Life

The Most Creative Craft Beers Of 2021, Ranked

Sometimes, especially in the beer world, simplicity is perfection. A classic crisp lager without any random flavors is a thing of beauty. A bold and robust stout can warm you in the winter without veering too far into the “added spices and chocolate” direction. A biting, tangy, floral, or dank IPA can impress simply with hops, malt, yeast, and water.

But while we love all of these base beer flavors, sometimes we want to get a little crazy with it. Okay, a lot crazy. We’re talking outside-the-box flavors, aging techniques, and fermentations.

Not surprisingly, 2021 gave us plenty of exciting beers full of creativity. Beers that taste like cocktails, beers that taste like dessert, and beers made with heretofore unconsidered ingredients. While we don’t have time to list them all, we would like to highlight eight of the most boldly creative beers that dropped this year. Check them out below.

8) Oskar Blues Death By Flapjacks

Oskar Blues Death By Flapjacks
Oskar Blues

ABV: 6.5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer:

In the past few years, Oskar Blues has dropped a few “Death By” beers. This includes Death By Coconut and Death By King Cake. Its newest release is Death By Flapjacks, a 6.5 percent ABV English porter that was brewed with Honey and Crystal malts. It gets its flavor from the addition of vanilla, lactose, nutmeg, maple syrup, and lemon peel.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is classic pancakes. There are aromas of maple syrup, freshly brewed coffee, vanilla beans, and butterscotch. The palate is highlighted by maple candy, buttery caramel, toasted vanilla beans, chocolate fudge, and more coffee. The finish is sweet, indulgent, and memorable.

Bottom Line:

This is the epitome of a dessert beer. We couldn’t imagine sipping a bunch of these bad boys, but one after dinner is the perfect sweet ending to a savory meal.

7) Boulevard Sugarwood Baklava

Boulevard Sugarwood Baklava
Boulevard

ABV: 14.2%

Average Price: $15 for a four-pack

The Beer:

In our opinion, baklava with its layers of pastry, honey, and nuts is one of the best desserts of all time. Boulevard set out to make a beer that tastes like that same beloved treat and definitely succeeded with its 14.2 percent ABV barrel-aged imperial brown ale with maple syrup and pecan flavors.

Tasting Notes:

Best enjoyed slowly, this beer opens with aromas of maple candy, sweet bourbon, rich oak, and a slight nuttiness. Drinking it reveals notes of candied pecans, rich maple syrup, toasted vanilla beans, honey, and oaky whiskey. It ends with a combination of nuts and brown sugar that leaves you craving more.

Bottom Line:

Carrying on the trend of the dessert beer, Boulevard managed to craft beer that totally encapsulates all the flavors of classic, nutty, honey-soaked baklava — that’s no small feat.

6) Firestone Walker Kentucky Mule

Firestone Walker Kentucky Mule
Firestone Walker

ABV: 11.8%

Average Price: $10 for a 12-ounce bottle

The Beer:

The Moscow mule is one of the most popular cocktails of all time. This combination of lime, vodka, and ginger beer has an alternative version called the Kentucky Mule that features bourbon instead of vodka. This year, Firestone Walker decided to try its hand at crafting a beer version of this iconic mixed drink. Part of the brand’s barrel-aged “cocktail series,” this blend of a brown ale and barleywine (each aged for 18 months) was infused with Fiji ginger and California lime juice.

Tasting Notes:

Complex aromas of candied ginger, lime zest, vanilla beans, and maple candy meet your nostrils. The palate swirls with more ginger, wintry spices, toasted marshmallows, butterscotch, and vanilla beans. The finish is sweet, slightly spicy, and filled with whiskey-like oak.

Bottom Line:

This is a truly unique beer that bridges the gap between cocktails and craft beer. Its flavor profile features ginger, lime, and a nice sweet bourbon kick.

5) Great Divide Wood Works Dark ’N Stormy Imperial Red Inspired Ale

Great Divide Wood Works Dark ’N Stormy Imperial Red Inspired Ale
Great Divide

ABV: 8.5%

Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer:

This limited, 8.5 percent imperial red ale was released this summer. It was brewed with caramel malts and El Dorado and Citra hops before being aged in ten-year-old Colombian rum casks for a few months. After maturation, the beer was rested on dry hops with lime leaves, lime puree, and fresh ginger.

Tasting Notes:

On the nose, you’ll find sweet molasses rum, bready malts, vanilla, and a gentle kick of floral, citrusy hops. On the palate, you’re greeted with woody oak, fresh lime zest, light ginger candy, butterscotch, and floral hops. This is the closest thing to a Dark ‘N’ Stormy in beer form you’re likely to ever see.

Bottom Line:

There’s so much going on in the flavor department that there’s simply no way to find them all with one sampling. This is the kind of beer you need to come back to again and again.

4) Stone and Deschutes Let’s Bee Homies

Stone and Deschutes Let’s Bee Homies
Stone and Deschutes

ABV: 7.5%

Average Price: $5 for a 16-ounce can

The Beer:

We love a good beer collaboration. When two well-known brands get together, great things can come from it. This is the case with the Stone and Deschutes collab Let’s Beer Homies. This hazy IPA was brewed with Chinook, Triumph, Cashmere, Comet, and Mosaic hops as well as both Oregon blackberry honey and California orange blossom honey.

Tasting Notes:

Right up front, this beer has classic IPA aromas of resinous pine, wildflowers, grapefruit, and lime zest. But there’s also a slight caramel malt flavor and sweet honey in there as well. Take a sip and you’ll find flavors like lemon zest, tangerine, ripe grapefruit, pineapple, wet grass, peach, caramel malts, and sweet clover honey.

Bottom Line:

Part of the appeal of this creative beer is the way the honey works in unison with the citrus hop, tropical fruit, and bready malt flavors.

3) Goose Island Bourbon County Classic Cola Stout 2021

Goose Island Bourbon County Classic Cola Stout 2021
Goose Island

ABV: 14%

Average Price: Limited Availability

The Beer:

Every year, stout fans eagerly await the announcement of what beers Goose Island will release in its annual Bourbon County line. This year, one of the most interesting launches was its Bourbon County Classic Cola Stout 2021. This bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout gets its cola flavor from the addition of lime juice, orange juice, orange zest, coriander, cassia bark, nutmeg, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Tasting Notes:

Do you know the smell of whiskey and cola? Well, that’s exactly what this beer smells like. It also has the aromas of dark chocolate, vanilla beans, woody oak, citrus peels, and sweet whiskey. Drinking it brings forth notes of caramel malts, fudge, toasted oak, vanilla beans, wintry spices, and warming, sweet bourbon.

Bottom Line:

It appears that cocktail beers made an impact in 2021. This barrel-aged take on the classic whiskey and cola is definitely not to be missed.

2) Prairie Sundae Service

Prairie Sundae Service
Prairie Artisan Ales

ABV: 13%

Average Price: $19 for a 12-ounce bottle

The Beer:

There are few indulgences better than a classic fudgy ice cream sundae. The folks at Prairie Artisan Ales understand this. That’s why they created this barrel-aged imperial stout to taste just like the iconic dessert. They did this with the addition of chocolate, fudge, peanuts, sprinkles, vanilla, and cherries.

Tasting Notes:

A lot is going on with this beer’s nose. It literally smells like a chocolate fudge sundae with aromas of vanilla beans, sweet cherries, chocolate, and roasted peanuts. The flavor continues this trend with notes of maraschino cherries, buttery caramel, chocolate fudge, and vanilla beans.

Bottom Line:

In the hierarchy of indulgent dessert beers, it’s hard to top Prairie Sundae Service with its decadent, rich, and sweet flavor notes.

1) Stone Xocoveza Tres Leches

Stone Xocoveza Tres Leches
Stone

ABV: 8.5%

Average Price: $14 for a six-pack

The Beer:

As if regular Stone Xocovenza wasn’t flavorful enough, the brewers at Stone ramped up this 8.5 percent ABV imperial stout with the addition of chocolate, coffee, Pasilla peppers, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The result is a spicy, warming, and sweet beer well-suited for winter imbibing.

Tasting Notes:

This beer’s nose is both sweet and spicy. There are scents of freshly brewed coffee, butterscotch, chocolate fudge, and toasted vanilla, as well as a slight spice backbone. The flavor is a mixture of sweet vanilla beans, milk chocolate, buttery caramel candy, espresso beans, and slightly spicy heat from the Pasilla peppers.

Bottom Line:

If you’re a fan of Mexican hot chocolate, a pint of this sweet, spicy, rich beer is sure to be a hit.

×