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Year in Review | The Best Beers of 2016

Best Beers of 2016
Dan Bortz

The 2,016th year of the Common Era has come and gone, leaving many high and low points in its wake. Some people may argue that this was one of the worst years in recent memory, but PorchDrinkers don’t like to focus on negatives. We are a mostly optimistic lot, who choose to remember all the positive and happy moments. For many of us, those moments began with a sip of a surprisingly great beer. Together, as a team, we want to to celebrate the best beers of 2016.

A call went out to the entire staff. We wanted to know what great beers they discovered this year. Below, you will find the answer. Without further ado, I’ll turn this over to the writers and editors, who will sound off on their favorite beers and describe those libations that made 2016 so memorable.

In our humble opinion, these are the best beers of 2016!

Pulp IPA | Fieldwork Brewing Co.

Submitted by Victoria Pratt

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: Suni Sidhu, @instapint

The holidays are a great time to reflect on the past year. This naturally led to the question: what was the best beer I had this year?  This is not an easy question to answer as I have been very pleasantly surprised by many different types of beer from around the country, but there was one that stuck out, and it is from my favorite Californian brewery.  The first time I tried Fieldwork’s Pulp IPA, I was in love.  Pulp is thick, hazy, and very juicy; bursting with flavor from the Citra hops.  Fieldwork created a Northeast style IPA juice bomb.  It is insanely crushable at 6.9% that leaves you craving more.  The frothy head lasts all the way to the last sip, and then it is time for another!

Imperial Witbier | Ten Ninety

Submitted by Mathew Powers

I enjoyed this exceptionally well crafted Wit in February 2016 as my first “spring beer,” but at 10.1% ABV, it certainly possesses a wintry-beer kick. The veritable buffet of flavors include pilsner malt and pronounced coriander, honey and citrus. Imperial Wit provides an explosion of flavor, yet remains light bodied. The nice pop of carbonation provides a wonderful accompaniment. Like a great symphony, Ten Ninety harmoniously melds the many notes of this beer. 

Beer From A Farm | Stickman Brews

Submitted by Dan Bortz

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: Stickman Brews

Beer From A Farm is the closest thing that Stickman Brews has to a flagship beer (available almost all year), and it’s the creation that best embodies their brewing philosophy. To say this is a brett pale ale, doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head. This beer is open fermented with brettanomyces to create a very unique brew, which creates a true hybrid of a Farmhouse-style ale and an American Pale Ale. The flavors are carefully and deliberately layered to give you a burst of piney hops, followed by bready malts and a clean, fruity brett finish. I clearly remember  emitting an audible “wow” after my first sip.

Market Fresh Saison | Cloudburst Brewing

Submitted by Hannah Carlson

Cloudburst, nestled near Pike Place Market in Downtown Seattle, is constantly churning out some of the best beer that the city has to offer. Case-in-point: Their Market Fresh Saison. The proximity to the fresh and ever-rotating seasonal ingredients that are found within the market have made their way into their saisons. It captures the style in a way not easily mimicked – and is a beer that is too good to capture in words. It can only be experienced, not described.

Sunday Brunch | Kane Brewing Co.

Submitted by Danele Bova

Sunday Brunch was the most memorable beer for me in 2016. We received this beer as an extra in a trade – a total surprise! We took it to a bottle share because we knew it was something special that others would totally enjoy. Sunday Brunch by far was the favorite beer of the night at that bottle share (even better than Hunahpu’s!) This bottle of deliciousness is an Imperial Milk Porter with locally roasted coffee, maple syrup, and cinnamon. This flavor combination is nothing new when it comes to coffee/breakfast beers. But Kane really knocked it out of the park. This viscous, creamy, sweet porter was everything you could want for brunch. The maple flavor really held strong and played nicely to round out the bitter coffee and spicy cinnamon. This would be fucking amazing with waffles and bacon.

Oude Quetsche Tilquin à L’Ancienne | Gueuzerie Tilquin

Submitted by Jose Minaya

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: Jose Minaya

This beer was tart and fruity but the plum character was still present. It was dry and quick to clear the tongue. Not nearly as aggressively sour as other sour beers but instead seemed both soft and controlled while displaying just enough funk and fermented fruit flavor to keep this one interesting each and every sip. Changed nicely as it warmed though I drank it so quickly I didn’t get to enjoy much of it warm.

Smoking Mirror Smoked Porter | Quest Brewing Co.

Submitted by John Baum

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: John Baum

Discovered this one with the first outdoor fire of the year. The folks at Quest don’t overdo it with the smoke–just enough to make this porter one of the best: malty, smoky, smooth. It is an autumn must for the fireside rotation. Cheers!

Peach Rye Dreamland | Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales

Submitted by Jared Hardy

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: Black Project

It’s not exactly a new headline that Denver’s Black Project Brewing makes great beers. The Peach Rye release of their popular Dreamland series just happened to be my favorite in a long line of exceptional beers. Dreamland is a golden sour solera (fresh beer replaces the beer pulled out to be kegged, so that at any time you’ve got beer of varying ages all mixed together). This particular version was especially complex with the addition of 84lbs of peaches and aging in a very fresh A.D. Law’s Secale Rye Whiskey barrel.

Beatitude Mango Tart Saison | Council Brewing Co.

Submitted by Kara Loo & Kelissa Hieber

Have you ever been to an Indian restaurant and tried the mango custard dessert? The freshness and juiciness of a mango is imparted in every whiff and subsequent bite. Well, the same goes for every sip of the Beatitude Mango. This beer is one that should be quite palatable for beer drinkers of all shapes and sizes. Not only is it fruity and fun, but it has some great complexities coming from additions of flaked rye while its bitterness level comes in low at less than 5 IBUs. The freshness of the fruit came through more intensely and cleanly than most fruited sours we have had, to the point that the Beautitude really stands out at our end-of-year retrospective

Coffee Resolute | Brothers Craft Brewing

Submitted by Scott Johnson

Best Beers 2016
Photo Credit: Scott Johnson

When you have a sublime Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout as the base; you wonder how simple coffee can improve it. Yet, this bounty of bourbon toffee elevates to a new peak of greatness thanks to an infusion by a medium-roast coffee from Ironclad Coffee Roaster. The roasty coffee complements every aspect of the beer bringing an elegant smoothness and cutting through the rich, boozy sweetness. An addition beyond all other coffee stouts and this is coming form a brewery whose previous offering of Coconut Resolute is the highest rated beer in the state via Beer Advocate. This is how you go from Rank S to SSS.

Gose | Fremont Brewing

Submitted by Hannah Carlson

There’s no denying that Fremont constantly has a stacked line-up. Though Fremont may take center stage in the Seattle craft scene during the wintertime (thanks to their barrel aged series) one of the most pleasant surprises of the year was their Gose. This brew, which was on tap for most of the year, was a perfect encapsulation of the style. Just a bit tart, beautiful hue, slight saltiness, but a balanced palate that was refreshing and delightful.

Puffing Billy Brown Ale | Around The Bend Beer Co.

Submitted by Mathew Powers

Photo Credit: Around The Bend Beer Co.
Photo Credit: Around The Bend Beer Co.

The discovery of new beer involved a rediscovery of a familiar style — the American Brown Ale, by Around the Bend (ATB). Sure, it’s easy to speak of special releases, but what truly captured my attention was this year-round beer from ATB. Puffing Billy demonstrated to me the brewery’s prowess, and led me to try the entire portfolio — all delicious. Still, Puffing Billy was my gateway to ATB brews, and it’s a beer I consider one of my favorites.

Puffing Billy is comprised of 100% Northdown hops along with a mix of caramel, chocolate, Munich, oat, and pale malts, and then it’s finished with cacao nibs. One gets a malty, sweet, and slightly hoppy brown ale that personifies balance – great flavor, great aroma and an all around spectacular beer.

Emergent Behavior(s) | Hidden River Brewing Co.

Submitted by Dan Bortz

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit: Dan Bortz

This was the perfect beer for the rainy day on which I opened it. The strong malt backbone would have been pretty nice on its own, but it was supporting a big dose of hops, which sent this beer right to the top of my list. Each sip revealed a new layer of flavor: pine, tropical fruit, dankness, roastiness, caramel… all this made Emergent Behavior(s) exciting to drink. It has probably long since disappeared from Hidden River’s tap list, but I’m stoked that I had the chance to try it. I’m looking forward to their new creations!

Existence | Creature Comforts Brewing Co.

Submitted by Johnathan Pylant

Best Beers of 2016
Photo Credit:Johnathan Pylant

Imagine looking down to see the dark expanse of the universe swirling steadily in the fragile glass stemware suspended by your fingers. All of existence, just poured by one of Creature Comforts’ head-brewers, now rests in the palm of your hand. Released May 5, 2016, Existence (so aptly named) was only the second Imperial Stout to be released from their already highly acclaimed wood cellar. Existence was aged 19 months in Willet bourbon barrels and packaged in 750mL bottles that were available at the brewery only. Like See The Stars (a close runner up for me as Best Beer of 2016), the base for Existence was brewed the opening months of the brewery. This masterpiece had notes of dark chocolate, oak, vanilla and a healthy helping of bourbon with the slightest romantic touch of cherry.

Spon | Jester King Brewery

Submitted by Tristan Chan
Jester King Spon
Photo from Jester King Brewery

In my opinion any conversation regarding 2016’s list of best beers has to begin with Jester King Brewery’s Spon. Jester King’s first ever 100% spontaneously fermented beer is a Méthode Gueuze, modeled after the same traditional methods of brewing authentic Belgian Gueuzes. This is a beer three years in the making, involving aged hops, and numerous coolship runs culminating in a three year blend.The result was a delicately complex, beautifully balanced funky tart masterpiece that serves as a benchmark moment in American brewing. To learn more on the process hear from Jester King Founder, Jeffrey Stuffings himself.

Tristan’s Other Picks from 2016

Lunex Corvus Coffee Sour | Black Project Spontaneous and Wild Ales

One flavor profile that still blows my mind when done right is the combination of coffee and sour beer. Crooked Stave’s Nightcap was the first to expose me to this game changing flavor profile but James and Sarah at Black Project has created a beer that rivals that initial experience via their Lunex Corvus Coffee Sour.

Coconut Medianoche | WeldWerks Brewing

I could seriously spend an entire post alone waxing poetic on the tremendous work coming out of WeldWerks Brewing… in fact I already did earlier this year. That said, what first made me fall for this talented brewery out of Greeley, CO was their Medianoche lineup of Barrel-Aged Imperial Stouts infused with a wide range of variant flavors. Really each variant contributes equally impressive accolades but a personal favorite is their Coconut. Believe the hype… this team is the real deal.

Pua Aloalo Vanilla Hibiscus Golden Sour | Wiley Roots Brewing

It probably seems a bit dubious to list two beers from two different breweries both residing the modest town of Greeley, but from a completely unbiased perspective, Wiley Roots is equally as deserving of the honors and acknowledgements that WeldWerks has been garnering. Nothing more impressive than this summer’s debut of Pua Aloalo, a Vanilla Hibiscus Golden Sour which similarly to unexpected results yielded from my first encounter with a coffee sour, the combination of vanilla and tartness from the golden sour base and hibiscus flower, created this perfect harmony of balance. This beer blew my mind.

Rented World Session IPA | Ratio Beerworks

OK, admittedly I’m a bit biased because I work for Ratio, however it should be noted I was a staunch fan of the brewery long before I was employed there. So all biases aside the Rented World Session IPA is my favorite beer to drink on a day to day basis. Why? Because it’s so damn easy to down this flavor forward hoppy session. Utilizing mostly late addition aroma hops, Rented World doesnt wreck your palate with in your face overwhelming bitterness but rather showcases tropical fruit notes that sustain throughout consumption.

The Rusty Nail | Fremont Brewing

Over the past 5+ years, Seattle’s Fremont Brewing has quietly built one of the more prolific barrel-aging program in America. Their Dark Star and B-Bomb releases have already garnered high praise and caught the attentions of beer geeks around the country. While the barrel-aged oatmeal stout with brewer’s licorice, aged on cinnamon bark then aged 15 months in 12 year old bourbon barrels, has been around in small batches dating back to 2014, this year’s wider release has put this gem center stage for the first time. With rich complex chocolate notes and a balanced spice profile from the cinnamon the beer is rounded out with natural boozy caramel flavors imparted by the bourbon barrels.

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