2016 Beer of the Year: The Best of the Rest

Man should not live on one beer alone, and in 2016 I found many other exciting, new brews worthy of attention. These are the runners-up for Joe Sixpack’s Beer of the Year.

Slack Tide Bell Buoy: This sweet, zesty, spicy Belgian blond ale is worth the ride down Rt. 9 to the small Cape May County brewery. It also won deserved praise in Inquirer food writer Craig Laban’s annual Brewvitational awards.

Starr Hill Last Leaf Maple Brown Ale: The Virginia brewery ditched its pumpkin ale and introduced this smooth, maple syrup-infused brown ale.

Dogfish Head SeaQuench: Though the Delaware brewery got a heap of publicity for its gimmicky (and quite tasty) scrapple-infused Beer for Breakfast, it was this sour blend made with lime and sea salt that had me reaching for a second glass.

Conshohocken Pumpkin Ale: In a year when so many turned their backs on spicy autumn brews, Conshy utterly nailed the style with a pleasant balance of cinnamon and nutmeg in a wonderfully smooth body.

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion No. 001: The first in a series of wheat-based ales made with experimental hops was a marvel for both its complexity and utter refreshment.

Troegs Nimble Giant: I thought the Hershey brewery had already gone all-in on the hops with its Perpetual IPA, but this once-a-year specialty amps it up with a smooth-drinking, boozy/fruity double IPA. Look for it in cans again next summer.

Anything from Tonewood and Bar Hygge:
About a dozen new breweries opened in the Philadelphia area this year, and these two newcomers impressed me greatly. Tonewood makes expertly crafted styles, including a coffee-flavored porter, that have finish quality you wouldn’t normally expect from a rookie. And Tom Baker (Earth, Bread + Brewery) is just amazing, producing a spectrum of both conventional and unusual varieties, including gruit, smoked beer and saison, at his new Bar Hygge in the Fairmount section of the city.

More noteworthy new beers of 2016

Yards Rival IPA, Troegs Barrel-Aged Troegenator, River Horse Hippotizing IPA, Peak The Juice, Voodoo Man Bear Pig, Penn IPA, Victory Java Cask Rye, Straub Doppelbock.

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