The 20 Best Beers of 2015

Lakefront, Ale Asylum, Central Waters, New Glarus and more make our list of the best brews from 2015.

I tried a lot of beers in 2015 (I’m not sure if that’s a good thing). Some weren’t new, but just new to me. And some were made special by where and when I sampled them. Here’s the list of my 20 favorites from 2015.

brewcity_CHOCOLATE_RAINThe Bruery Chocolate Rain Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

The best beer I tried in 2015, and one of the best I’ve ever had. Rich, balanced, decadent and delicious. It made my trip to the taproom at The Bruery in Placentia, Calif., even more memorable.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA

My favorite non-limited beer of 2015, and I sampled my fair share. The standard Sculpin is a fantastic IPA, and adding the citrus bite of grapefruit makes it even better.

Lakefront My Turn Series: Tom IPA

Lakefront expertly crafted this Citra hop beauty. The only problem was that the limited release wasn’t around long enough.

Oskar Blues Pinner IPA

Session IPAs picked up steam in 2014 and hit their stride in 2015. Pinner has a full fruity citrus flavor with just at 4.9 percent ABV.

Bourbon County Regal Rye Stout

My favorite of the new batch of Bourbon County Stouts. Blackberries, sour cherries and Luxardo candied cherries lend to a decadent flavor of dark chocolate covered fruit.

Cigar City Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout

This limited release from Tampa is one of the most complex beers I’ve ever had. Dark chocolate and coffee give way to an intriguing finish that has hints of tobacco.

brewcity_White-RajahThe Brew Kettle White Raja IPA

I tried this at Progressive Field during a Cleveland Indians game and was awed. The beer had the big citrus flavor that I look for in an IPA.

La Debauche Nevermore Russian Imperial Stout

A hint of smoke in the aroma gave way to a delicious oaky chocolate and coffee flavor. But it was the fact that I tried this at La Fine Mousse in Paris that made it magical.

Night Shift Whirlpool American Pale Ale

I had this during my brother Pat’s bachelor party weekend in the Catskills (yes, the Catskills). The session brew is bounding with citrus and peach flavor, and was a perfect porch companion.

Ale Asylum Velveteen Habit IPA

Big Citra hop flavor with a hint of malty sweetness were a big reason that this beer snagged top honors in the Milwaukee Magazine IPA blind tasting.

Toppling Goliath Pompeii IPA

Mosaic hops were a popular choice in 2015, and it’s hard to find a better example of their use than in this single-hop brew. Toppling Goliath continues to impress.

Destihl Dosvidanya Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

The gold medal winner at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers (FoBAB) was a worthy recipient. It has a decadent chocolate flavor with a boozy, but smooth, bourbon finish.

Raised Grain Paradocs Imperial Red

The new brewery in Waukesha made a name for itself right out of the gate with this tasty treat. Big malt flavor is melds nicely with hoppy citrus.

Trillium Fort Point Pale Ale

I drank this on the beach in Maine following my brother’s wedding. The ideal setting would’ve made a Budweiser memorable, but thankfully I had something much better. Big tropical notes highlighted this brew from a small Boston standout.

brewcity_MainedinnerMaine Dinner Double IPA

Another selection made possible by my brother Pat, who lives on the East Coast. Dinner combines big citrus flavor with a hint of hoppy resin. It’s a hop circus.

New Glarus R&D Bramble Berry Wild Brown Ale

I’m not the biggest wild ale fan. But New Glarus did just fine with this one. The hints of fruit that weren’t too sour and a slight oak finish from barrel aging rounded out the brew nicely.

Central Waters Seventeen Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

One of the best barrel-aged stouts in the world. That’s my take. Rich, dark chocolate flavor with a fair amount of booze. We’re lucky to have Central Waters in Wisconsin.

Lakefront/Tyranena Two Lakes Triple IPA

One of the most talked about local releases of 2015. This big brew used grapefruit to add bitterness and citrus flavor. It wasn’t for the faint of heart

Founders Blushing Monk Belgian Style Ale

Big raspberry flavor and a potent 9.2 percent ABV are the hallmarks of this gem from the Founders Backwoods Series.

Odell Barrel Thief Oak-Aged Imperial IPA

I’m a tough sell on barrel-aged IPAs, but Odell has this one figured out. The oak isn’t overpowering and rounds out the tropical fruit hop flavor nicely.

Events Brewing

Wednesday, Jan. 6: The Milwaukee Beer Society samples barrel-aged beers from 6 to 9 p.m. at Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.). A perfect event for winter. Cost is $15.

Thursday, Jan. 7: Rumpus Room (1030 N. Water St.) hosts a Founders beer dinner at 7 p.m. The four-course menu includes snapper soup, pork belly, honey and beer braised short ribs, and bourbon-glazed pecan pie paired with 2014 Backwoods Bastard Scotch Ale. Tickets are $82.

Thursday, Jan. 7: The women from Barley’s Angels are meeting at 6 p.m. at The Brown Bottle (221 W. Galena St.). RSVP through the group’s Facebook page.

Friday, Jan. 8: New Belgium samples are available from 5 to 7 p.m. at Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.).

Saturday, Jan. 9: Try New Belgium brews from noon to 2 p.m. at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.).

Saturday, Jan. 9: European style beers are being sampled from 1 to 4 p.m. at Three Cellars (7133 S. 76th St.).



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.