The Best Craft Beer

The Best Craft Beer – January 2017

Welcome to the first of an ongoing series called The Best Craft Beer. Monthly, I am going to look over all the beer I had in the past 30 days and highlight the best of the best.

Many of you follow me on my social media platforms but you may have missed a good post or maybe I never even posted about it. This is where you can be sure that you kept up with the best of the best.


These posts will give you:

  • Ideas of beers that you should try – we all love beer recommendations!
  • More information about the beer that a tweet or Instagram post couldn’t say
  • Some additional thoughts on why it was one of the best of the month


The Best Craft Beer – January 2017

So let’s jump right into this month’s edition.


I was really surprised to look over my Untappd check-ins for January. It was a month that didn’t feature many “big beers”. I had just came off a really strong December which makes January looks much less impressive.

But there are always some great beers so here are my top January 2017 craft beers in no specific order:

Brass Monkey Junkie

Brewery: Listermann Brewing – Cincinnati, Ohio

Style: East Coast IPA

ABV: 7%    IBU: N/A    SRM: N/A


East Coast IPA Brewed with Galaxy, Nelson, Sauvin, and Mosiac hops with mangoes added.

Why did it make the list?

Listermann Brass Monkey
Picture Credit: Listermann Brewing

I love my local beers and there is no denying it (I have a feeling you love your local beer too!) So when Listermann announced they were releasing a hazy East Coast style IPA, I was all in! Cincinnati has been begging for someone to can one of these styles since there is so much hype right now.

They canned two different versions: Brass Monkey and Brass Monkey Junkie. The junkie means mangoes were added. These were 16oz cans and were brewery only – minus a few cases sent to dedicated accounts.

I waited in line but they sold out just before it was my turn. However, they did have both on tap so I got to try them. The Brass Monkey was everything that I expected it to be. Hazy with a full mouthfeel, bursting with citrus flavors. Then I tried the Brass Monkey Junkie and it was even better. Naturally, the mangoes accentuated the citrus.

After the leaving the event, I found out a friend was going to be able to pass 1 can of each on to me. The craft beer community is good to me!

Hopslam Ale

Brewery: Bells Brewery – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Style: Double IPA

ABV: 10%    IBU: 70    SRM: N/A


Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repertoire.

Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style.

Why did it make the list?

Hopslam AleI know there is a lot of back and forth about this beer. I know some that stock up on it and others that say it’s the worst beer they have ever had. For me, it is an annual treat that I don’t miss.

In full disclosure, I almost passed on this this year. I really didn’t feel the need to get a six pack and hunting down a place to sell me a few singles didn’t sound like fun. Then the clouds parted and a light shown down on my desk at work – a co-worker gifted me a can!

This beer is strong and doesn’t apologize for it. Hop aroma is evident as soon as the can is opened and intensifies when poured into an IPA glass. The malt balances out the strong hops but doesn’t mask them at all. It’s beers like this that make me love double IPAs.

Pear Lambic

Brewery: Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House – Cincinnati/Monroe, Ohio

Style: Lambic

ABV: 6.2%    IBU: 8    SRM: 5


Beer is typically fermented in a very calculated, controlled manner with pure strains of brewers’ yeast. Our pear lambic beer is instead fermented by exposing it to the untamed yeasts and bacteria that are native to our Brewery. We affectionately call this unrestrained, wild amalgamation our House Funk. This blend is unique to Rivertown and this unusual, spontaneous process, involving over a year of fermentation in oak wine barrels and addition of pear purée, is what gives this beer its’ distinctive flavor; sweet, acidic, funky and vinous with a crisp, lingering, semi-sweet, floral aftertaste.

Why did it make the list?

Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House
Picture Credit: Rivertown Brewery & Barrel House Website

 I am a Rivertown fan. It helps that their original tap room isn’t far from where I live and the people are some of the nicest around. They focus on sours but offer a wide variety of styles including a stout made with ghost peppers and one of the best nitro porters around – Roebling.

On Jan 20th, 2017, they opened their second location which offers more production capacity, a full restaurant and more space to enjoy friend, family and beer. I was there for their grand opening when I tried the Pear Lambic for the first time. I’ve had their Lambic and really enjoyed it but the pear takes it to the next level. I am new to sours and occasionally can be overwhelmed by the lingering harshness of the acidic flavors. The pear levels that out making it a little sweeter but still maintain the full sour experience. Rivertown is making me a lover of sours!

Willett Whiskey Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Company – Petaluma, California / Chicago, Illinois

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.7%    IBU: N/A    SRM: N/A


This is Lagunitas Imperial Stout aged in Willett Bourbon Barrels in the Chicago Brewery. This was aged for +/- a year. It was only kegged in 1/4 barrels.

Why did it make the list?

The Best Craft BeerLate in 2016, word got around that Lagunitas released a stout that was aged in High West rye barrels. This beer was available in six packs (12oz bottles) and the MSRP would be around $12. For anyone that has purchased barrel aged beers, this was a great price.

Most shops around me broke the six packs into singles since it was limited. My local shop came through when they held one bottle for me. You probably follow someone on Instagram that posted it. Most people say – it is one of the best beers for the price. And I agree.

So when I found the Willett Barrel -Aged version at a growler station, I was ecstatic. Then I found out that it was only $11 for a 64oz growler. I went to my car and got my howler (32 oz) and happily paid $6 after tax for this beer.

I shared it with my wife and Dad within a few days of getting it. This one ranked right up their with the High West version. Tons of whiskey barrel flavor on top of the solid stout base. It wasn’t sweet but rather boozy and strong. At 11.7%, it is definitely a sipping beer and one not to pass up.

Black Note Stout

Brewery: Bells Brewery – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.2%    IBU: N/A    SRM: N/A


One of the most sought-after stouts in Bell’s history, Black Note Stout blends the complex aromatics of Expedition Stout with the velvety smooth texture of Double Cream Stout and ages the combination in freshly retired oak bourbon barrels for months. The resulting harmony of flavors captures the finest features of all three components: malty notes of dark chocolate, espresso & dried fruits, all buoyed by the warmth and fragrance of the bourbon barrel. Aimed squarely at the stout and bourbon aficionados, Black Note makes a grand statement about the art of the dark

Why did it make the list?

Bell's Black Note Stout

Stouts and other dark beers were definitely the first craft beers that I really liked. Then I discovered barrel-aged beers and learned that the world of stouts was much larger than I had ever realized. Since then, I rarely hesitate to try a barrel-aged beer. There is something about the richness that the barrel brings to the beer.

I had heard about Black Note for a while but never stumbled across it so when I found it, I gladly paid the $6 for the 12oz bottle.

First, it is important to know that Bell’s Expedition Stout is among the best stouts out there, in my opinion. They use Expedition Stout blended with their Double Cream Stout to make this beer. The exceptional quality of the base beers makes this beer top notch.

Furthermore, this is one of the few barrel-aged beers that I truly tasted dried dark fruit flavors. All of the standard flavors were there but the dark fruits added the uniqueness that makes it one of a kind.


What beers did you have in January? Any favorites?

Comment below, tweet at me, email me, or whatever you find easiest to tell me about your Best Craft Beers from January.

Maybe a beer you recommend will make it onto my list of The Best Craft Beer in the future.


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