2016 was an incredible beer year. The most significant change was likely a significant increase in my beer trading, which has opened my world up to countless new and incredible brews.
The Year of Haze
The clear trend of 2016 was the complete dominance of New England-style IPAs. Mostly, New England is no longer the only place to find these so-called “juice bombs.”
Monkish Brewing (http://www.monkishbrewing.com/) came out of the gates swinging and firmly established itself as the West Coast’s challenger to Treehouse and the rest of the New England haze brewers. Monkish’s releases became somewhat of a spectacle, with people lining up at 2 AM or earlier for the 10 AM IPA can releases. Crazy. Midway through the year Monkish got their own canning line and started randomly announcing releases, quelling the midnight lines but not necessarily making the cans any easier to get.
Fortunately, I have a few different trade partners in the LA Area that have been faithfully sending me Monkish’s killer IPAs. I cannot say I have gotten every one, but i have been fortunate to get many of their best beers. In no particular order, my favorite Monkish brews of 2016 were: Foggier Window, My First Canning Line DIPA, JFK to LAX, Really Real and Atomically. That said, I can honestly say each Monkish beer I had was top notch.
That said, Monkish is not the only California brewery embracing and succeeding in the Haze game. My two favorite Bay Area breweries, Cellarmaker (http://www.cellarmakerbrewing.com/) and Fieldwork (http://fieldworkbrewing.com/) are no strangers to the haze. That said, both have their own unique take on the style. One thing I love about both of these breweries is that they have their own unique style that is present in almost every one of their IPAs. It is difficult to describe, but even if I have never had a particular beer from either brewery, I am confident I could determine if it was one of theirs.
Cellarmaker has made a few beers that I consider hybrid East/West Coast brews. I have written about Ger off my Lawn! before, but every time I think about my favorite beers of the year it comes to mind. Super flavorful, juicy hazy IPA, but most importantly, a huge hop kick. It is basically my perfect beer.
Other standouts from Cellarmaker this year include Wicked Juicy and Double Dobis. I look forward to more killer beers from Cellarmaker in 2017.
My favorite Fieldwork hazy IPAs from this year were King Citra, Broken Clouds, Pulp and St. Monroe. King Citra absolutely nailed the style, whereas Broken Clouds was more of the hybrid I love.
Two other Northern California breweries that are killing the haze game are Alavarado Street (http://www.alvaradostreetbrewery.com/) and Moonraker(http://www.moonrakerbrewing.com/). Both have been putting out killer beers, especially in the second half of the year. Alvarado’s Contains No Juice, Opaque Minds and Vengeful Barbarian were all excellent.
Moonraker is relatively new on the scene but killing it. They recently started canning their beers and if you can get your hands on them, you should. I recently visited the brewery and it was also very cool. My favorite juice bombs they put out this year were the somewhat now-famous Yojo and Dojo, but my personal favorite was the most recent release, The Holy Hermit. I cannot wait to see what they do in 2017.
Overall, I initially did have some hesitancy about the hazy IPA rage. However, I am now fully on-board. I can never say no to any of the beers above, or any of the “original” NE IPAs (ie Treehouse, Tired Hands and Trillium). I am also enjoying many of the other options popping up from all over the country. The haze game is not going away, and I am OK with that.
Was 2016 the Last Year of West Coast IPA
Nah. NE style IPAs are still the rage, but there are plenty of fantastic West Coast IPAs still out there and people who love them, like me. Russian River (ie Pliny and Blind Pig), Kern River, Noble, Highland Park, Beachwood and the local boys (Fieldwork and Cellarmaker) are still cranking out awesome West Coast IPAs. Some of my favorite West Coasters this year were Kern River’s Citra, Noble’s Galaxy Showers and Highland Park’s Hello LA.
I am hoping that 2017 brings a revitalized approach to West Coast IPAs and maybe some innovations. With all the great breweries we have I am hopeful it can be done.
Other Highlights from 2016
2016 was not just about drinking great beers, it was also about finding them. As we traveled the world this year, the influence of craft beer on the rest of the world is palpable. Years ago, I would not have imagined that a vacation can be centered around craft beer. Now, however, that is a reality.
In 2016, we were fortunate enough to spend a couple weeks in Italy, a week in Cancun, a week in Sedona/Phoenix, and countless weekend trips, including to Tahoe, the North State and coast. One thing was consistent on all of those trips, and that was finding local beer.
I was shocked at the growing craft beer scene in Italy (see my posts on that from earlier this year). The resort we stayed at in Cancun HAD A BREWERY at it! Arizona was full of great craft beer and breweries.
It is difficult to imagine having a better beer year than 2016, but I will try. 2017 is looking to be a very exciting year for my wife and I, but we will keep hunting down the best beers we can and ways to enjoy them with the beagador Sara.
Happy New Beer!