The Best Craft Beer

The Best Craft Beer: January 2017

Variety is what motivates me to continually seek out new craft beer. And just like very other month, these new brews make it quite difficult to pick what will make my list of the best craft beer.

I’ve got everything from fruited sours to barrel-aged stouts to New England IPAs on my list. Hopefully, you are continually pushing yourself to try new styles and learn more about craft beer.

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Here’s the Best Craft Beer I had last month:

Bourbon Barrel Quad

Boulevard Bourbon Barrel QuadBrewery: Boulevard Brewing – Kansas City, MI

Style: Belgian Quad

ABV: 11.2%      IBU: 26


Based loosely on the Smokestack Series’ The Sixth Glass, this abbey-style quadrupel is separated into a number of oak bourbon barrels where it ages for varying lengths of time, some for up to three years. Cherries are added to make up for the “angel’s share” of beer lost during barrel aging. Selected barrels are then blended for optimum flavor. The resulting beer retains only very subtle cherry characteristics, with toffee and vanilla notes coming to the fore.

Why it made the list?

It’s really amazing to see how barrel-aged beers have evolved. At one time, you had to line up to get a barrel-aged beer because they were only made in small batches.

That’s no longer the case as these beers are massed produced. And it would be easy to assume that as scale increases that quality would decrease but that hasn’t been the case.

This Belgian Quad has amazing bourbon notes that hit the tongue first but that is quickly followed by the sweet, dark fruits that a Quad normally provides.

It’s got depth and complexity. There’s a strong boozy punch to it as well but with a medium body, it isn’t overwhelming to drink.

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Pocket Watch

Urban Artifact Pocket WatchBrewery: Urban Artifact – Cincinnati, OH

Style: Midwest Fruit Tart

ABV: 8%      IBU: 20


A midwest fruit tart ale with 1,000lbs of concord grape, 1,000lbs of red plum, and 1,000 lbs of black currant per 30bbl batch.

Why it made the list?

Urban Artifact is a local brewery that I can’t get enough of. Their Midwest Fruit Tart series impresses me over and over again.

And this one may be my favorite yet. While the majority of the flavor is grape, the plums and currants provide a tart, unique element.

And you can’t complain about a beer that has such rich, bold color either. It tastes just as good as it looks.

Freedom Toast

Listermann Brewing Freedom Toast
Image Courtesy Of Listermann Brewing

Brewery: Listermann Brewing – Cincinnati, OH

Style: Barrel-Aged Stout

ABV: 10%      IBU: N/A


Stout with walnuts, maple, cinnamon and nutmeg aged in bourbon barrels.

Why it made the list?

I wasn’t able to make it to the release of this beer and assumed I wasn’t going to be able to try it. Until, I attended a beer event – The Jungle Jim’s Barrel-Aged Beer Bash.

This was the first beer I tried at the event and nothing I had afterwards came close to it. It is sweet, heavy, boozy, rich and I desperately wanted a stack of french toast to eat with it. The maple, cinnamon and nutmeg are the dominate flavors but you’ll find that it finishes with a good bourbon kick.

They didn’t hold back on anything with this beer and it shows. Now I just need to hope they make it again.

Gold Nuggets

450 North Gold NuggetsBrewery: 450 North Brewing – Columbus, IN

Style: New England IPA (Triple)

ABV: 11%      IBU: 60


Our biggest IPA to date using an absurd amount of Citra and Mosaic hops.

Why it made the list?

The New England IPA continues to gain popularity and 450 North is taking full advantage of it. They are releasing as many 16oz canned NE IPAs as they possibly can.

And they are getting better each and every time. Gold Nuggets was released at the end of December but I didn’t drink it until January. This is a huge IPA coming in at 11%.

With a huge ABV, comes a ton of flavor. The aroma and flavor are heavy, ripe citrus – mainly orange/mandarin.

The 11% is noticeable in the bite that it has in the finish. And as you might expect, it’s super hazy. This is one of the best I’ve had from them to date.

Hop Bullet

Sierra Nevada Hop BulletBrewery: Sierra Nevada Brewing – Chico, CA

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 8%      IBU: 60


Hops are the name of the game with a Double IPA, but we knew we had to take it one step further. With Hop Bullet, we’re using a new technique, hitting the beer with a double-barreled blast of Magnum hops and lupulin dust—pure, concentrated hop flavor—directly into the tank to emphasize the intense pine and citrus flavors of classic West Coast hops.

Why it made the list?

Sometimes you want a big, strong beer and other times you want something more mild. But most of the time, you want something right in the middle.

Hop Bullet made my list because it is exactly that; it’s a beer that is good no matter what kind of mood you are in.

It’s got a moderately high ABV, tons of hop flavor but it isn’t as bitter as other Double IPAs in this category. The perceived bitterness really surprised me and made it a really great beer.

This is a West Coast IPA so expect piney, resin and citrus flavors. And it has those in great abundance but it isn’t as harsh as you might expect.

As I make my best craft beer list every month, I hope to find more beers like this one. Accessible, approachable and just a good solid beer.

While I often get single cans/bottles of beer, I’ll be grabbing a six pack next time I get this one.

Learn More About Craft Beer: Bitters And ESBs: Not As Bitter As You’d Expect

I couldn’t wrap up January without talking about my beer – ok, that’s a little bit of a stretch.

But if you were watching my social media over the past few weeks, then you’ll know I had the opportunity to pick the flavors used in a firkin of Streetside Brewery’s Demogorgon Imperial Stout. I selected coffee and donuts.

The results was amazing; the glazed cake donuts were the dominating flavor with the coffee adding a nice balance. It tasted just like a donut dipped in coffee.

I was honored to be among a small group of local beer writers chosen to participate in this project and look forward to future firkin events from them.

As always, sound off in the comments below and let me know what you’re thinking or send me a message. I’d love to get your input on what you’ve been drinking recently.

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What Was Your Best Craft Beer In January?

See Last Month’s List Of The Best Craft Beer


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