, but it manages to do so (and to express quite a bit of alcohol) while having a dry finish, which is fairly rare. Even more rare is the fact that it can be both boozy and dry without being at all harsh on the palate. This beer walks a very delicate balancing act, and pulls it off with eloquence.

Westmalle Tripel

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Coming in second in our tasting was Westmalle Tripel. You can’t help but have high expectations for “the original tripel,” but Westmalle meets those expectations and more. In reality, history may not entirely bear out the claim—tripel was supposedly invented by one Hendrik Verlinden of the Drie Linden Brewery, a secular brewer who happened to be helping the monks of Westmalle refine their own brewing techniques in the 1920s and 1930s—but whatever the case, Westmalle introduced this beer by 1934 and has been making it ever since. It has every aspect you consider classic in a true Belgian tripel: Spice, pronounced fruity esters, a bit of grassy hops (which makes me think this bottle must have been fairly fresh), and a creamy mouthfeel built on a foundation of bready, doughy malt. There’s a touch of booze that almost all the Belgian-made tripels have, and some slight oxidation that you expect in this style. This is one case where the ur-beer of a genre has somehow managed to stay at the very top of the rankings, 80-plus years later.

Citradamus IIPA

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This month we did a side-by-side tasting of five Melvin IPAs. This was our favorite of the group, combining the fruit of Asterisk with the resin and green flavors of 2×4. It’s very grassy on the nose; the sort of smell that reminds me of a freshly mown lawn on a summer morning when the grass is just a touch too wet and leaves big clumps. That grassiness is joined by some very fresh, juicy orange citrus, and the two make an excellent tandem. This one is all Citra, which is interesting—despite the name, I don’t always perceive single hop Citra beers as overwhelmingly “citrusy,” because they often seem quite tropical as well. On the palate you get both the resin/grass character and lots of juicy orange, although it’s less sweet and soft overall than the Asterisk, and more balanced. The nose is just great, although I recognize this is a fairly specific taste profile you either like or don’t. It’s like a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice after cutting your grass. I love it.

Surly Unbridled

There was a time when words like “earthy” and “floral” would’ve never been found in the description of a Surly beer. You would’ve been more liable to find descriptors like “fiery,” “obsidian,” and “hellish” listed on their black-metal-inspired bottles. But this was the time before the departure of figurehead brewer Todd Haug. In the months since Haug left for Three Floyds, Surly has gone through something of an identity crisis. They’ve discarded the misanthropic Arrogant Bastard-style brand voice, moving their press and marketing team in house, and added a focus on sessionable beers like Dodgy Geezer and Xtra Citra — two things that are inherently at odds with their palate-nuking, liquid-fuck-you beginnings. This is what makes Unbridled such an interesting pour.