It’s no secret — visit any brewery taproom up on current beer trends and the hazy IPA dominates the charts. These rock star beers suck up all the oxygen in the room, leaving other styles gasping for air — a.k.a. share of taste buds — but every so often, there’s a beer that steals the show.
Instantly, that beer converts a discerning drinker into a loyal fan. Before long, that person becomes an evangelist, unapologetically trying to convert all their friends into fans, with statements like, “It’s easily in my top five all-time greatest!” Then they’re signing up for the newsletter, anxiously awaiting the beer’s next appearance. In the meantime comes buying the T-shirt, jacket patch, branded glassware, and limited-edition autographed beer coaster. In short, they’re hooked.
One of craft beer’s biggest attractions is the industry’s overwhelming abundance of flavor options to choose from. Just about every culinary technique has been co-opted by brewers to push beer styles in the most unique ways they can think of. The downside to the unending ocean of options is that it can be hard for beer producers to stand out. The noise is loud, and hops scream in unison for craft beer lovers’ undivided attention.
It’s absolutely fun to have a beer that unexpectedly knocks your socks off. But what do you do when there are so many beers to choose from? The easy call is to imbibe the liquid you’re familiar with; the one you know delivers satisfaction with every single sip. The other option? Opt for the tried-and-true word-of-mouth recommendation from a credible source: brewers themselves.
Below, 11 brewers share the most memorable beers they tried last year, that they can’t wait to get their hands on again in 2022.
The Most Memorable Beers of 2021, According to Brewers
- The Rare Barrel Blurred With Barbera Grapes (2020)
- Bierstadt Lagerhaus Slow-Pour Pils
- Cloudburst Brewing Relative Fiction
- Forager Brewery Chicatanazzzzz
- Anchorage Brewing Blessed
- Almacén Hércules Humble Humo
- New Glarus Strawberry Rhubarb
- Goldspot Brewing May Queen
- Urban Roots Brewing 10°
- Creature Comforts Get Comfortable
“Blurred With Barbera Grapes is my favorite beer of the year. Coming from The Rare Barrel, I expected this beer to be a fruited sour bomb, but I was surprised by the low acidity, subtle tannins from the grapes and oak, and a nice effervescent pop. This beer literally blurred the lines of beer and wine.” —Chaz Hubbard, brewer, Hella Coastal, Oakland, Calif.
“I had the pleasure of visiting Denver and hit up Bierstadt. Their Slow-Pour Pils was worth the wait. Perfect amount of bitterness, with the crispness that you’d expect from that style. With a golden pale color and beautiful aromatics, it’s a crusher with a personality. Plus, the creaminess of the head is just good on the eyes.” —Lara Hargrave, lead brewer, Great Notion, Portland, Ore.
“Slow Pour Pils from Bierstadt in Denver. It was amazing, perfectly crisp and clean with a perfect billowing head. I aspire to make a pilsner that good.” —Rachael Engel, head brewer, Bosk Brew Works, Woodenville, Wash.
“Cloudburst Brewing’s Relative Fiction, a Brettanomyces co-fermented pilsner. You knew first and foremost it was a pilsner, with its floral noble hop aroma, but on the finish I recall the most gentle, Bretty hint of mouthwatering overripe pineapple and petting-zoo hay. I’m generally cautious of Brett beers after being smacked by too many old horse blankets over the years, but this one reminded me how a light touch can create a mind-blowing experience.” —Barry Chan, brewmaster, Lucky Envelope Brewing, Seattle
“This is easily Chicatanas [Chicatanazzzzz] from Forager Brewery. They put roasted ants in a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout with vanilla and it actually tasted great. For something that looked terrifying on paper, this was a slam dunk!” —Kyle Harrop, Horus Aged Ales, Oceanside, Calif.
“New Glarus Brewing Strawberry Rhubarb was my favorite this year. I just got to try it a couple weeks ago and fell in love! The tartness of the strawberry with a smooth rhubarb finish… So good!” —Jenn Suitt, brewer, Homestead Beer Co., Heath, Ohio.
“May Queen from Goldspot Brewing in Denver is a Norwegian farmhouse [ale] brewed with peach and vanilla black tea. The balance between the malt and fruit is delicate and perfect. The vanilla rounds it all out. Goldspot has been releasing creative brews all year long and I can’t wait to see what they do next year.” —Betsy Lay, founder and brewer, Lady Justice Brewing, Aurora, Colo.
“One of the best beers I’ve had in 2021 is 10° by Urban Roots in Sacramento. By far the best, crispiest pilsner that I’ve had all year, and the most memorable due to the pairing of their amazing barbecue that they have on site. Drinks clean and crispy [and] ridiculously crushable.” —Ricky Avila, packaging lead, Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co., Fresno, Calif.
“Most memorable beer of 2021 was in the aesthetic city of Athens, Ga., home of Creature Comforts. I was in luck as they had just released Get Comfortable, their collaboration with Sierra Nevada, a double IPA using experimental hop HBC586 with tropical aromatics, golden appearance, slight haze, a firm bitterness, and medium-light body. This beer was so good, I had to stuff my suitcase and bring some back home. It was memorable not just because it was rad beer; it also had a great cause: 100 percent of the profits went back to the community through their Get Comfortable program which helps toward local needs.” —Rick Morales, assistant brewer, Congregation Ale House, Azusa, Calif.