For a variety of reasons, 2020 has made you feel like you needed a beer or two. Since both of us are prone to enjoying beer in any year, not just this one, we thought it was worthwhile to include a brief glimpse of our rankings for the year — specifically focused in on new beers for each of us that we tried in 2020.
As always, there are no guarantees you’ll be able to try all or any of these beers depending on where you live. But we did create three separate top five lists to help increase your odds, if anyone’s trying to seek these out.
Steve’s top five
1. Brouwerij Cantillon St. Lamvinus (2018)
2. Hill Farmstead Fear and Trembling (Cabernet/Bourbon)
4. Sante Adarius Nonna’s Blend 18
5. Suarez Family Crispy Little
I definitely slacked off on my beer tracking in 2020, though I probably had no reason to, since we effectively had nothing else going on. That said, there were a few absolute gems that I tried for the first time this year. Cantillon’s St. Lam was absolutely top notch. Funky, tannins, almost wine-ish in nature. Loons never disappoint. Hill Farmstead had a nice little treat when I made the annual winter voyage before all hell broke loose, with an on-site Fear and Trembling, as well as Shirley Mae: Sunrise edition which knocked our socks off as a session porter.
Freak Folk is it’s own animal, as an up and coming brewery. Little Death was one of the best beers I’ve had period, let alone this year. Wheat and oat mixed culture aged on Devilwood blossoms. Unique and real good. I’m sure you’ll see this name pop up more as time goes on.
This was also the first year I got to try some Sante Adarius, thanks to John. Nonna’s Blend 18 edged out West Ashley, which was a phenomenal offering and probably would have been in if I wanted to double up on breweries. Suarez continues to impress, this time with probably the best or second best pilsner offering I’ve ever had in Crispy Little. Get down to the Hudson Valley and try their stuff if you haven’t yet.
John’s top five
3. Monkish Conjoined Triangles of Success
4. Russian River Pliny for President
5. Highland Park Lingua Franca Fruta
All of these are California breweries, yes, but I did have stuff from various other locales this year (January travel and some trading throughout the year), so it’s not for lack of trying that we wound up all-Golden State here. Sante Adairius makes some of the country’s best sours, and I’d put Cellador’s top blendery creations up against anyone else’s in the U.S. Monkish triple IPAs have become their best offerings, in my opinion. And while I didn’t necessarily think Pliny needed to be upgraded, Russian River still pulled it off this year.
I’ve regularly raved about Highland Park here as one of the best all-around breweries on the West Coast (at the very least), and Lingua Franca Fruta — a blended barrel-aged sour with blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, marionberries and cherries — is the just the latest example of that.
CNY top five
1. Prison City Barrel Aged Wham Whams (Basil Hayden)
2. Aurora Mango Goseface Killah
4. Prison City Folsom Prison Blueberry
5. Buried Acorn Ferocious Little Organisms
If I wanted to, this list could have been three of the Prison City variants on Barrel Aged Wham Whams. The Basil Hayden was the one they dropped this year as batch five though and was sublime. Anything from them has been standout, including the fourth pick in Folsom Prison Blueberry.
Aurora takes the second spot with their Mango Goseface Killah and other variants. These were the perfect summer hit and also a Wu-Tang reference scores extra points. Another brewery that has knocked a lot out of the park.
Buried Acorn nailed the hell out of Vincent, which was perfectly tart, dark and grape-y in all the right ways. I’ll be having a bottle of batch two tonight. They also took another spot home in the fifth spot with Ferocious Little Organisms a solid DIPA effort from them that was new this year.
Have your own favorites? Share them below.