Presented below, you will find a list of beers that I like. Lists of these sort tend to be taken more seriously when they have authoritative names, so my working title for this one was The Definitive Drunkspin Compilation Of The 18 Beers In The Universe That Are Perfect; All Other Beers Are Horrible. But that didn't fit, and/or my editor had some other dumb idea.
Would you believe that I put a lot of thought into the beer-selection methodology for this list? If you believe that, then you, my dear friend, are a rube—but also, in this one isolated instance, a correct rube, for I did approach this list with something very closely approximating a responsible plan of action. Dig this:
A lot of year-end lists concern themselves strictly with newly released beers, and there are indeed a few new-to-the-world brews shouted out herein. But in order to flesh things out a bit with more widely available offerings—things more of you have likely had a chance to try either this year or before—I've expanded the parameters to include any new-to-me beer that left a really memorable impression. This gives us a greater opportunity for conversation, and as a special year-end gift to you loyal Drunkspin readers, I will here point out that I expect a great deal of that conversation to take the direction of, "Holy shit, this clown had never had [Classic Beer X] until this year? He's even less qualified than I thought!"
What can I say? There's a ton of great beer in the world, and I haven't tried most of it. But I'm getting there, and this following list represents the highlights of 2014's quest.
Karben4 Tokyo Sauna
Karben4 is a brewpub in Madison that goes against the national (if not so much the local) grain by proudly "specializing in English-style malt bombs." Tokyo Sauna, however, is a pretty heavily hopped domestic pale ale; I can't claim to remember a ton of specifics about the one pint I had, but there are some scribblings in my phone that suggest it was my second-favorite beer of the 50 or so I tried in Wisconsin.
Ale Asylum Bedlam
And this was my favorite Wisconsin beer. Citra-hopped, Belgian-yeasted, crystal-malted perfection.
Firestone Walker Stickee Monkee
Firestone Walker might be my favorite American brewery (I fully admit I'm not qualified to pick a best brewer, but they're up there with Tröegs, Allagash, and Boulevard as an outfit I've had a lot of exposure to without ever being disappointed). Stickee Monkee is a totally bonkers 13.4-percent-ABV barrel-aged quadruple ale with turbinado sugar added in place of the traditional Belgian candi. It tastes like just about everything, all in perfect combination.
I told a couple of even less reputable outlets than this one that Allagash Saison is the best new beer of 2014. That was just the first thing that popped into my head when they asked, but it also happens to be at least very nearly true.
Vermont's Alchemist is best known for Heady Topper, which a lot of smart folk consider the world's best beer. Heady's not eligible for this list, though, because I've had the odd can or two over the years. Crusher, a 9.6-percent-ABV double IPA, was new to me in 2014, though, and it was incredible, with great balance for such a hoppy monster.
Cambridge Brewing Company Cerisse Cassee
If barrel-fermented sour wild ales brewed with sour cherries are your kind of thing—and why wouldn't they be?—then this is your beer.
Toppling Goliath PseudoSue
I lucked into this pride of Iowa out of the blue one fine afternoon in September; I haven't seen this perfect pale ale since and have no real expectation that I will, but the one pint I had was probably my favorite beer of 2014.
This Flanders Red from San Francisco was one of the best couple of sours I had all year, and ever.
Cantillon Something or Other
I don't even remember which bottle of this Belgian trophy beer I had; I'm only mentioning it here to thank my friends Lee and Erica for bringing it over on Thanksgiving, and to brag to you guys that sometimes I even drink expensive beer, bro. This stuff is wildly overpriced but also fantastic.
Trillium Heavy Mettle
Trillium's a little operation in South Boston that got off to a great start this year, then mysteriously shut down for most of December; if they hold their shit together for all of 2015, I'll be ready to call them the state's finest brewery. I love just about everything they make, and this double IPA stands out as their best so far.
Took me a long time to track down a fresh bottle of this stuff, and, fine, I admit it, you guys were right. I'm not sure I prefer it to Firestone Walker Union Jack, but it's right up there with the best handful of IPAs I've tried.
Pretty Things There's No Place Like There Double IPA
This cool little Massachusetts beer-maker rarely produces traditional American beer styles, but they collaborated with Naparbier of Spain to crank out this fairly faithful, and fully excellent, interpretation of a modern imperial India pale ale.
Troegs Master of Pumpkins
This wasn't objectively one of my favorite beers of the year in that it's a fucking pumpkin beer, and fucking pumpkin beers suck. But! This one sucks so much less than any of the others. Hell, it doesn't even suck at all. It's almost good. It's good.
Samuel Adams Utopias
This costs an outrageous $200 a bottle; it's barely even beer, and I didn't come anywhere near paying for it, but all that said: incredible stuff.
Deschutes Pine Mountain Pilsner
Pilsner's where it's at, man. I've had a couple other really good Deschutes beers lately, too. If you have regular access to this stuff, please tell me which particular bottles to look out for.
Jack's Abby trIPL
Winner of the brewing industry's highest honor.
This is based on their delicious Tank 7 farmhouse ale, with some dry-hopping, bottle-conditioning, and yeast-adding thrown in for good and funky measure. It's only intermittently released, which is both an outrage and a reason to hold on till spring.
So that's the best new stuff I can remember coming across in the past 365. How about you?
Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain.
Image by Sam Woolley.
The Concourse is Deadspin's home for culture/food/whatever coverage. Follow us on Twitter.