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.
The Cuvée René is one of the top examples of the traditional Gueuze style. Hazy and dark yellow in the glass. The bouquet leads with a distinct tart, barnyard character from the Brettanomyces, supported by aromas of lemon and puckering green apple. The palate is just as one would anticipate from the nose: mouthwatering citrus and pear skin laced with hints of hay…— L.B. (8/1/2012)
Brewed with coriander, orange peel and grains of paradise, this is a well-balanced, smooth and immensely drinkable witbier that any fan of the style can appreciate. The nose and mouth are wheat-driven, but accents from the spice bill are there to add depth and complexity. A lemony briskness complements the flavors of clove and pepper on the close, ending slightly…— L.B. (5/1/2012)
This is a seriously good sipping stout that is best enjoyed with friends, given the high alcohol and intense profile, but it’s remarkable how dangerously smooth and well balanced it actually is. Aged in first-use Bourbon barrels for six months, it’s loaded with heady aromas and flavors that can’t be ignored. Lush, sweet flavors of toffee, chocolate, crème de cassis…— L.B. (12/1/2012)
Celebrator is an iconic doppelbock, regularly earning awards and accolades from competitions and journalists. It pours a dark mahogany color with flecks of rich amber when held up to the light. The bouquet immediately entices with seductive notes of toffee, caramel, toasted cinnamon-raisin bread, dried plum and fig, all laced with threads of molasses and sweet…— L.B. (6/1/2012)
Stone Brewing scores again with its Ruination Tenth Anniversary, an attempt to take its regular Ruination IPA to the max. Labeled as “ruining palates for 10 years,” this full-bodied IPA’s hops take center stage, as expected. Copper in color with a frothy head, it’s loaded with intense hop-fueled notes of pine, grapefruit pith and a touch of sweet clementine. A…— L.B. (9/1/2012)