2022 has been the year I’ve really lost steam in craft beer. Oddly enough, my experience might echo the market on the whole. I used to routinely drink an IPA with dinner, and be hitting up 5-6 bottle shares a month. This year I’ve gone weeks without drinking anything. I don’t go as hard at bottle shares as I used to. Where I once needed to tick everything in sight, I’m more comfortable now picking my spots and drinking only what entices me most.
This isn’t to put a downer on it all, rather I’m just finding enjoyment in things differently than I used to. I was fortunate enough to travel to Belgium for Quintessence finally. I found my way into some fun breweries for the first time in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Miami.
With all that in mind my list awaits below. This list is in no particular order. The beer does not have to have been bottled/canned in 2022. This is merely the beers I personally enjoyed most that I consumed this calendar year. I do skew towards adding selections I’ve never had before and newer beers.
Leading off the list is the most recent entrant I added just last week. Half Acre continues to have the best pastry stout game in Chicago. Sunken Ghost takes all of the best aspects of the coffee, coconut, vanilla experience and it’s painted on a canvas of excess aging. This beer is exceptionally boozey and barrel forward. Often times in a pastry stout you get a fat tuesday mardi gras adjunct parade or a more buttoned up night at the MET barrel experience. Sunken Ghost united both worlds in a bacchanal of wood and coconut with a decadent mouth feel. It most closely reminded me of Faha from the very short Three Chiefs run.
Cantillon Quintessence was again one of the best experiences in beer as the ancillary events outside of the ticketed event have grown, involving many other local businesses making it truly a long weekend of great imbibing. One of the highlights of the event was Tarlantillon. This lambic was a collaboration with the Tarlant family, known for superior champagne, who provided pinot noir grapes for my favorite white grape lambic varietal in recent memory.
The brewing project of Luis Flores, Monochrome continued progressing with exciting beers released via Arclight in tiny Watervliet, Michigan. Redemption Road was a take on the tried and tested Rocky Road combo of walnuts, vanilla and cocoa nibs. The body was terrific and it had strong barrel presence. This beer managed to make an incredible run in the May Madness Bottle Share Tournament. Looking forward to more exciting things out of Monochrome in 2022.
I love when a brewery creates something that’s wild and indulgent and is self aware enough to show you via the name. Nelson Pils was such a fun beer and I hope Green Cheek brings it back in the future. It was ridiculously smooth and hit you with a steady c-c-c-c-combo breaker of Nelson Sauvin. It blurred the lines between a single hop pale and a IPL but clocked in at just 5.4%. In this economy, Nelson Pils is a beer for the Haves.
Maybe some of the shine has came of Bottle Logic. Maybe bottles don’t insta-sellout the way they used to. Maybe they distribute many of the bottles that once evaporated in the environment of no-proxies allowed. FOCOCO was a reminder that Bottle Logic is not without an abundance of tricks left, as they treated the traditionally enjoyed Fundamental Observation with 225lbs of coconut flakes giving pours the oily sheen that will be poorly photographed by instaronnies and marveled at as nerds hold their glass up to the light. It sounds like there is some bottle variation here but the one I had, I thoroughly enjoyed.
The third release of the Catch Hell series continued to impress. Clocking in at nearly 17%, Triple Barrel Catch Hell lived up to the lofty expectations of the exceedingly rare Chicago sellout. Personally I found this less boozy than Sunken Ghost, and a less impressive conveyance of the adjuncts. I’d certainly recommend seeking this out but I also think as good as this was, the original single barrel Catch Hell was even better.
Did you know MexiLambic exists? It’s true. And the first such brewery is Cervecera Hercules out of Santiago de Querétaro. The first release, spontaneously fermented in 2019 was released 2 years later. Aged in wine barrels the final product was a surprise at this years May Madness Tournament as it knocked off the #1 overall seed and several other known commodities enroute to the Final Four. This beer was not macerated on any fruit but tasted strongly of peaches and nectarines while also not really having an abundance of acidity one might expect from that. It was tasty and managed to prove these Spontanamigos are not brewing mere gimmicks.
Earlier this year at 3 Fonteinen’s Twisting the Fates, the debuted three single barrel Zenne’s. All 3 were frankly delightful and Pedro Ximenez almost made this list as well. This single barrel, still lambic took me back to the transcendence I first experienced with Zenne y Frontera batch 1 in 2015. Eventually these bottle were released to lucky BeNeLux residents in person. I hope they continue to make the individual components available as I think it makes the sum of the parts more enjoyable and understood.
What platitudes can I spew about Side Project that others haven’t already put to paper. Beer Barrel Time continues to be the benchmark for adjunct free barrel aged stouts. Rye BBT has also become this beacon of incredible blending by Cory King. The mouthfeel, and wood are just unmistakably everything you’d hope for coming out of Maplewood, Missouri.
I once called the brewery Hill Farm to a Vermonter. Vermontonian. Vermontan. Someone from Vermont. They were besides themselves with the transgression I took part in, shortening this brewery of legend with such chutzpah. Earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to do a big ol vertical of Civil Disobedience blends. Blend 31 stood out to me the most. It tasted like wine barrel aged carbonated pineapple juice. Incredibly refreshing, elevated and luxurious, like drinking a pina colada on Little Necker Island. This beer is the oldest of this list and I try to skew with newer releases but this one I could not ignore.