2019 has been an excellent year for beer. It hadn’t quite dawned on us until we foolishly limited ourselves to a top 19 just for the fun headline. We also restricted ourselves to one beer per brewery and that we had to have sold it in packaged form during the year. Even with those limitations, many delicious beers unfortunately didn’t make the cut. We’ve also tried to only talk about beers released this year, otherwise this would just be a list of classics. (Orval, Boon, NM Faith etc). Finally, we wrote this list towards the end of November so there will likely be ten amazing December releases we’ve missed.
Brick Strawberry And Cucumber Sour - Brick’s sour series has been excellent this year and we could’ve picked pretty much any of them for this list. However Strawberry & Cucumber stands out because you can just taste that cucumber so clearly!
Burnt Mill Aerial Fog - This was part of BM’s excellent Fog series of IPAs this year. Most were single hopped but this one was dry hopped with a mix of Enigma, Ella, Mosaic & Simcoe.
Burning Sky This Land - I honestly think we could’ve selected any of the great Burning Sky beers we’ve had this year but This Land really sated our love for the wine/beer hybrid. A mixed fermentation beer aged on 150 grams per litre of pressed grape skins in a steel tank and a mix of oak barrels. The result is a subtle and very refreshing nod to both the grape and the grain.
Buxton BA Rain Shadow - This bourbon barrel aged version of Rain Shadow was absolutely banging! It sold out in a couple of days leaving us rather annoyed we hadn’t bought a load more of it (you’d think we’d have learned from past joyous experiences with Buxton’s BA stouts).
Cloudwater Existential Thanks - Just a bloody good IPA. We had to order more just to meet our own personal demand for it. It's a Double Dry Hopped IPA brewed exclusively with Simcoe which Cloudwater had picked in Yakima. It’s an immediate hit of juicy pineappley goodness, before a wave of peach and light bitterness.
Cigar City Cafe Americano - We would not recommend this beer as the last one of the night, it appears to have enough coffee to keep most people awake significantly past a reasonable hour. Thick and luscious, one to share.
DEYA x Other Half My Life In the Sunshine - It’s a testament to the quality of this collab brew that even the use of Sabro couldn’t keep it from our top 19 list. [Editor’s note: Phill feels very strongly about Sabro]
Double Barrelled Four Candles - We’re breaking our own rules with this one, as it was in keg only but it was our birthday beer! A heavily dry hopped pale ale and a promising sign of what exciting cans Double Barrelled will be releasing soon.
Duration Dripping Pitch - West coast IPAs saw a resurgence in interest from plenty of breweries, and many have been well made beers but this Dripping Pitch from Duration has left a lasting impression. We can’t wait for them to brew it on their own kit; there’s a good chance this will be on the 2020 list too.
Hackney Millions of Peaches - Peach and Basil Sour. When I cracked open my first can, it smelled so strongly of peaches I worried it might be too sweet, but it isn't at all, thanks to the basil. If you're thinking basil sounds a bit odd, trust me it isn't at all. It cuts through any potential sweetness and gives just a hint of savouriness (kinda like strawberry & mint) to make this crazy refreshing, and just the right amount of tart. [Rahul]
Half Acre Plum Passing Lands - Fermented with their house mixed culture, aged eight weeks in French Oak and then aged for one month on plums from Seedling Farm in Michigan. Aromas of rose, faint cherry, and spice lead to juice forward strawberry and grass. Half Acre’s mixed ferm program is a delight and hopefully our friends at Cave Direct will import more next year.
Lost & Grounded All The Cool Cats - Unfiltered helles. 100% German Pilsner malt with Perle and Mittelfruh - smooth, bready and gently hoppy. This wasn’t just picked for the label, this is an excellent lager that is very drinkable AND it has a delightful label.
Mills x After The Harvest Wait For It - A saison that was aged for 22 months in wine barrels. This was tart with soft vanilla imparted from the wood. And I hear these guys may have another collaboration already in a barrel...
Pressure Drop Understanding Whole Systems - This all Citra hopped New England style IPA was a certified banger. Hazy and full bodied. This was really well-made and you guys really appreciated it.
Polly's Nada DIPA - A high juice, low bitterness DIPA inspired by the American haze craze brewers we absolutely love so much. Bringing the big hitters to the table with a metric-tonne of Citra, Columbus and Simcoe in the dry hop, this beer is all about the sticky, juicy hops. Expect a swag bag full of dank and tropical hop notes complimented by a mellow bitterness running throughout.
Side Project Grisette (Blend 5) - Not the flashiest of the Side Project bottles we got in this year [Editor’s note: that award likely goes to Saison De Ble or Merci] but so beautifully balanced between being delicate, complex and approachable. You could do worse than spend a late Summer’s afternoon just working your way through this bottle.
The Kernel Biere de Saison Finchcocks 7 - Saison Fermented with Mixed Culture Aged in Barrels and Dry Hopped with Kentish Finchocks 7. It’s been an amazing year for Kernel’s Biere de Saison range, but this Finchcocks 7 was one we returned to time and time again.
Thornbridge Necessary Evil - Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout. This was an absolute treat, balanced and well flavoured. An absolute bookender of a beer; that is to say a brilliant beer which you’d be happy to start or finish an evening.
Verdant Your Limitation. It’s Only Your Imagination - DIPA with Simcoe, Loral & Chinook. This DIPA ticked so many boxes for us, overripe peach and pineapple. Super drinkable.
Wylam x Donzoko Cold Condition - This lager was cold conditioned for 12 weeks at 0°C. Light, clean and crisp with mellow notes of lemongrass, gooseberry and white grapes. One of the best lagers we’ve ever had.