The Best Breweries and Beer of 2015 are also the Best of 2016 (So Far)

beer cup

Back in January, I shared a two-part compilation of the “best” American breweries and beer of 2015, as selected through an unscientific method. In its second year, the effort offers something of a different view of what “best” is in the industry, trying to take a little subjectivity out of an otherwise very subjective effort. In February, I followed it up with a look at RateBeer’s “best” beers and what it showed us, too.

Now that we’re a quarter of the way through 2016 (!?), it seems the momentum carried by some businesses in 2015 is carrying right into this year.

Over on Beergraphs, Eno Sarris shared yesterday the At The Moment leaderboard of the best new beers of 2016 based on the data-driven site’s Beers Above Replacement methodology. In layman’s terms, it’s the top-20 new beers of 2016 as calculated by Untappd ratings and fancy math.

As I scoured the list, something stood out easily – 13 of the 20 were hop-forward beers, including seven double IPAs and five IPAs. Of course. But the breweries listed weren’t just the At The Moment darlings of the beer world, but they had also come up in my own analysis from a few months back.

First, let’s get to the list from Beergraphs. I’ve removed ranking numbers, but all beers remain in 1 to 20 order. I added the ABV, style and as best I could determine, the qualifier as to whether it’s the hottest IPA style of the moment, more below:

Beer Brewery ABV STYLE NE IPA?
Doppelganger Tree House Brewing Company 8.2 DIPA Yes
Bright Tree House Brewing Company 7.8 DIPA Yes
Dialed In Trillium 8.5 DIPA Yes
DIPA V2 Cloudwater 9.6 DIPA
Curiosity Twenty Four Tree House Brewing Company 5.4 Pale Ale Yes
Punge Tired Hands Brewing Company 8.3 DIPA Yes
Passionfruit Milkshake Tired Hands Brewing Company 7.2 IPA Yes
Super Spruce Grimm Artisanal Ales 4.7 Gose
Xtra-Citra Surly Brewing Company 4.5 “Americanized English Bitter”
Les Ronces Bruery Terreux 6 Wild Ale
Make It Rain Other Half Brewing 7 IPA Yes
India Pale Ale Pirate Life Brewing Company 6.8 IPA
Everybody Wants Some “Citra” Hoof Hearted Brewing 8 DIPA Yes
Born To Die 14.05.2016 BrewDog 8.5 DIPA
Schlafly Double Bean Blonde The Saint Louis Brewery (Schlafly Beer) 6.3 Coffee beer
Cloudberry Ice Cream IPA Omnipollo 7.2 IPA Yes
Lumen Grimm Artisanal Ales 6.4 IPA Yes
C.R.E.A.M. Sixpoint Brewery 7.2 Coffee beer
Old Perseverance Avery Brewing Company 18.5 Old Ale
Ground State Breakfast Stout Bottle Logic Brewing 12.5 Coffee beer

Things that stand out:

  • Grimm, winner of the “Everyone’s A Prognosticator Award for Brewery to Watch” award in January, shows up twice. They had five different beers selected in the 2015 “best beer” listing.
  • Tired Hands and Tree House were also cited in that list, with four different beers each. They’re obviously kicking ass in 2016, too.
  • Ditto for Other Half, which had five beers mentioned on the “best beer” lists thanks to their ability to play with hops, to which I noted “any brewery that does IPAs well is going to get attention.”
  • From RateBeer’s best new beer list, Other Half and Trillium performed very well.
  • The averaged ABV from all 20 beers is 7.93 percent, solidly in the DIPA range. If you remove the Avery Brewing behemoth sitting at 18.5 percent, the average for the remaining 19 is 7.37 percent.

But that’s just the breweries specifically. In terms of flavor profiles, there was a hint from RateBeer’s selections that coffee was making a big push. From a deeper dive into the style, we know coffee is kind of a big deal right now. Three beers from Beergraphs’ top-20 are coffee beers, which is pretty remarkable given all those hops.

The giant, hazy elephant in the room? Those damned Northeast/New England/Vermont IPAs. As Sarris points out in his post:

We’ve been talking about the milkshake / NEIPA a lot recently. So when I ran the best new beers so far this year, I knew what was coming.

Yup. A leaderboard full of hazy (turbid?? yeasty?!) grassy fruity thick fresh IPA and DIPA from the leaders in such things. I mean, there’s even one named Milkshake for chrissakes.

Half of the top-20 beers (so far) in 2016 (by Untappd users) are classified as that style of IPA, further proving that IPA is just a category of craft beer all unto itself and we’re all INSATIABLE ANIMALS doomed by our love of lupulin.

For as much as we all love talking about the many “trends” of beer – guilty as charged here – it’s hard to protest against numbers. Even if Untappd is just one source of several that offer a glimpse into the beer nerd mindset, the patterns shown here are worthwhile to follow and discuss.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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