The Best and Worst of the Best Beers of 2018

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It’s that time of the year, when beer critics put down their pints for a moment and try to remember: What the hell was I drinking this year?

That’s right: It’s time for the Beers of the Year.

Unfortunately with the demise of so many beer rags and blogs in recent years, we’re beginning to see wine writers fill the void – with predictable results.

It’s no surprise, then, that the top spot in Philly Beer World’s 2018 “best of” ratings went to writers with actual beer cred.

Without further ado, here’s Philly Beer World’s Best and Worst of the Best Beers of 2018.

1. Beer and Brewing

The magazine’s editors and writers published their own favorites (scattered below), then came up with an official list of their top 18. They get points for an eclectic variety (plenty of imports and non-IPAs), and they make a pretty good case for each. I disagree with the Weihenstephaner/Sierra Nevada collaboration, Braupakt, a very average hefeweizen that pales in comparison with the wheat beers that each brewery makes on its own.

But that’s a matter of taste, so ignore me.

2. Josh Weikert (B&B)

I’m a homer, so I’m always encouraged when I see Philly beers break into these yearly lists. Other than one curious selection from Vinepair (below), local beers would have been shut out from these lists – if not for Weikert. The longtime homebrewer, writer and, more recently, consultant on a planned brewery in Phoenixville, came to the defense of America’s best beer-drinking city in a big way. He not only named Philly his favorite place to have a beer, he included Forest & Main, Neshaminy Creek and Stoudt’s in his top five.

3. Em Sauter (B&B)

I have a soft spot for cartoonists (check out her Pints and Panels blog), and now I like her even more for including Sierra Nevada Summerfest on her list.

4. Stan Hieronymus (B&B)

A ballpark lager – Urban Chestnut Stammtisch – makes his top 5. A man after my own heart.

5. John Holl  (B&B)

He implies that Nashville is his favorite beer city because his in-laws drive him to drink, so he gets points for honesty.

6. Beer Me BC

More than 1,200 readers of the British Columbia beer blog voted. I don’t know the first thing about B.C. beer, so I won’t comment – other than to note that four of the top 5 beers predictably are IPAs. Makes me want to seek out #2, a brown ale called Hoyne Dark Matter.

7. Jamie Bogner  (B&B)

Nothing east of Missouri from this Colorado-based blogger, though for some reason he picks Richmond, Virginia, as his favorite beer city.

8. Jeff Alworth  (B&B)

Nothing east of Idaho. Cripes, these guys don’t get out much, do they?

9. Zymurgy

This one from the Brewers Association – more of a popularity contest – comes out annually each summer as an opportunity to remind readers that San Miguel-backed Founders (named the No. 2 brewery in America) is not a Real Craft Brewery.

10. Wine Enthusiast

Using a Robert Parker-esque 100-point scale, it includes the likes of the godawful Anchor Pale Ale Nelson (#16). Not surprisingly, its No. 1 choice, Founders CBS, is also its most expensive. Stay in your own lane, grape boys.

11. Alex Kidd  (B&B)

Please, someone takes this guy’s keyboard before he hurts himself:

“This gin barrel–aged saison,” he writes, describing Sante Adairius Rustic Ales Recency Effect, “takes all of the masterful herbaceous underpinnings that the Pacific Northwest has been employing and elevates them to the absolute pinnacle of floral refreshment. It maintains the poise of the underlying farmhouse character with a fantastic eucalyptus and lemon meringue swirled together right out of the Brett b. soft-serve machine. The result is a wood and tangelo mélange that is creamy and dry concurrently with a long effusive Vick’s Vapor Rub swallow. It is crushingly enjoyable to the last sip.”

So, drinkable fruit-flavored chest ointment? Got it.

12. The Daily Meal

Most of its picks have been around awhile (Orval, Weihenstephan, Dark Lord), giving this list the feel of a lifetime achievements awards show. There’s no real criteria and I get the feeling the writer(s) haven’t actually tasted most of them and instead just copy and pasted names from RateBeer. (Evidence: It fails to include a single pilsner.)

13. Vinepair

This New York-based wine website specializes in clickbait posing as insightful criticism. [e.g. HOP TAKE: SPARKLING CANNED COCKTAILS ARE BUZZING (SORRY, BEER) ], so it’s hard to take seriously. Nonetheless, its Best Of list has spread across social media like an STD. It’s impossible to name just one reason it’s so odious. So, here’s The Top 10 Reasons Vinepair’s Top 50 List Blows.

10. Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing – an ordinary unfiltered IPA, when compared to the 100s of others that are out there – is its top beer of 2018.

9. Though it claims to focus on “accessible” packaged beers, several (I’m looking at you, #25 Hudson Valley Amulet) can be had only if you hire someone to stand in line at the brewery on the day they’re released or you stumble across a rare keg on tap near your office in Manhattan .

8. It describes one selection, a blonde ale, as a “craft Miller High Life,” like that’s a good thing.

7. Though it notes that “pilsners flooded the marketplace in 2018,” the list includes exactly one – a 62-year-old brand from Germany. (And, no, that dopey “black” pilsner does not count.)

6. What the hell are “juice wolves?” Stop it.

5. Nine of the top 50 – almost 20 percent – are from New York state, and 7 of those are from New York City.

4. Only 3 picks are brewed somewhere other than America.

3. Thirty-two of its choices are either IPAs or sours.

2.  After including Stoudt’s as its only Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Delaware brew in its 2017 list, Vinepair did it again in 2018, making #45 Stoudt’s Gearshifter its only choice from the region. Look, I like Stoudt’s. Quite a bit. But there must be 200 breweries between your Upper East Side condo and Lancaster County. Try stopping at one of them next time you go antique shopping in Adamstown.

1. Bite me, New York.

7. Joe Sixpack

Lazy guy. Instead of making his own list, he made fun of everyone else.  Maybe he and Macnow will put down their pints long enough to put together a list on What’s Brewing.


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