2018 has come and gone as many beers have flowed from kegs, bottles, cans, growlers, and crowlers into my mouth. Untappd tells me I drank 1960 total beers in 2018 with 1742 of those being unique. I’m getting ever closer to that mystical 10,000 unique beers drank on Untappd and hope to reach it at some point later this year. While there was many a beer drank last year, only a couple can call themselves the cream of the crop, the best of the boozy, the ideal of the dank, and the masters of the malty. I’ve whittled down all the beer I drank in 2018 to come up with a Top 10 list. This list only includes beer I drank for the first time or seasonal / limited releases. It was very difficult to rank these 10 beers, but I’ve given it my best. Without further ado, here we go.
I first tasted a 2017 FO in May during MBCC. With a slightly wrecked palate, I did not fully appreciate the rolling waves of vanilla. After trading for a 2018, I was able to indulge in the two metric shit tons of vanilla layered throughout the drinking experience. Combined with expert blending of 4 different types of bourbon barrels, FO was incredibly smooth with only a slight boozy heat indicating some aging in spirit barrels. This is how you do a bourbon barrel stout with generous vanilla additions.
The greatest thing I discovered in 2018 was the ability to order Cycle Beers online and have them delivered to my doorstep in a legal direct-from-the-brewery fashion. The first such order yielded me several stouts, my favorite being this unique number. While I’m not typically a big fan of rum barrel aging of beers, this proved to be a lovely combination as the added coconut somehow muted the boozy rum presence, leaving a velvety and chunky 11% stout. The presence of such obvious fruit chunks is not something I had experienced before, and while I was initially thrown off I soon grew to appreciate the texture and added complexity the coconut added to an already nuanced brew.
Another MBCC-related experience was drinking this hazy perfection from NY state. One of the days in Copenhagen I woke up early to buy some Equilibrium cans from a pop-up at Himmeriget, an awesome craft beer bar that was nearby our Airbnb. With the dankness in tow, I would pop open Sexual Fluctuation the next day, and ooooh boy was I in for a treat! A smorgasbord of tropical juices attacked my palette while a pillowy mouthfeel beckoned the haze to linger, kick back for a while, and perform a slow dance of ecstasy across my taste buds.
I’ve had the honor of drinking Atrial Rubicite many times in my life (10 to be exact with another 3 Sherry Barrel Atrial tastings), and it always remains one of the best fruited sours in the world. While my favorite non-sherry barrel ever is probably Blend 1 (the only one aged in oak), I tried Blend 7 at (you guessed it) MBCC. Poured by Averie Swanson, the head brewer at Jester King, Blend 7 was amazingly raspberry jammy as previous iterations, and it still allowed a pleasant tartness to shine beside the fruit resulting in a harmonious mixture of flavors. I’ll never pass on Atrial no matter how many times I’ve had it.
Here’s yet another top beer of 2018 that resulted from my MBCC-inspired Scandinavian adventure. On the way across the pond, we had a long layover at Newark and chose to make an extended pit stop at Other Half in Brooklyn. What transpired was the drinking of many incredible hazy IPAs, the best of which was this 10.5% monster. Cumulus cloud soft and amazingly drinkable at its high ABV, the oats and lactose helped to round out the body while generous Mosaic dry hopping and lupulin powder lent their fruit salad flavors to this hypebeast. Even at an already buzzed level, I could tell that this beer was some next level shit.
Speaking of hypebeasts, there was perhaps no IPA hyped up in 2018 more than Juice Machine, and in my estimation it somehow managed to live up to and surpass its steep billing. That delicious creamy tropical juice that Tree House is known for was perfectly displayed here, and an unapologetic melange of pineapple, papaya, and mango took me to “hop nirvana” as Tree House itself would describe the experience. Top notch all around.
I picked up this bad boy in Glenwood Springs when I visited the brewery in July. This beer combines 3 things I love in beautiful harmony: dark sours, bourbon barrel aging, and fruit. While having a lighter body than a stout, this beer allowed all the individual flavors to shine from its dark roasted malts to an oaky and vanilla bourbon barrel presence to a wonderful dark berry fruitiness. All this complexity was rounded out with a perfect tart that cohesively brought everything together.
I could possibly claim a little home state bias on this one, but DDH Ghost is legitimately one of the best DIPAs being made. Untappd even says so if you happen to place faith in their ratings. I drank a lot of this in 2018, and I also traded a lot of it due to its high desirability. DDH takes regular Ghost (already a world class DIPA) and ups the hoppy juice intensity manyfold resulting in a crazy smooth tropical joyride. I can’t wait until the next batch is released, allowing me to pick up a couple cases for personal consumption and enticing trade bait.
This is probably the WHALEZ-iest beer I had in 2018, and it blew my fucking socks off. Another gift of MBCC, this was the first beer I tried on the second day of the festival. I walked in the door and beelined it towards the Perennial booth where this was being poured. This 2017 edition was drenched in chocolate and vanilla while being enhanced with subtle chili and cinnamon spices. At >10% it was stupid smooth to drink. There’s a good reason Perennial is known for their barrel-aged stouts, and Abraxas is an incredible whale I was lucky enough to drink.
Choosing and ranking beers 10-2 was an arduous task, but #1 was a no brainer for me. A buddy scored JTR in a trade and saved it for my San Antonio visit. An almost unbelievable amount of jammy raspberry defines every aspect of this stout from nose to initial taste to finish. What Atrial Rubicite is to American Wild Ales, JTR is to Imperial Stouts. Bourbon heat and some chocolate round out the party, but raspberry fruit is the uncontested defining characteristic in this bad boy. I’ll definitely be looking to trade for this in the future.