The years keep on tickin’ by, and I keep on tickin’ beers. The Untappd tally in 2022 was 1829 total beers with 1542 of those being unique. Both of these figures are higher than 2021. While I took January off from drinking beer and generally drank less, these numbers are inflated by attending 7 (!!!) different festivals this year including a string of 3 straight days during GABF week – a rough period for my liver and frankly entire body. Stouts and IPAs still dominate my most drunk styles of the year, but I have definitely been leaning more towards easy drinking beers, something I can just sit down and slam back without worrying about its caloric density or overpowering flavor profile. I think that’s reflected within my Best Beers of the year.
My 2022 Best Beers style count is 3 Lagers, 2 Stouts, 1 IPA, 1 Barleywine, 1 Saison, and two styles that have never made my Top 10 – a Brown Ale and a Freeze-Distilled Beer. See, 3 Lagers and a Brown Ale, all eminently crushable. Average ABV of these 10 beers is 10.1% with the lowest at 4.5% and highest 17%. Unsurprisingly Colorado is overrepresented with 5 entries – California has 2 and North Carolina, New York, and Alaska each have 1. I tend to drink beer from where I live, and Colorado is blessed with a glut of phenomenal breweries. Perhaps I’ll be a little more geographically diverse in the future but probably not! Bourbon barrels play a part in 4 of the 10 beers, and my go-to adjunct coconut is in 2.
Enough nerd talk – onward to Brittski’s Best Beers of 2022!
As is my wont these days, I often first seek out an easy drinking beer when visiting a brewery. One particular visit to TRVE had the bartender recommending Death Ripper as a tasty little number. Intrigued how a 4.5% Brown Ale could separate itself, I gave it a go and was tremendously rewarded. Malt forward with a potent blend of Troubadour Serenade, Chorus, and Moonlight Serenade, rye and Root Shoot Munich 10, Death Ripper has a little bit of roast and is incredibly well balanced, possessing huge flavor in a small and unexpected package. I had never been blown away by a Brown Ale before until TRVE made me reconsider this often forgotten style.
By far one of the zaniest beers I drank in 2022, Amalgam Boysenberry Reduction is the answer to the question “But what about more?” Actually a somewhat more restrained version of its vanilla laden brethren, this beer is the result of freeze distilling a Golden Sour with additional boysenberries, concentrating berry jam into a thick and sweet affair that invites contemplative confusion. Is it sour beer? Is it ice wine? Categorization is not my concern – this is an incredibly unique and very well executed progression on what a fruited sour can be.
I finally got it. After years of desire and many near misses, I was finally able to drink Pliny the Younger 5 miles from my own backyard. While I mostly knew what to expect going into this occasion, PtY still blew my socks off. Perfectly balanced and dangerously drinkable at 10%, Younger is what all TIPAs should strive for. No sugary sweetness from trying to juice the ABV. Not overly thick. This is an amped up Pliny the Elder in all the best ways. Russian River has the OG West Coast IPA game on lock.
7. Burial Dusk
Another dark on the eyes light in the body crusher has made my list, this one a Schwarzbier / American Dark Lager hybrid. 5% with a smooth body and huge dark roasted malt and bitter chocolate flavors, Burial has packed a massive amount of flavor in a relatively light beer. Don’t be fooled by the midnight brown appearance – Dusk is a beer to be drunk until dawn and beyond.
Having heard whispered tales of the original Starry Noche and its mythical deliciousness, I was able to score a pour of this at WeldWerks’ 7th anniversary party. Hazelnut and coconut are the stars of the show here, and they generously allow the barrel to shine through in spots and make its presence known. With a dialed in body and minimal residual sweetness, there is little here to distract from the adjuncts, making this the best WeldWerks beer I have ever had.
The base George T. Stagg Here Be Monsters is already an incredible beer, yet Cerebral thought it prudent to amp it up with heaps of coconut. I thank them for that. Based on my previous Top 10 lists, I apparently have a penchant for coconut, and this beer dutifully scratches that itch. The bourbon forward profile wonderfully interplays with the coconut, working in unison to deliver a powerful 1-2 punch.
The spoils of attending the Firestone Walker Invitational came to light when I got to sample this treat from Sante Adairius. West Ashley on its own is one of the best fruited sours in the world, and they’ve managed to somehow make it even better by creating a 4-year cuvée of 2018-2021. The apricot here is sublime, tasting fresh and ripe despite 25% of the blend being 4 years old. Pleasant tart and light funk balance out the stone fruit, creating the perfect funky fruity drinking experience.
Colorado’s answer to Timbo Pils, Infinity is a heavily hopped West Coast Pilsner that has the perfect blend of juicy dankness and all day drinkability. The light pilsner body is taken for a joy ride by HBC 586, Mosaic, and Strata, transforming from laid back stoner on the couch to laid back stoner catching some waves. Or perhaps shredding some gnar – makes more sense for Colorado. Westbound & Down continues to show their versatility in nailing multiple styles across the board.
This megawhale was my favorite beer of the WeldWerks Invitational. I was lucky enough to score a magnum pour, and I had no idea what I was getting into. A blend of Weller and Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels that was then aged in a pear brandy barrel and finally finished on almond cookies, Mortalis has somehow made cohesive this insane blend of flavors. Barrels initially hit on the nose, and first swallow reveals cookie dough and some nutty almond. As the taste lingers, the pear soaked barrel profile reveals itself, adding some stone fruit, vanilla, and booze to the mix. Surprisingly nimble bodied with its pastry contents, the complexity of flavors here work together amazingly well. I doubt I’ll ever get to try this again, but it was a hell of a treat that I was able to enjoy it this one time.
When you pay nearly $100 retail for a small format bottle, it had better be damn good. ADWTD is damn good. Barrels, barrels, and more barrels are leading the charge. 17% and unbelievably smooth, ADWTD is oak barrel, booze, cherries, raisins, and caramel. This is the platonic ideal of what a barrel aged Barleywine should be. The focus is on the barrel and all the various flavors it imparts upon the base beer. Anchorage has perfected the formula of brewing a monstrous Barleywine and then aging it to both bring out and enhance all the qualities already present. Barleywine Is Life.
Honorable Mentions in no particular order – Mortalis Barrel Aged Whams Above Whams Below (Blue Wax), Cerebral Phantom Sense, Westbound & Down Chicago Peaks Kolsch, Westbound & Down Western Justice (2022), WeldWerks Medianoche: Vanilla Moonlight, Cellarmaker Works & Days, Amalgam Premiere Goat, Amalgam Timbo Pils, Side Project Forever Darkness