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Belt’s Beer Garden: Best Beers of 2017

What were the best beers of the past year?


Happy (almost) New Years! And, as 2017 FINALLY is coming to an end, it’s fitting to take a look back and admire just how many good beers there are out there.

This year I slacked a little, only having 736 new beers (although, when I wrote this it was only 12/28 so I have some time), compared to last year’s total of 832. Overall, since 2014, I am now at 2,774 distinct beers and counting.

As I only showcase about 100 beers per year, there are a lot of amazing beers that I’ve tried but haven’t written about, so while some have been on BBG, the vast majority probably will not have been.

Despite having 90 or so less beers this year, as I did last year I will break down my favorites from 2017 and will once again divide them into two groups. Since I am a total hop-head, and around 70% of the brews I try are IPAs or some subcategory of that, the two categories I’ve created are: Top of the Hop (IPAs, pales, DIPAs, ect) and Best of the Rest (literally every other style).

And now, without further ado, the best beer of 2017...

(Note: all beers were not first brewed in 2017 but rather that’s when I tried them)

2017’s Top of the Hop (IPAs, Pales, DIPAs...)

10. Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion #4

Style: IPA - American
From: Paso Robles, CA
ABV/IBU: 5.9%/59
Cost: $10 per 6-pack

The fourth installment of Luponic Distortion was, by far, my favorite. It was lead by a pair of experimental South African hops that made the citrusy, tropical fruit flavors really pop and added a white wine element that I really enjoyed. At 5.9% ABV and with just 59 IBU it’s a really light, easy to drink IPA with some serious flavor. 9/10

9. Mikerphone Pale Pauper (2017 Edition)

Style: Pale Ale
From: Elk Grove Village, IL
ABV/IBU: 5.5%/NA
Cost: $12 per 750 mL bottle

Every year 3 Floyd’s has a huge bottle release for their Dark Lord beer aptly called Dark Lord Day. Well....Mikerphone wanted to something that counters the huge hype that is Dark Lord Day, so they created Pale Pauper Day; an all day celebration where they release their Pale Pauper pale ale to the world. This year’s featured Citra, Equanox, and Mosaic hops and was a real delight! 9/10

8. The Alchemist Focal Banger

Style: IPA - American
From: Stowe, VT
ABV/IBU: 7%/90
Cost: $12.50 for 4 pints

The Alchemist hit it big with this beer and another beer later on in this list. They were one of the first to start the craze of NE IPAs and this one, which is made with Citra and Mosaic hops is really one of the best in the world. It’s a little bitter on the back end but still very enjoyable. 9/10

7. Sketchbook Orange Door

Style: IPA - American
From: Evanston, IL
ABV/IBU: 7.2%/71
Cost: $10 for 4 pints

Orange Door was my first introduction to Sketchbook...and it did not disappoint! Mild bitterness that gave way to huge citrus and and light pine flavors. Half New England IPA, half West Coast IPA...totally delicious. 9.25/10

6. Hailstorm Cumulus

Style: IPA - New England
From: Tinley Park, IL
ABV/IBU: 6.3%/60
Cost: $11 for 4 pints

Hailstorm has done a lot with clouds this year and last, releasing Stratus, Nimbus, Cirrus, and, my favorite (so far), Cumulus. This NE IPA was made with Amarillo, Centennial, Citra, Kohatu, and Simcoe hops along with oats and wheat to give it a burst of juicy citrus with some mild sweetness to it. Great stuff. 9.25/10

5. Amplified Ale Works Faraway Towns

Style: IPA - New England
From: San Diego, CA
ABV/IBU: 6.3%/NA
Cost: $6 per pint, brewery only

I stumbled upon to this amazing NE IPA by accident. Faraway Towns is a “London hazy” IPA made with El Dorado and Eukanot hops and boy was it delicious. Super juicy with lots of orange, tangerine, and some other tropical fruits. If you’re near San Diego...this is a must have. 9.5/10

4. Dragoon Brewing Co. Dragoon IPA

Style: IPA - American
From: Tucson, AZ
ABV/IBU: 7.3%/83
Cost: $10 for 4 pints

This West Coast IPA was the best surprise I found while in Arizona. Made with Apollo, Columbus, Magnum, Nugget, and Summit hops Dragoon IPA featured a nice bitter bite that was followed by a massive amount of citrus and sweet malts that complimented each other perfectly. 9.5/10

3. Maplewood Husky Pants

Style: Double IPA
From: Chicago, IL
Cost: $12 per 22-ounce bottle

My favorite Chicago brewery struck gold once again when they released Double Juice: Husky Pants, basically an Imperial New England IPA that was made with Citra, Columbus, Denali, Ella, and Idaho 7 hops. As an NIU Huskie, the name Husky Pants was an added bonus but the beer itself was super juicy and hid the high ABV completely. 9.5/10

2. The Alchemist Heady Topper

Style: Double IPA
From: Stowe, VT
ABV/IBU: 8%/100
Cost: $13.50 for 4 pints

Heady Topper is one of the most sought after beers in the country. And, after trying it, I can see why! The flavors were so complex and changes with each swig. There was loads of citrus, some light pine, a decent malt sweetness, and everything you could ever want in a DIPA. 9.5/10

1. Lawson’s Finest Liquids Sips of Sunshine

Style: Double IPA
From: Warren, VT
ABV/IBU: 8%/65
Cost: $14 for 4 pints

There’s a reason people keep going to Vermont and the Northeast for beer. They make some damn good IPAs. And this one, like Heady Topper, is one of the best - not just in the US but in the World. Sips was super citrusy and had very low bitterness. It was not just my favorite beer of 2017...but possibly the best I’ve ever had! It’s worth the hype and the cost. 10/10

2017’s Best of the Rest (all other styles)

5. Mikerphone Imperial Smells Like Bean Spirit

Style: Imperial Stout
From: Elk Grove Village, IL
ABV/IBU: 10.75%/NA
Cost: $14 prt 750 mL bottle

I’m not a stout person...but this one was made with Vermont maple syrup and Sumatra coffee that really bumped it up a notch. This is a great breakfast beer. The syrup and coffee give this a sweet, yet slightly bitter combination that works well with the other flavors. 8.5/10

4. Almanac Tropical Platypus

Style: Sour - Ale
From: San Francisco, CA
Cost: $11 per 375 mL bottle

This sour ale was brewed with kiwi, lime, mango, and passion fruit before being aged in wine barrels. The tropical fruits really shine and the wine barrels added a nice white wine sweetness to calm down the sour aspects of the beer. Super tasty but not too cheap. 8.5/10

3. Dogfish Head Saison Du Buff

Style: Saison/Farmhouse
From: Milton, DE
ABV/IBU: 6.8%/40
Cost: $12 per 6-pack

This collaboration between Dogfish Head, Stone, and Victory is a saison brewed with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Each year the beer is brewed at one of the three breweries; 2017’s was at Dogfish Head and next years’ should be at Victory, then Stone.

Saison Du Buff is delicious but confusing...the spices give it a pasta sauce quality that throws you off for a second before it makes you want more and more. Give it a shot! Really interesting but really good stuff. 9/10

2. Legacy Brewing Strawberry Blonde

Style: Blonde Ale
From: Oceanside, CA
Cost: $6 per pint, brewery only

This blonde ale made with strawberries was phenomenal. Light, crisp, and packed with fresh strawberry flavors. It was the perfect summer beer. 9/10

1. Omnipollo Bianca

Style: Sour - Gose
From: Sweden
Cost: $12 for four 12-ounce cans

The best non-hopped brew I had this year was Bianca - a gose made with rock salt, lactose and mango purée. It wasn’t too tart and the mango wasn’t too sweet or sticky. It was the perfect blend of salty, sour, and fruity. 9/10

I can’t wait to see what beers 2018 will bring to us!!