What a year for alcohol. Between the crisp beers of the spring and summer, the spiced ales of fall and winter, the insane cadence of whiskey articles we drop, the holiday spike in brandy love, and the sheer pandemic-ness of it all, we here at Uproxx drank a whole lot this year. Us and everybody else with a pulse. Not just in that sad, lonely way, either –we also got tipsy on Zoom and tasted booze on IG live, laughing along with our pals via the wonders of technology.
To top off what has been a truly wild 2020, we gathered our alcohol writers (and a few ringers) to spill some tribute to the best brews they drank this year. There is no seasonal tie-in here, no complicated angle, not even any need for these beers to have been brewed this year. This is simply a list of the beers that — as cheesy as it sounds — brought smiles to our faces. If only for a moment.
I am by no means a low calories beer kind of person. I don’t obsess about how many calories a brew has, if it’s good, I’ll drink it. And like it. That has led me, foolishly I might add, to write off low calories beers as something that doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the flavor department.
This 96 calories Hazy IPA by Firestone Walker has opened my eyes.
If you’re familiar with Firestone Walker, you’re well aware the brewery knows how to deliver an IPA. The Mind Haze is a personal favorite, and while this isn’t really quite at that level, the Flyjack still packs a lot of flavor. A burst of juicy citrus matches this beer’s bright and sunny — and slightly hazy — appearance, with subtle tropical notes jumping out on the palate only to be subdued by a slight hint of bitterness at the finish.
The Bottom Line:
At just 96 calories and all the flavor of a Hazy IPA, Flyjack has been my go-to beer this year. Look at me, counting calories in a beer! 2020 is bananas.
Framboise Northwest — Dane Rivera
Style: Blonde Ale
Brewery: Cascade Brewing
I love Cascade Brewing’s barrel-aged ales. If the bottles weren’t so clearly designed to be shared, and the contents so damn heavy, I’d crush these nightly. Would it ruin the special occasion vibe? Maybe, but who cares?
2019’s Framboise Northwest was designed to give us a Northwest-style interpretation of the raspberry ales of the old world and is a blend of sour blond ales aged in oak wine barrels for two years with locally grown raspberries.
If you’ve ever had a raspberry fresh off a bush from the PNW, you know how much flavor those little gems can pack. I’m happy to say, their utilization in this sour blond ale lives up to the experience. A sharp and tart fruit flavor greets the palate making way for notes of sour apple skin, rhubarb and cranberry that wraps itself up in a slightly dry finish that practicaly demands another sip.
The perfect bottle to crack open during the golden hour. The crisp, ruby red color looks great in a glass with the fading hours of daylight, and the rich, berry influenced flavors set you up for a brilliant pre-dinner dessert.
(512) Pecan Porter — Gabrielle Pharms
Brewery: (512) Brewing Company, Austin, TX
I love a good, full-bodied beer when the cooler months finally hit Texas – and this porter has certainly charmed my palate. Although it’s available year-round, I associate pecan-anything with fall and winter only. Moreover, Austin-based (512) Brewing Company uses organic ingredients (malt included) as much as possible, so this is what I sip when I want something fresh and flavorful. Plus, the hint of pecan notes in the nose and on the palate comes from locally grown pecans.
Speaking from experience, Texans absolutely love supporting local!
The hue is the shade of midnight – and I’m completely here for it since I have an attraction to dark beers. In fact, it reminds me of the Bavarian beers my dad would tell me about that monks brewed in Munich back in the day. The subtle nutty flavor is met with chocolate and just the right amount of coffee which gives me permission to indulge in this black beauty for brunch at some point this winter. The bittersweet finish rounds out the fun of this most enjoyable porter experience.
Looks like this is my new go-to brew for winter! Pair with a cozy sweater, a playlist of your choice, and a fire for peak good vibes.
Cantillon Camerise — Zach Johnston
Brewery: Brasserie Cantillon
Cantillon dropped this extremely limited special release in July of 2019. I was lucky enough to get to drink it this summer and it almost instantly became my favorite beer, or at least my favorite fruited lambic. The beer is a lambic that’s fruited with haskap berries which are a type of wild blueberries that grows in western Canada. Imagine a large cylindric huckleberry. The berries spent two months soaking into the two-year-old lambic before bottling.
There’s a combination of wild, woody red fruit next to clove, nutmeg, and allspice that’s hard not to fall in love with. That’s all cut by the light, acidic tartness of the lambic underneath. There’s no funk at play, only bold wild berries with an almost salted sweetness next to that wintry spice. It’s light yet bold. It’s refreshing and truly smile-inducing.
They only ended up with 500 bottles of this stuff (plus a few kegs). If you do find it, you’ll be in for a one-off treat the married the wilds of Canada with the wild of Belgium lambics — a true special experience.
Cigar City The Benwood — Chris Osburn
Style: Hazy Double IPA
Brewery: Cigar City
This new hazy double IPA is available from July through September. It’s made with Motueka, Galaxy, Strata and Mosaic hops before being double dry-hopped. It’s hazy, juicy, and bursting with bright, floral hop flavors.
This beer is perfect for fans of both hazy beers and hop heads. It’s not as juicy as other hazy IPAs and that’s not such a bad thing. It’s filled with hops but doesn’t have the bitterness that some IPAs carry. It’s refreshing, hoppy, and filled with hints of pine, citrus, and tropical fruits.
While this is a summer beer, it’s the kind of beer we drink all year long. We don’t care if it’s June or February we’re tempering our stouts with a healthy dose of juicy, hazy IPAs like this.
New Belgium Captain Dynamite — Chris Osburn
Style: New England-Style IPA
Brewery: New Belgium
At the end of the summer, New Belgium held a head-to-head challenge to find the newest Voodoo Ranger IPA. They let fans decide whether the crisp, subtly bitter Agent 77 IPA or the hazy, juicy Captain Dynamite IPA would be the newest addition.
We tried both and far preferred the juicy, sweet, crushable Captain Dynamite.
This bold, brash, hazy beer is perfect for fans of juicy IPAs. It’s chocked full of Mosaic, Simcoe, and Cascade hops to add subtle resinous, piney flavors that pair perfectly with the juicy, tropical fruit flavors of guava, pineapple, and sweet oranges.
This limited edition was everything hazy beer IPA fans love. It’s juicy, crushable, and pleasantly sweet. A truly memorable beer.
Dogfish Head Coping Haven — Chris Osburn
Brewery: Dogfish Head
Coping Haven is a Danish-style rye pilsner. It was brewed with golden pilsner malt, malted rye, and Moravian hops. It was made in collaboration with indie rock band Galaxie 500 to celebrate Record Store Day and the name is a play on the band’s well-known album called Copenhagen. The slick-looking can is even adorned with images from the album.
This beer is much more than just a gimmick to celebrate Record Store Day. It’s also a refreshing, subtly sweet, well-rounded beer. The biggest problem is that it isn’t available all the time. This is the kind of beer we want to drink on a hot day, cold night, or pretty much any time… when we can get it.
Sadly, this was a limited-edition beer. Hopefully, it was popular enough to be brought back again. It was light, crisp, and perfect for sipping while listening to your favorite band.
Red Stripe — Janice Williams
Style: Pale Lager
Brewery: Desnoes & Geddes
Since 1928 when the first batch of Red Stripe was brewed and consumed in Jamaica, the beer has been a staple of the Caribbean country enjoyed by residents, tourists and U.S. shoppers alike. There was a period of time when Red Stripe was being made in Pennsylvania, but a 2016 lawsuit (that was actually dismissed) was enough to get owners to relaunch production at the brewery in Kingston. It’s there where they’ve continued to hone in on the light and sunny, crisp taste the beer is loved for.
This beer may be light in alcohol content but by no means is it light in flavor. Crispy stone fruit lead on the aroma and taste of this gloriously gold ale. There’s a light spritz of sweetness that blends into the background while a healthy dose of carbonation offers a stealthy, refreshing zap to the throat.
This is a perfectly balanced beer that displays a noticeable enough flavor profile while also maintaining its light and crisp nature.
Leinenkugel Summer Shandy — Jason Tabrys
Brewery: Jacob Leinenkugel
Unlike everyone else on this list I really don’t like or drink beer. It’s an acquired taste, I’ve been told, but I have actively avoided putting in the reps to develop an affection for it. Give me a super sweet wine or wine cooler. Pina colada in a fish tank at a chain restaurant? My word, yes.
The one exception is when I’m at a baseball game at Camden Yards in Baltimore. There, I partake, usually in a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy with its lemonade vibes pushing back on the beer taste that I find to be so abhorrent. But, of course, there were basically no baseball games this year that I could go to. So I tried to create an imitation of the experience a couple of times, watching at home while drinking a Shandy. And while it didn’t compare to that ritual of summer that I crave (and with it the communal fun of going with friends and loved ones), that wasn’t the beer’s fault. It did its job.
A sorta bittersweet brew for a sorta bittersweet “baseball fan in 2020” experience.
My beer of the year failed to live up to a summer tradition but it wasn’t the beer’s fault.