The Top 25 Beers list is all about balance—the balance of countries, brands, styles, prices and production sizes. Numeric scores and pricing play a role, but industry buzz and product availability are key as well. This year’s number one beer possesses all the essentials: high score, attractive pricing, brand excitement, popular style and superb availability.
This list is not the top 25 beers of all time, but it is a look at some of the best-reviewed selections tasted for our Beer Buying Guide over the past 12 months. The majority of beers submitted and reviewed were domestic selections, as the American craft beer movement continues to expand rapidly.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t fabulous beers from around the world, or that these are the absolute best brews currently on the market—but it is an indication of the geographic distribution of beers submitted and reviewed this year.
The list does include a couple of high-scoring items that might not be widely distributed or are extremely limited in production. These are beer treasures that are definitely worth the hunt.
With a label proclaiming that “patience is more than a virtue,” this imperial stout has spent six months in Kentucky white-oak Bourbon barrels, and it could certainly stand to spend at least six more in your cellar. Currently, the beer is loaded with robust dark chocolate and roasted coffee aromas and flavors, alongside intensely sweet notes of toffee, molasses and…— L.B. (12/31/2012)
Pours a hazy golden color with a white head that boasts superb longevity and leaves beautiful lacing behind. The aromas are fresh and clean, with some attractive herbal accents that spice up the citrus, banana, yellow apple and sourdough bread core. The mouthfeel is dry yet full, with the brisk carbonation assisting in balancing out the sweet fruit flavors and…— L.B. (10/1/2012)
Captain Lawrence recently relocated to a new space in Elmsford, New York, that is about five times the size of its old brewery. This Cuvée, now in batch #5, is something special: a Belgian-style golden ale refermented with Muscat grapes and aged in oak wine barrels with Brettanomyces. The bouquet is vinous and complex, with bright aromas of green apple, lemon and…— L.B. (8/1/2012)
Bold and intense, this brew was named for the brewery’s notoriously finicky fermenter #7, a tank they affectionately dubbed “the black sheep of our cellar family.” So naturally it had to be in that vessel that this wild brew would come together, with a sweet clementine and pink grapefruit citrus core kicked up with notes of crushed white florals and whole…— L.B. (4/1/2012)
Aged for 12 months in Bourbon barrels, this is a robust beer that exhibits strength and balance. Fruity notes of dried fig, date and raisin are infused with accents of toffee, molasses and sweet spice. Rich, oak-driven flavors of vanilla, coconut and charred sugar—like coconut crème brûlée—flood the creamy palate, giving way to secondary flavors of caramel-drizzled…— L.B. (12/31/2012)