It’s time for the annual look back at the best beers I‘ve discovered over the past 365 days.
And, as always, I like to start with a few stats (because I’m a nerd like that).
This was my biggest year for beer ever! Moving across the country sure helped me find a ton of new places and great brews. Last year I tried 658 beers, this year I CRUSHED that...trying 1094 beers this year (+436!!!) from. So creating this top-10 list was quite difficult.
Belt’s Beer Garden has been going on for more than eight years now and in that time I have featured 661 beers from 440 different breweries (50 new breweries this year!) from all 50 states and 14 different countries.
Since hop-forward beers continue to be my go-to and, having sampled many more IPAs than other styles, I divide the rankings into two categories - Top of the Hop (Pale Ales, IPAs, DIPAs) and Best of the Rest (all other styles).
Let’s jump right in to it with my ten favorite hoppy brews of 2022!
*NOTE: just because the beer is on this list doesn’t mean it was first brewed in 2022, just that I had it for the first time this year*
TOP OF THE HOP: TOP 10 HOPPY BEERS
10: Welcome Young One - Moksa Brewing (Rocklin, CA)
Style: Hazy IPA
9: Jew-Jitsu - Loma Brewing (Los Gatos, CA)
Style: Hazy IPA
8: Do I Make You Hazy Baby? - Front Pourch Brewing (Phoenix, AZ)
Style: Hazy IPA
7: Scenic West - Bow & Arrow Brewing (Albuquerque, NM)
Style: Hazy IPA
6: Green Yield - The Drowned Lands (Warwick, NY)
Style: Hazy IPA
5: The Theory & Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, Chapter II: Freedom is Slavery - Root + Branch (Copiague, NY)
One of the easiest drinking Triple IPAs I’ve every come across. Insanely crushable for 9.4% and chocked full of sweet, citrusy, and grassy flavors.
4: Mammoth - Brew Gentlemen (Braddock, PA)
Like the previous beer, Mammoth was insanely easy to drink despite the higher ABV. This tropical hop bomb was juicy, delicious, and too smooth for its own good.
3: When In Doubt - Woodhouse Brewing (Santa Cruz, CA)
Woodhouse was the surprise of the year. I randomly found them on my drive home and decided to stop for a beer...there I found When In Doubt and fell in love. This was everything you could ask for in an IPA - juicy, tropical, floral, crushable, and sessionable. I brought a crowler home and it didn’t last me 10 minutes. Delicious.
2: In the Shrine - Neue Methode (Jersey Shore, PA)
What they call an “opaque modern IPA” we call a hazy. And, damn did they make one of the best hazies out there. Dank, tropical, juicy, simply amazing. I can’t wait to get my hands on more of the beers in the future. Full write up of the beer is here.
1: General Braddock’s - Brew Gentlemen (Braddock, PA)
Easily the best IPA I had all year. If Mammoth was great, this was out of this world good! It was so soft and creamy and is PACKED with flavors. Orange, mango, passion fruit...it has it all. Here’s the full, detailed, write up on the brew.
BEST OF THE REST: TOP 10 NON-HOPPY BEERS
10: Juiced! Ginger + Lemon - HenHouse Brewing (Santa Rosa, CA)
Style: Fruited Gose
A delicious, refreshing Gose with ginger and lemon!
9: Glazed (Cinnamon Donut) - Alvarium Brewing (New Britain, CT)
Style: Spiced/Herbed Beer
Brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, lactose and cinnamon donuts this is the perfect fall beer!!
8: Tie XI - Monday Night Brewing (Atlanta, GA)
Style: Strong Ale
They took 8 distinct base beers, from 25 different spirit barrels - including a blend of a Stout, Quad, Brown, Barleywine and Dopplebock - then aged that on Brazilian Amburana Wood and Madagascar Vanilla. Sounds intense, tastes amazing.
7: Doom Tree - Fonta Flora Brewing (Morganton, NC)
A collaboration with Arizona Wilderness. I’m not normally a fan of Kolschs...but this Kolsch, made with lemon zest and elderflower, was sweet and tasty. It was light, a little sticky, and all too crushable.
6: Coconut, Brah - Humble Sea Brewing (Santa Cruz, CA)
I tried this Porter - made with coconut, vanilla, and cacao nibs - in the middle of summer after a hike and it was AMAZING and refreshing. The coconut really pops while the cacao adds a nice sweetness.
5: Unicorn Milk - Twenty-Six Acres Brewing (Concord, NC)
Style: Cream Ale
This Cream Ale with blueberries and vanilla was sweet, smooth, and way too tasty. Twenty-Six Acres has climbed the ranks of my favorite breweries over the past few years because everything they make is just so damn good.
4: Oktoberfestbier - Strike Brewing (San Jose, CA)
This festbier was all I drank in October. It was clean, crisp, flavorful, and downright dangerous! Good thing these guys are close to my home because I went back time and time again for this brew. By far my favorite Oktoberfest brew ever.
3: The Zen Cow - Peoria Artisan Ales (Peoria, AZ)
Style: Chai Cream Ale
A slightly spicy Cream Ale brewed with lactose, vanilla beans, and chai spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, pepper) that is perfect for fall or winter.
2: Flight Wave: Bourbon Maple - Ad Astra Brewing (Prescott, AZ)
Style: Barrel-Aged Barleywine
This English Barleywine was aged 10 months in a Buffalo Trace cask that previously held maple syrup for two years. The blend of bourbon and maple syrup makes for a sweet and delicious combination. The 14% ABV was hidden completely and that made this the most dangerous beer of the year (in a good way). The full write up is here.
1: Fika - Beer Tree Brew (Port Crane, NY)
A coffee stout made with milk sugar, coffee, and hazelnuts? Yes, please! It was sweet, roasty, and all too good!! If ever there was a morning beer...it’s this. The full write up is here and if you’re in NY, I suggest you find it!
BEER OF THE YEAR:
FIKA - BEER TREE BREW
Two years ago, I had V. Latte w/ Blue Heron from Bearded Iris as my top beer...it was the first time a stout had ever won the award. Well...Fika *might* better than that V. Latte. It’s an absolutely amazing stout and I want to drink it every morning! Ideally, I would love to try the two side-by-side to see which one is better but you cannot go wrong with either coffee stout.
Since finding them for the first time earlier in the year, Beer Tree has crushed it in every style. Stunning stouts, delicious IPAs, sweet Sours...just an overall amazing brewery with the best beer of the year, narrowly beating out General Braddock’s from Brew Gentlemen.