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.
Definitely a front-runner for the Pacific Northwest style, Deschutes’ Hop Trip is a gorgeous pale ale that expresses telltale fresh hop character from the moment it pours into the glass. Aromas of tropical fruit, sweet orange and grapefruit citrus, soft resiny character and a light caramel malt backbone abound and carry through to the medium-weight mouth. Balanced…— L.B. (4/1/2012)
This is a stunning beer, with just about everything you’d look for and expect from a German-style Pilsener. It’s a clear, golden-yellow color with fine bubbles dancing up toward the fluffy white head. The bouquet is appropriately soft and nuanced, with delicate hints of fresh grain, bread, citrusy hops and grass. Those same notes follow through on the palate, but…— L.B. (6/1/2012)
This is a blend of beers—some of which have been aged in a variety of wood barrels for 19 years—before being aged in finishing barrels sourced from around the world, including Bourbon casks from Buffalo- Trace Distillery, tawny and ruby Port casks and rum barrels from Nicaragua. The final product is deeply layered and fantastically complex, more like a fine Cognac…— L.B. (12/31/2012)
This is a classic Scotch ale, and although it’s not cheap, it’s definitely worth trying at least once. This is a beer to be enjoyed and savored with each sip, and not mindlessly guzzled, lest you miss the gorgeous subtleties and nuanced notes that make it so darn good. Lightly roasty caramel malts are the backbone here, with accents of dried figs and dates, fresh…— L.B. (2/1/2012)
What The Bruery has done here is a perfect example of what makes the American beer scene so amazing: the fantastic creativity and ability to take a classic style and reinterpret it through another lens. Saison Rue is flavorful and complex, with notes of clove-driven spice, yeasty bread and underripe stone fruit all brought together with a tart, funky Brett streak…— L.B. (4/1/2012)