I look forward to the Zymurgy’s list of the favorite beers as chosen by the magazine’s readership. Some people slag the list for not having nearly enough “whale beers,” but that’s one of the reasons I actually enjoy this list over others (such as the “whale” heavy Ratebeer top 50 list). The Zymurgy list contains most of what I enjoy and can get, plus a few things I can shoot for if I ever make it to either coast.
I’ve actually tried 35 of beers on the 2016 Zymurgy list. Of that 35, I have had all of them more than once except for Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Unfortunately, due to Russian Rivers’ inability to keep up with the insane demand for that beer (not to mention their scarcity in the Midwest) I have only tried PtE once. I blogged about that experience here.
Many of the 35 beers that I have tried would end up on my personal top 50 favorite beers, although my personal 50 would also include a fair number of imports (especially Belgian beers). Those beers are broken out into a different category on the Zymurgy list.
Here are some other random thoughts about the 2016 list:
- Of the top 10 top ranked beers, eight of the 10 are IPAs. It seems pretty clear which beer style rules the roost on the American craft beer scene at this point.
- That said, I was glad to see three porters on the top beers list (Deschutes Black Butte, Ballast Point Victory at Sea, and Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald). I always feel like porters take a back seat to stouts and I wish that wasn’t the case.
- It’s pretty amazing to me that Bell’s Two Hearted is at number two on the top ranked beers list. Bell’s IPA offerings have fallen out of favor with some beer geek reviewers, especially Hopslam. I don’t disagree with the criticism of Hopslam. There is a brewery in Oklahoma City (COOP Ale Works) that makes a honey-infused double IPA called Alpha Hive that is every bit as good as the bottles of Hopslam I have had. That said, Two Hearted is a fabulous beer and I’m glad Bell’s will be making its Wichita debut this week.
- Several of the beers on this list that I haven’t tried fall into the “New England IPA” quasi-style that you have to get within a minuscule radius from the brewery (e.g. Sip of Sunshine, Julius, Lunch). The other beers are from places that have a little bit bigger (but still small) distribution footprint (Russian River, Fat Head, Surly, Tröegs, Toppling Goliath, Three Floyds, The Alchemist).
- Russian River landed five beers on the top ranked beers list. Five. Beers. They were also the top-ranked brewery on the “brewery rankings” list. That’s staggering acclaim for a brewery that only produces around 14,000 barrels of beer per year.
- Glad to see Bomb! by Prairie Artisan Ales (out of Tulsa, OK) on the list. Bomb! is an epic beer by a “little guy” brewery that deserves the acclaim. Oklahoma is quietly blowing up in the Midwest with folks like Prairie Artisan, COOP, Mustang, and Roughtail all producing top-notch beer.
- In terms of the top-ranked beers, the three elder statesmen breweries of the craft beer movement continue to wane. Only one Sierra Nevada beer on the list (SN Pale Ale), no Boston Beer/Sam Adams, and no Anchor. Sad. In the food/beverage world the message is clear: you must continue to innovate or you die. Or worse, you become irrelevant. Nevertheless, I still LOVE Sierra Nevada Narwhal, Sam Adams Octoberfest, and Anchor Porter.
- I’ve had all but one of the top imports but that one is a glaring omission. I’ve never tried Unibroue La Fin Du Monde. Ouch! Gotta fix that.
- Beers I’m surprised didn’t make the list: AleSmith Speedway Stout, Deschutes The Abyss, Stone Delicious IPA, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Sixpoint Resin IPA, Cigar City Hunahpu, Lagunitas Brown Shugga’, anything by Hill Farmstead.
A word about the image at the top: It is a stock photo of hipster/praise & worship leader type guys drinking tallboys full of “golden suds.” And the guy on the right is taking their picture with a selfie stick. The picture is so awful I had to use it.