Every year I highlight the best new-to-me beers of the year. Here's my 2017 list.
I mentioned my favorite beers from local breweries earlier in the week. Those weren’t the only highlights. Plenty of other beers not made in Milwaukee provided memorable tasting experiences in 2017.
Central Waters Brewing, Amherst, Wisconsin
Ardea Insignis Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
I need to thank beer guru Tom “Grynder” Ciula for allowing me to sample this standout with him. This extremely rare bird was aged in bourbon barrels for more than three years and the result is a deliciously boozy brew with flavors of dark chocolate and bourbon. Central Waters has a barrel aging program that’s second to none.
Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, Michigan
The first bottling of CBS since 2011 caused quite a commotion among craft beer fans. I drove through a snowstorm to Grand Rapids to ensure that I got my hands on a couple of bottles. The stout, aged in bourbon barrels that once contained maple syrup, has a nicely subtle maple flavor without cloying sweetness. It was worth the wait.
Greenbush Brewing, Sawyer, Michigan
Rodeo de Cabra Barrel-Aged Cream Stout
One of those times where the setting made the beer even more memorable. The annual Christmas party at Greenbush in southwest Michigan was an amazing time. This beer was one of the reasons why. This stout, aged in whiskey barrels from nearby Journeyman Distillery, was rich, smooth and potent.
Kros Strain Brewing, La Vista, Nebraska
Supajuice Imperial IPA
Another one I chalk up to the overall experience. I had a few of these at my mom’s surprise 70th birthday party in Omaha’s Old Market in early December. It has juicy citrus flavor and is extremely easy to drink, which is unusual for a big IPA that carries a hefty 9.4% ABV. The brewing scene in Nebraska is exploding and that’s a good thing.
Maplewood Brewing, Chicago, Illinois
Charlatan Pale Ale
Beers don’t have to be flashy or barrel-aged to make this list. I’ve been impressed by everything I’ve tried from Maplewood, and Charlatan is my favorite, especially when I’m looking to get away from hazy IPAs. It combines citrus flavor, moderate bitterness and a touch of malt. And it comes in at a manageable 6.1% ABV.
Old Nation Brewing, Williamston, Michigan
One of the best New England IPAs made in the Midwest: This dry-hopped beauty is hazy, fruity and delicious, and the middle of Michigan is a much shorter drive than the East Coast.
Pelican Brewing, Pacific City, Oregon
Mother of All Storms Barrel-Aged Barleywine
I got to try this one thanks to Champps owner Tony Lewanovich. It’s easily the best barleywine I’ve ever had. The brew combines rich vanilla and toffee flavors and has a smooth and balanced finished that is best described as buttery.
Pinthouse Pizza Brewpub, Austin, Texas
A refreshing IPA that’s big on citrus flavor. The delicious brew was made better by the fact that I sipped it in a sunny beer garden at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, an outstanding beer haven in Austin.
Prairie Artisan Ales, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Bourbon Paradise Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Prairie does barrel-aging very well, and this is the best that I’ve tried from them. It’s rich and boozy and melds a ton of delicious flavors together. The potent brew is a perfect winter warmer.
Sketchbook Brewing, Evanston, Illinois
Insufficient Clearance IPA
The small brewery in Evanston earned acclaim when this beer earned the No. 19 spot on Draft Magazine’s list of the top 50 IPAs in America. The hazy IPA packs a lot of tropical flavor into a beer that has a small 5 percent ABV.