This month means taking some time to appreciate good family, great friends, and fantastic beer. Plenty of festive occasions meant we drank some top beers in November. So, to celebrate this month properly, here are all the things we’re thankful for…
Stouts – Every first Thursday of November, we celebrate International Stout Day, a homage to the dark depths of a now iconic style, whether that’s a new-school pastry stout or an old-school Russian imperial stout. If you had the chance to honor this holiday with one of Untappd’s All-Time Top-Rated Imperial Stouts, we tip our hat to you. Some of the ones on this list are vintage and hard to find. But we could have settled for a perhaps easier-to-track-down pastry stout on Untappd’s all-time top-rated list.
Holiday Seasonals – We also love this time of year because many breweries release their festive seasonals. For instance, Sierra Nevada Celebration, Tröegs Mad Elf, Great Lakes Christmas Ale, and Sam Adams Old Fezziwig.
Gifts – Receiving gifts is great, but we love coming up with ideas for you to give. Such as The Best Beer Gifts for the Holidays 2023, The Best Homebrewing Gifts of 2023, and the Best Beer Glasses to Buy in 2023.
Travel – Going out and seeing the world, primarily through brewers’ eyes in other countries. Our friend and freelancer Ryan Pachmayer covered the best places to drink in Munich, Germany, this month while Hop Culture Senior Editor Grace Weitz shared the best breweries and bars she visited during a ten-day beer trip to Belgium!
We could keep going. And we will next month when we put out our end-of-year content with all our best beers, breweries, new breweries, and more of 2023. But for now, feast on the top eleven beers we drank in November. Thanks!
Top 11 Beers We Drank in November 2023
Old Fezziwig – Samuel Adams
Old Ale – Tradition! Around the holidays, this word takes on dazzling significance. We all have them. For some, it’s eagerly awaiting the release of your favorite holiday beer—like Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig.
Based on a character from the seminal “A Christmas Carol,” Old Fezzi (as the brewery affectionately calls it) has accrued a bit of a cult following.
“[Old Fezzi] just screams holiday!” says Boston Beer Director of Marketing Lauren Price. “It’s a mix of nostalgic feelings and a great-tasting beer.”
First released in the late ‘90s after two years of R&D, Old Fezzi fills a void in seasonal beers.
“We already had a spiced winter lager, but Fezziwig was slightly darker, more round in the mouthfeel, still spicy and warming, [but more] reminiscent of the season,” says Eryn Bottens, brewing manager, new product development at Boston Beer Co.
Especially with its notes of toffee, caramel, and chocolate that “just remind you of winter,” says Price.
By far and away, no matter what time of year, Old Fezziwig holds the title of Samuel Adams’ most-requested beer.
“It could be the dead of summer, and people are talking about it,” laughs Price. “No matter what time of year it is … people are screaming: Bring back Old Fez!”
Thanks to all that popular demand, Boston Beer released Old Fezziwig for the first time this year in its own six-pack (previously, you could only find it in Sam Adams’ seasonal variety pack).
O come, all ye faithful to enjoy Old Fezziwig, the ale as old as time.
Tunzenbier – Fort Point Beer Co.
San Francisco, CA
Helles – Fort Point Beer Co. doesn’t collab often. So when they do, you should pay attention. A brewery dedicated to a love of San Francisco, Fort Point makes a point of honoring the people and parts of the city it loves best—like Suppenküche.
A German beer hall started by Fabi Wiest and Thomas Klausmann in 1993, Suppenküche pays homage to the beer culture of the duo’s country—Germany.
Literally translating to “soup kitchen,” Suppenküche became a local watering hole for the community, providing ever-pouring beer and homey plates of German food.
Over the last three decades, Suppenküche has impacted the lives of many San Francisco residents, including Fort Point Beer Co. Co-Founder and CEO Justin Catalana.
“I’ve been coming here for a long time,” Catalana said with a chuckle at a beer release dinner Hop Culture Senior Content Editor Grace Weitz attended in early November.
By a long time, Catalana means since he was seventeen, tagging along with his brothers and friends as they went out to drink.
“Something important about this restaurant is it embodies a sense of community in San Francisco,” said Catalana, who admits Suppenküche’s focus on German beers made an impression on him over the years. “It inspired me to think about beer and its place in the community. Just sitting at this bar and communicating with guests is very special to me. It really was an inspiration for starting Fort Point.”
So it’s no surprise that, when Catalana started Fort Point, he made the brewery’s flagship a German kölsch called KSA.
In that vein, Tunzenbier, a Bavarian-style lager, honors Wiest’s hometown of Tunzenberg and Catalana’s love of German-style lagers.
In her half-liter pour, Weitz picked up dominating notes of crackling crust, and Club® Crackers cut through with a beautiful current of fresh-cut grass. She loved the helles-style beer so much that she ordered another.
A beautiful beer with an inspiring story. When you imbibe Tunzenbier, you feel like you’re drinking in an incredible amount of passion and history.
Which is really what Fort Point and Suppenküche are all about.
Bourbon County Brand Original Stout – Goose Island Beer Co.
Imperial Stout – November also means releasing one of Untappd’s All-Time Top-Rated Imperial Stouts. Bourbon County Brand Original Stout changed beer forever. Although the release has seen its ups and downs—infections in 2015 and withheld variants in 2016, for many years, folks would line up on Black Friday in November for a chance to purchase bottles of the original and anywhere from one to five or more variants.
So, let’s give respect where respect is due. For the ones who started it all, Goose Island Beer Co. rightfully nabbed a few different slots on Untappd’s list. While we’re featuring the OG here, Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2010) ranks the highest with a 4.73 rating.
Wondering what else made Untappd’s list of All-Time Top-Rated Stouts? 👇👇👇
Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche (2023) – WeldWerks Brewing Co.
Pastry Stout – WeldWerks nails an imperial pastry stout with its original Medianoche, but it’s all the variants that have come thereafter that truly impress us.
The recently re-released Peanut Butter Cup Medianoche, a fan favorite at GABF, is just naughty.
The blend starts with ten-year-old Eagle Rare bourbon and twelve-year-old Elijah Craig bourbon barrels, explicitly chosen for their distinctive peanut butter and dark chocolate notes.
But WeldWerks doesn’t stop there. Oh no, these peanut butter paramours then add peanut flour, cacao nibs, and actual peanut butter cups!
We’re getting goosebumps and shivers going up and down our spine right now just thinking about this indulgent treat.
When peanut butter and chocolate meld together perfectly, and it’s done just right, there is nary a pairing more pleasurable.
And WeldWerks just smashes it.
Looking for other top dessert stouts to try? Check out the list of Untappd’s All-Time Top-Rated Imperial Pastry Stouts.
Tripel De Garre – Brasserie De Garre
Tripel – By far, one of Weitz’s favorite places she drank in Belgium, De Garre, might be the country’s best-hidden gem, literally.
Half the fun is finding the tavern tucked into one of the smallest streets in Bruges (hint: look for a rusted wrought iron gate with a “De Garre” street sign above it). But once you do, you’re initiated into a secret society.
Well, actually, once you’ve downed one of their tantalizing tripels then you’re genuinely a De Garre denizen.
Served in a bulbous glass, the house Tripel comes with stiff-peaked foam, super creamy and fragrant.
Drink, digging underneath the whitecaps to find a slightly honied, estery tripel.
Will you come up for air with a foam mustache? Probably. But that’s the other half of the fun here.
The smoothness of this 10% ABV makes it dangerous enough to warrant serving each glass with a little dish of cubed cheese.
Drink one slowly if you can, waiting before you order another because this one will hit you fast.
We admit it’s hard, but try your best!
Orval Vert – Brasserie d’Orval
Villers-devant-Orval, Luxembourg, Belgium
Patersbier – Sure, many of you know about Orval, the famous Belgian pale ale from the monastery of the same name in Belgium. But if you thought Brasserie d’Orval only made one beer, you’d be wrong.
After visiting Brasserie d’Orval on her trip to Belgium, Weitz came back with a little secret to share: Orval makes two beers if you count the monk’s beer, Orval Vert, aka Orval Green.
Brewed specifically for the monks at a lower alcohol content (4.5% ABV vs. Orval’s 6.2% ABV), Orval Vert is only offered on draft on-site.
This beer has gone through many revisions.
“At the beginning, when I was at Orval, to do the small beer, they used the rest of the lagering tank, putting in water and putting that beer into a bottle,” says Brasserie d’Orval Brewmaster Anne-Françoise Pypaert, the first female Trappist brewmaster. “It was not so good!”
Pypaert says when they rebuilt the abbey’s on-site restaurant, l’Ange Gardien, they decided to make a better small beer, bumping the alcohol content to 4.5% ABV.
“When we do that, we played with that beer,” says Pypaert. “We changed some times of dry hopping, and we played with dry hopping, so now we have a good recipe.”
Today, the Brett-less beer starts with the same wort as Orval but dry hops with Strisselspalt and Mosaic, switching things up to make the beer more special. “We tried it with Galaxy. … But one year, it was very difficult to find, so our supplier proposed we test Mosaic, and it was a success!” says Pypaert.
Pouring the color of a hazy sunset, Orval Vert drank super light with punchy pineapple and mango, finishing with a bit of bitterness in the back crushed by a pleasant wave of toothsome malt.
We might not go so far to say that we’d become monks just to drink this beer, but when in Belgium.
Taras Boulba – Brasserie de la Senne
Belgian Blonde – When Brasserie de la Senne Co-Founder and Brewmaster Yvan De Baets opened the brewery in 2010, he doubled the number of breweries in Brussels from one to two!
Over a decade later, De Baets’ beers have become legendary in Belgium and worldwide.
Those like Taras Boulba a favorite among industry veterans.
De Baets calls this Belgian blonde a “brewer’s beer,” he says. “It’s a beer that is simple; it’s bitter; it’s dry; it’s packed with Noble hops; it’s light in alcohol and normally everything a brewer likes.”
Of course, it’s no surprise that De Baets first made this beer for himself and his brewers.
Long, exhausting brew days left De Baets and his team thirsty. But with only the almost-6%-ABV Zinnebir (de la Senne’s other flagship) to drink, “it was a bit too high in alcohol to be in good shape for the next day,” he says.
But as friends stopped by and tried the lighter, lower-ABV Taras Boulba, they went crazy for it. In stark contrast to the heavier, sweeter beer historically found in Belgium, Taras Boulba drinks light, refreshing, and quaffable. What started as a “beer never intended to leave the brewery,” says De Baets, has now become their second best-seller.
If you ever find yourself in Belgium, you must seek out and try this beer.
In De Naam Van De Zoon: Custodia 2020 – Heilig Hart Brouwerij
Kwatrecht, Vlaanderen, Belgium
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 terra cotta 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 Weitz visited during her trip to Belgium, she tried a beer from each section, but In De Naam Van De Zoon (In the Name of the Son) Custodia struck her 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 Weitz tried blended the two batches.
Pouring a beautifully murky amber, Custodia hit her with sparkling notes of beet and earth, intertwining with fresh-picked strawberry and plump cherry.
Side Pull Pillows – Burning Barrel Brewing Company
Rancho Cordova, CA
Pilsner – This month, Weitz also took a little staycation closer to home in Rancho Cordova, CA. About an hour and a half drive Northeast of Oakland, Rancho Cordova is 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.
Plus, a half-hour drive further east gets you to Apple Hill, a trail chock full of over fifty different orchards, cideries, and wineries.
One of Weitz’s favorite stops of the weekend, 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 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, which celebrates California’s most innovative and high-quality beers, according to The Sacramento Area Brewers Guild.
“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. We could have easily taken down two of these.
Editor’s Note: Keep your eyes peeled for a full forty-eight-hour guide to Rancho Cordova coming out this Thursday!
5 Mile – Solid Ground Brewing
Diamond Springs, CA
German Pilsner – Alexander suggested Weitz also stop by Solid Ground on her way back from Apple Hill, where co-founder KC Sare invested in thirty LUKR side-pull taps!
Literally, their entire draft wall is LUKR taps; it’s unbelievable and beautiful.
Expressing the zest of watermelon rind and cucumber, this German-style lager drank very refreshingly and zippy. Not as floral as expected, 5-Mile Lager had a hint of pine cone with a bit of butteriness, pickled pepper, and toasted pepita in the finish.
Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer – Martin House Brewing Company
Fort Worth, TX
Pickle Beer – A lesser-known November holiday (that’s kind of a big dill), National Pickle Day happens on November 14 every year. Maybe you fear the spear, but if you’re a savant for salty suckers, pickle beers might be your thing.
Freelancer Andy Crump wrote a pickle beer primer for us. He recommends Martin House’s Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer, saying…
“There’s something to be said about showing up at the party knowing exactly what kind of party it is; here, the party is a ‘pickle party,’ and Martin House’s rendition of the sub-style really brings the pickle. The balance in Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer weighs in favor of the pickle side—catnip for the folks draining those Claussen jars. It’s easy to understand what [Martin House Head Brewer John] Laughman means when he talks about experience. Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer packs enough nuances to avoid throwing the beverage out of whack, like light hints of caramel and white bread, but leans hardest on the ‘like drinking a whole pickle instead of eating it’ angle—right down to the garlicky heat.”