Honestly, this is one of the most challenging lists to put together because it forces us to think back on the places we’ve been, the taprooms we visited, the random cans and bottles we opened with friends, and the beers we drank across the globe.

Luckily, we keep good notes throughout the year, or this would have been a mental exercise of potentially unwieldy proportions. And yet, we find the beers that make this list are often the ones we don’t need to remember, or rather, we never forget—we remember them fondly.

And they stick out in our minds for various reasons. Whether that’s a summertime beer we find ourselves buying twelve-packs of all year long, a West Coast IPA that turned a, shall we say, less hoppy drinker into an old-school hophead, an epic English barleywine from an epic Southern state, or an imperial stout with a thirty-three-hour boil, or even a six-way Czech pale lager collab with a story almost as good as the beer (almost 😉).

Deciding on the best beers we all drank this year is like sharing stories of our year with you. Each beer has a history for us. Each beer has a tale to tell. And we’re here to tell them.

To get a representative list again this year, we called on folks across the Next Glass team from different backgrounds and geographies to share their picks with us.

Below, we’ve listed our top choices for the best beers of 2023, presented in no particular order.

The Best Craft Beers of 2023

Rockhill & Locust

BKS Artisan Ales — Kansas City, MO
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

bks artisan ales rockhill & locust english mild ale
Photography courtesy of @bksartisanales

Dark Mild – We already named BKS Artisan Ales to our list of ”The Best Breweries of 2023.”

We loved the brewery’s Pivo Project Bohemian-Style Pilsner, one of our “Best Beers to Drink in Spring 2023” and Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine’s “20 Best Beers in 2023.”

But we enjoyed Rockhill & Locust English mild ale just a smidge more. The dark mild pours a chestnut brown, almost ruby garnet if you hold the beer to the light. A gem indeed, this English dark mild ale washes over our taste buds with notes of charred graham cracker, toasted bread, and a touch of cappuccino. Probably thanks to the handfuls of English pale malts and the unique blend of specialty malts.

With just a light smack of floralness at the end from the English East Kent Golding hops, Rockhill & Locust evokes this style effortlessly.

A testament supported by its gold medal in the “English Mild or Bitter” category at the 2022 Great American Beer Festival.

Oh, and did we mention it’s only 4% ABV? So go ahead and sip on one, two, or even three. This beer is a little gift to yourself in a glass.

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Welcome to the Here & Now

Amalgam Brewing — Denver, CO
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

amalgam brewing welcome to the here & now west coast pils
Photography courtesy of @amalgambrewing

West Coast Pils – Often, when I see qualifiers like “West Coast,” “Hoppy,” or “DDH” in front of pilsner, I get a little hesitant. Call me a purist, but I like a Czech or even hoppier German pilsner to speak for itself. The hop expression, especially in the latter, should be prominent.

But Amalgam approached the challenge of brewing a West Coast pils with aplomb. After all, for the last five years, the Colorado-based brew has played with the curve, bending the rules with great finesse. So when co-founder Eric Schmidt reached out to me to say he dropped a four-pack of Welcome to the Here & Now in the mail for me, I had high expectations.

Deftly hopped with Mosaic and Strata, Welcome to the Here & Now pours a super clear pale grass color with giant, clingy bubbles on the foam that bring a beautiful hop bouquet to my nose.

On the sip, it’s everything you want in a pilsner—tight, crisp, floral—but amped up with a very symmetrical hoppiness that pleasantly fades before you drink again.

Just in case I forget how much I like this beer, I left myself a little reminder in my notes, writing, “It’s f**king delicious!” So, there you go.

Beyond the liquid, the beer represents a significant new step for the Denver-based brewery, which PorchDrinking recently reported will be brewing its beers out of Bierstadt Lagerhaus from here on out.

If we can keep expecting beers like Welcome to the Here & Now, I, for one, am excited for this new phase of Amalgam’s history.

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Blue Wizard

Widowmaker Brewing — Braintree, MA
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

widowmaker brewing blue wizard west coast ipa
Photography courtesy of @widowmakerbrew

West Coast IPA – Honestly, you won’t find me reaching for a West Coast IPA very often. Or I should rephrase: You won’t find me reaching for an old-school West Coast IPA very often. These days, newer-wave versions tend to skew fruitier and a bit more palate-friendly.

But I really enjoyed Blue Wizard, the third release in Widowmaker’s Comet Week. We initially spoke to Widowmaker’s head brewer, Chris Hogan, for a piece on Crosby Hops’ new product—cryogenically processed lupulin pellets, CGX. Afterward, he sent us some beers, showcasing the frozen, power-packed hop pellets.

To make Blue Wizard, Widowmaker used the hopping rate and schedule of Blue Comet, plus Citra, Simcoe, hand-selected Comet, and Comet CGX, combined with the base beer for Green Wizard.

Pouring an almost lava-like amber, Blue Wizard gave me a toffee and bruléed orange on the nose. A bit of grapefruit peeked through super smooth tones that teetered on the edge of dank but reined back beautifully at the last second.

Finishing crisp in a way that immediately made me want to drink again, Blue Wizard kept me coming back for more, even though I had other beers to taste that day.

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Freedom Lemonade

Revolution Brewing Company — Chicago, IL
Submitted by: Aaron Keefner, Sales Solutions Consultant, Next Glass

revolution brewing freedom lemonade fruited sour
Graphic courtesy of Revolution Brewing

Fruited SourFreedom Lemonade is really everything you want in refreshment. From its subtle tartness to its great mix of sweetness from lemon and pure cane sugar, this is the ultimate beer for warm months that can still be enjoyed in the cold months to break up the monotony of dark beers.

What’s even better? Revolution sells a mixed twelve-pack that includes six cans of Freedom Lemonade and six cans of Strawberry Freedom Lemonade. I believe I’ve bought around twenty twelve-packs, and the winter months aren’t slowing that number down!

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Brewery Ardennes — Geneva, NY
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

brewery ardennes single, dubbel, tripel, and quadrupel
Photography courtesy of Brewery Ardennes

Tripel – Last year, I began a tiny love affair with Belgian beer courtesy of visiting Bruz Beers in Denver, CO, naming the brewery one of our best of 2022. This year, I joined Bruz Beers Co-Founder Ryan Evans as he led a trip to Belgium, visiting the country’s best breweries and bars.

At the beginning of the year, we put a call out searching for other Belgian-inspired breweries across the U.S.

Those like Brewery Ardennes in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, which opened in May 2020 when Stacey Edinger and her husband, Derek Edinger, morphed his “out-of-control hobby” homebrewing and passion for Belgian beers into a business.

In a short time, Brewery Ardennes has already racked up awards. In 2022, Brewery Ardennes won Belgian-style Brewery of the Year for New York along with several awards from the 2023 International Beer Competition, including a gold for the limited-release Grand Cru Barrel-Aged Tripel; a bronze for Speciale Belge; and a silver for Grand Cru Dubbel.

I tried many of these beers, and while I like all the award winners, I actually settled on the good ole Tripel as my favorite.

To me, a well-executed tripel is to Belgian brewers like a Czech pilsner is to lager brewers. Nailing the style means you got some pretty serious brewing chops.

Brewery Ardennes tripel reminded me of a Rubik’s Cube; with one sip, flavors clicked into place—banana, lemon, black pepper. And just when I thought I cracked this thing with the next sip, new notes arose—apricot, mandarin orange, a whisper of white pepper. I kept stepping back, re-evaluating, tasting more, and finding new colorful expressions.

Honestly, I’m not sure I solved this puzzle. But I’ll certainly keep going back for more until I do.

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Bus Beer

Green Bench Brewing Co. (St. Petersburg, FL) x Schilling Beer Co. (Littleton, NH) x Monday Night Brewing (Atlanta, GA) x Threes Brewing (Brooklyn, NY) x Cohesion Brewing (Denver, CO) x Halfway Crooks Beer (Atlanta, GA)
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

monday night preservation co bus beer czech pale lager collab
Drinking a Bus Beer Czech-style Pale Lager at Monday Night Preservation Co. | Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz

Czech-Style Pale Lager – Remember at the beginning when I said each beer has a story?

This one could have the best tale to tell.

We’ll summarize:

What do 17.77 tallboys of Pilsner Urquell, six American brewers, and one bus have in common? A life-changing mission trip to the Czech Republic sponsored by the Embassy of the Czech Republic to the USA and Canadian ingredients importer Hop & Stuff.


When Peter Kiley, brewmaster at Monday Night Brewing; Shawn Bainbridge, co-founder of Halfway Crooks; Ryan Murphy, lead brewer at Schilling Beer Co.; Eric Larkin, co-founder of Cohesion Brewing Co.; Khris Johnson, head brewer and co-founder of Green Bench Brewing Company; and Ben Peterson, lead brewer at Threes Brewing returned stateside, the sextet knew they wanted to brew a beer as an homage to their trip, what they learned, and Czech beer culture.

Bus Beer stays as faithful as possible to the 12° Czech pale lager, one of the most popular styles in the Czech Republic.

“That beer was like water over there,” says Kiley. “It’s the first beer you have when you walk into any bar … but it is so much more complex, nuanced, and delicious than what we have as our water of beer in America.”

That required extensive planning, passion, education, and experience. Namely, a ridiculously long email thread debating minute details (the thread had forty-three responses when we talked to Kiley in February, right before they brewed the beer). “It looked like a scene from Russell Crowe in a Beautiful Mind where he’s just writing on the wall,” laughs Kiley. “It’s just cool s**t to watch the passion.”

Like debating where the final IBU should land, arguing between thirty-two and thirty-three. “People presented their case,” says Kiley. “In a group like this, no one is allowed to come with the feeling of fact. You need to come, correct.”

For Bus Beer, the group landed on a grist bill with almost exclusively imported Moravian Czech floor-malted pilsner malt and a smidge (six percent) of Caramalt, resulting in a final beer that hit 5.6-6 SRM.

For hops, světlé ležák should only include Czech-grown Saaz, which Bus Beer replicates all the way through, including some whole-leaf Saaz at the end.

Production-wise, when the six met at Green Bench in St. Petersburg, FL, to brew the beer, they triple decocted, a method of siphoning off part of the wort (roughly a third) from the mash, boiling the cracked grains anywhere from fifteen to twenty minutes to cause a Maillard reaction or caramelization in the malts (“the same thing that browns your toast or sears your steak,” says Larkin), and moving it back to the main mash.

During the Craft Brewers Conference, we tried Bus Beer when it debuted at the Monday Night Preservation Co. taproom in Nashville, TN.

The word that stuck in our heads the most? Incredible.

Presented in a Czech dimple mug, Bus Beer had a nice two-finger head of foam capping a beautiful blossom of lightly hoppy, crisp, clean beer.

Complex Czech perfection, Bus Beer opened our eyes to the possibilities of brewing true-to-Czech-style beers in the U.S.

While we couldn’t have drunk 17.77 of those, we could undoubtedly drink two. And we did.

The wheels on the bus (beer) go round and round!

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Transcontinental Crisp

Southern Grist Brewing Company — Nashville, TN
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

southern grist brewing company transcontinental crisp lager
Photography courtesy of @southerngristbrewing

Pilsner – When you think of lager, not many people throw Southern Grist into the conversation. I’m going to tell you why you should.

The Nashville-based brewery celebrated its seventh anniversary this past May. Southern Grist has succeeded by constantly breaking the rules.

When the brewery first opened in 2016, the beer landscape in Nashville looked very different. Old-guard breweries like Yazoo and Blackstone offered classics like pale ales, porters, and even amber. But the beers Southern Grist started bringing to the bar, well, they’d never been seen before.

Clearly, because when Southern Grist Co-Founder Kevin Antoon recounts serving the brewery’s first hazy IPA, he says half the folks sent the beers back, indicating something was wrong with the beer.

“People thought we were crazy,” he laughs, remembering that the brewery also opened with a fruited sour. “They were like, you guys really think people are going to drink a red beer in Nashville.”

Turns out they did.

Now, that fruited sour and hazy IPA are the two beers Southern Grist became known for.

Well, actually, way more than just those two beers at this point.

Over the past seven years, Southern Grist Co-Founder and Head Brewer Jared Welch has made a whopping 1,067 different beers (and probably over 1,100 at this point!).

All the rules the brewery set down for themselves in year one eventually went out the door.

“I’m super freaking proud of what we’ve done over the last seven years,” says Antoon. “I realized that most of our change was getting out of our own way. When we opened, we said we’d never do a flagship. We have three flagships now. We won’t do lagers. We have a whole lager program now. We’ll never distribute. We’re in twenty-one states. So we ripped up our business plan, and now it’s all about … adaptation.”

Thank god they did adapt, because that meant I could enjoy beers like Transcontinental Crisp, an unfiltered pilsner-style lager with Canada Malting EuroPils Malt and hopped with Michigan-grown Zuper Saazer. A light touch of toasted character drinks easy with a pleasant floral finish.

It’s just a damn good beer. And to me, the perfect epitome of a brewery bucking convention with an unadulterated daring.

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Flashlight Tag – Peanut Butter And Chocolate

Belleflower Brewing — Portland, ME
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

belleflower brewing flashlight tag - peanut butter and chocolate imperial stout
Photography courtesy of @belleflowerbeer

Imperial Stout – As I’m sure you read by now, I named Belleflower one of our “Best Breweries of 2023” .

The brewery’s breadth, nailing everything from IPAs across the spectrum to a helles to even this imperial stout here, impressed me.

Seriously, Flashlight Tag – Peanut Butter And Chocolate was probably the stout I enjoyed drinking the most this year. The peanut butter flavor here hit harder than any other I’ve tried.

I smelled the thick, creamy, roasted nuts before I even finished pouring out the glass. But the flavor, phew, let’s see how many peanut butter things I can list here to give you an idea…

Literally a liquified Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup…
The most indulgent, heavenly peanut butter pie…
S’mores where I added a swab of peanut butter to the graham cracker…
Toasted brioche with a thick swatch of peanut butter…
A hunk of peanut butter and chocolate you find in a fudge shop in that one town by the sea
Just dip a spoon into a creamy jar of peanut butter and add a sprinkle of chocolate chips …

Get the picture?

I often find adjuncted stouts needing more balance, relying on just a bottom-line sweetness instead of actually trying to recreate all those individual or melded flavors.

This iteration of Belleflower’s Flashlight Tag tells the truth, expressing peanut butter and chocolate equally in such a graceful gulp that I had to add it to my list of the best beers in 2023.

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Winkle Nectar

3 Sons Brewing Co. — Dania Beach, FL
Submitted by: Dustin Jeffers, Director of Brewery Implementation, Next Glass

3 sons brewing co. winkle nectar imperial stout
Photography courtesy of @3sonsbrewingco

Imperial Stout – While I am a huge fan of indulgent, rich, barrel-aged pastry stouts with heavy vanilla, coconut, and other adjuncts, there are moments when a stout and a barrel can truly shine on their own. Enter Winkle Nectar from 3 Sons. This exceptional stout started with a thirty-three-hour boil, finding its home in Old Rip Van Winkle Barrels for a year and a half. The absence of adjustments sets it apart; the base stout’s distinct Strawberry Twizzler characteristic takes center stage, gracefully intertwining with the oak tannins from one of the world’s best bourbons. It’s a testament to the beauty that can emerge when a great stout and a carefully selected barrel are allowed to speak for themselves.

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Side Pull Pillows

Burning Barrel Brewing Company — Rancho Cordova, CA
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

burning barrel brewing company side pull pillows pilsner
Photography courtesy of @burningbarrelbrewco

Pilsner – Last month, I took a little staycation in Rancho Cordova, CA, home to the Barrel District, which boasts six breweries, two distilleries, a new-age wine taproom, a meadery, and a Queer-owned hard kombucha brewery.

One of my favorite stops, Burning Barrel brews outside the barrel (well, actually in it, too, because they do some tremendous barrel-aged stuff, but you get the idea).

You’ll find folks going ga-ga for their over-the-top yet spot-on flavorful sours. For instance, Fresh Out the Oven V1, which perfectly mimics the center of a peach pie—gooey crust and all (seriously).

But this brewery isn’t a one-trick pony—more like a rainbow-colored unicorn with at least one new beer coming out every week. On tap, along with eight crazy sours, you’ll also find a nitro English pub ale, a German helles lager, and a Vienna lager next to a West Coast, triple West Coast, and hazy IPAs.

“We’re really heavy on innovation and the overall vibe and atmosphere,” Burning Barrel Co-Founder Duncan Alexander told us on our recent visit. “We want it to be comfortable for anybody, whether you’re working a corporate job and want to get beers for lunch or you just poured concrete all day and want to come out with your crew. If you live in San Francisco and want to try some new crazy beers other breweries don’t offer, make a day trip on the weekend.”

Our favorite, and technically Burning Barrel’s only flagship, Side Pull Pillows pours fluffy and golden from a LUKR side-pour tap.

We could easily see why the brewery’s pilsner recently won gold at the 2023 Craft Brewers Cup of California, and, now, our list of the best beers of 2023.

“It’s cool because everyone knows we’re the more hype-IPA, sour, and barrel-aged brewery,” says Alexander. “But a lot of people come here just for our lager, so it was great to see some recognition not just for the cool beers you see on Instagram but for our really well-executed core lager beer.”

Starting with all-premium pilsner malt and one hundred percent German hops, Side Pull Pillows beautifully balances a toasted pine nut nuttiness with a fresh herb-like basil backbone. Probably thanks to the hot-side additions of Saaz, Crystal, and Hallertau Mittelfrüh hops. I could have easily taken down two of these.


Barrel Aged Adjunct Trail (2023)

Angry Chair Brewing (Tampa, FL) x Prairie Artisan Ales (Krebs, OK)
Submitted by: Magic Muncie, Social Media Manager, Hop Culture and Untappd

Imperial Milk Stout – This beer never disappoints, and Barrel Aged Adjunct Trail (2023) is no exception. The combination of hazelnut coffee, coconut, and Bourbon barrels is a marriage made in heaven. Undoubtedly, this is one of my favorite beers of all time, let alone 2023.

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Lost Weeds Vol. 1

Protagonist Beer (Charlotte, NC) x Amor Artis (Fort Mill, SC)
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

Imperial Hazy – Described as “dank, resinous, and wicked,” Lost Weeds Vol. 1 embodies those and more. With a base of two-row, wheat, oats, and Munich malt, the hazy gets shocked with some classic C-hops—Centennial, Chinook, and Citra—along with a few newer-school ones—Mosaic and Strata.

Pouring a murky orangy-yellow like OJ out of the box or Werther’s caramels, this collab series with Amor Artis didn’t hit me immediately on the nose but blew me away on the sip.

While the Pacific Northwest hops may have laid a foundation, the Southern Hemisphere ones definitely dominated my taste buds with frosted orange, candied cantaloupe, caramel candy apple, and a bit of Big League Chew.

Each new note burst onto my tongue with a distinct pop, like biting into a pomegranate seed or downing a handful of Pop Rocks.

The more I drank, the more the bitterness started to slip through, but this was dangerously smooth for an 8.1% ABV beer.

Drink cautiously, or throw abandon to the wind and realize you drained the glass too quickly.

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Experimental Projections Derived From Transcendental Thought

Burial Beer Co. — Asheville, NC
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

burial beer co experimental projections derived from transcendental thought west coast ipa
Photography courtesy of @burialbeer

West Coast IPA – I must admit that I did not want for beer spoils this year. Burial sent me a couple of different packages, one around their anniversary. All their beers continued to awe me, but did Experimental Projections Derived from Transcendental Thought existentially stick in or out of my mind? Catch my drift?

Pouring an almost sun-dappled gold, this West Coast IPA felt like an Aperol Spritz—zesty on the aroma with different citrus hues tickling my nostrils.

The effervescence carried into the sip, where massive clementine and pomelo juice faded into a whisper of pith in the back of the throat.

The dulcet balance here rocked me (yeah, existentially unwind that sentence).

Ever wizards of words and West Coasts (among other delights), Burial came through big this year.

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Inside Voice

Sante Adairius Rustic Ales — Capitola, CA
Submitted by: Magic Muncie, Social Media Manager, Hop Culture and Untappd

sante adairius rustic ales inside voice american barleywine
Photography courtesy of @rusticales

American Barleywine – Who says Sante Adairius is just a wild ale brewery? Inside Voice is the voice of reason in this discussion and a glowing example of what this team is capable of. This double barrel-aged barleywine is smooth and decadent and should be on everyone’s radar.

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Crispy Nights

Finback Brewery — Queens, NY
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

finback brewery crispy nights black lager schwarzbier
Photography courtesy of @finbackbrewery

Schwarzbier – Oof, I had a tough time choosing which Finback beer to feature here. Out of all their beers I tried this year, the sophisticated smoky finesse of Ploom, a rauchbier that had me swooning. Smoked beers are all about balance, one notch too much and the whole beer falls apart like a tricycle losing a training wheel. Finback’s version toes that line a coolness that’s impressive.

In the meantime, 2023 BA Grazing on the Ordinary, an imperial stout with coconut, hazelnut, and milk sugar drank exactly like an Almond Joy or Caramel Delight (sorry, Samoa to some of you), and melted me in my sticky tracks.

But ultimately, I settled on Crispy Nights, a schwarzbier with Strisselspalt and Saphir.

Pouring as black as night on a Midwestern back road, this black lager drank as crisp as the winter night air.

Drinking Crispy Nights tasted exactly like biting into a chocolate covered espresso bean. You got that pleasant almost gritty bitterness from the bean, punctured immediately by an indulgent lacquered chocolate.

Actually, I swear this beer actually zapped my synapses like a shot of espresso because I kept going back for sip after sip after sip until within minutes the whole glass was gone.

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Stowe Style Festbier

von Trapp Brewing (Stowe, VT) x Narragansett Brewing Company (Providence, RI)
Submitted by: Magic Muncie, Social Media Manager, Hop Culture and Untappd

von trapp brewing x narragansett brewing stowe style festbier
Photography courtesy of @vontrappbrewing

Festbier – The recent von Trapp/Narragansett festbier collaboration is worthy of immense recognition. Crisp, crushable, and flavorful, this Stowe Style Festbier was a highlight of my year. Enjoying it on draught in Stowe with a plate of schnitzel was an experience I recommend for everyone.

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In De Naam Van De Zoon: Custodia 2020

Heilig Hart Brouwerij — Kwatrecht, Vlaanderen, Belgium
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

heilig hart brouwerij custodia oud bruin
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz | Hop Culture

Oud Bruin Style – Built in an abandoned 110-year-old church, Heilig Hart preaches not about Psalm 23 but about fermenting lagers in amphora, a clay or terracotta vessel that looks like a life-sized urn.

Founder Hans Dusslier praises the microflora and fauna floating around in the air outside and offers salvation inside his four walls through water, malt, hops, and yeast.

Heilig Hart divides its beers into three sections—“In the Name of the Father” (representative of Belgian beer culture), “In the Name of the Son” (crazy, future, experimental beers), and “In the Name of the Holy Spirit” (spontaneously fermented beers because they need a bit of spiritual luck).

When I visited during a trip to Belgium, I tried a beer from each section, but In De Naam Van De Zoon (In the Name of the Son) Custodia struck me the most.

As a part of a series of Heilig Hart’s crazy experimental beers, Custodia started as an oud bruin before deviating.

In fact, Dusslier refuses to call the beer an oud bruin because “it would have been too easy just to make [one],” he says. Instead, Dusslier adds a twist, kettle-souring the brown base with 1,000 liters of yogurt. “We make it difficult for ourselves because we wait until the Lactobacillus have multiplied themselves,” says Dusslier, noting that can take anywhere from twenty-four to thirty-six hours. “You can imagine industrial, commercial breweries will never do this because this is a really crazy idea.”

After boiling, he fermented Custodia with a family sourdough culture. “My wife makes bread with it, and I make beer with it,” he said.

They made the beer twice, putting the first batch in foeders for sixteen months and the second in amphoras for four months.

The version I tried blended the two batches.

Pouring a beautifully murky amber, Custodia hit with sparkling notes of earthy beets, intertwining with fresh-picked strawberry and plump cherry.

I took a bottle home with me that I shared with my dad last week. You know, just to be sure this beer still impressed me.

Spoiler alert: It did. My eyes lit up as big and bright as if I were still standing in that reclaimed church in Belgium.

Holy hell, this devilish beer just zapped me from my fingers to my toes with a conniving complexity.

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Perpetual Contortion

False Idol Brewing (North Richland Hills, TX) x Vector Brewing (Dallas, TX) x 903 Brewers (Sherman, TX)
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

English Barleywine – In the past, I haven’t spent much time with barleywines. Which I am now realizing has been a BIG mistake. Because when I set out to write a piece on the difference between American and English barleywines, I got sucked into a deep, dark, black hole…in the best way.

Perhaps fortuitously, at the same time, False Idol Founder Dominique Van Ausdall sent me a package of beer. Inside I found his version of an English barleywine, Perpetual Contortion. The beer just struck a chord with me.

A collaboration with 903 Brewers and Vector Brewing, Perpetual Contortion drank so smoothly for a 14% ABV beer. Aged for fifteen months in Iron Root whiskey barrels, this English barleywine expressed lovely notes of Panetone, the classic Italian sweet bread served around the holidays studded with dried fruit. I also picked up notes of sweet cherry and sticky toffee pudding.

Everything harmoniously melded together into a confounding sip that I wanted to explore more and more each time I set down the glass.

I’d say pretty much everyone remembers their gateway American IPA or hazy, right? The beer that got them into the style, lighting up parts of their brain previously lonely and dark. I think Perpetual Contortion might have been my gateway barleywine. Let’s just say that I’ve gone out of my way to drink quite a few more barleywines since then this year.

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Asphalt Cowboy

WestFax Brewing Company — Lakewood, CO
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

westfax brewing co asphalt cowboy ddh hazy ipa
Graphic courtesy of @ewestfaxbrewing

Hazy IPA – With Strata, Riwaka, Nectaron, and Bru-1, Asphalt Cowboy bucks you in the nose with clementine, pomelo, and tangerine. Because it smells like vibrant fruit juice, you first taste straight-up, fresh-squeezed OJ, nothing out of a carton or juice box. Super delicious, this hazy tastes like you just peeled an orange and sucked a slice out with juice running down your hands—a little pithy in the end, but straight-up juice. Just bite into this clementine and enjoy the squeeze.

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Human Robot — Philadelphia, PA
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

human robot festbier
Photography courtesy of Magic Muncie | Hop Culture & Untappd

Festbier – Untappd featured Festbier in its sold-out Oktoberfest beer box. Our Social Media Manager, Magic Muncie, who got a bunch of these beers sent to him to shoot for the ‘Gram, kindly drove some down to me (he only lives about an hour and a half north of me).

I’m a huge Human Robot fan; the brewery is definitely on my list of must-visits if I ever make it to Philly one of these days. In lieu of traveling coast to coast, getting my hands on Human Robot’s eponymous Festbier was the next best thing.

Look, over the last couple of years, I’ve tasted a lot of festbiers for our annual Best Oktoberfests piece. Candidly, along with märzens, it’s one of my favorite fall styles.

Human Robot’s is unparalleled, which is probably why it ranks as Untappd’s fourth-highest-rated festbier of all time!

Human Robot puts its Festbier through an intense process, including a double decoction mash along with a slow, cold fermentation.

You can taste the dedication. I get a lovely light buttery RITZ Cracker backbone from the German pilsner and Munich malt (plus the decoction step just has this incredible way of smoothly bringing out the rustic edges of malt, if that makes sense). The first sip gives way to a honied sweetness and finally a bite of Herbrucker bitterness.

This beer just has its s**t together but in such a humble way. It’s not outshining anyone, it’s not asking for the spotlight, it’s just quietly, tightly buttoned up to a T. It’s excellent lager craftsmanship at its finest.

Thanks for sharing with me, Magic!

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Schilling Beer Co. — Littleton, NH
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

schilling beer co modernism czech dark lager
Photography courtesy of @schillingbeerco

Czech Dark Lager – In July, Hop Culture Freelancer Andy Crump told the story of the rise of Czech dark lagers. One of our favorites, Schilling Beer Co.’s Modernism, nails the style to a T, making it one of the top beers we enjoyed in July.

In his words…

“There’s an earthiness to Modernism that’s far less prevalent in its peers, but that’s good. In fact, it’s essential to underscore Czech dark’s reception to little tweaks here and there in the style. Modernism showcases the flexibility of Czech brewing nicely through that earthy quality, likely a result of Schilling’s decoction process; a shot of spice on the finish gives the beer not only a sense of completion but a uniqueness to set it apart from the best Czech dark lagers brewed in the U.S.”

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Gotta Have My Hops

Whole Foods Market Brewing Company x Musical Box Brewing — Houston, TX
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

musical box brewing and whole foods market brewing company gotta have my hops double imperial new england style hazy ipa
Photography courtesy of Musical Box Brewing

Hoppy Ale – When our friend and hoppy ale historian Larry Koestler sent us one of his newest collabs with a whopping 14.5 pounds of hops per barrel…yeah, we paid attention.

Let’s say that again, because it’s not a misprint: Gotta Have My Hops from Musical Box Brewing and Chris Shelton, formerly of Whole Foods Market Brewing Company, has 14.5 pounds of hops per barrel, including Citra, Vic Secret, Rakau, and Waimea.

In the hands of some, this beer could break the IBU bank. But this hoppy ale drinks like a dream under Koestler and Shelton’s direction.

We must be dreaming to think that someone could funnel so much “hoppage” into a juicy, balanced bowl of goodness.

We can’t officially recommend that this beer be a part of your balanced breakfast, but…

“Chris says it’s the best beer he’s ever brewed,” Koestler wrote to Hop Culture in an email. “And while I can be prone to hyperbole, he is decidedly not.”

To us, the best part of any bowl of cereal is the ultra-saturated milk at the bottom. Take out the milk, replace it with beer, and add hops instead of cereal. Gotta Have My Hops has that incredibly saturated last sip at the end of the bowl full of hoppy goodness.

Craziness. Just pure craziness. This kind of beer reminds us why we do what we do and why we love the imagination of craft brewers so much. This is a beer with no fear. And we’re here for it.

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Smoke On the Wind

Yorocco Beer — Kamakura, Japan
Submitted by: Grace Lee-Weitz, Senior Content Editor, Hop Culture

pigalle tokyo japan yorocco beer smoke on the wind
Photography courtesy of Grace Lee-Weitz

Farmhouse Ale – Craft beer in Japan hasn’t quite exploded as much as here in the States. But a slow, steady growth has seen breweries like Yorocco make headways in the country.

Out of all the Tokyo craft beer bars I visited during my trip to Japan earlier this year, one name kept popping up—Yorocco.

Which is funny because, according to Stefan Lovell, co-founder of one of our Best Hidden Gem Places to Drink in 2023, Two Fingers, Yorocco’s owner/brewer Kichise Akio is very particular about where he serves his beer.

Mostly because this Kamakura, Japan, brewery focuses just on lagers and saisons. The latter style, Akio believes, can be hard to appreciate unless you know what you’re drinking. “He doesn’t want to have his beer at places where customers order it, don’t like it, and leave with a bad impression,” says Lovell. “He likes to give to local places.”

Like Pigalle, a tiny five-seat, six-tap Japanese pub hidden in an alleyway in the Sangenjaya neighborhood of Tokyo.

That’s where my wife and I found Smoke On the Wind, a saison made with house-smoked malt.

Light smokiness gave this saison a drier finish with sweeter banana and bubblegum, complementing cranberry and lemon tart tastes.

This is a beer you sip and appreciate that shows itself more the more you sit with it. So, I understand why Akio decides to be picky about the establishments serving his beer.

I consider myself super lucky to stumble upon one where I could enjoy a taste.

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