Best “New” Beers of 2016

2016.pngOh yes, another Top 10 list. Everyone loves to read a top 10 list; either to trash it, agree with it, discuss it, or do all of the above. My top 10 list of favorite “new” beers of the year has certain criteria to meet. The beer must:

1: Be a beer I had not tasted previously

2: Must be available for purchase at Eastern Iowa breweries, restaurants, or liquor stores.

That’s it.

This list could easily be 25-50 beers deep, but I finally got it down to 10. Last year my list was a tad excessive so I refocused, recollected, and thought long and hard. This is purely subjective and I know I probably left one off that made your list so feel free to respond with your top 10, top 5, or just your favorite of the year. So, without further ado, in no particular order, the Baron’s Top 10:

pirate noir.jpg

**Prairie Pirate Noir – I just had this beer this past weekend and was absolutely blown away. Part of 4 variants released recently in Eastern Iowa and this one was my favorite of the 4. All very good, but this one stood out. Rum barrels shine a bit more in this beer than in Pirate Bomb! A very viscous stout and perfect for a chilly Iowa day. I would love more of this!

mondos**Reunion Tank Puncher – I hope folks were able to try this beer from Reunion and I hope they decide to make more of it as well. This was my entry into my family beer festival and eventual gold medal winner (back to back for me :). This is the perfect beer for the tropical hop crazed beer lover. Reunion was out the last time I checked, let’s hope they get this one up and rolling again!

lion-bridge**Lion Bridge Gobble Wobble – take a traditional style brown masterfully done by Lion Bridge and age it on Wild Turkey barrels…what do you get? An excellent cold weather brew! The taste from the barrel pairs well perfect with the nuttiness of the brown to give you the a great companion to warm you up this winter.


**Kickshaw Pipo– watermelon shines in this sour/blonde beer from Kickshaw. Stocking up on this one as I’m looking forward to a few glasses of this during the summer months but damn it sure is tasty along side a salad and even better with some fish tacos! Looking forward to more from Bill and Kickshaw!

img_0804**Summit Unchained: Dark Infusion – this beer made my Drink This! write up. You can view that here: Summit gave us one of the best stouts of the year IMO and luckily I’m still able to grab four packs of this from the shelves. Almost chocolate covered caramel with some coffee splashed in. Stout lovers will rejoice for this brew. No need for barrels, this is perfect as is.


Odell Jolly Russian– I must have a thing for rum that was apparent until drinking this and Pirate Noir. So many great barrel aged beers available to us this year and I was happy to get a chance to try this one. The dark roast and coffee flavors blend nicely with the rum barrel. I would love a few more bottles of this!

big grove**Big Grove Brewery Richard and Pralines – keep the barrel-aged year going with a brew from a local brewery. Big Grove has made their mark with some great pales/IPAs and their popular Richard the Whale and variants. This variant adds a bit of sweetness to Richard. If you can still get a pour of this, order yourself an Arms Race as this warms and then you’ll be in for a real treat. With the opening of the new brewery on the horizon it will be interesting to see what Big Grove has in store for us! 

pulpi**Pulpit Rock Loopy Lynn – a relative newcomer to the Iowa beer scene and right across the street from TG, Pulpit Rock has become a big time player making some awesome brews! I had this double IPA at a Pulpit tap takeover at Blackstone Restaurant in Iowa City and was blown away. City shines though on this juicy double. I really want more of this!

**Pulpit Rock For the Joy of Almonds – liquid Almond Joy. Amazing beer on its own or for dessert. Pulpit takes their milk stout and ages it on toasted coconut, cocoa nibs, and almonds to give you silky, smooth, delicious stout. Pulpit brews are starting to pop up more in the Eastern Iowa area. Need Pizzeria in Cedar Rapids has had them on frequently and Reds Alehouse is starting to get some kegs as well. Great things coming out of Decorah.

toppling goliath**Toppling Goliath Double Dry Hopped Sue – How do you make an already impressive and sought after beer more impressive and sought after? Double Dry hop that bad boy and that’s what Toppling Goliath did with PseudoSue. More hops equals more hazy goodness from this beer. Hopefully this makes a return this summer as this would make a fine companion to some grilling in the Iowa heat.

Honorable Mentions:
Odell Elephunk, 3rd Base Friends Forever, Pulpit Rock Mighty Fine, New Holland Dragon’s Milk Coconut Rum Reserve, Lagunitas High Westified, Prairie Apple Brandy Noir, Big Grove Raspberry Que Sera.

There’s the list. There were some beers I wish I could’ve tried but missed out on, there were some that would make many lists and some that made mine but not even scratch the surface of yours. My New Year’s Resolution is keep trying to get to the Iowa breweries. I would love some more Alluvial and 515 in my life. I would love to see what beers made your list. Maybe it’s time for another Best of Iowa poll? Happy New Year!

Drink This!: Summit Dark Infusion Coffee Milk Stout

img_0804‘Tis the season for stouts! Don’t let the unusually warm weather deter you from sipping on a nice, thick, frothy, stout and once you get a taste of this beauty from Summit you could picture yourself drinking this year round!

Part of Summit’s Unchained Series, Dark Infusion hits on everything I’m looking for in a milk stout: jet black pour, big frothy head, and the smell of coffee and chocolate dominates the nose. The mouthfeel has what some stouts have been lacking for me and that is the creaminess.Roasted coffee flavor with almost a hint of sweet caramel and smoke round out this wonderfully tasty, milk stout. Here’s more on this beer from Summit:

For his inaugural Unchained Series beer, Summit brewer Pete Stacy created the brewery’s first-ever coffee beer. Dark Infusión: A Coffee Milk Stout is a roasty, sweet stout made complex and smooth with the addition of cold brew coffee. The malts also provide notes of nuttiness and wood. A boil kettle addition of lactose results in a velvety, creamy mouthfeel. After fermentation the beer is infused with coffee in collaboration with Saint Paul’s Blackeye Roasting Company. Pete selected the custom blend of Brazilian and Colombian varieties specifically to contribute an intense coffee bean aroma and complement the roastiness of the malts. Look for Dark Infusión on shelves in 16-ounce cans and on draught. Learn more about the inspiration for and process of crafting Dark Infusion at Pete’s blog post.

If you want a wonderfully balanced, full flavored, creamy stout, then this beer is a must. If you’re not a stout fan and want to give an excellent one a try then this is the one you need. I’m not sure how long this will be around folks, go out and buy this, drink this!

Coming to Shelves: Boulevard Tropical Pale Ale cans, Lagunitas Waldo’s Special Ale, Summit Pils, New Holland Sour Series, Bells Session Pale Ale

A few news tidbits from around the web this week with some updates of beers that should be coming to Eastern Iowa at some point. Have any news? Drop me a line

tropical.jpeg**Boulevard Brewing Tropical Pale Ale – what started as a collaboration with Cigar City is now turning into a canned version solely released by Boulevard. Tropical Pale Ale will be released in cans. No word on if there will be a recipe change from the original and no release date yet. Stay tuned for more on this one.


waldo.jpeg**Lagunitas Waldo’s Special Ale – part of Lagunitas’ One-Hitter Series returns for a brief time and release date looks to be 4/20. This is a double IPA that in past checked in around 10.8% ABV and this year will be available in 12 oz bottles. Really excited for this one in bottles!

**Summit Brewing 30th Anniversary Pils – Summit’s 30th summitAnniversary coming out and another beer they’re releasing in celebration is a Keller Pils. This unfiltered German-style pils will come in at 5.1% ABV and be available in 12 oz cans and be released late spring/summer this year.

new holland.jpeg**New Holland Mischievous – part of New Holland’s Sour Series is Mischievous. This is an American Wild Ale that is fermented with brett. This beer checks in at 5.5% abv and will be available in 22 oz bottles. Here’s more from the brewery:

Mischievous presents flavors derived from its 100% brettanomyces fermentation. This wild yeast contributes earthiness, spice, mineral-character and slight tartness.

**Bells Oatsmobile Ale – a session pale ale brewed with oats is bells.jpegcoming from Bells this April. At 4.3% ABV, this hop-forward pale ale is dry hopped with Mosaic, citra, and amarillo, amongst others and the using malted oats to give it that unique body. Here’s more from Bells:

COMSTOCK, Mich.—Bell’s Brewery will roll out a brand new beer in April. It is the first new addition to its year-round lineup since 2010.

A hop-forward session Pale Ale brewed with oats, Oatsmobile Ale (4.3% ABV) will be available on draught and in 12 oz. bottles, packaged in six-packs across Bell’s distribution footprint.

Oatsmobile is dry-hopped with a blend of classic and modern Pacific Northwest hops, including Mosaic, Citra and Amarillo, for a pungent blend of stone fruit and tropical aromas.

“This beer is unique. Aromatics may drive it, but the signature ingredient – oats – are what really makes this beer stand apart and also where the name comes from. It’s approachable and intriguing with a fun personality,” said Bell’s Vice President, Laura Bell.

“The use of malted oats help give it a body that you don’t see in most other session Pale Ales. Once we tweaked the recipe to combine the body from the oats with those powerful hop aromas, we thought it would make a great addition to our year-round portfolio,” she said.

This 100% all-malt Pale Ale was first brewed in 2013 to explore the use of oats in a Pale Ale at Bell’s original brewery in downtown Kalamazoo. Initially Oat Ale, it was renamed Boiling Pot Pale Ale when it was released as a limited specialty draught option in select markets.

Oatsmobile launch events and additional details will be shared at and on Bell’s social media as it becomes available.

Shelf News: Chocolate Ale, Chai Spiced RIS, Imperial Coffee, Hopvale, + Stone Discontinues 2 Brews

sublimelyQuite a bit a news this week, some great and some rather disappointing. Good news or bad news first? Let’s get the bad news out of the way.

According Stone will be discontinuing two beers from seasonal lineup and they happen to be 2 very tasty beers. Their Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA and Levitation Amber Ale will no longer be produced. Very disheartening for me as I thought both beers were full flavored and delicious and Sublimely was one of my favorite Black IPAs on the market. With so many great beers to choose from, the market just became a bit thinner, but these two beers are still better than half of what is on our shelves. Either way, say goodbye.

chocolateOnto some good news. A few beers will be making their way to Eastern Iowa shelves in the next few weeks. We all know Hopslam is coming and Oskar Blues has hit Central and Eastern but just in time for Valentine’s Day will be Boulevard’s Chocolate Ale. The following comes from

Chocolate Ale is full of surprises, beginning with a glowing amber hue. The aroma is given over to earthy, fruity cocoa, with just a hint of hops. Smooth layers of dark chocolate intertwine with threads of caramel, vanilla, and nutty malt as the flavor warms and rounds to a bittersweet finish.

Boulevard Chocolate Ale was first released in 2011. The demand has been so high since then, the brewery has increased the amount brewed and packaged every year. In both 2014, and again in 2015, Boulevard has brewed the maximum amount possible for the production schedule.

Style: American Strong Ale (w/ Chocolate)
Availability: 750ml Bottles, Corked & Caged
Arrival: Early February, 2014 (Seasonal Release)

9.1% ABV

stone ris**Hopefully coming in March is the latest release from Stone’s “Odd Beers for Odd Years” lineup. This year it looks like it is going to be a Chai-Spiced Russian Imperial Stout. The ingredients list of this brew look stellar. Here’s more from

As it stands, the classic version of Stone Imperial Russian Stout is deep, dark, rich, roasty and perhaps even a bit sinful. The ‘Odd Beers for Odd Years’ part of the journey means the coming of each odd-numbered year provides the opportunity to take this traditional beer to new and mysterious places, embarking on an exploratory odyssey enabled by strikingly flavorful elements applied to a lovely onyx canvas. This beer, the latest ‘Odd’ transubstantiation, takes inspiration straight from the spice aisle, incorporating array of ingredients assembled to emulate the flavors of authentic chai tea. Cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, a dash of black pepper and a dose of black tea combine with Stone Imperial Russian Stout’s incumbent flavors to take it deep into exotic, previously unfathomed tenitory. Expect a touch of earthiness in combination with a warm, tantalizing aridness. Asa one-time brew with enduring character, Stone CHAI-SPICED Imperial Russian Stout is crafted to be contemplated fresh or cellared under proper conditions for many years so that it may live on not only in one’s memory, but on his or her taste buds as well.

Stone Chai-Spiced Imperial Russian Stout will be available in 22oz bottles, and draft. Typically arriving in March.

Style: Imperial Stout (w/ Clove, Ginger, Black Pepper, Cardamom, Black Tea, Cinnamon)
Availability: 22oz Bottles, Draft
Release: TBA

bouleavrd**Hitting the KC area first on February 10th and then to it’s distribution areas will be Boulevard Brewing’s Imperial Stout “X” Coffee. This will be part of the Smokestack Series and is the first of many new releases that we will be seeing from Boulevard. Seems Boulevard has really upped their game as their release schedule looks very promising in 2015. Here’s more on this beer courtesy of Boulevard’s Press release:

As a special treat for lovers of big, complex stouts, Boulevard Brewing Company offers the 2015 Imperial Stout “X” Series. The “X” factor stands for a key ingredient brewed into each of several limited releases plan throughout the year. This edition was infused with Ethiopian Sidamo Coffee from our Kansas City neighbor, The Roasterie, lending this robust Stout at subtle wine–like smoothness.

Boulevard Imperial Stout “X” Coffee will be available in 750ml bottles February 10th in Kansas City, other cities shortly after.

Style: Imperial Stout (w/ Coffee)
Availability: 750ml bottles, Draft. Limited release.
Arrival: February 10th, 2015. (KC first)

11% ABV

summit**And the last bit of news comes from our friends up north, Summit Brewing company. A new year round can release called Hopvale Organic Ale is a session beer with lemon peel. According to this beer will come in at 4.7% ABV and will be available in 16 oz cans.