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Belt’s Beer Garden: Best Beers of 2019

A list of the best brews from the past 365 days

We’ve finally reached the end of 2019 and, with New Years Eve approaching, it’s only natural to look back at the past 365 days and reminisce about the good times and things we’ve accomplished.

And 2019 was a big year for me and Belt’s Beer Garden.

This year we featured 100 beers from 83 different breweries coming from 27 states and four different countries. I hit a huge milestone, reviewed the 500th beer. The look of BBG was updated. And we even started an Instagram account for it!

This year I personally had 700 different beers - which is shockingly lower than years past (808 in 2018, 736 in 2017, and 832 in 2016). And while I was able to review a good chunk of them, many of my favorites were not showcased.

So, just as I have done the past few years, I wanted to make a list of the top 15 beers of the year.

And as I lean heavily towards hop-forward brews like pale ales, IPAs, and DIPAs, I have created two separate categories: Top of the Hop (all the IPAs, ect.) and Best of the Rest (every other style). Since I’ve had a lot more hopped up beers, I’ll count down the top-10 Top of the Hop beers and the top-5 Best of the Rest.

*NOTE: just because the beer is on this list doesn’t mean it was first brewed in 2019, just that I had it for the first time this year*

Let’s get this started!

Best of the Rest 2019

In years past I have started with the hopped up brews but, this year, let’s mix it up and start with the non-hoppy beers. So, without further ado, here are the top five non-hoppy beers I had in 2019.

5. Mother Earth - Fantasy Island

From: Vista, CA
Style: Brown Ale with additives
ABV: 6%

Mother Earth took a brown ale and added coconut, toffee, caramel, and biscuits to create a liquid version of a Samoa was sweet, delicious, and the best Brown Ale that I’ve ever had. Too bad it’s not available out my way. 9/10

4. Pollyanna - Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hideaway

From: Lemont, IL
Style: Imperial Milk Stout
ABV: 13%

I don’t think I would’ve tried this beer if it wasn’t for a terrible performance by NIU . But, as I wanted to forget the EMU game, I ordered this 13% behemoth brewed with coffee, vanilla, cocoa, and milk sugar before being aged in Breckenridge Bourbon barrels. And, boy, was I glad I did. This was like a liquid Mounds Bar that got me drunk. Sweet, sugary, a touch of nuttiness, and very crushable. The only good part of losing to the Eagles. 9/10

3. 450 North - SLUSHY: Mango Passion Fruit

From: Columbus, IN
Style: Fruited Berliner Weisse
ABV: 4.5%

I was able to find this fruited sour ale at a beer fest in Indianapolis and, man, was it good. It was basically its namesake, a slushy. This smoothy-like beer hit with a tartness up front before being soothed with juicy flavors of mango and passion fruit later on. 9.25/10

2. Riverlands - Marian Gossa: Strawberry Mango Margarita

From: St. Charles, IL
Style: Fruited Gose
ABV: 4.6%

If you’re a Blackhawks fan (or NHL fan), you’ve most likely heard of Marian Hossa. If you’re a beer fan, you know gose is pronounced go-suh, just like his last name. This beer honors his time in Chicago and is just a great pun in general.

The best version of Marian Gossa (so far) was the Strawberry Mango version, which was basically a liquid strawberry margarita with hints of juicy mango popping up. 9.25/10

1. Southern Grist - Imperial Green Gummy Skies

From: Nashville, TN
Style: Fruited Sour
ABV: 9%

The best hopped-down beer I had this year looked like Mountain Dew but tasted sooo much better and was insanely boozy! This sour ale was aged on lime cream gummy bears and had lactose added. It was sweet, tasty, and went down WAYYY too easily. It was basically a melted green Popsicle that had a 9% ABV to it. How could you ever want/need anything else?

Southern Grist needs to make more of this one...ASAP. Or just send me a keg 9.75/10

Top of the Hop 2019

The top 10 hopped up beers of 2019

10: Beachwood Brewing - Citraholic

From: Long Beach, CA
Style: West Coast IPA
ABV: 7.1%

Citraholic is brewed with tons of Citra hops and balanced with Columbus, Simcoe, and Warrior hops as well. The 7.1% ABV and 70 IBU are hidden completely and it’s one of the smoothest West Coast brews I’ve had in a long time. 8.75/10

9. Foreign Objects - Wet Gravity

From: New Paltz, NY
Style: New England IPA
ABV: 7%

I was not expecting this “New American Hoppy Ale” to be this good. Pineapple, mango, passion fruit, orange/tangerine, and grapefruit all burst out in this insanely juicy brew. It made me a believer in them and I keep looking for more of their stuff. 9/10

8. Wild Leap - Alpha Abstraction Vol. 8

From: LaGrange, GA
Style: New England-style Double IPA
ABV: 8%

Alpha Abstraction is their rotating juicy Double IPA series and Volume 8 featured Enigma hops and featured an 8% ABV and just 46 IBU. It was a delicious blend of juicy citrus fruits and hops and worth every cent. Here’s the full review. 9/10

7. Hop Butcher for the World - Cosmic Fountain

From: Darien, IL
Style: New England-style Double IPA
ABV: 7.5%

Cosmic Fountain is brewed with Citra, Mosaic, and Waimea hops. It was a super juice bomb of orange, lemon, berries, passion fruit, and grapefruit. You can read the full review here but, if you ever find this yourself a favor and buy it! 9/10

6. Imagine Nation - Hyperspace

From: Missoula, MT
Style: Milkshake New England-style Double IPA with passion fruit
ABV: 5.8%

Hyperspace is one of the most recent beers I’ve had, as I reviewed it just last week. But it was so good it easily cracked the top-10 IPAs I’ve had this year. It was purely passion fruit juice and insanely easy to drink. Plus Imagine Nation helps so many people in their community...more breweries need to be like these guys. Just amazing all around. 9.25/10

5. Phase Three - Perpetual Sounds

From: Lake Zurich, IL
Style: New England-style Double IPA
ABV: 7.7%

Phase Three is one of the most sought-after Chicagoland breweries today. And their Perpetual Sounds sold out in less than a day at most places. This brew was made with Amarillo and Mosaic hops which made it insanely juicy and brimming with tropical and citrus fruit flavors. It was smooth, crushable, and I need more of this in my life. 9.25/10

4. More Brewing - DDH Elixir Fields

From: Villa Park, IL
Style: DDH Double IPA
ABV: 8%

Elixir Fields was brewed with Citra, Mosaic, and Sabro hops and was pure juice. There’s not much else to say about this beer other than it was delicious. It’s never been canned/bottled and I don’t know if I’ll ever see it again...but I sure hope I do. 9.25/10

3. Southern Grist - DDH Mixed Greens XXXIII (33)

From: Nashville, TN
Style: New England IPA
ABV: 6.2%

Southern Grist is one of my new favorite breweries and the only brewery to appear on both lists this year. Their hazy IPA series, Mixed Greens, is phenomenal (currently they’re on #41 but look for #42 shortly) and last year they had version 31 make the list at #6. But, they outdid themselves in 2019.

No version was better than XXXIII, which was brewed with Mosaic, Taiheke, and Waimea hops. Even if you can’t get that variation anymore, don’t miss out on their future releases of this beer. 9.5/10

2. Drekker - Ectogasm

From: Fargo, ND
Style: New England IPA
ABV: 7%

Ecotgasm is brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops and should be had by any and all hop-heads.

It’s rare that I have such a vivid memory of a beer as I do with this one. I was sitting at a Milwaukee restaurant and ordered a Bloody Mary. Well, in Wisconsin, Bloodies are often served with a chaser of beer and I randomly chose this one because I liked the name.

But the beer was so damn good I ended up having three more full pints of it after the Bloody was gone. It’s so juicy, so smooth, and so damn delicious. 9.5/10

1. Maplewood - One Haze Fits All

From: Chicago, IL
Style: New England IPA
ABV: 7%

Like with Ectogasm, I will never forget where I was when I had One Haze Fits All (Burger Social in Wheaton, IL). I love Maplewood but was not expecting such sheer perfection when I ordered this draft-only brew. Brewed with Citra and Zappa hops, it was basically fruit juice with a 7% ABV. I have always said I love their Charlatan and Son of Juice...but this beer scored higher than both. It was perfect. I wish I had my own keg of this beer. 10/10

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