2023 is in the books, and I drank the beer to prove it. As is tradition, I now recount the large number of beers I checked in during the past year while you shake your head in awe, disbelief, and/or disappointment. The 2023 Untappd tally is 1551 beers with 1284 of those being unique. This continues a downward trend as I’m not getting any younger and my body is not reacting any more friendly to the beer I drink. IPAs and Stouts still dominate my most checked in styles, but Bierstadt Slow Pour Pils (11 check ins) sits proudly atop my list of most drank beer. In fact my top 3 most drank beers are all lagers with Coors Banquet and Westbound & Down Infinity Pils rounding things out. Nearly 28% of my check ins were of the easy drinking lager variety, a number I would like to continue ticking higher next year.
My 2023 Best Beers style count is 3 Stouts, 2 Barleywines, 2 Lagers, 2 Sours, and 1 IPA. While all of these styles have been represented before, there is a first time Lambic joining the fray. There are also 7 new breweries making first time appearances on my illustrious list.
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for – Brittski’s Best Beers of 2023!
This is one of those legendary beers that I had heard about and finally got to try. It lived up the hype. Full of big bold flavors of roasted coffee in a light 5.3% ABV package, this is the kind of easy drinking beer I could drink all the time and never get bored with. Thanks for letting me give you a taste, Moonlight.
Drank during a bottle share, this collab with Private Press blew me away, capturing my favorite beer of the night amongst some other heavy hitters. Surprisingly only clocking in at 9% ABV, this Stout is a blend of bourbon and cognac barrel aging rested on vanilla beans. Showcasing the vanilla while still allowing the barrels to shine, this was an unexpected treat from Hill Farmstead.
A 3 way collab between Lager powerhouses Wayfinder, Bierstadt, and Heater Allen, this Czech Amber Lager gives a huge malty biscuit flavor with the right amount of noble hop balance. This is a crusher I would gladly keep in my fridge next to Slow Pour Pils.
This collab marries Primitive’s spontaneous beer conditioned on peaches in Reposado Tequila casks with Cellar West’s Brett Pale Ale to create a fruity, funky, spirit driven beer like nothing else I had in 2023. The peaches shine alongside the tequila barrel, working in harmony with the funky hop profile. There is a lot going on here, and Primitive has wonderfully balanced it all together.
One of the most bonkers beers I drank in 2023, Madera is a macro-oxidized Barleywine aged in sherry barrels. The Barleywine base, quickly given advanced aging characteristics through a proprietary macro-oxidation process, is then laid to rest in sherry barrels for 12 months. Madera presents with a nose of cherry, raisin, raspberry, chocolate, peat, and leather and is followed by tastes of raspberry jam, raisins, bitter baker’s chocolate, and tobacco. The smoky finish just serves as a reminder of the wild ride New Image just took you on.
The culmination of Cerebral’s ever-advancing barrel program is this 3 year barrel aged Stout that perfectly balances a bold triple mashed body with bourbon barrel, yielding strong oak elements alongside vanilla, dark cherries, and coconut. Like its namesake bourbon, this beer is all about the time it spent in a barrel picking up its various flavor elements.
I have my Chicago friend to thank for helping me secure this bad boy. Boozy toffee raisins are what I want in a barrel aged Barleywine, and this delivers those goods in a delicious 17% ABV package. This beer proves that Goose Island can still pump out some of the best BA beers around.
This is undoubtedly the whaleziest beer I had the pleasure of drinking this year. Cantillon was pouring this out of bottles at Snallygaster, and I happened to catch a lull in the line where I did not have to wait too long. At nearly 20 years old, this Lambic does not have much of its hop element as when it’s fresh, but the perfectly balanced tartness still pops. Few beers in the world can age this well, showcasing the mastery Cantillon has with their lambics.
Absolutely bursting with fruity strawberry and pineapple flavors, this West Coast IPA maintains some bitter bite to remind you what you’re drinking. Modern West Coast IPAs were a huge trend in 2023, and Grade 10 did the best job of balancing classic elements with a juicy hop profile. Cannonball has put 10 years of knowledge and innovation into the WCIPA game to create this beauty.
For their 11th anniversary, River North turned the dial to 11 with this 23% (!!!) quadruple barrel aged Stout. The combination of beer, barrels and time created stunning flavors of vanilla, brownie batter, and coconut that one would only expect from the use of adjuncts. It is truly amazing that a beer can be drinkable at such a high ABV, but River North has somehow managed to pull that off. Delicious and dangerous is a fun game to play.
Honorable Mentions in no particular order – Side Project BBT (2022), Side Project BBT | Van Winkle 2023, Side Project BBT | Rye 2023, Anchorage A Deal With The Devil – Double Oaked (2020), Mortalis Peach Brandy Leto, Cerebral Barrel Aged Unknown Variable, Halfway Crooks 10˚P Černé Pivo, Firestone Walker Rip This Joint (2023), Amalgam The Modern West