As we enter the final months of 2016, our National Retailer Beer Panel looks back at the best brews they drank during this past year. These range from foreign beers produced by the likes of Cantillon or De Struise Brouwers, to entries from top U.S. breweries like Trillium or Hill Farmstead. Below are what beers most impressed our panel in 2016.
As always, these reviews include brief tasting notes, and a rating out of 100. If you’re a retail or off-premise professional who would like to learn more about participating in our panel, please contact associate editor Kyle Swartz at (203) 855-8499 ext. 2225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(99) Perrin No Rules
Bourbon barrel-aged imperial porter with coconut and turbinado sugar. Pours a dark brown with a medium tan head. Aromas of coconut and bourbon. Flavors of coconut and bourbon dominate. Great mouth feel. ABV is very well hidden. 15% ABV
(99) Brasserie Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus (1997)
Dug this out of the cellar. Exquisite! Full, very dry, lingering, tart raspberry, cinnamon, and yeasty goodness! Age has done it well. The fruit flavors held up impeccably.
(98) Rodenbach Alexander
Flanders red ale, partially aged in oak and with cherries, brewed again after a 17-year absence. Pours a deep red with a thin white head stained pink, cherries on the nose. Taste is a perfect balance of cherry jam and tartness, highly drinkable. 5.6% ABV
(98) Funky Buddha Wide Awake It’s Morning
Imperial porter with maple syrup, coffee and bacon. Pours dark black, with a thin tan head. Aromas of coffee, and maple sweetness. This beer is breakfast in a glass. Coffee and smoke compete with an almost over-the-top maple sweetness. 10% ABV
(97) Trillium Brewing Company Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street IPA
As soon as you pop the top you are hit with aromas of tropical fruit. Like so many “New England” style IPA’s, this pours opaque. The beer looks like unfiltered orange juice. Aggressively hopped with Mosaic, and boy does that show. Tons of juicy tropical fruit dances across your tongue. There is also a wonderful dank bitterness for balance. This is the definition of a juicy IPA. 7.3% ABV.
(97) Hair of the Dog Brewing Company Doggie Claws (2009)
Red apple skin, ripe figs, candied stone fruits, cherry and strawberry fruit leather, fresh green hop flavors, but light bitterness that’s just enough for balance. Powdered chocolate, herbs, grapeseed, toffee, so incredibly complex. Medium-bodied and semidry in the finish. Not too big or cloying. Fantastic balance, solid carbonation, and ample acidity which cleans the sticky, sweet palate after every sip. This has held up insanely well and can probably age another 5+ years easily. One of the best beers I’ve had in a long time.
(97) 2013 Dubuisson Scaldis Prestige Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Hazy, golden brown color with a thin white robe. Slightly nutty aromas, with a hint of dried apricot and spice notes. Sweet, malty caramel flavors and layers of dark chocolate and raisins, supported by well-integrated, dry, tannic notes and a slightly vinous character from oak aging. Smooth and creamy texture that intensifies as the beer warms, yet finishes clean and dry. More depth than length, with excellent alcohol balance. An amazing, delicious “thinking man’s” beer that developed well in the bottle over the last three years. 13% ABV, 26 IBU.
(96) Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen Framboos (2014)
A truly outstanding fruited sour form one of the world’s greatest lambic producers. Pours a very hazy ruby red leaving almost no head what so ever. The nose on this beer goes forever: tons of raspberry jam and barnyard funk. Wonderful blend of funky wild yeast and raspberry tartness. Every sip leaves you wanting more! 6% ABV.
(96) De Halve Maan Straffe Hendrik 2015 “Wild” Tripel
Hazy golden color, with ¾ finger dirty white head. Tart aromas of spoiled/fermented fruit and brett that opened and improved as the beer warmed. Flavors of light malt sweetness and some spice, with Brett making a cameo appearance to lend a sour component to the typical Tripel profile. Medium-bodied, good carbonation, with a definite drying sensation in the mouth. An outstanding “Tripel with Benefits” that should continue to improve over the next few years. 9% ABV, 35 IBU.
(95) Deep River Collaboration Without Representation
A Bourbon barrel-aged chocolate milk stout with coffee. Pours black with a medium tan head. Bourbon, coffee and chocolate aromas burst forward as you pour from the can. A very Bourbon-forward beer with a smooth coffee and chocolate finish. 12.8%
(95) Hill Farmstead Society & Solitude 5 DIPA
Pours from the growler with that traditional New England IPA haze. The smell all citrus; lots of grapefruit comes through with a slight hint of alcohol. With the use of New Zealand hops no surprise that grapefruit explodes on your palate. There is an absolutely perfect balance between cracker malt and hop bitterness. Easily one of the cleanest unfiltered beers you will ever have. 8.4% ABV.
(95) De Struise Brouwers Pannepot Reserva (2012)
Chocolate-covered raspberries, chocolate-covered cashews, cherry, strawberry, holiday fruitcake, cinnamon, date sugar, banana chips, Neapolitan ice cream sandwich, raspberry and strawberry syrup, oatmeal raisin cookie. A lot going on. Very complex and savory, soft wood tannins, relatively dry finish. Just an amazing beer.
(94) Cigar City Brewing Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout
Simply fantastic spiced imperial stout. No wonder Cigar City builds an event around the release, and people line up. Pours deep black, leaving a lovely thin tan head that grabs the glass. The nose is strong roasted coffee, cinnamon and dark malt. Cinnamon is very present but not overwhelming. There is a ton going on in this beer: lots of chocolate, coffee, smoky malt, toffee and cinnamon throughout. The use of chili is perfect: you know it’s hanging around in the background but the heat is nice and subtle. Hunahpu is an immensely complex and balanced beer. 11.5% ABV, 80 IBU.
(94) Firestone Walker “Wookey Jack” Black Rye IPA
Opaque black color, with one-finger, persistent brown head that lasted longer than we could. Citrus hop aromas of grapefruit and orange. Roasted coffee and caramel flavors, with rye bringing dry spice and bitter chocolate notes to the party. Dark molasses develops on the finish and the 8.3% ABV is in very good balance. Rich and delicious mouthfeel with layers of flavor. A contemplative beer. 8.3% ABV, 80 IBU.
(94) Brasserie Cantillon Saint Lamvinus (2014)
Pours a hazy, almost-opaque violet. The beer is almost still, leaving almost no head. Tons of funk on the nose but the presence of Merlot grapes is very noticeable. Saint Lamvinus is very complex; despite a ton of Brettanomyces funk, the grapes really shine. This beer truly straddles the line between wine and beer. The nice long dry finish leaves you wanting more. This is a world-class fruited lambic.
(93) De Struise Brouwers Blue Monk Special Reserve
Maple-glazed raisins, smoked wood, dark honey, dark sugars, date syrup, complex malt and yeast flavors. Right before the beer gets too sweet, oak tannins dry up the mid-palate, leaving a restrained and balanced fruitiness of cherries and chocolate with wood overtones. Extremely well balanced and a pure joy to consume.
(93) Brouwerij De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis
Smoked chocolate syrup aroma. Chewy and robust malt character with smoke, ash, dried earthy chocolate, maple syrup, mildly roasty, light raisin, M+ bodied. Not too heavy but not medium either. Burnt wood. Easy drinking for how strong it is, polished and really well-made. Almost perfect mouthfeel. The light fruitiness and smoky character are so well balanced. Awesome beer.
(92) Avery Brewing Co. Oud Floris (2012)
Rich Oud Bruin aroma, vinous with sharp acidity, raspberry, strawberry, black cherry, black currant, savory concentrated fruit character raisin, dust, grape seed minerality, damp wood, light coconut and vanilla, soft tannins, extremely tart. Dries up in the finish where it gets more leathery and chewy until a wave of acidity comes in. Big pucker of sourness after swallowing. Extremely complex and delicious.
(92) Abbaye Cistercienne Paix-Dieu
Pours deep gold in color with a thick, foamy head. Fragrant aromas of Belgian yeast, tree fruit and spices. Golden malts upfront give way to additional flavors of pear, citrus, honey and herbal spice. A complex Tripel that finishes dry and refreshing. 10.0% ABV.